Buying Time: 5 Time-Only Dress Watches Under $10k

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin - for sale - Govberg via Perpetuelle

There’s something about owning a time-only watch.  For some, the simplicity of such watches is not appealing.  But for most, an elegant and uncomplicated watch is a must have for any well-rounded collection…or the occasional black-tie event.  When it comes right down to it, the term “dress watch” is of course a highly subjective term.  Here’s the criteria with which I define it:  any watch that is simple and classical in its styling, sized between 34mm and 42mm and on the thinner side of the spectrum case-wise (I am highly partial to “ultra-thin”), elegant leather strap or bracelet, and uncomplicated save for a small seconds or date window.  Generally speaking!  Other defining criteria such as movement type (automatic or manual wind), age (vintage or new), case metal (steel or precious) are generally fungible for me when it comes to these types of watches.  But yes, defining a “dress watch” is clearly a subjective exercise!

However, in today’s edition of “Buying Time”, I think you’ll get the essence of what I’m talking about.  This week I went to great pains to select just five superb time-only dress watches, all of which are available now from the pre-owned vault of my partner in this weekly endeavor, Govberg Watches.  I’ve also taken care to select pieces all priced under $10,000 ($3,200 on the low end), and all at a meaningful discount to the current retail price for a new piece.  Certainly not play money, but as most of you know Perpetuelle is about luxury not economy, and so I hope you’ll find something that suit’s your tastes.

Follow along as I walk through this week’s lineup.

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Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Skeleton 1270S

SIHH 2015…ultra-thin…

Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Skeleton 1270S white gold - Perpetuelle

This year Piaget has once again put forth a strong lineup showcasing its overall watchmaking talents as well as its leadership in the ultra-thin category.  While its headliner for 2015 is probably the Altiplano Chronograph with new Cal 883P, the brand’s new Emperador Coussin Skeleton 1270S is my personal favorite — and of course a much more exclusive watch.  This watch is the world’s thinnest ultra-thin tourbillon automatic skeleton watch featuring a case measuring just 8.85 mm thick.  The ultra-thin (5.05 mm) automatic tourbillon Caliber 1270S — of course a descendant of the 1270P caliber which was/is Piaget’s first ultra-thin automatic tourbillon — was designed and developed specifically for the cushion-shaped case housing it.

I’ve got more details and lots of looks — including some great high-res detail shots, below.

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Piaget Altiplano Chronograph with Ultra-Thin Caliber 883P

SIHH 2015 first look…

Piaget Altiplano chronograph ultra-thin watch

So simple, yet so impressive — this is what I love about Piaget.  Look at this new beauty from the King of Thin watchmaking.  Last year it was the world’s thinnest mechanical watch (the jaw-dropping Piaget 900P), and this year — actually 2015 at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (or ‘SIHH’ as it is known to us non-French speakers) — Piaget will unveil this new ultra-thin hand-wound chronograph in its iconic Altiplano collection.

And what a watch it is.   A real beauty and a fine demonstration of Piaget’s mechanical watchmaking prowess.   Not only is this a beautifully designed ultra-thin watch (4.65mm caliber, 8.24mm case), but it is also the first time that the Altiplano collection will feature a complication other than time and date.   Seriously!  I suspect this may surprise some of you — even I had to do a double check to see that until now, the only “complications” (features) to grace the Altiplano collection aside from hours and minutes have been small seconds and a date window.  The new Altiplano Chronograph has a manual-wind flyback chronograph (now the world’s thinnest watch in this category) and, interestingly, a dual-time indicator on the 9 o’clock subdial.

So let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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Enamel Explained: The Art of Cloisonné, Grand Feu, Champlevé, Paillonné, Flinqué & Other Enamel Techniques

  JLC Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu Closeup

In our most ambitious “Making of” special yet, we go in-depth on enamel techniques.  You see the terms referred to regularly here at Perpétuelle:  “grand feu”, “champlevé”, and “cloisonné”.    And what are they?  Enamel techniques, of course!  Very often used to create some of the most beautiful watch dials the world has ever seen.  But what exactly do these terms mean?  How are these enamel techniques different?  What distinguishes each of these enamel types from the others?  And what about those other rare occasions where we see the art of “flinque”, & “grisaille” — enamel techniques as well — on display.  I explore these questions and more in this overview of the art of enamel in watchmaking.

In many articles related to fine watchmaking, it is easy to brush past big, fancy (and typically French) words used to describe watchmaking techniques — enamel-related or otherwise.  But given that enamel dials are often the most unique and beautiful of all dials in fine watchmaking, with basically all of the most prestigious haute horlogerie brand producing such pieces (some more frequently than others), the time has never been better to deepen our understanding of what these terms mean.

Because of the organic nature of the material and manner in which it is produced — almost always by the skilled hand of an experienced artisan — I believe that it can be fairly stated that every watch with an enamel dial is a unique piece as well.   But for most, the difference between a cloissoné dial (such as that found on a Patek 5131G) and a champlevé dial (as seen on a Vacheron Metiers d’Art) is but another trivial watchmaking detail.  This naivete, I confess, was somewhat the case for me as well — at least for a while.  But then I became more and more intrigued by the art of enamel and decided to expand my knowledge base, which I share with you now.

This is an article I’ve had in my head for quite some time now, and an admittedly one that only the nerdiest of watch-nerds might appreciate.  But I’m glad to have finally finished it and I enjoyed writing it.  So follow along as I take you through the finer points of enamel and enameling techniques used in fine watchmaking.   And please note — this is not an exhaustive study of the very broad ranging “art of enamel”, but as I say will review the most commonly used techniques fine watchmaking, and a few less commonly used techniques as well.

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