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If you ask a watch person why we’re so into mechanical watches, you’re going to get a list of reasons that vary completely from person to person. There will, however, be a theme that links them all, and that theme will be a sense of connection between person and watch. We'll use countless different analogies and examples to say it, but ultimately that’s what it all comes down to.
Sure, on a mechanical watch, even one that costs $50,000, you can’t check your heartbeat or ask for tomorrow’s weather forecast like you’d be able to on a smart watch. You can’t sync it to your phone or listen to a Spotify playlist on it.
That’s the logic, at least. It’s the rationalization that happens when a non-watch person hears one of us talk about our new Longines, or the Breitling we’ve been chasing after. To them, smart watches and mechanical watches are both, well, watches. They tell time and other things and we wear them on our wrists. Period.
They don’t yet understand that smart watches and mechanical watches are two totally different things. One is a product, an item to be owned. The other is art, a creation to connect with. And that’s where the feeling of personal connection to mechanical watches comes from. These are hand-made works of craftsmanship, made by skilled people to function with meticulously sculpted gears and arms and tiny jewels.
The power behind the mechanical watch is the energy of the person who’s wearing it. Our kinetic force becomes the movement’s mechanical lifeforce. As we move through the world, the watch and the wearer experience it together in motion.
If that sounds like something you can understand, then it’s probably time for you to get an automatic luxury watch. You’re ready.
If you were to approach almost any watch person with the declaration that you’re ready to join the ranks and get your first automatic watch, a few names are going to nearly universally pop into their heads. Those names are Seiko, Tissot, and Bulova.
That’s because the watches made by those brands all meet the following criteria:
Affordability - If you’ve been into luxury watches for a while, the concept of affordability gets a little warped. When we see a watch that costs $1500, we think that’s a low price. When you spend your days browsing and falling in love with watches that can easily cost $5k, $10k, or more, when you see $1500 you’re thinking relatively. So it’s, you know, *less*.
However, if you’re just getting into automatic luxury watches, a $200 price tag can be enough to make you do a double take. With that in mind, we think it makes sense that your first one should be reasonably priced for a newly acquired interest (soon to be passion).
Quality - A lot of us have created a prejudice towards lower priced things in our minds. We think that something more reasonably priced isn’t as good as something more expensive. With watches, and art in general, that’s not always the case. Even the most affordable automatic watches from the likes of Seiko, Tissot, and Bulova are still spectacular watches. They’re high-quality and built to be treasured.
The “It” Factor - No matter what the price range is, there are going to be automatic luxury watches that you’re going to look at and feel nothing for. They just won’t speak to you.
Then there are going to be watches that you’ll see once and have dreams about. They will speak to you in that way that forms the connection.
This is what you want in your first automatic watch. Find one that makes you do a double take, or one that makes you say “wow, look at this one. That’s cool.”
Never buy a luxury watch that doesn’t speak to you, even if you’re impressed by the name on the dial.
Now let’s take a look at some of the great first automatic watches we have in stock. Each of these watches is ready to ship.
Tissot is spectacular. They somehow manage to make incredibly high-quality Swiss luxury watches at a price point that is just completely unbelievable. These are watches that a billionaire could wear to a shareholder meeting and not look out of place. They’re also perfect daily-wears because they’re low-key enough to not be gaudy or statement pieces.
We like this Couturier because we think it visually embodies all of the things that make everybody love Tissot.
The white dial is clean and flawless. At first glance, it just looks like your everyday white dial. However, a closer look reveals a textured pattern at the perimeter that plays with the gold tone hour markers. You’ll notice that the second marker lines at the very edge are designed to perfectly compliment the hour markers. You’ll find the elegance in the bordered day and date windows, and how sleek the hands look against the dial.
The rear of the watch is opened up to let you watch the automatic movement in motion, a totally mesmerizing display no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
And, best of all, it’s affordable.
Bulova is a Japanese watchmaker that specializes in classiness. Even their more “modern” aesthetic watches carry with them a sense of refined grace. You get the sense that they have a cousin who’s a prince by marriage or something, but they’d never stoop to bragging about it or even bringing it up.
This Bulova American Clipper does an amazing job of communicating that class while also having an edgier design element to create the double-takes. We’re talking, of course, about the open heart that intersects with the second hand sub dial.
The rose gold tone case and brown leather strap create an unmistakable air of class and have an almost vintage flavor. But that open heart on the dial, with the ticking engine visibly moving in a hummingbird fashion, are absolutely breathtaking.
Hamilton’s legend was stamped into the annals of watch lore over a hundred years ago as an American-made working man’s watch, intertwining with the rise of the American railways. Later, they made another lasting impression as a military field watch, providing timepieces to the Army.
This handsome brown dialed gentleman is certainly more influenced by that latter military aesthetic. The dial has a very vintage feeling to it with the large white, almost sterile looking numbers printed on the brown dial. It’s a very utilitarian presence.
The case has the same feel. The steel has an aged look, giving it the impression that the watch has seen some action.
What’s really amazing, though, is the low price. Hamiltons can cover a wide range of prices, but this is a steal in any context.
Seiko will probably be the first brand name you hear from a watch person when you ask about great first luxury automatic watches. There’s a good reason for that, too.
Seiko is another Japanese watchmaker, legendary for many reasons. For example, they basically singlehandedly triggered the “quartz crisis” that shook the world of watches back in the 1970s.
More importantly, they’re famous for their consistent high quality and penchant for trying new things.
This Prospex is just one of those new things. The most unusual aspect is the oversized case and lugs, reminiscent of the famous “turtle” design. However, while the case is large, it doesn’t wear like it. That is, its low profile and oversized case make it feel comfortable and unobtrusive.
The 5 o’clock placement of the crown is a signature Seiko trick that adds a little extra flavor to the watch without being obnoxious about it. The automatic movements in Seikos are respected and wonderful, especially given how affordable the watches are.
Here is more evidence of Seiko not being afraid to experiment. Among the watchmaker’s many endearing traits is their penchant for teaming up with a huge variety of unlikely brands for much sought-after and greatly loved limited editions.
This particular limited edition beast is a collaboration with the ultra-popular video game franchise Street Fighter.
The watch is a Seiko 5 at its core, but it’s been completely designed to represent the essence of the character it’s named after. The hypnotic red dial, the industrial looking bezel, the blazing yellow and red strap, it’s all a hyper-intentional design that perfectly does its job.
All of that aside, it’s impossible to deny that this is a cool watch. It’s unique, bold, powerful, and most importantly of all, affordable.