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High and Low: Approachable and Exorbitant Options of Classic Styles

Paul Altieri

With just about all watch types and complications out there shy of double tourbillons and minute repeaters, there is a solid spectrum of options out there ranging from reasonable value to bank-breaking high watchmaking. Whether you’re after a new chronograph, GMT, dress watch, or others, there are highs and lows in a range or price brackets worthy of consideration. In this feature we’ve narrowed down the more common watch categories, offering up a duo of selections whether you’re on a budget, or looking to break the bank.

Chronographs – Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Black Steel versus Rolex Daytona

Opting to select a duo with at least some level of similarity, the overlaps between these two watches aren’t huge, though they are at least pointed in a similar design direction. Screw-down pushers, black dials and bezels, and similar case proportions (40mm for Rolex and 41mm for Bell & Ross) make a fine jumping-off point, but from there the significant differentiations take hold. In the case of the approachable Bell & Ross, priced at $4,600, we see an aluminum bezel, and a modular ETA-based self-winding chronograph caliber displaying a 30-minute chronograph counter alongside running seconds, and a subtle date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Its screw-down crown and pushers assist in delivering 100m of water resistance.

Affordable options to the Daytona include The Bell & Ross BR V2 94 Black Steel
The Bell & Ross BR V2 94 Black Steel is an affordable alternative to the Daytona

In the case of the Daytona 116500 LN, of course you’re looking at a ceramic bezel, the glorious COSC certified 4130 self-winding caliber with integrated column-wheel chronograph, and the superb case finishing that comes with all things modern Rolex. These days new Daytonas remain hard to come by, further proven by our recent auction results where a white dial version of this watch fetched $26,000. That said, they are about as classic as they come in the chronograph category, and the kind of thing that (at this rate) are unlikely to lose much in the way of value.

The Rolex Daytona 116500LN
This Rolex Daytona recently sold at auction for $26,000

Dress Watches – Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline versus JLC Master Ultra Thin Date

Given their inherently simple nature, finding a good dress watch is fairly easy in any price category. For our split this time around we’re looking at two pieces that are quite similar in design, yet vastly different in terms of fit and finish. In both cases we have relatively slim 40mm cases that are both less than 10mm thick (unspecified from Hamilton and 7.5mm from Jaeger), exhibition casebacks, and distinctly ‘50s era inspired styling. From the Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline you’re looking at the somewhat standard ETA 2892-2 self winding caliber, which is nothing impressive though in the same breath quite bulletproof and easy to have serviced just about anywhere. In this case we selected the dark champagne/ bordering on mocha dial variant in a steel case, for less than $1k, though other dial colors (and even a solid gold version) are available.

Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline shares some similarities with the JLC Ultra Thin

Stepping up to the Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date, you’re looking at the slender self-winding JLC calibre 899/1 with far more elaborate finishing than the Hamilton (of course). A solid pink gold case complemented by gold hands and applied indices over an eggshell dial delivers a classic timeless design. Though the Hamilton’s case is well done for the price, the fluid curves of the JLC further speak to the time, attention, and care involved in creating the piece.

This Jaeger LeCoultre may look similar, but the details make it
This Jaeger LeCoultre may look similar, but the details make it

Travel Watches – Tudor Black Bay GMT versus Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time

While this duo is slightly out of line with one another when compared to our previous examples, at a functional level they are equally matched, as they both offer the ability to track multiple time zones in a fairly casual and very comfortable package. The “Pepsi bezel” Tudor Black Bay GMT was one of the most talked about watches of Baselworld this year, as it further builds on the immense popularity of the Black Bay line with a practical GMT complication, in a highly desirable color scheme, and being powered by an in-house manufacture GMT caliber all for a starting price under $4,000.

The Tudor Black Bay GMT
The Tudor Black Bay GMT

The recently refreshed Overseas collection has continued to expand over the last year, and the inclusion of an updated Dual Time model proved to be quite well received. While the previous iteration displayed a 2nd time zone via a large subdial, this new version features a much easier to read central hand for its second timezone alongside a prominent ap/pm indicator and date subdial at 6 o’clock. It is powered by the new caliber 5100DT, which delivers a power reserve of 60 hours and is finished to meet Geneva Seal certification standards. Tying the package together is Vacheron’s quick-change strap system for the Overseas that allows its wearer to alternate between steel bracelet, and rubber and leather strap options in a hurry. Priced at $25,400 it doesn’t come cheap, but it delivers plenty of bang for the buck.

The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time
Paul Altieri
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