MONOCHROME has always been, since its inception in 2006, a celebration of fine watches. And by that, we mean mechanical watches in general, from high-end brands to creative independent watchmaking or icons of the industry. While we can dream in front of a superb Lange Tourbograph Perpetual or some of the most complex watches of 2020, we also need to face reality and admit that these are made for the very few. So, in addition to our lists of the best chronographs, dive watches and luxury sports watches of the year, we also wanted to take a look back at watches that we can actually afford and collect, accessible watches launched in 2020 and that still satisfy our love for beautiful horology. And if you want to treat yourself for Christmas, all of these watches are available online, from the brands’ official websites…
Note: this buying guide is based on our preferences. Also, we’ve only listed mechanical watches, priced below EUR 2,000, and only models that we had the opportunity to touch, handle and photograph ourselves, in order to bring a more objective selection. There are many more accessible watches that have been launched this year. Share your favourite models in the comment box.
Baltic Aquascaphe GMT
Baltic is the brainchild of a young watch lover and collector of vintage icons. And this reflects in the watches designed produced by the brand. Following the Aquascaphe dive watch launched last year, Baltic this year looks at another important category, the sporty traveller’s watch, in the name of the Aquascaphe GMT. Still based on the same case as the diver’s model, with a clear 1960s inspiration, the brand adds an additional time zone display as well as the necessary 24h rotating bezel. Design is still ultra-cool, with a sapphire crystal insert available in multiple, colourful two-tone combinations, matched with a glossy black dial with slightly redesigned markers and a retro-styled bead of rice bracelet. Also, the overall quality of the watch has been improved and the automatic movement now comes from Switzerland, as made by Soprod. Stylish and well made, one of the great surprises of the end of the year. Available online for EUR 1,200 on a stainless steel bracelet.
Quick facts: 39mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – bidirectional 24h bezel in sapphire – 100m water-resistant – Soprod C125 GMT, automatic – stainless steel “bead of rice” bracelet – EUR 1,105 on rubber strap, EUR 1,200 on steel bracelet – baltic-watches.com
Certina DS Chronograph Automatic
Part of the Swatch Group and known for its accessible and robust watches – the DS (Double Security) concept – Certina has unveiled this year a surprising watch, a vintage-inspired chronograph based on an elegant 1940s model with clear “heritage” spirit. Although larger than the original watch, the new Certina DS Chronograph Automatic is bringing most of the beauty of the old chronograph back, with a greatly executed dial with multiple scales and original applied markers. The similarities with the historic watch are evident and it does make for a truly handsome watch. Inside the 42mm case is an automatic movement based on the 7753 architecture, yet with an anti-magnetic silicon hairspring and an upgraded power reserve of 60 hours. And at EUR 1,920, it makes a lot of a watch for the money.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter – stainless steel case – domed sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistant – calibre A05.H31, base ETA 7753, automatic cam-lever chronograph – leather strap with quick-release system – EUR 1,920 – certina.com
Frederique Constant Highlife COSC
For long, the idea of a 1970s-inspired watch with integrated bracelet was reserved to the Holy Trinity brands – Patek, AP and VC – and it simply couldn’t be matched with the notion of accessible luxury. However, as the category is now hotter than ever before, more and more brands are entering the race, including some positioned in far lower price ranges. One of the latest brands to offer a so-called luxury sports watch with integrated bracelet is Frederique Constant, a brand that has nothing to prove anymore when it comes to value for the money. With its Highlife collection, FC respects the codes of the genre, with a sleek barrel-shaped case, an integrated steel bracelet and a textured dial displaying time and date. Best of all, this edition comes with a COSC-certified automatic movement and retails for less than EUR 1,700 – including the steel bracelet and a spare rubber strap, with an easy DIY interchangeability system.
Quick facts: 41mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 50m water-resistant – calibre FC-303, base Sellita SW 200 – automatic COSC-certified – integrated stainless steel bracelet or leather strap, additional rubber included – from EUR 1,695 – frederiqueconstant.com
Hamilton Khaki Aviation Converter
Hamilton is no stranger to the instrument watch, and specifically military and pilot’s watches. With its Khaki Aviation collection, the brand demonstrates its experience in this field. While most of them are vintage-inspired, time-only models, the brand’s latest creation is slightly different. The new Hamilton Khaki Aviation Converter Collection is a classic pilot’s watch that enables flying calculations to be performed on the wrist, with a so-called “slide rule” bezel. Neither too modern nor too vintage, it is a nice mix of classic codes with a respectable size and overall very cool design. Also available with a chronograph or a GMT function, we chose here the simplest version, with a time-and-date display, which makes the main function, the slide rule bezel, the star of the show. The case and dial are nicely executed and inside is the Calibre H-10, an upgraded version of the ETA 2824-2 with an anti-magnetic hairspring and a power reserve of 80 hours. A very cool piece for aviation lovers, which starts at just north of EUR 1,000.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal and slide rule bezel with K1 mineral glass insert – 100m water-resistant – Calibre Hamilton H-10, automatic – leather strap or steel bracelet – from EUR 1,095 – www.hamiltonwatch.com
Hanhart 417 ES Chronograph
When it comes to pilot’s chronograph, few brands have the legitimacy of Hanhart. Once the official watch of German pilots (and the choice of Steve McQueen!), the brand has an incredible reputation in this field. And the design is equally iconic. One of the most emblematic watches of the brand is the 417 ES, the first pilot’s chronograph for the German armed forces. And it has just been reissued, in a slightly modernized package with a 42mm case. Yet, the details, the fonts, the dial, the logo, the hands… all feels exactly how it should be and the watch, of course, worn on a Bund strap, has a stunning look on the wrist. It is powered by a hand-wound Sellita SW 510 with an extended power reserve. Plus, it isn’t limited in production and the price is just right.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – bidirectional fluted bezel – 100m water-resistant – Sellita SW 510, hand-wound cam-lever chronograph – black “Bund” leather strap – EUR 1,744 – www.hanhart.com
Longines Heritage Tuxedo Small seconds
In addition to the chronograph version, which we believe is one of the coolest watches launched by Longines this year, the vintage-oriented, 1940s-inspired “Tuxedo” collection also includes a compact, elegant yet original small seconds model. Based on a 1945 two-tone model from its archives, Longines has recreated the design and only slightly modernized the specifications to bring a watch with incredible charm. While the case size has been slightly augmented to 38.5mm, the dial is entirely faithful with its thick chapter ring and contrasting silver opaline central area, with an Art-Deco flair. Inside is the Calibre L893.5, Longines’ take on the ETA A31.501 with an extended power reserve and anti-magnetic silicon hairspring. Yet another truly handsome model in the brand’s Heritage collection.
Quick facts: 38.5mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 30m water-resistant – Calibre L893.5 – small seconds, automatic – smooth calf black leather strap – EUR 1,920 – Longines.com
Norqain Adventure Sport Automatic
A newcomer that already demonstrates great maturity, Norqain has specialised itself in contemporary sports watches and all-rounder models. A fully independent watch manufacturer, the brand has already 3 collections and some watches with manufacture calibres produced by Kenissi. One of the models that caught our attention is the Adventure Sport Automatic, a nice and robust watch with instrumental look, designed for active outdoor use. The watch is greatly assembled, with a solid feel and a case that oozes quality. The dial has a distinctive “Norqain” herringbone pattern and is matched with a rotating bezel featuring a grey ceramic insert. Inside is the ubiquitous, tried-and-tested ETA 2824 calibre. A great sports watch at a reasonable price.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – ceramic bezel – 100m water-resistant – ETA 2824, automatic – Cordura fabric strap, also available on steel bracelet – EUR 1,740 – www.norqain.com
Oris Roberto Clemente Limited Edition
One of the most active brands in the accessible luxury segment, Oris has nothing to prove anymore when it comes to bringing serious manufacturing, reliability and style. Whether you want a robust diving instrument, a vintage-inspired aquatic model or a retro-styled pilot’s watch, Oris will have something for you. One of the brand’s latest creation is not only truly cool-looking but it also follows the brand’s commitment to becoming a watchmaker that can “Change for the Better.” Following a new partnership with the Roberto Clemente Foundation, a humanitarian organisation named in honour of baseball player Roberto Clemente, the brand released this limited edition based on the Big Crown Pointer Date model. What changes is this light-coloured dial with gold accents (modelled after Clemente’s jersey) and a strap that recalls a baseball glove, the watch looks and feels great. And like always with Oris, the price is right.
Quick facts: 40mm diameter – stainless steel case with fluted bezel – sapphire crystal – 50m water-resistance – Oris 754, base Sellita SW-200 – automatic with pointer date – Light brown leather strap with double stitching – limited to 3,000 pieces – EUR 1,800 – oris.ch
Raketa Leopard 24
Raketa is one of the most important names in Russian watchmaking. Recently revived with a new direction, the brand continues to produce its own in-house movements, and most of the parts are done in Russia. It’s not only a Russian identity on a random watch, but it’s also a celebration of “Made in Russia” and Russian heritage. The brand’s latest creation couldn’t be more in line with this statement, as being a submariner watch using original metal from a Leopard Akula class nuclear submarine! The Raketa Leopard 24 is original, different, cool-looking and powered by an internally manufactured 24-hour automatic movement – a feature necessary for claustrophobic life onboard a submarine, where night and day are indistinguishable. Released in a limited edition of 300 pieces, it is a watch with a unique identity.
Quick facts: 44mm diameter – stainless steel case, with bezel made from the steel of an original submarine – sapphire crystal – 200m water-resistant – Raketa calibre 2624A, in-house – automatic with 24 hours display – leather strap + spare silicone strap – limited to 300 pieces – EUR 1,550 – www.raketa.com
Seiko Prospex SPB153 Captain Willard
It is hard to talk accessible watches without having Seiko listed. The Japanese brand masters the concept, with sports or elegant watches of superior quality, all fairly priced and greatly designed. Our choice among multiple new Seiko watches for 2020 is the Captain Willard reissue, and to be precise the olive-green model reference SPB153 – note that a black edition, the SPB151, is also available. A very faithful re-edition of the iconic ref. 6105 from the late 1960s, only modernized on materials and colours, it looks absolutely cool and is packed with great features. The dial, hands and bezel are well executed, the green colour is lovely and the movement, of course produced in-house, is powerful. There are many other noticeable Seiko watches launched this year, but for us, this Captain Willard reissue steals the show.
Quick facts: 42.8mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – unidirectional bezel with green aluminium insert – 200m water-resistant – Calibre 6R35, in-house – automatic with date – black silicon strap – EUR 1,150 – www.seikowatches.com