Buying Guide: Best modern dress watches under SGD 1,000

There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to relegate his plastic watches (regardless of the nostalgia he holds for them) into his drawer and get one fit for the boardroom.

Class need not be expensive. Similarly, spending a ton of money does not necessarily make one classy. Our chief task at hand today is to aid the selection of your next dress watch on a budget.

A good dress watch is one that is understated, thin and simple. It serves as an accompaniment to your overall ensemble and should not take centre stage. Here are the best you can buy below SGD 1,000.

Orient Bambino

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Let me start off by saying that if you’re looking to buy something which gives you the most bang for your buck, the Orient Bambino is truly hard to beat.

Orient is a Japanese watchmaker owned by Seiko but is managed autonomously. Much like Seiko, Orient is well known for its good quality mechanical watches offered at great affordability. 

There are a lot of dial designs and it is a guarantee that you will find something that suits your taste. Pin sharp lettering and mirror polished angled hands laid out on a proportionately spaced out face, the Bambino is a contemporary watch with a hint of vintage quaintness. 

A down side to this watch is its use of mineral crystal, which is more susceptible to scratches as opposed to sapphire crystal but this is honestly reflected in its price. On the flipside, you’ll probably not wear this watch to the beach or other physical events so just try not to be too clumsy in the office and it’ll do just fine.

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All variants come in stainless steel (pure or gold plated) with a level of polishing that’s remarkable for this price point. Case sizes are between 39.5 to 41 mm – the perfect size for a dress watch – and slim enough to slip under shirt sleeves. It sports a small and flat crown further adding to its overall refined look.

Oh, and you’ll be glad to know that Orient makes all their components in house and their watches are assembled by a team of Japanese watchmakers.

Most of the models come with a black or brown leather strap with alligator print and though it is a non-matter, I have to highlight that the straps are very stiff when first purchased and might be just that wee bit uncomfortable during the first few weeks but will eventually be rectified with constant wear.

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If applied markers are more your thing, Orient Bambino has them as well.

Prices start from SGD 240 to SGD 350.

Orient watches can be found throughout Singapore but I recommend visiting the shops at Bras Basah Complex for the range of models they carry and the reasonable (yet bargain-able) prices.

Alternatively, you can click on your preferred design below to purchase straight from Amazon for a sizeable discount over the retail price:

Steinhart Marine Chronometer (roman)

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Steinhart is a German watch company that has transitioned into an online business model in recent years but they do have distributors operating out of a shop front and surprisingly, one of the first came from Singapore and is still in operation.

The Steinhart Marine Chronometer (roman) draws its namesake and design from the marine chronometer – a technical wonder conceived in the 18th century. In a period that precedes electronics, the marine chronometer was a critical tool for sailors relying on celestial navigation.

There is a version with Arabic numerals (same price) but I would recommend the one with roman numerals as it looks more in place with the pearl white enamel dial. The leaf-shaped blued hands provide diversity and inject a touch of colour playing down the ‘somberness’ from the overall look. Under lighting, the hands can appear to be jet black which is not a bad thing; a watch with black hands in the day and blue hands by night all for the price of one.

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Black by day, blue by night.

I’ve always had a thing for small seconds dials at 6 o’clock as I feel that it adds character to a watch without taking away its symmetry (which is another thing I love).

The railroad markers circling its circumference and subdial tie everything together into a handsome looking watch.

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Encased within the Steinhart Marine Chronometer is a Swiss made automatic movement, the ‘Unitas 6498’ – a reliable and sturdy workhorse used in certain models of Panerai and TAG Heuer. The watch has a clear caseback so watch nerds can admire the beautifully made movement adorned with blued screws and Geneva stripes.

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Point to note though, its 44 mm case is considerably large and thick for a dress watch (as mentioned above, 39 to 42 mm and thin work best) and the half onion crown sticks out prominently so put one on and see how it graces your wrist for at least 5 minutes to see if this could be a break factor for you.

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With that said, its ‘sporty’ size means that you can transform it from a dress watch to a semi-casual one by having a little fun with straps. A black leather or NATO with white stitching will work very nicely in my opinion.

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The Steinhart Marine Chronometer retails for approximately SGD 780 and can be found at GNOMON Watches – a retailer specialising in German timepieces. They also have a huge selection of watch straps.

9 Raffles Boulevard #01-73/74 (S)039596 Millenia Walk

http://www.gnomonwatches.com

 

Tissot Heritage Visodate

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Is it possible to get a well made automatic watch from a prominent Swiss company with great history and heritage for less than SGD 1,000?

Yes! Meet the Tissot Heritage Visodate – a watch released in 2010 to celebrate Tissot’s achievement of being the first in the world to include a ‘date’ function into automatic watches in 1953.

Now, that’s some true heritage. 

The 2010 model also features an additional ‘day’ window which was absent from the 1953 version.

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An incredibly clean and straight forward dial lined with mirrored index markers make this the dressiest watch out of the 3. While the dial appears to be white (especially from a distance), it’s actually a very light tone of silver with a hint of shimmer. The simplicity carries through to the comparatively dark and prominent silver dauphine hands providing high legibility though I feel that the minute hand should be made slightly longer.

The usage of the Tissot logo from 1950s is also a nice throw back to its big brother.

The 40 mm case is made from polished stainless steel with subtle curves and smooth angles curving nicely into the elegantly thin lugs. Unlike the Orient Bambino, scratch resistant sapphire crystal is used as is to be expected with it costing almost thrice as much (but still highly affordable).

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The Tissot Heritage Visodate beats to a frequency of 28,800 vph on an ETA 2836-2 movement with slight modifications.

It features a transparent caseback and a classy brushed gold rotor. The rotor covers up half of the caseback so observation of the movement is somewhat restricted but you’re not going to let that stop you yes?

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The Tissot Heritage Visodate series starts from SGD 840 and can be found in Tissot boutiques islandwide.

Alternatively, you can click on your preferred design below to purchase straight from Amazon for a sizeable discount over the retail price:

 

So which one?

Extremely narrow budget but fancy a well made classical piece – go with the Orient Bambino.

Want a piece with a great story behind and have a little more cash to splash? Boils down to your preference then:

The Steinhart Marine Chronometer works well in and out of the office. Not forgetting the fun you’ll get tinkering with straps.

Hell bent on a Swiss brand and no nonsense dress watch – the Tissot Heritage Visodate will do you no wrong.

And if you have slightly more money to spend, please check out: Buying Guide: Best modern dress watches under SGD 3,000

 

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