Watches: they’re expensive.
Fortunately, there are several that I really like and that I actually can afford – with prices ranging from $100 to $1,300. Here are the ones I like the most.
I’m mostly a fan of tool watches but let’s start with a couple of dress watches I really like.
Orient – Sun and Moon
The first is the white dial variant of the latest Orient Sun and Moon series (ET0T002S).
The thing that makes this watch so cool is the depth and complexity of its multi-layered, multi-textured dial. That dial pattern is machine stamped and not hand-guillochéd, of course, but then this watch does cost $300, not $3,000. The photos above are screengrabs from Long Island Watch’s video overview of the Sun and Moon series; check that out to see how gorgeous these watches are.
Melbourne Watch Company – Portsea
More layered-dial gorgeousness can be found in the Melbourne Watch Company’s Portsea series.
I love the colours, the contrast in layer textures, and the overall naval theme of these watches. And isn’t the ‘M’ counterweight on the seconds hand just fabulous? (About as cool as Christopher Ward’s trident seconds hand counterweight.) If I already owned a white dial Orient Sun and Moon, I’d probably get a blue dial Portsea; most likely the Portsea Blue. Costing almost $900 a piece, though, these watches are pricier than the Sun and Moon. But then they have better quality movements, higher quality leather straps, and they come with a two-year warranty – so you get what you pay for.
I generally prefer pilot watches to military (or field) style watches but here are three military watches I like.
Vostok – Komandirskie 1965
The first is the 50th anniversary reissue of Vostok’s Komandirskie 1965 or K-65 (2414A 680220).
What I love about this watch is its no-nonsense, clean and clear design aesthetic – it’s almost a military-themed dress watch. Which makes sense since it is, after all, a Commander’s watch and not an average soldier’s watch :)
For more on this watch check out this review on Krishna’s Russian Watches.
This is the only watch on my list that has an acrylic crystal instead of a sapphire one, by the way. Given that it costs less than a hundred dollars, though, I don’t mind waiving my sapphire crystal-only rule for it. Not that I have a choice with Vostok, of course, since they don’t make any watches with sapphire crystals, anyway.
Update: I bought this watch! I’ll blog about it once it arrives.
Marathon – General Purpose Mechanical
Given that I like Russian military watches from the 1960s, it’s not a surprise that I also like American military watches from the same era.
Unfortunately, the watch that I like the most – the Benrus 3061 black dial – is no longer being manufactured because the Benrus watch company no longer exists (though the brand does live on). So, until I jump in to buying second hand watches, I’m not going to get my hand on one of these beauties.
Fortunately, a couple of years ago Marathon released their homage to this watch: the General Purpose Mechanical.
They’ve toned the design down a bit (particularly the colours) but what they’ve created is a solidly-constructed, no-nonsense military watch that is cool in its own way. Also, it costs just $400, which his nice. Bonus: these watches use tritium tubes instead of lume.
Hamilton – Khaki Field
The third military watch I like is another American classic: the Hamilton Khaki Field series.
I really like the dials of these watches, particularly the inner 24-hour ring of numerals (that show military time) and the large day window in the Day Date Auto. The needle-tipped, tapered baton hands on these watches are cool, as are the seconds hands that reach all the way to the minute markers at the outermost edge of the dial. Those hands let you be more accurate with the time so, for example, you can coordinate military action (or, say, a surprise birthday party) down to the last second :) These watches are surprisingly affordable, too, costing around $400 to $600.
Now we come to my favourite watch category: the pilot watch.
Laco – Fliegeruhren B (Pilot Watch Type B)
My favourite watches in this category are the 1940s German navigator watches – specifically the ones with the Type B dial. Several brands make this style of watch but my favourites are usually from Laco.
The most affordable of these is the Laco Aachen ($400). But, if I had a choice, I’d get the Laco Paderborn ($1,000). That’s a significant upgrade over the Aachen and, with a domed sapphire crystal and solid case back, is much closer to the original flieger watch. As a bonus, it also has thermally-blued steel hands. If I was going all-out, though, I’d get the Laco Friedrichshafen ($1,200). That’s basically a larger, and therefore even more authentic, version of the Paderborn (ie it has a 45mm case compared to the Paderborn’s 42mm).
For more on this series of watches check out this video overview from Long Island Watch.
Hamilton – Khaki Aviation
The only other pilot watches I love as much as the Laco Type B fliegers are the Hamilton Khaki Aviation range. And that’s a big range so there are lots of models to choose from.
I think my favourites are the more straightforward ones like the Pilot Auto ($1,300) and the Pilot Day Date ($1,200). Both are gorgeous, with their large sword hands, long seconds hand, and day-date windows (particularly on the Pilot Day Date). I also love the more complicated Pilot GMT ($1,800) with its red, second-time-zone hand. And the limited edition Takeoff Air Zermatt ($1,600), built in partnership with the Air Zermatt Swiss mountain rescue service.
Other pilot watches
There are many other pilot watches from several other watch brands that I like but the Laco and Hamilton ones are my favourites. However, for completeness’s sake, I should say that I love pilot watches from Alpina, Bell & Ross, Citizen, Damasko, Fortis, Garmin, Graf Zeppelin, Hanhart, Junkers, Sinn, and Techné. And, who knows, I might buy one (or several) of these in the future, too :)
Sport watches and chronographs
Seiko – Alpinist
I’ve been a long-time fan of Casio watches – having owned multiple G-Shocks and ProTreks – so I’ve never really paid much attention to non-Casio sport (or field) watches. However, the Seiko Alpinist (SARB017) is difficult to ignore.
I mean, how cool is that green bezel; the applied gold numerals; those cathedral-shaped hands; and the inner, rotating compass ring (controlled by the second crown at the 4 o’clock position). Not to mention the higher-end Seiko movement with a 50-hour power reserve. Yes, this is a gorgeous, capable watch. Best of all: it costs less than $500.
Seagull – 1963 Chronograph
Not counting day/date, the complication I love most on a watch is a chronograph. Unfortunately, mechanical chronographs are the most expensive type of wristwatch out there. Fortunately, among the handful of affordable chronographs that are available, we have the fantastic Seagull 1963 Airforce Chronograph series.
These watches are a 50th anniversary reissue of the original chronograph that Seagull made for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 1963. The one I’d want to get is the smaller, more authentic 38mm one with the sapphire crystal (6345G-2901). I adore the overall design of this watch, with its cream dial; blue and red hands; and applied gold numerals and hour markers. What’s even cooler is the open case back that really shows off the ST19 column-wheel chronograph movement (which is based on the Swiss Venus 175 movement that Seagull bought from Venus in the 1960s). This 38mm model is surprisingly affordable, too, costing under $500.
Check out this video overview from Long Island Watch to see just how cool this series of watch is.
I love this watch so much that, for my birthday this year, I’m thinking of asking my friends and family to pitch in and get one for me. Unless, of course, I find it on sale for a lot cheaper first :)
There are several other watches I’d love to own, of course.
Many of these are quartz watches from the Seiko Giugiaro and Astron series; the Casio ProTrek and G-Shock series; the Bulova Accutron and Precisionist series; and the Citizen Promaster Air series.
From the mechanical watch side there are a handful of dive watches I’d like to own, plus several vintage watches I’d love to get my (second) hands on.
For now, though, I’m happy with my shortlist because I can turn this into a shopping list from which I can cross-off items over the next three to five years :)