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ROLEX BLOG

Baselworld 2019: The Best New Watches Under $5k

April 4, 2019

BY Justin Mastine-Frost

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One thing I always love about Baselworld, regardless of how busy it is or the other drama surrounding its future, is the fact that there’s always a handful of watches (sometimes more) that get me genuinely excited about this geek-filled industry I’ve grown to love over the years. This year was thankfully no different, and even without the presence of the Swatch Group brands (like Omega, Blancpain, and Longines), I didn’t have too hard a time tracking down new watches that I’d love to get my hands on. A few are in the upper register of “maybe someday if I’m lucky”  but rather than focusing on the “unobtanium” I’ve decided to work through a list of my favorite new watches, in a range of different price categories, starting below $1000.

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Under $1k – Joseph Bulova Tonneau Limited Edition

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Bulova had a handful of fantastic releases this year, but the one that stole the show for me was this modestly sized, tonneau-cased beauty. Powered by a Sellita SW200 automatic movement and cased in steel, these pieces start at $995 and are going to be limited to only 350 pieces of each reference. Though heritage throwbacks/vintage reissues have been popular for some time, it’s interesting to see a brand like Bulova going back to something a little more Art Deco rather than ‘60s/’70s funk with these new watches. Additionally, fitting them with a traditional workhorse Sellita caliber was a much smarter & cost effective choice than sorting a new hand-wound caliber.

 

$1,000 – $2,000 – Monta Atlas GMT

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As their 4th release after the successful launch of the Oceanking, Triumph, and Skyquest, the Monta Atlas features a similar GMT setup as the diver-style Skyquest in a modified version of the field-style Triumph casing. Per usual, the design is very thoughtful and full of well-executed details (applied indices, a brilliantly finished case and bracelet, and a unique stepped GMT hand that hovers above its applied indices). If I had to pick one, the off-white/silver dial variant with the contrasting blue GMT hand is the home run of the pack. It’s 38.5mm across, powered by the Sellita SW 330, and comes in at a very reasonable $1,410.

 

$2,000 – $3,000 – Oris Aquis GMT

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OK, so there’s another GMT on my list, but it’s another good one. Surprisingly, even though Oris has included a good range of complications in the Aquis line, this is the first time we’ve seen a GMT added to the collection. Using their standard 43.5mm case, Oris is using a modified Sellita-based caliber for their GMT complication as well. Sticking with the dive-focused nature of the collection, the Aquis GMT is rated for 300m of water resistance and is still fitted with a 60-minute unidirectional timing bezel with a ceramic insert. It is available on an integrated bracelet, as well as a rubber or leather strap, though personally, I’ll side with the rubber option. If you’ve got larger wrists, you’ll be able to pull off the bracelet, but in my case it’s just a bit too hefty.

 

$3,000 – $4,000 – Tutima Coastline Chronograph

new watches

This piece hasn’t been getting a lot of press just yet, and it’s effectively still in prototype phase with a plan for it to launch later this year. I’ve always been a fan of the brand, but this release is precisely what I’ve been waiting on for years. You see, The Tutima Military Chrono is a classic piece from the brand (powered by the Lemania 5100), and in recent years, they’ve changed its design and increased its case size to 46mm to make the M2 chronograph. With the new Coastline chronograph, we’re back down to a much more wearable 43mm. Add to that the option of either a matte blue or black dial variant and an optional titanium bracelet, and you’ve got a real winner, especially considering pricing is expected to be around the $3,500-$3,800 mark.

 

$4,000 – $5,000 – Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Chronograph Bronze

new watches

While everyone was busy falling for the Tudor Black Bay Chrono Steel & Gold (aka the poor man’s John Player Special), a watch that I still don’t understand based on a clear lack of connection between the Black Bay line and motorsports, I couldn’t help but laugh when I sat for my appointment at Bell & Ross. Not only did the brand launch a chronograph with the same dial and bezel configuration, but they did so in a nicer and more compact case made of bronze, for less money. Now I know it isn’t powered by the same trick Breitling-based chrono caliber that powers the Tudor, however when you’re talking about a sub-$5k chronograph tool watch, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a proven and robust off-the-shelf movement. It looks better, it wears better, it’s a bronze case, and if you were to place the two new watches in front of me and said take your pick, I’d take the B&R without giving it a second thought.

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