Let’s make things clear! When Frank founded MONOCHROME over 12 years ago, the main objective was to create “an online magazine dedicated to fine watches”. This meant the celebration of traditional, high-end watchmaking. However, we are fully aware that not everyone (including us) can afford such pieces and that accessible, down-to-earth, good price/quality watches are important. Very often lower prices translate into lower quality – but not always, as we will show you in today’s selection.
To help you with your Christmas wish list, we’ve listed our favourite watches of 2018 in several price segments. Starting today, here are our 10 best watches of 2018 for under 2,000 EUR! And because you’re reading MONO, they are, of course, all mechanical timepieces. Believe it or not, but even “enamel dial”, “in-house movement”, “chronometer” or “annual calendar” form part of this buying guide!
Note: as always, these “buying guides” are our own personal selections and we’re sure you’ll have your own favourites. Feel free to list your top watches of 2018 in this “budget” category in the comment section at the end of this article!
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm
What can one buy with EUR 300 or EUR 400? A quartz watch made in China under licence of a fashion designer? Or can we find something geekier? Something with a true beating heart, something with pedigree, something with what is certainly one of the best quality/price ratio on the market today? It exists, and it is called the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm. Not only does this watch look very cool but it is made by a true watchmaking brand, with a legitimate heritage and it is powered by a hand-wound ETA movement. What’s not to love here? The Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm has the vintage flair, it is field-tested and it is perfectly sized. And at EUR 420, it is one of the best surprises of the year.
There have been hundreds of “Kickstarter-and-the-likes” projects launched this year (if not thousands). After all, the concept is refreshing and allows small teams to create and launch businesses. However, there are more garbage-like pieces being offered on this “microbrand” market than watches that we’d encourage you to buy… But the Méraud Bonaire is definitely one that you should look at. What we have here is a retro-inspired dive watch from Belgium with a clean look, nice proportions (39mm x 12.5mm) and a decent ETA 2824-2 clone with no date. Overall quality is very pleasant (look at the sapphire “Bakelite-like” insert on the bezel) and it is available in 3 great colours (black, blue, grey). Definitely one of the best Kickstarter watches of 2018, still available for EUR 645, here.
E.C.Andersson Calypso Arctic Sport
E.C.Andersson has been one of our favourite “microbrands” since its inception. This Scandinavian brand started with reliable, robust sports watches with a no-nonsense approach and very pleasant quality. With the Calypso, the brand added the cool-factor by mixing Nordic elements with a “luxury sports watch” inspiration – tonneau-shaped case, round bezel, integrated steel bracelet and a relatively thin profile. This year, E.C.Andersson the Sport version is a more accessible proposal equipped with an affordable but reliable Miyota 9015 movement, followed by the Arctic edition and its silver dial – and the combination of a full steel case/bracelet with this dial works great in the metal. All of that can be acquired for EUR 785 (on steel bracelet, highly recommended).
Formex Essence Automatic Chronometer
When you think “chronometer” watch, you probably have in mind something that is far from accessible. It is true that a chronometer requires much more effort than a standard automatic watch to be perfectly adjusted (if you don’t know exactly what a chronometer is, check this technical article). Formex, a brand that we already knew capable of crafting high-quality watches for accessible prices thought that it would be a good idea to democratize the chronometer. Meet the Formex Essence Automatic Chronometer, an automatic watch with a COSC-certified Sellita movement, a beautifully shaped and crafted case (incl. the patented suspension system) and with a truly affordable price. Launched first on Kickstarter, pre-orders have a price tag of EUR 790.
Yema Superman Heritage
Yema is definitely one of the most famous French watch brands. Unfortunately, this fame was not due to its current offer of mostly quartz watches, but to the watches manufactured in the 1960s/1970s. Times have changed and Yema is back in the forefront of the vintage-oriented and mechanical scene, launching a new collection inspired by past glories: Rallygraf, Yachtingraf, Flygraf (all 3 are automatic chronographs) and Superman. The latter has generated great interest in the vintage market and for 2018, Yema brings it back in an ultra-faithful automatic re-edition (same look, same proportions, same functions, same bezel). Overall, it is a very, very cool and accessible dive watch. The watch retails for EUR 949 (or EUR 1,099 with a sapphire crystal option).
Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel SPB075
An in-house movement, almost entirely manufactured by the same company and decorated with an enamelled and guilloché dial… All of that sounds like a watch with a 5-figure price tag! Until you discover the folks at Seiko, who decided that such high-end features could be made accessible to a wider audience. And when we say accessible, we mean it! The Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel SPB075 offers a true in-house automatic calibre by one of the most respected watch brands with a superb, translucent blue enamel dial with a guilloché mainplate (a technique named “Shippo”) for a fifth of what the most affordable Swiss counterparts offer. Not easy to find in stores (the success of this SPB075 is fully understandable) but for EUR 1,450, you can access proper high-end watchmaking.
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date 40mm
Oris needs no introduction anymore. When it comes to price/quality ratio and to watches made with a true purpose in mind, this brand is a must. Well-thought, well-designed, well-crafted and now cooler than ever before, Oris has not only kept its “watches made for real people” motto but it is now making desirable watches – and the new Big Crown Pointer Date 40mm, the evolution of an emblematic Oris watch (the one that kept them alive during the quartz crisis), isn’t going to change that. Available in multiple sizes, with various dials or even in bronze, this watch has a nice vintage/pilot touch and relies on the central display of the date, dear to the brand. At EUR 1,500 on leather and in 40mm, it is one great deal.
If you’re up for something slightly different and if high-speed, modern-day technology isn’t your thing, MeisterSinger is a nice solution. The single hand display – one hand that indicates both the hours and the minutes – gives a different perception of time, a more poetical approach where accuracy to the second isn’t a necessity. This has been the signature element of all MeisterSinger watches for years and the new Metris isn’t about to change that. What is different though is the nice, casual touch of this new collection, with its well-protected case and original shape. The restrained 38mm diameter gives a young, fresh look to the watch, which is still powered by a reliable automatic movement. Great value for money, as usual with MeisterSinger, the Metris is priced at EUR 1,650 for the 4 different versions available.
Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic
How many of us, I wonder, harbour the dream of owning a Royal Oak, a Nautilus or an Overseas? But with prices well above EUR 20,000, this will remain a dream for most of us. Luckily, if you’re in the market for a steel luxury sports watch with a shaped case, a thin profile, a textured dial and an integrated steel bracelet, Maurice Lacroix has a much, much more affordable option: the Aikon Automatic. Not only is this new collection (which also includes a self-winding chronograph) impressively well-crafted, but it features all the required elements to enter the luxury sports watch category. Everything except the steep price. The Aikon 3-hand Automatic on a steel bracelet will “only” cost you EUR 1,690 (and EUR 1,590 on a leather strap).
Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar
Last but not least, the tenth watch in this “below-2K selection” is one that we hadn’t seen coming… What do you reckon a classic, elegant annual calendar timepiece from an established watch brand could cost? Probably close to EUR 8,000 – or well above that, as the original annual calendar, designed by Patek in the mid-1990s and still in the collection, requires around EUR 37,000. However, this was before Longines set its sights on the complication and conceived a watch that does exactly the same as its expensive competitors but for a fraction of the price. Based on an ETA movement, the annual calendar allows the automatic adjustment of the date at the end of the month (30 or 31 days) and will require just one single correction at the end of February. A classic watch, with classic design, a genuine alligator strap and a complex calendar display for “just” EUR 1,960. Quite impressive.