3 Affordable Alternatives To Expensive Chronographs
Everybody loves a bit of a bargain, especially when it comes to watches. You see people online casually talking about watches priced like a well-spec’d 3-series and it makes you feel as though you’re on a different planet. But luxury watches don’t have to cost tens of thousands—you can get a handsome timepiece on your wrist for way less than that. So, here are three affordable alternatives to expensive chronographs that just might be up your street.
Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture FC-760V4H4 - £1,950
I don’t know when the last time you went to the cinema was, but if it was at any point in the last five years, you’ll have probably noticed something. No, they haven’t fixed the perma-stick floor or introduced mortgages for the popcorn—I’m talking about the trailers, the previews. Before I tell you to get off my lawn, I’m first going to reminisce about how movie trailers used to be better in the old days, and not because my glasses are rose tinted—but because they were.
A trailer was a teaser that gave you enough to get excited but not so much you could just about not bother seeing the film at all. You’d get glimpses, hints, a taster of what was to come. Not anymore. Now you get all the best jokes, ninety-nine percent of the plot and a solid idea of whether or not you might have enjoyed the film had it not just been spoilt by this readers’ digest edition. They are the concentrate to freshly squeezed juice, EasyJet to a private jet—and they’ve got to stop.
For this Frederique Constant, they’ve done the same thing; only here, it actually makes sense. This watch is called the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture, a spoiler of a name if ever there was one, but with good cause. If there’s anything anyone ever wanted from a chronograph movement, it’s that it’s better than a normal chronograph—that’s the flyback part—and that it’s made by the same company whose name is on the dial. That’s the manufacture part.
So not only does this watch have the classic looks of a Patek Philippe 5170, it also adds the instant reset-restart flyback function and matches it for in-houseness, if that’s even a thing. But just because the Patek Philippe will cost you an arm and a leg—actually, probably more given current limb values—doesn’t mean the Frederique Constant has to. Look around, buy smart, buy pre-owned and you can enjoy not wearing this watch to the movies for less than £2,000.
Oris ChronOris 673 7739 40 34 LS - £2,150
What do Paranoid, With The Beatles and Nevermind all have in common? They all fall under the category of what’s known as the difficult second album, or second album syndrome. This is where a band, following the hard slog of writing and touring new songs at bars and clubs around the country, driving from city to city in the dead of night for peanuts, getting discovered, signing a ridiculously unfair deal, working like dogs to put together an album that’s the culmination of a decade of blood, sweat and tears, that actually sells and sells well, that lifts your name from obscurity to fame—has to start over and do it all again.
Omega’s second album was tricky, or rather the Omega Speedmaster’s second album. The Speedmaster of 1957 was a landmark moment that redefined what a chronograph should be, that turned its eyes to the skies and the race for the moon. It made history, saved lives and became a cherished part of the story of mankind. How do you even begin to follow that up?
No prizes for guessing with the Speedmaster Mark II. But, like any difficult second album, it wasn’t without its hiccups. For a start, the staunch superstition of the astronauts prevented them from wearing it, would you believe, choosing to stick with the tried-and-tested original. Then there was the end of mechanical watchmaking itself, a turn for the books that scuppered much of what Switzerland had been up to for quite a while. Imagine if Nevermind had been released the day before dubstep became a thing.
Nevertheless, the Speedmaster Mark II was actually very good. I mean, it was pretty much just a Speedmaster in a new, seventies jacket, experimental and of its time, so what’s not to like? Well, it was discontinued for a long while, so that was a problem. Then it came back again, and now it’s £4,520. Yikes. If you’d prefer to spend less than half that, you can, because the Oris ChronOris offers that same seventies chronograph look for a price that’s much closer to affordable.
Tudor Prince Date 79280P - £3,950
Ah, the Rolex Daytona. Either you want it and you can’t get one because there are none available, or you want it and you can’t get one because they’re too expensive. If you’re looking for the kind of chronograph glamour you can wear with a loose linen shirt, pale pink shorts and boat shoes with no socks, then it’ll be towards the latter, to the glitzy gold, croc-strap mounted numbers that look as glamorous as a red Ferrari parked on a hundred foot yacht floating on a sea of disco balls.
Trouble is, those things are expensive enough that if you uttered the price to your mother, she would probably slap that loose linen shirt right off your back. This is about affordable watches, not the Playboy billionaire lifestyle. But what if there was a way you could have your cake and pay a lot less for it? Oh, there is, and if you were wearing socks under those boat shoes, you’d most certainly be about to have them blown off.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is not a Daytona. Sure looks like one; fancy exotic strap, white gold case, rose gold dial. Except it’s none of those things. That’s a standard calf strap, a steel case and a copper-coloured dial. It’s also a Tudor —but for less than £4,000, it goes a long way towards all of the things promised by the precious metal Daytona, but in this case you might actually be able to afford it.
Does it look the part? Oh yeah it does. By percentage, the amount it looks like a £20,000 white gold Daytona vastly outweighs the amount you have to pay for it. Even the guy sat on the other side of that San Tropez cafe, smoking a cigar with a look on his face that says, “Yeah, I know this stinks, but I’m so rich my shoes are made of an animal you haven’t even heard of” won’t be able to tell the difference.
There are always those things we want that are a bit—okay, a lot—out of reach, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have options within the realms of the things that aren’t. You won’t find any of these three in a footballer’s bedside cabinet, but they could be found in yours. There’s a lot to enjoy and a lot to appreciate for a price that’s—in the world of luxury chronographs at least—comparatively affordable.
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