Local vs Swiss vs Japanese Watchmaking
It would be an understatement to say that these days, the dominant forces in the watch industry would tend to be from Japan and Switzerland. Germany also has some strong offerings as well from the likes of Nomos, Glashutte Original, Sinn and A Lange & Sohne. But when you ask anyone where they would turn to, to get a fine reliable watch, chances are that you’ll hear Japan or Switzerland being uttered the most. For good reason too. While these 2 giants have been going about creating some of the finest watches in the world; Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers and Credor’s Sonnerie Minute Repeater respectively. They haven’t forgotten about the market of regular folks like the rest of us too.
Enter brands like Seiko, and Tissot, these manufacturers offer you a piece of that colourful history for a fraction of the price of the aforementioned Credor. While similarly priced they are, similar they are not, one coming from Switzerland and another hailing from Japan. But, unlike our previous two articles looking at 2 great affordable watches from Japan and Switzerland, we’ll be looking at another contender too. With the birth of countless micro-brands these days, offering similarly spec-ed watches but with unique designs and charms, it can be quite a headache thinking where you should sink your money into. Do you stick to the traditional route and sink your money into a time-honored piece from Seiko or Tissot, or do you make a left turn and travel down the road less travelled and go for something a bit more daring, and special?
The micro brand in question that we’ll be looking at today hails from our own local shores; Aries Gold. Founded in the 1970s, it may not have the heritage and history of its 2 competitors but, it does have its own unique origins too. Where the Seiko and Tissot each represents an individual flair and technique in their manufacturing of watches. Aries Gold on the other hand, believes that watches should be more than just a simple accessory for telling the time or for looking good with. The brand has sought to create watches made with meaning since its inception, and still do till this day.
With so many options to choose from, and each one offering compellingly different values and style. Choosing the right watch for you might no longer just be a question of which one is better than the other, rather which one of these (and by that, I mean in the way that they are built, the values and the focuses of each of them as well) relates more to you, your preference and values. To help make that decision less headache inducing, we’ve laid out 3 representatives from each brand. A trio of elegant daily dress watches; the Seiko Presage SRPD41J1, the Aries Gold G 9026 CF-CF La Oro and the Tissot Le Locle Automatic T0064071603300. Why dress watches? Well, it’s simple; they’re immensely popular and timeless in design and it’s the design that most if not everyone thinks of when asked about what a traditional watch is and also because, well they’re damn good watches and we all love a daily dress watch.
Aries Gold G 9026 CF-CF La Oro
The wristwatch has been a staple of the man’s jewellery box since the dawn of time (well they only really caught on after 1904 thanks to the Cartier Santos but that’s a story for another day) and still is today.
I’m writing this looking at 6 very different watches in my own wardrobe and the one on my wrist and I personally can’t think of a better accessory for a man than a lovely watch sitting on my wrist. In my opinion, no design represents the traditional wrist watch as quintessentially as traditional 3-handed dress watch. While there are many modern variants around offering this timeless design and style, there is one from local microbrand Aries Gold that re-creates this traditional design for the modern world. I'm talking about this, the Aries Gold G 9026 CF-CF La Oro.
Featuring a stunning coffee brown sunburst dial, with slim and sharp applied indexes and hands, all fitted within a matching polished coffee coloured case. The La Oro in this colourway is unlike any other 3 handed-dress watch out there. The slightly domed sapphire crystal adds a sense of depth to this otherwise simple timepiece, and fits perfectly with the modern-vintage aesthetic.
Made locally in Singapore and powered by a workhorse Seiko Epson caliber, with a 3Hz frequency and 42 hours of power-reserve, the watch with a minimalist (albeit sunburst) dial can easily be dressed up or down effortlessly. With its simplistic design and subtle sunburst detailing on the dial, it’s an easy watch to wear but one with a unique charm that you just don’t get anywhere else especially being the most affordable watch that we have here today. The Aries Gold La Oro is a fun watch to have and is a great getaway drug for the first-time watch enthusiast.
Seiko Presage SRPD42J1
If you’re looking for a classic, affordable dress watch with an air of elegance and luxury, the Seiko Presage SRPD42J1 might just be for you. First of all, it’s a basic 3 hander with nothing but the date, on its stunning blue textured dial and is cased in a curvy stainless steel case giving it an added flair of subtle luxury. The sandblasted texture of the dial, in combination with the silvered hands and indices, makes for a visually appealing viewing experience.
Matching silvered markers are applied as well, giving an added depth to the overall minimalistic dial, but that’s where the strengths of the SRPD42J1 really lie. For such a simple and unfussy watch, the devil is often in the details and this watch, thanks to Seiko’s immaculate production techniques and attention to detail, is one that can stand up strongly to scrutiny.
There is a small date window also at the 6 o'clock position, which again shows a mix of traditional and modern sensibilities. The watch also comes with a sapphire crystal protecting the dial, meaning that you won't have to worry about scratches whatsoever.
The round 42mm case rests well on any wrist and is only 12mm thick so, you’ll hardly feel that it’s in the way. Its butterfly buckle clasp and in-house made caliber decorated with a golden skeletonized rotor weight are subtle reminders of Seiko’s attention to detail. Once again that this, otherwise simple and unassuming looking watch, is one of the finest dress watches that you can get without having to break the bank.
Tissot Le Locle Automatic T0064071603300
The next watch we’re looking at is one of the first few watches that sparked my love for mechanical watches. The Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80. When I first saw this many, many years ago, I wanted it, it was the first-ever proper watch that I actually wanted and strived for.
It is, a traditional, Swiss made 3 handed dress watch. And it is the very essence of what the dress watch stands for, and this Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 brings that tradition to us in an incredibly affordable and gorgeous package. Being innovators in tradition, the Le Locle Powermatic 80 is a vintage styled dress watch, designed for the modern world featuring a central machine Guilloche dial surrounded by a bead-blasted minute track adorned with applied Roman numerals.
Though it looks like it belongs in a time long before ours (and that’s not even a bad thing) it is powered by Tissot’s very modern and reliable Powermatic 80 automatic movement, giving it as its name implies a healthy 80 hours of power-reserve, twice of what you get from mechanical watches in this price range. And it’s the on the rear where the vintage charms of this watch truly shine, with a medallion like case-back decorated with Tissot’s signature housing a very contemporary and innovative movement within.
It’s a great watch, to have for under a thousand dollars, with such a rich history and heritage that packs plenty of modern innovations and manufacturing techniques. Its unarguably one of the best modern affordable Swiss watches you can get right now without having to break the bank.
The Luxury of Choice
You may have noticed, that these watches, although rather similar on paper: Stainless-steel dress watches, automatics, displaying only the time and date. But they are in fact, vastly different. The Tissot may be the more refined of the trio thanks to its stunning dial, applied roman numerals and medallion case-back. But, both the Aries Gold and the Seiko are easily capable of the performance that the Tissot offers and yet they both offer something a bit more than just being simple daily dress watches.
What they offer is an almost artistic and intriguing insight into what traditional mechanical watchmaking was and is today. These watches can trade blows all day long, the Seiko being the only one powered by an actual in-house made caliber, but with 10 hours less power reserve compared to the Tissot. While the Tissot, has a timeless and contemporary aesthetic, the Aries Gold stuns with its shining sunburst dial, neatly applied markers and that domed sapphire crystal too. So, what does this mean then? Do we simply go for the Seiko because its in-house movement and beautifully finished dial puts it at an inherent advantage over the Tissot and Aries Gold? No, it’s much more than that. And to be able to have these watches and have a dilemma like this is truly a moment to savour after all, if we all bought watches with our heads, we wouldn’t even have mechanical watches at all in this day and age, and who would want to live in a world like that?