There is a misconception that if you buy the lowest-cost model watch from a high-end brand, you’re only doing it for the name. And sure, it might be nice to say you own a Rolex. But the truth of the matter is, some “low-end” models have loads of merit beyond brand recognition. In fact, some have exemplary features, looks, and build quality — and some are even iconic models that made their brands famous in the first place. Here are five “entry-level” watches that are worth more than just the names on their dials.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36
At $3,950, both IWC’s Pilot’s Watch 36 and Mark XVIII could be considered the entry point into IWC, and both can also be considered successors to the famed IWC Mark XI pilot’s watch of the late 1940s. But while the XVIII carries on the original watch’s namesake, the Pilot’s Watch 36 shares all the same elements of the XVIII: the anti-magnetic construction, the legible flieger dial and the self-winding movement. But at 36mm, the smaller watch is spiritually closer to the original Mark XI.
Panerai Radiomir Black Seal Logo Acciaio
Those looking for the classic Panerai design elements will find them in the brand’s most affordable offering. The Radimoir Black Seal Logo Acciaio has the iconic cushion case, the luminous arabic numerals and sandwich dial that made Panerai a favorite among old-school tool watch lovers and, what’s more, it comes backing a hand-wound COSC-certified movement with 56 hours of power reserve.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
One of the most pared-down, handsome entries in the Rolex lineup also happens to be its most affordable. Though it has been around for decades, the Oyster Perpetual received an update in 2015 that included the option of a new 39mm case (up from 36mm), an oyster bracelet and an assortment of hand-finished dials in blue, grape red and dark rhodium. The movement inside is Rolex’s in-house COSC-certified automatic.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s watchmaking process combines elements of old-world watch manufacturing and modern automation, which helps them make beautiful movements at (relatively) low price points. Take for example the ultra-thin Calibre 899 in the Master Control-Date, the brand’s most affordable mechanical watch. It’s an evolution of the 889 used in high-end watches from brands like Vacheron Constantin and Audemars-Piguet during the ’80s and ’90s and features a gold-trimmed rotor and ceramic ball bearings.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin 37
A. Lange & Söhne, relatively young compared to the likes of big names from Switzerland, has in a couple short decades proven itself one of the most impressive watchmakers out there with jaw-dropping designs and intricate, beautifully finished movements. The easiest path to ownership is the new Saxonia Thin 37, an elegant, two-hand dress watch available in white and rose gold, with a highly detailed 2.9mm hand-wound movement inside.