Today we are breaking down our favorite watches by price category, beginning with a 25,0000-50,000 dollar spend. This range allows us to explore some of the most significant brands in the space, from entry level independent models, to flagships from some of the icons of the industry. In our mind, these are the best watches for the money. Let’s check it out.
Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy by Kari Voutilainen
Coming in right around 25k, the Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy allows owners to experience the feel of a boutique timepiece. Manufactured alongside Kari Voutilainen, this watch has a multi textured guilloché dial, an explorer dial, and subsidiary seconds at 6. The feel of this watch is incredibly premium, and the watch looks much more expensive than it truly is. Gaining access to the work of a maker like Kari Voutilainen in this price category is a privilege.
The movement is no slouch either, with a micro rotor and beautiful finishing throughout. Manufactured in-house by Schwarz Etienne, the caliber ASE 200.0 has been decorated extensively by Kari Voutilainen after development, with added guilloché on the bridges to make the caseback just as enthralling as the dial. The other detail that’s quite nice to see is the 39mm case. It’s a beautiful sizing that balances a large enough tapestry for Voutilainen’s guilloché and simultaneously a smaller-than-typical case that wears comfortably on the wrist, unlike many monstrosities of today. This is a well executed watch for 25k.
Breguet Tradition 7067 GMT
Likely Breguet’s most popular collection in modern times, the Tradition collection was inspired by souscripiton pocket watches manufactured by the brand in the 18th century. Flaunting several of Breguet’s contributions to the watch space, including the pare-chute shock absorption system, overcoil hairspring, Breguet hands, and guilloché dials, this watch serves as the ultimate representation of the Breguet legacy.
The reference 7067 combines the Tradition architecture with a GMT complication for added utility. These watches are incredibly popular and are quite unique from an aesthetic standpoint. For the price, these watches pack a serious punch, both because of the high level of finishing, and as a result of the distinct historical significance of the model line. These are noteworthy watches, and provide an excellent example of all that Breguet does well.
Lange 1 “Stealth” 101.025
This next piece is one of the best watches at any price point, but it conveniently falls in this range. The Lange 1 is the icon of German watchmaking, with its asymmetrical, yet perfectly balanced dial layout. Although the model has been made in a variety of metals, the platinum iterations have a special desirability, affectionately dubbed the “Stealth” by Lange enthusiasts. A discreet yet magnificent watch, the Lange 1 captures so much of what makes Lange special.
When the brand was introducing its inaugural collection in 1994, it needed a watch that would immediately capture attention. The result was the Lange 1, a piece the likes of which had never been seen before. The big date references the five minute clock in the Dresden Semper opera house that Lange’s founder Ferdinand Adolf Lange was involved in constructing. The Lange 1 thus captures both the aesthetic of the brand, and the heritage. If you could own one Lange and feel that you have experienced the essence of the brand identity, understood the philosophy, and appreciated the craftsmanship, I would personally argue (and most would agree) that a Lange 1 would be the natural choice as the company’s icon and flagship model to this day.
Cartier Privé Collection Tank Chinoise
Another platinum dress piece, this Tank Chinoise is part of the famed Privé collection. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Chinoise, Cartier introduced this model in a limited edition of 150 pieces. The design was influenced by the aesthetics of Chinese and East Asian temples. Thus, this piece has much more pronounced brancards than a typical Tank. The Tank Chinoise was the outgrowth of the Rococo period in the mid 1900s, characterized by a surge in Asian influence in Europe.
The Tank Chinoise is magnificently finished through conflicting high polish and brushed surfaces. A slate sunburst dial at the center of the metal elements furthers the color scheme. A modernized version of the classic Tank, this piece maintains the DNA of the Tank Louis, while bringing a different flavor to the table for enthusiasts.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
One of Vacheron Constantin’s best and popular models, the unique Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 in platinum has become a mini icon of the brand. The skewed dial was designed for car drivers to be able to see the time while gripping the wheel. The dial has a dense texturing and raised painted black numerals. A subsidiary seconds dial with snailed concentric circles interrupts the dial for a bit of added intrigue. Beautiful Breguet hands and a cushion case complete the look.
Through the sapphire caseback, the beautifully hand-finished caliber 4400 AS is visible. Handling this watch is a tactile pleasure, and the quality of the watch is evident from every aspect of the impeccable execution. Wearing this piece, you will enjoy the luxury feel of this price point; this watch is worth every penny.
Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 1955 Cornes de Vache
Yet another Historiques piece of note, the 1955 Cornes de Vache is a world class chronograph, inspired by a 1955 reference from the Vacheron archive and revived for modern enthusiasts with updated sizing and movement finishing. The beautiful platinum 38.5mm case is especially recognizable as a result of its “cow’s horn” Cornes de Vache lugs. It’s an elegant design with blued chronograph hands and white gold hands and indexes.
Even more impressive than the traditional display aesthetics is the brilliant caliber VC 1142, based on the legendary Lemania 2310. The horizontal clutch system is classic for high horology brands, and this one is exquisitely finished by hand. Modern manually-wound chronographs from premier brands have gotten quite expensive in recent years, both due to the high demand and the involved manufacturing process. Thus, it’s quite nice to see a model like the 1955 Cornes de Vache available at a very reasonable and highly competitive pricing structure. This piece is a great value.
Patek Philippe Calatrava 6119R
In 2021, Patek undertook to recreate the brand’s time only dress watch- the Calatrava. Introduced most prominently with the 33mm reference 3919, the Calatrava with hobnail bezel became the blueprint for the dress timepiece, a watch of elegance, simplicity, and quality. Extending the classicism of the 3919 (and subsequent 5119) to a modern timepiece, Patek’s 6119 showcased a 39mm modern case with a completely new movement featuring double barrels. Preserving the heritage of the legendary Calatrava, the 6119 demonstrates Patek’s commitment to history and tradition, while illustrating the progression of design to suit the needs of modern enthusiasts and collectors.
This piece is an excellent way to spend a 25-50k budget, since the Calatrava remains an icon within the industry and one of Patek’s most recognizable models. If you appreciate Patek Philippe history, but want a modern reference with contemporary sizing to add to the collection, the 6119 is sure to remain a staple in your watch box. These pieces are quite popular at the moment as well, since they arguably best represent the Patek contemporary philosophy.
Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton
Another beautiful modernization of a classic, the Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton provides a new take on the iconic Santos design language. Featuring the larger 39.8mm case alongside a skeletonized dial, Cartier has artistically made the skeleton form the Roman numerals of the hour indexes. This was a brilliant move that serves as a nagging reminder that Cartier has always been the among the best in watch design.
While many skeleton pieces are flashy and ostentatious, this piece has not lost the classiness of the Santos collection. The piece is still somewhat understated and elegant, in spite of its contemporary dial. A pair of blued hands, fully polished bezel and beautifully brushed bracelet complete the refined look. This piece is yet another stunner from historic Cartier.
Audemars Piguet (Re)Master01
Although AP is best known for the Royal Oak, arguably, some of the brand’s best and most interesting watches lie outside of the Royal Oak collection. The [Re]master01 Self Winding Chronograph, based on a 1941 chronograph design from the brand’s archives, is a nostalgic look back to a previous era of AP. With a retro champagne dial, oversized chronograph registers, art deco script, and teardrop lugs, the piece is closely influenced by the vintage aesthetics of the original, yet simultaneously has grown to 40mm. Making the watch larger required an exceptional amount of development on the movement side, which boasts a 70-hour power reserve and modern finishing. From the dial side, the watch looks vintage, yet through the sapphire case back, the watch looks like it was created yesterday. A truly fascinating AP reference, the [Re]master01 is yet another controversial AP release that deserves a second look.
I think this may be an interesting direction to head in this price range. It’s not the obvious choice, and that’s what makes it a great option. Whether collectors personally like this piece or not, they tend to respect those that own them, likely recognizing that it’s an acquired taste. This piece is a reminder of what AP does best when they venture beyond the 1972 icon that has defined the brand’s modern identity.