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Cheap Watches: What’s Your Price Limit?

By that we mean how little will you spend for an everyday quartz watch that tells the time and looks half decent?

We say about £20. There are some basic Casio models that retail for around £15 and of course Amazon and Ali Express are packed with 15 quid watches with oddball names and basic packaging.

But Time Products in the UK, who sell Accurist and Sekonda, have an even cheaper brand called Limit in their portfolio. It’s an old Swiss brand, famously the maker of good automatics and mechanical models back in the 50s and 60s, but then like many Swiss brands, the quartz attack from Japan in the 80s finished them off.

We love this Limit digital with its Wire Guard logo and chunky design. Yep, it’s £30 but watch out for regular Limit deals and offers online.  Nice digital display plus a backlight button for checking the time if you wake up in the night.

Let’s be honest a water resistance of 100m at this price level is pretty fair. Most fashion watches have just 50m, some less. The orange digital model at the top of ther page has a reasonable spec and we think it looks kinda sporty too.

You can’t really fault this red digital, with an alarm, stop watch and a plastic strap. So yeah you can swim in it. £25 is alright we think and although we aren’t saying disposable watches are a good thing, you ain’t gonna shed a tear when the strap splits and that’s the end of the watch.

It’s easy to get snobby about watches, but if you work in a rough job and your watch gets damaged, or you want to buy a teenager a watch and you just know they will hammer it to destruction, then brands like Limit offer the working person a chance to buy something with a guarantee that looks modern, and tells the time, for the sort of money that MPs spend on coffee n a vegan snack bar.

Limit watches start at about £20 RRP. More here.

Anonimo WRC Edition Is an Expensive Chronograph

Here’s one we missed from January, Anonimo’s WRC limited edition chronograph. We are motorsport fans here at NWC, so always keen to showcase stuff like this. Here’s the press info from Anonimo and apologies in advance for the annoying use of capitals – all brands are doing it now, kinda boring;

To mark the first rally of the 2020 season in Monte Carlo, ANONIMO, Official Timekeeper of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), presents a new version of its MILITARE chronograph bearing the newly unveiled championship colours.

Oliver Ciesla, managing director of WRC Promoter, said: ““The excitement in WRC revolves around battles fought against the clock for vital tenths of a second. We are delighted that ANONIMO has chosen to launch its new special edition, the MILITARE Chrono WRC, at the opening of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship season in Monte-Carlo and that the WRC holds such a high-profile in the portfolio of such a prestigious Swiss watch brand as ANONIMO”.

On the new piece, orange replaces the green that has up to now been the WRC’s official signature colour. Subtle touches of the colour appear on the chronograph hand, the minute track on the flange, the 30-minute counter hand and indices, the chronograph start push-button and the strap stitching.

This MILITARE is easily recognisable thanks to its hand-brushed grey dial, its stainless steel case with PVD & DLC coating and its crown at 12 o’clock. The patented articulation system that protects the crown guarantees comfort and makes the piece water resistant. This Swiss Made watch is equipped with a Sellita SW 300 self-winding movement with an additional bi-compax DD2035M chronograph module developed exclusively for ANONIMO. In tribute to this partnership, the dial bears the WRC logo and the glass back is adorned with a special engraved design.

CW Sellors have it on sale in the UK at £4590.

Verdict; Expensive for a watch powered by a Sellita SW300 and the depreciation is likely to be much higher than say a Breitling, Rolex, Omega or IWC at this price level.

Which Are The Best Wristwatches to Buy For Investment? Our Top Three

Times are tough and getting tougher. Millions of jobs are being lost globally in tourism, aviation, restaurants, media, face-to-face retailing and many more sectors. Even the watch industry may yet see a big downturn in demand as people put off luxury item purchases in 2020.

But let’s assume you have some cash – say 10K – earning a feeble 1% interest in a UK bank or cash ISA now. What do you do, risk it buying gold bullion, a classic car, guitar, or maybe a couple of watches? After all a Swiss watch doesn’t need a heated garage, servicing, tyres, oil, spare parts and insurance at £250 a year. So that’s a plus. On the downside, you may find some roaming Orcs in London might want to part you from your Rolex at the tip of a machete, so you will mostly keep your fancy watches inside a safe. Or even an underground vault.

rolex GMT II batman

ROLEX GMT II BATMAN

Now you could splash that entire £10,000 on a Rolex GMT II, and have change to buy a heavy safe and have it bolted to your floor. Just.

At £7,750 on the David Robinson website, a GMT II Batman in blue and black is a handsome watch; 70 hour reserve, reliable, not too big in terms of case size and a classic design that isn’t likely to go out of fashion either. The advantage that the Batman model has over the red/blue Pepsi GMT is that the Batman does NOT look like a Seiko from 10 paces. A definite plus point.

You will always find a queue of buyers when you decide to sell – that’s a given with almost any Rolex beyond the Air-King range and blingy Oyster Perpetual models that have limited appeal to mainly middle-aged male watch collector market. The only downside is the dang Rolex GMT II Batman waiting list malarkey. But that long list may get shorter once the recession bites a bit harder later this year.

tudor black bay 58 values investment small
Incredible value compared to a Submariner and pretty much does the same job. Buy two Black Bay 58s, why not?

TUDOR BLACK BAY 58

We love this watch. For just under £2,800 you get a 39mm case, black dial wristwatch that is beautifully finished, has a 70 hour reserve, COSC certified movement with some Tudor in-house tweaks and a very Rolex-esque bracelet link design. A slimmer case for the 58 model launched in 2019 means this watch sits better on the wrist than the altogether chunkier pre-2019 Black Bay models.

No, it isn’t a poor man’s Rolex. It is a fantastic value Swiss watch that has far greater resale value and long term investment potential than say an Omega Seamaster, TAG Heuer Carrera (nearly four grand new, worth about 2K after 2 years of ownership as a PX) or a Breitling Superocean 44 in blue, which retails at about £2800. Again, try getting more than £1500 back in PX value when you sell that hipster Breitling with its silicone rubber strap.

Chopard-Mille-Miglia-2019-Race-Edition large
Plenty of motorsport details on this Mille Miglia help the Chopar Race Edition stand out from the pack. Grey dial makes a change too.

CHOPARD MILLE MIGLIA 2019 RACE EDITION

There’s a big range of Chopard Mille Miglia watches, too many some might say. But this one ticks all the right boxes. Classic tan strap, which actually features a tyre tread design on the inside – in fact it looks like a Dunlop K70 tread pattern from my BSA days. Classic chrono layout, with big pushers that are easy to operate, even beside a windswept racetrack on a cold day.

Inside you find an in-house Chopard 25 jewel movement, automatic of course and based on the trusty Valjoux 7750, although like many 7750 movement derived watches today, it’s had the benefit of new manufacturing techniques to make it a better performer in terms of accuracy, and power reserve, at 48 hours on this one.

For £6300 or so, you get a watch which is stunningly finished, with a grey dial, polished steel details, that 1000Km Mille Miglia logo on the back and an overall look that’s similar to classic race clocks inside a 1960s sports car. The grey, sort of lined dial, makes a change from the usual black/white combo seen on road racing themed chronographs. For that alone, we salute this watch – dare to be different, as Tudor might say.

It’s limited to 1000 pieces, so whilst that’s no guarantee of future collectibility-  it helps. In short, the Mille Miglia Race Edition stands out a little bit, and at 44mm case diameter this one will always impress a great many people too.

 

 

Valjoux 7750: The VW 2.0 Diesel of Watch Movements

People ask me which is the best automatic Swiss watch to buy new, for say under £3000. Tough question. The short answer is buy what you like, because if you don’t love the dial, the colour, hands, bezel, bracelet links – all those details – then you won’t wear the watch much and it will languish in a box or on an automatic winder.

My own favourite is an Omega with George Daniels brilliant co-axial movement inside, such as the Seamaster/Speedmaster range. You can buy one from about £2600 which to me is a bargain for two reasons;

One, the co-axial movement runs at about 2500bph (beats per hour) which is significantly lower than may other Swiss watches that run at over 32,000bph. That means low friction, more time between services and that is a massive saving on the running costs of ownership with a service costing upwards of £600 at an Omega/Breitling/Rolex/Tudor etc dealership.

Two, the Omega Seamaster/Speedmaster is a well established brand name with the wider public, so if you decide to sell there will be a queue of trade, and public, keen to acquire your Omega. Try selling a used Franck Muller, Graham Chronofighter or a Breguet to Joe Public and you’ll find they haven’t really got a clue about the watch and its true value, plus it won’t impress their friends on Facebook, so they won’t offer you decent money.

That’s how it works; watches are a game of oneupmanship for many men, keen to brag that they’re considerably richer than you…

 

longines conquest valjoux

The Valjoux 7750 and All Its Children

OK, let’s move on to the amazing ETA Valjoux 7750 movement. Now this benchmark engine can be found in so many watches, even today, although manufacturers often try to disguise the base movement beneath a range of tweaks, tune-ups and in-house modifications.

Let me explain why the buying the best value Swiss watch featuring a Valjoux 7750 often means shelling out for the least fashionable;

You are investing long-term in the movement, and hoping it will be reliable, easy to service and hold its future value. Bells and whistles like a stronger mainspring, a silicon hairspring (non-magnetic is always useful) and perhaps some beautiful engine-turning/engraving on the bridgework or automatic rotor, is nice to have – but it doesn’t alter the fact that you’ve paid ten times as much for the same watch movement.

Ten times you say, really? Yep. If you buy a used IWC Portugieser, rather than a Hamilton Khaki, then you have probably bought a watch with the same base calibre 7750 movement inside the case. But your IWC will cost you maybe £4000 for those little IWC extra touches, whereas a used Hamilton can be had for £400, because it is seen as a deeply unfashionable brand in watch collecting. The IWC version of the ETA Valjoux 7750 is undoubtedly built to a higher spec, bit like an AMG Merc A Class – but it’s still an A Class, if you’re with me.

Buyers Guide

OK, before you splash out £3000 on a new Swiss watch ask yourself if the movement really matters, because if it does, then you really want to avoid buying something with a Valjoux 7750 base unit in there. You could buy a Tissot, Certina, Victorinox, Longines, Steinhart, Hamilton, Oris and many more for well under £1000, with the 7750 inside. So what will the future collectable value of those watches be? Answer, not likely to be as much as something bespoke, truly unique, and in short supply.

Don’t get me wrong, any watch with a well maintained Valjoux 7750 is a great timepiece – it just isn’t going to be described as being truly special, rare or a future classic in my view.

If you buy a modern Rolex, you get a watch with an in-house movement, not a Valjoux (or a Zenith) inside the case. Plus it’s the most well known watch brand in the world, so you’ll always be able to sell it – or have your Rolex stolen at knifepoint by moped thugs in London.

£3000 will get you a used Breitling Navitimer, with its own in-house 01 movement (manufactured post 2013) which again, is a fashionable watch, although they are expensive to service and look a bit big and gaudy unless you have a large wrist – in my humble opinion.

jaeger gold bumper
Vintage Jaeger Le Coultre bumper auto – not so well sought after by burglars, moped gangs and chav scumbags keen to trade a stolen watch for drug money

 

Assuming I had 3K to spare what would I buy? Probably something like a Jaeger Le Coultre bumper automatic from the 1950s. A mint example, with a gold case would probably be around that price and it ticks all the right boxes for me.

It looks understated and oozes sheer quality, the name itself is not so well known amongst the casual thug/criminal fraternity, so it reduces the risk of mugging or violent attack at home. Plus the bumper auto movement was unique to JLC, it wasn’t hawked around other manufacturers, and I reckon that it will always be truly collectable because of the prestige still attached to the JLC name today. The same cannot be said of many other 1950s Swiss watch brands that have faded into bankruptcy, or merger.

There is much to be said for a low profile when it comes to watch collecting. Let the fashion victims chase the latest Tudor Black Bay deals, or lowest finance rates on a Rolex Daytona. There’s more to it than flash for cash, watches are also inherently beautiful pieces of miniature engineering, history made jewels and metal. Treasure the craft of watchmaking, not just the RRP.

There y’go, be lucky and keep ticking over.

 

 

 

 

 

Buyers Guide: Modern Seikos & Citizens vs Old School Automatics

OK, here’s a dilemma; You have £100 to invest in a classic, collectable wristwatch, or maybe two and you check ebay, Fakebook Martketplace, Up a Gumtree, SchlockIt, plus your local Cash related High St shops.

First, forget about modern quartz watches like DKNY, Armani, Rotary, Michael Kors, Skagen, Storm, Cluse, Festina, Boss, Daniel Wellington, Fossil, Ted Baker and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. These are mass market fashion watches, mostly featuring Miyota movements, prettyy much the same `engine’ as you find inside £25 Sekonda in my shop. Yes really. It’s extremely unlikely that anything with Armani on the dial and a 377 battery inside will ever set a record on the Antiques Greedshow 2058.

Seiko after 1

So choose an automatic. It has gears and cogs inside. But wait – some modern ones like Seiko Kinetics and Citizen Eco-Drives have fancy power cells too. Your wrist movement charges a power cell, which gives the Kinetic extra hours of charge, so you can leave it on a desk for two days and it will still be going. Nice. But the trouble is the Kinetics keep breaking down, just Google `capacitor failure Seiko Kinetic’ if you like.

Genuine parts cost about £40 as a kit, then someone has to fit it – or you can buy all the tools necessary, watch a You Tube video and give it a go yourself. It isn’t that complicated, but without the correct case knife, screwdrivers and tweezers, you’ll probably come unstuck and do some damage to the watch. I certainly did a few years back when learning the basics of fettling watches – and I had the correct tools!

If you don’t like the idea of a possibly dodgy Kinetic, then there’s the Seiko 5 – classic automatics, tough movements, all gears and cogs, featuring a range of dials from the 70s TV square style, to the more modern, shimmering blue one I wear every day for work. It’s scratched, and dented from a collision with a cupboard as I rushed to the workshop, but it still goes. Bought it from a watch fair, £25.

 

pixl seiko 1

ECO-DRIVE IS LIKE A PLANT, IT NEEDS LIGHT, OR DIES A SLOW DEATH

The Citizen Eco-Drive is a modern marvel of tech. Solar power charges the watch and away it goes, and you never need a battery. That’s what the adverts say.

True, but you will need a new battery one day, as they are re-chargeables and eventually, just like a laptop or phone battery, they lose the ability to hold charge. It’s physics and even Citizen cannot defeat physics.

Replacement varies from Eco-Drive model to model, but essentially it’s pretty similar to replacing a normal silver battery in a quartz watch, except the Citizen lithium has a tiny tab on the end of it, which needs to be aligned correctly. Before you go to that expense just try pulling the crown out on your Eco-Drive, and then exposing it to some direct sunshine for about 5 minutes. Give it 20 mins on a cloudy day. The push the crown back in and you might find it starts up again – many Eco-Drives go into a kind of shutdown mode when left abandoned in a box for months, so it’s worth a try.

pix citizen 2

It all adds up to more faffing about in my book, so again, my advice is spend your £100 buying two well looked after old school Citizen automatics, with real rotors spinning around powering up the movement.

These vintage Citizens often feature dazzling, colourful dials and they have a simplicity that means they will give you 50 years of service if you look after the movement and have it cleaned and lubricated once a decade.

You can still pick up excellent examples for £30-£50 each, but be aware that some could be re-painted models from India. Or save your cash up until you can afford a Citizen Bullhead, or a nice NY2300/NY0040 with the red/blue Pepsi style bezel, or the black dial/black case combo.

Always in demand with collectors and most likely, always will be.

Watch Collecting: Don’t Be a Slave to Fashion, Buy Because You Like It

There is one golden rule I follow with old watches, well actually there are two. First is the basic stuff; look at the watch closely under a magnifying glass, because the marks and scratches often tell a story of woe and neglect. How does it wind, cleanly, or like stirring a bag of rusty nails with an egg whisk? Even if the watch is running apparently perfectly, it probably has several problems lurking inside its case, so quiz the owner carefully about work that’s been done.

The second is more controversial; don’t be a slave to fashion, because guys trying to outdo each other on bragging rights down the pub with an `iconic’ watch often don’t really know much about the watches they own. You can apply the same rule to classic anything in fact; cars, guitars, motorbikes, Lambrettas etc.

Take for example the recent rapid rise in Tissot Seastar Visodate models from the 60s/70s. Once you could only get about £200 retail for a gold case one, as many enthusiasts thought they were `workhorse’ models, and poor relations to an extent within the Omega empire. A recent search online revealed people asking £300-£350 for the same watch…not they are guaranteed to get it of course.

tissot visodate 1

In fact the Cal 784-2 Visodate is no better or worse than a similar era vintage Omega Geneve, Rotary, Vertex Revue, Bulova, Oriosa, Uno or a hundred and one other Swiss brands from that `golden age’ of Swiss watchmaking, before the Japanese kicked their ass with cheap quartz models. Another important thing to remember is that any watch that may have been used for half a century, could be physically wearing out, even if the dial and hands look nice.

We recently serviced a Tissot Visodate and a good thing too, as the owner insists on using it as an everyday watch. He places it by a radio and his smartphone at night, exposing it to magnetic fields, it’s also worn inside a modern car – again alive with magnetic fields, as that’s how the ECU sends/receives data to all parts of the car’s electrical system, monitors the brakes, lights, steering, fuel injection etc.

Bear in mind the Visodate, or a nice Omega Constellation, is a watch designed in an era when a radio or TV was perhaps the greatest source of magnetism that the owner could expose the timepiece too – unless he lived under an electricity pylon. So if you use a vintage Swiss watch, then expect the demands of modern life to take their toll on it, as well as the general wear and tear that anything 50 years old suffers from.

So long story short, the Visodate ran perfectly again, but the owner knocked the watch, and then brought it back saying it was gaining lots of time. Indeed it was, and we figured out the problem; The fault lay in the hairspring, which had moved from its perfect position where two tiny pins, that are actuated by the regulator, sort of clasp the spring. Having moved from its correct position, the coil had `jumped’ closer to its centre, off one pin. The coils were now touching, the beat was all over the shop, and the result was a gain of an hour a day. Now the solution was to remove the spring and delicately attempt to uncoil it, to a more concentric shape, then carefully re-fit the regulator and balance assembly. The ideal alternative would have been a complete new balance assembly; spring, wheel, staff, cap jewel etc – but it’s 50 years old, so where can you get new Tissot Cal 784 parts off the shelf?

You cannot. The answer is you end up using other old examples that appear to be running well and have been serviced, but buying another runner, just for parts, then paying a watchmaker to fit everything means spending more than the nominal £300 value of the watch.

This is what I mean about fashion trumping real value in classic watches. These are NOT everyday timekeepers, in the same way classic cars are not everyday motorway commuters. Only a fool would drive a 1960s Austin 1100 to work everyday, because it would go wrong, almost every week in winter. Then it would rust away, fail its MoT and off to the scrapyard – why do that? Use your Austin car, Triumph Tiger Cub or Tissot Visodate sparingly, save it for best, cherish its potentially finite lifespan.

If you find a nice example of an old Rotary, Longines, Hudson, Montine, Seiko, Citizen, Accurist, or heck – even a basic Timex – then enjoy looking at it far more than you enjoy winding it fully and checking its accuracy against your mobile phone. Have it serviced once every 5 years if you really love it, but don’t kid yourself that it’s some gold plated investment on par with an ex-Steve McQueen Heuer.

 

Most of us aren’t ever going to be collecting at that level, so accept that mainstream Swiss, US, British, German and Japanese mechanicals/automatics are decent old watches that were mass-produced, in their thousands, not hand-crafted by trained artisans wearing half-moon spectacles and calico aprons, slaving away in some fabled House of Horology.

timex nov 14 008
Retro style, reliable auto movement and years of use – all for about £30-£50. 

Here’s a fact for you; I have a £20 Timex automatic in the shop that is more accurate, and runs for three hours longer on a full wind than that 9ct gold Visodate. Classic watches are, to an extent a lucky dip, because you don’t know the half a century of history that lies behind the face of that vintage watch. So buy assuming that you’ll have to spend money one day getting it fixed, because you will – it’s only a question of when. If you decide to walk away and throw the watch in a drawer then you’ve lost £20-£50 on a Timex, a Buler, Seiko 5, Ricoh, Citizen or many other cooking models, not the hundreds that a fashionable model like a Tissot or Omega will cost you.

That’s the true value of watch collecting; the fun-per-pound factor, not playing a game of oneupmanship down the club.

Keep ticking over.