The Foundry 12: four perspectives to quality in men’s watches

We are introducing a new type of product review : The Foundry 12.  We’ll be posting TOP 12 lists of different product categories. There is a slight twist to it, though. Instead of just making a common TOP 12 list, we decided to always curate four separate TOP 3 lists from four category-related professionals, enthusiasts or users. This way we’ll be able to provide more interesting recommendations from real people,  and give a fast glimpse into the given product category, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned expert.

This first of The Foundry 12 lists is of men’s wrist watches, and we have selected a locksmith, a fashion professional, an author, and a watch enthusiast as our first pack of curators. Each of these people has a different view on the topic, and as such, the value of their picks ranges from 200€ to tens of thousands of euros. (As we are located in Finland, we’ll be using the euros as currency.)

Hopefully you’ll enjoy our new lists, and please let us know if you have any comments or ideas, for this post or for upcoming lists. All the images on this post are from online sources, except for Kellomies selections, in which the images are from Joona Vuorenpää.

 


Kick-start your watch journey with quality

Watch enthusisast Joonas Kokko has selected three excellent choices. They won’t set you back financially, and will give a good bang for your buck (or euro). Joonas himself, and likeminded watch enthusiasts can be found in the Finnish Kelloharrastajat Facebook group. Head there for good conversation and eager people to help you get started.

Seiko SKX007

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Seiko SKX007 is one of the most common “starter watches”, a gateway drug to the hobby. It has robust mechanical instruments, good water resistance and a sporty look. The 007 kind of scuba version of the Seiko 5 series. This watch is also quite popular among divers. The price is kept under control by inexpensive material choices, yet Seiko still has true toolwatch vibe, which is not always guaranteed even in more expensive watches.

Prices around 400 € (but also, for example, 235 € at laatukello.fi)

 

Certina DS1

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Certina DS1 is something of a jack of all trades. It’ll work almost with any style or attire. The modern and sporty design has a whiff of the Tag Heuer spirit. The DS1 is relatively inexpensive, so it is a starter watch with excellent availability. Many have bought the DS1 as a cure for the big itch, as they work up their savings for a more valuable quality watch. It’s a safe, excellent choice for people not yet ready to invest bigger sums, but are taking their first steps into the world of watches.

Price range 400-600 € (for example 539 € at laatukello.fi)

Longines HydroConquest

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The Longines HydroConquest is a common choice for those looking for something a notch up from the basics. The reasonable price and the unique scuba style design has made this one a popular choice. The good availability and the brand’s prestige compared to the cheaper options make it an intriguing choice as a starter watch.

Price range 650 – 1,500 € (for example 639 € at laatukello.fi)

 


Well-aged quality

Longitudi Oy is an established store on Helsinki’s watch scene. High quality vintage watches can be found here, with the knowledgeable owner, clocksmith Vesa Hyvärinen. Vesa has selected three examples that show why age can actually be an advantage, at least in watches. Vesa has chosen watches for this list that are classics because of their history, solid technical structure and timeless looks. The two first ones are probably the safest investment in vintage watches and so is the third one, if your wallet can take it. These watches are highly desirable and look dignified. Their size is also and advantage: they fit and suit almost all users and situations.

Omega Speedmaster models, 1959-1964

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Omega Speedmaster made its way into the consciousness of big audiences when this particular watch was on the wrists of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 moon flight. That classic model (ref. 145.022) is pretty easy to obtain and fairly common, so here is a bit more rare pre-moon flight version: model 2998.

This Speedmaster 2998 was produced between 1959-1963. This watch with a symmetric case structure was the first ever Omega watch in space when astronaut Walter Schirran took his personal Speedmaster 2998 to the Sigma-7 flight in October 1962. Two years later, the Speedmaster was selected to become the official timekeeper for NASA space flights.

This watch is simple and functional, and differs from the later moon flight model. Even though it is a rare find, it is a good piece for everyday use because of its reliable machinery and tough case structure. The value of this model has been rising steadily, which makes it an ideal investment.

Prices for pieces in good condition between 5,500-12,000 € (Speedmasters at Longitudi)

 

Rolex Submariner vintage ref. 5512/5513

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Rolex Submariner models from between 1960-1970 are the most sought-after vintage watches in the world. Submariner has a strong diver tool reputation and a classic, perhaps plain but elegant look that makes it a desirable and interesting collector’s piece. These watches are excellent all-rounders, which you can wear daily, and the value rises year after year.  The most sought-after pieces show their age in the color of the dial, bezel and hands. The 5513 model is a bit easier to find, while the 5513 goes for higher sums, and is somewhat rarer.

Prices 4,000 – 8,000 € (Submariners at Longitudi)

 

Jaeger Le Coultre Memovox Polaris

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Memovox Polaris is a rare diver’s watch that comes with an alarm and bumper automatic movement. One of the specialities of this watch is the very strong alarm function achieved by a patented triple-case structure. Besides sound, it also vibrates, which makes the alarm possible to use during diving. An excellent design, a good technical structure and small production numbers make it hugely desirable and one of the rarest diver’s watches.

Price range 20,000-30,000 € (Memovox at Longitudi)

 


Style up your wrist

Erkan Fere, the managing director of The Left Shoe Company – a company that tailors high quality, modern shoes for men – is an excellent curator to present us style-oriented watch picks. The selections come with sound reasoning, and each will most certainly be an excellent choice for the style-minded gentleman.

Harry Winston – Midnight Collection

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The simplified look is often one of the key features of a stylish watch. And not many do the beauty of simplicity better than the Harry Winston Midnight Edition, which was introduced a couple years ago in Basel, Switzerland. This model is a true classic. The 42-mm, 18-carat white gold case conceals instruments that promise 45 hours of usage.

The plain looks of the Harry Winston Midnight Edition ensures that not many pay attention, however, those who know, will recognize it. The blue background is surely a very individual choice. Although Winston is known for diamonds and jewelry, Marketing Director France Schneider, who has his office at Winston’s flagship store t in London’s Baker Street, is most proud of their watches. And when needed, he will delicately tell you the price of this timeless classic – which actually is quite competitive in its category.

Prices 10,000 – 24,000 € (For example 10,400 € at Chrono24)

 

Tag Heuer – Monaco

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As a true friend of motor sports, Erkan Fere couldn’t resist acquiring a retro watch with a blue alligator skin bracelet. The square 70’s-style Caliber 12 Chronograph is a modern classic. There are many versions, but maybe the most stylish is the one seen on Steve McQueen’s wrist in the movie Le Mans (1971).

Even though the Monaco is sporty already because of its size, it also works surprisingly well as a suit watch. The version in the shades of blue is very recognizable and will quickly move the conversation to the contents of the owner’s garage. The limited edition with Gulf colors and rubber wristband is the weekend edition of the watch.

Prices starting from 2,000 € (For example 5,250 € at Chrono24)

 

Jaeger-Le Coultre – Master Ultra Thin Jubilee

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If Harry Winston’s Midnight edition is stylishly simplified, Jaeger-Le Coultre takes simplicity one more step further. The elegant case hides a machinery with 123 parts that ensures the highest quality timekeeping, especially with the limited edition Extra-White Platinium model.

The model was launched in 2013 to celebrate Jaeger-Le Coultre’s 180-year history in watch making. This 39mm diameter watch is only 4,05 mm thick, which makes it one of the slimmest mechanical watches around.

Compared to this model, the family of Antoine Le Coultre’s watches includes more stunning pieces, like the Master Grand Tradition Grande Compilation, the star map of which quiets many watch specialists – and also requires the owner to have the ego to match the watch. But the Extra-White Platinum requires that the owner has a delicate sense of style, and understands why the material of his suit is supposed to be Super 230 quality.

Prices starting from 13,000 € (for example 15,500€ at Chrono24)

 


When only the best will do

Joona Vuorenpää, known as ‘Kellomies’ (The Watch Guy), is an author of a Finnish watch book, writes esteemed watch blog kellomies.fi and is also chairman of the board on The Finnish Watchmakers’ Association (Suomen Kelloseppäliittö). Joona has selected the cream of the cream of high end watches published in year 2014, the most luxurious time pieces to drool after. Drool ahead!

Calibre de Cartier Diver

Cartier Diver

The first selection for the “entry level” high-end watch for this year’s new arrivals is Calibre de Cartier Diver.

Cartier is one the the most classic and recognized true luxury brands that has been manufacturing both watches and jewelry for the wealthy and famous since the end of 19th century.

Despite the impressive history and brand, the Cartier watches haven’t always been technically among the most adequate ones because the manufactures, as well as the instruments have been changing without the brand’s strong focus on the overall quality. Luckily now times have changed and Cartier has taken the manufacturing process in to their own hands in Switzerland.

 

The first diver’s watch to match professional standards from an old men’s and women’s jewelry watch brand received lot of attention from the watch industry.

The Cartier brand is not often connected to sports watches, not even to mention diver’s watches. The classic Cartier design is masterly combined with the latest technology, represented by their own manufacture-machinery. It also fulfils the ISO 6425 standard which makes it a thoroughbred professional diver’s watch. Even better-known sports watch makers haven’t all reached this standard. If the standard is met, the watch can officially have the label “Diver” in it. The standard’s requirements include for example waterproofness down to 300 meters, ability to manage changes in temperature and visibility issues.

Each Calibre de Cartier Diver on sale has undergone intensive testing. It comes with 1904 MC in-house machinery, a rubber bracelet and a selection of steel or red gold cases. The combination of moderate pricing and high-end quality features makes it one of the best and most interesting purchases within this price range.

The price for the steel version is around 6 000 € in Finland, which is pretty surprising compared to the brand’s reputation and current standards in quality.

(For example 4,890 € at Chrono24)

 

Hublot “Spirit of Big Bang”

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The 1980’s-born  jet set brand Hublot is on the rise at the moment. It came through the grapevine from Switzerland that many locals have traded in their more common luxury watches for a Hublot, which can be seen on the wrists men of status more often nowadays.

Responsible for this new coming of the brand is the big investment of the watch mogul Jean-Claude Biver, and more recently of the LVMH Group owned by Hublot. Hublot is a luxury brand to watch out for.

The model of choice is the Spirit of Big Bang from the Big Bang series for a couple of reasons. The series now also includes a so-called tonneau design and the reliable watch movement also keeps the price reasonable for the gentleman on the lookout for a high-end watch. The Spirit of Big Bang sports a El Primero cronography watch movement by Zenith, which is also owned by the LVMH group. Some watch enthusiasts might consider the choice as sacrilege, as Hublot has their in-house Unico-watch movement.

It’s not that odd, as the El Primero watch movement of cultlike stature has been seen in brands like Rolex  (Daytona), Ebel, and subsequently also in TAG Heuers. This exceptionally fast-running (36 000 vibrations in hour, when the standard is 28 800) can now be found on the delicious Hublot lineup. As an added reasoning behind the watch movement choice is that not all of the smaller and more complex in-house designs meet with the quality and reliability demands for the price.

The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang comes in different cover materials and wristband styles. Gold, titanium and ceramics are not spared.

The price range starts at 20,000 € (for example the gold version is 30,700 € at Chrono24)

Voutilainen Tourbillon-6

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Kari Voutilainen has lived in Switzerland making watches for a quarter of a century, and he is part of the independent watch maker elite.

According to watch journalists and specialists he is one of the top 3 to 5 watch makers in the world. The problem is then to name the other two or four master makers at his level! It’s not easy to find someone who competes with his skills, because most of the top makers have specialised in fixing a specific problem or in finding a solution to producing a complex function of the watch. There are very few people in the world who master the whole process of making a watch, not to mention the development and production.

The watch Voutilainen released this year is a masterpiece called Tourbillon-6. There are only six of them produced and they represent his forward-thinking attitude and ambition. Voutilainen has now combined a Tourbillon into the Vingt-8 watch movement, that he has designed and produced himself. The escapement spins around, evening out the movement of the arm that would otherwise cause the watch to be inaccurate. The Vingt-8, first presented a few years ago, has the first watch movement where cogwheels give a direct hit to the balance wheel. Voutilainen presented his first commercial Troupillion watch in 2012. Voutilainen graduated from the Finnish School of Watchmakers and continued learning while working at several top watchmaker studios in Switzerland. He begun working independently at Motiers village on 2002. He now employs twenty watchmakers, having for example one of them specialised in the outside of a watch and the carvings on the clock-face.

This new watch by Voutilainen was an obvious “best buy” choice for Vuorenpää. Out of the three picks, this watch represents the most clearly the so-called haute horlogerie (fine watchmaking) artwork. Long waiting times and the increasing recognition worldwide has led to people selling a watch immediately after getting it with a 20% profit. Last year Kari Voutilainen´s V-8R-model was selected as the best men’s watch at the prestigious watchmakers competition in Geneve. The new Tourbillon-6 is yet without a price tag, but it surely consists of six numbers.

Price range – not known

 

Posted in Featured, The Foundry 12.