The Cheapest High End watch

ic_query_builder_black_24px | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Martin Green | 7 minute read
Patek Philippe Sky Moon ref. 5002

Con artist make their living with it; the deep, burning human desire to get something for nothing. When dealing with a con artist, you usually end up with nothing for something, but that does not take away from the fact that we all love to get a good deal on something, ending up with a higher value then we actually paid for. Therefore, in this “quest” we are going to look for the cheapest, high-end watch there is in today’s market.

Before we can depart, we first must have a pretty good idea what a high-end watch actually is. While in some opinions, no watch is truly high end unless it features a perpetual calendar of course equipped with a minute repeater and two cathedral gongs, powered by a mechanical movement, with a tourbillion for that extra bit of accuracy, and you definitely cannot go without a sky chart on the back of the watch (how else would you be able find your way home?) that also should display orbit and phase of the moon…. Well, then you’ll probably also find the Patek Philippe Sky Moon ref. 5002 the one (and only) bargain you are looking for.

Patek Philippe Sky Moon ref. 5002

But unless you are running a Ponzi scheme, this might be a bit too ambitious even for many high-end connoisseurs. So, lets see if we can find a general consensus here. Of course the watch should be mechanical. There are many high end quartz models that most certainly deserve out attention, but in this case we don’t want to run the risk of being approached by that shady character at the subway entrance; “hey man, didn’t you buy that from me last week? “ while pointing at your watch and showing his fine collection of Bolex-watches inside his raincoat.

Of course not just any mechanical watch movement will do. It has to be a “Manufacture”. This is French for “we made it our selves”. Unlike aunt Wanda’s green bean casserole, that is a good thing. It usually means that an old, grey master watchmaker gets up every morning, takes his arthritis medicine, puts on his helmet and drives his moped to a re-modeled farm house where he spends his day bent over his bench to work on your movement.

With that farmhouse, it is very important that it is the very same farmhouse as where the brand once started, at the latest, in the early 1900’s. That adds pedigree to the brand, and everybody knows that nothing is truly high-end without a good, solid pedigree. This also means that the brand should have something to show for, because simply existing for a long period of time can hardly qualify as pedigree, we call that old. Its history can only be one of two; either they have a consistent output of horological masterpieces or they have deep valleys of tragic products followed by sky-high strokes of brilliance. Regarding the latter, as the old adage goes, everybody loves a come back kid! Never ever can they have a tradition of mediocrity, since there is little human emotion in that, and it is still human emotion that sells the most high-end wristwatches and gives true pride of ownership.

There are bonus points to earn when the firm still has involvement of the founding family. It takes exceptional, or lucky, breeding to provide a consistent line of decedents that are not only interested in watch making, but who are also of sound mind regarding business, so that they don’t have to sell the family company to cover their losses at the racetrack. To beat all these odds for decades is quite an accomplishment, and it adds to the pedigree and, by extension, adds to the status of the brand. However, since the odds of doing so are so slim, one can only credit bonus points for this, since we would otherwise exclude the vast majority of potential winners of the title.

Like with most things in life, watches tend to get cheaper when they are used. Of course you don’t want to refer to your watch over cocktails with friends as used, that is why they invented the word “vintage” for it. This implies that you had the sense and good taste to purchase something from the “good old days” when everything was better, completely ignoring the fact that it is basically a used, second hand product, not so much different from that leisure suit at the thrift store. Another good thing about vintage watches is that some of them are quite rare so people actually pay more for them than a new one. Usually, these events are widely published, so the fact that this doesn’t apply to the majority of watches is information does not need to be shared voluntarily with anyone.

Since we are going for the cheapest high-end watch, we have to water down the wine a little bit when it comes to the case. No precious metals that inflate the price, no, just good old stainless steel. Since the 1970’s, this is noting to be ashamed off. Your co-worker only settled for that yellow-gold time-only Calatrava. He really wanted a stainless steel Nautilus, but since his wife is pregnant and the payment on his Porsche Panamera took priority over the premium, he had to pay to obtain this watch. Steel is simply the new gold.

So what about size? The bigger the better? When your first name is Arnold or Sylvester, or you like to rehearse lines like “I’ll be back!” in your bathroom mirror, please do so. But when you look at the auction results at Antiquorum, Christie’s or Sotheby’s you see that the highest fetching lot’s are small watches, rarely over 40mm.

Let us summarize what would qualify a watch as being High End.

  • A mechanical
  • Manufacture movement
  • From a brand with undisputed pedigree
  • With preferably still involvement of the founding family
  • A vintage
  • With a steel case
  • Under 40mm in diameter

What came next was a very complicated search to find a watch that would fit all of they above, yet at the lowest possible price, accomplished without the use of firearms or, as Don Corleone would put it “a lesson in respect”. You would understand that such a difficult task let us to the far sides of the earth (and back), made us talk to collector’s, connoisseurs, cab drivers, industry insiders and even a psychiatrist to validate the true meaning of this quest.

In they end, at the threshold of total desperation and utterly fatigued, we prevailed over this daunting task. Okay, that is not what really happened….we just got bored, went out to our favorite restaurant to get a bite to eat, and when we checked the sales corner of a major watch community on our iPhone while waiting for our appetizer, we all of a sudden found it!! EUREKA, and waiter, bring us a bottle of Dom Perignon ’75!

So, what is the cheapest high-end watch? It might surprise you but it is actually a…..Seiko 5! Not only did it fulfill all the requirements that where needed to be qualified as a high end watch, it even earned extra bonus points since Seiko’s current President & CEO, Shinji Hattori, is directly related to the companies founder.

How much did we pay for this cheapest high-end watch? $45,- excluding shipping! For that amount of money, we even got a rare dial on the watch. Some might call it green, we prefer to call it “emerald”. The only disappointment was the original, but not very high end, bracelet that came with the watch. Nevertheless, where such a bracelet is cool on a vintage Rolex, we felt the need to set this cheapest high-end watch apart from the ones of all those people who bought the right watch for the wrong reasons. How horrible would it be to stand in an elevator, glace at the wrist of the pizza delivery guy and see that he wears the same watch on the same bracelet, who bought it not because it is high end, but simply dirt cheap! To fix this problem in style we opted for a cognac colored, hand crafted, Louisiana alligator, which provided a nice contrast to really bring out the emerald green color of the rare dial. The fact that it costs us more then 3 times the amount we paid for the watch is of course a minor detail. Collecting high-end watches can be inexpensive, but a true connoisseur never buys something cheap.

40 responses

  1. Great article. Just hope all those 5’s from Mumbai don’t get too pricy because of it.

  2. Thanks Gerard. You do have a point. I will put it into the equation next time I buy myself a new watch! 😉

  3. Great looking strap – just exactly what I am looking for, where did you guys buy it?

  4. Great post, made me dig out my old model from 20 years ago. It needs a new strap, but it works just fine. Any chance of a heads up where you got that one from?

  5. Hi Michael, I also e-mailed you with some more info about the strap.

  6. Great article as I am just beginning my watch collection, any ideas where to start shopping and where did you come across this Seiko 5??

  7. Thank you for such a helpful article. I’m going to purchase one for my brother as a birthday present (will be purchasing a leather strap, too). It’s great to know that one doesn’t have to pay a fortune for quality and name.

  8. Can we get some info where to get these? Can’t seem to find this model. Thanks

  9. Hi Todd, Depending on your location you can find them at a local Seiko dealer or otherwise offers everyones favorite online auctionbay a lot of options. Hope this helps, otherwise don’t hesitate to e-mail me directly. Thanks!

  10. Thanks Martin. I’ve been able to find similar but couldn’t find the green face with the gold accents. Do you have the model number? That would be a big help to narrow down my search. Thanks!

  11. By public demand (and especially for you Todd 🙂 are here all the numbers of the Seiko;
    – Movement; 7S26
    – Dial; 016R R 2
    – Case; 3040
    It might still be a needle in a haystack. The movement and case are common enough but the dial is one you don’t see often.

    The strap is a Di Modell Louisiana alligator Noblehouse in the color Gold.

    Good hunting for all who want to obtain the Seiko!

  12. Do you think you could post or email a picture of the face? It looks beautiful!

  13. Excellent choice with the Seiko brand, there really is no other watch company that can compete with Seiko’s pedigree at the lowest price range.

  14. I’ve been looking for this watch but can’t find it for under $90. Where can I go to find it for $45?

  15. Hi,

    This article was very popular and so are the people who are hunting this watch and band. The askmen.com article featured a different watch that I liked stylistically. Do you know the model specifics?

  16. Wow!! I finally found the pic of my old Seiko 5 that I originally bought in 1994. Sadly, I no longer have it.

    Yup, this dial is rare and I have received many compliments wearing this watch due to its unique color. Over the years, I’ve only seen this watch twice in the stores and both times I did not get it since they were selling it more than twice the price that I paid for.

    Mr Green,
    Can you please give the Model No code on the caseback?
    It should be something like 7S26-XXXX.
    Need it to give to my local AD and if necessary the Main Distributor.

  17. I think your readers should also give the Orient automatic watches a look there are many for under a hundred and like Seiko Orient makes it all in house. ITs true that Seiko now owns controlling interest in Orient it is my understanding their automatic movements are all their own and very good.
    John

  18. Hello Mr Green,
    I loved this watch, can you or anybody who already owns this watch send hook me up with the model number of the watch, exactly where to buy the strap, and the dial.
    That would be awesome, thank you 😉

  19. Dear mister Morello,

    It will be a difficult search, probably your best chances are on Ebay.com.
    Here all the numbers of the Seiko:
    – Movement; 7S26
    – Dial: 016R R 2
    – Case: 3040

    It might still be a needle in a haystack. The movement and case are common enough but the dial is one you don’t see often.
    The strap is a Di Modell Louisiana alligator Noblehouse in the color Gold.

    Best,
    Frank

  20. Update.

    I got in touch with with the Main Distributor a few months ago. They were quite helpful and have a database for all the watches made from the 60s and spares availability.

    The reference number for that particular Seiko 5 is:
    SKXG59K1

    Happy hunting.

  21. Hello Mr Green,

    I just started collecting Japanese mechanical watches this year. I have three new Seiko 5s, and I am turning my eyes to vintage ones now. As you may already know, Citizen also had its own answer to mass produced automatics back in the old days (the Citizen Sevens). Obviously, the Citizen Sevens as a series was unsuccessful because we don’t see new models being produced anymore, unlike the Seiko 5s. This leads to a question that I have: is there a place for the history or longevity of the *watch model series* in the “equation” for considering high end watches? If it does have a place, how do you factor it in?

    Best Regards,
    Kal

  22. Did you write this article or did the watch snob write this, from askmen?

  23. This exact seiko 5 is on ebay right now. The buy it now price is absurd, but its auction price is quite low for now

  24. A brilliant and funny article, it is important to be not too serious about our passion 🙂

    I’m really into Jap watches (mostly Seiko and Orient) and I really love their price/quality ratio.
    This said, if we’re talking (more seriously now) about high-end definition from my perspective it isn’t enough to be mechanical…It should be al complicated mechanical. High end should mean “on the technical edge” so the Seiko 5 (I love it) can’t fall in this category. I would rather go for a Credor (whatever you think of, it’s truly high end and quite affordable for the value).

    Just my two cents,
    regards,
    slide68

  25. I am wearing one right now but, I think article is bull. Only wear it because it is cheapest automatic watch I could get when Casio died. It’s a shitter. Will one day buy a real watch.

  26. Some reviews say Miyota 8000/9000 series now provide more accuracy than Seiko 7s26. What about the caliber in Seiko PX automatic? Which is the best workhorse caliber as of March 2018? Deciding on low to mid range toughwatch.

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