For most Swiss watch brands, the prices you will find below constitute “entry level”, yet for many people these sums might still seem excessive for a timepiece. If you’re looking to offer a quality Swiss timepiece for Christmas this year without breaking the bank, here is a selection of watches to satisfy a variety of tastes.
Alpina Startimer Pilot: CHF 950
The pilot’s watch has a distinctive style that derives from its historical use, which required large (Arabic) numerals and clear legibility, as well as an oversized crown that could be manipulated when wearing gloves, as the early pilots did to battle the freezing cold conditions in cockpits.
Among the numerous versions of the Alpina Startimer available, there are small date, big date, quartz, automatic, chronograph and GMT versions with a choice of brushed steel or black-coated case and leather or rubber straps and stainless-steel bracelets. We have chosen the Startimer Pilot Automatic in titanium-coloured steel. Aside from its self-winding mechanical movement with a power reserve of 38 hours, this 44mm pilot’s watch comes with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, applied hour markers with luminescent material, water resistance to 100 metres and a genuine leather strap.
Startimer Pilot © Alpina
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Anonimo Nautilo Bianco: CHF 2,190
The new Anonimo Nautilo Bianco bears all the hallmarks of Anonimo’s Italian heritage in the production of robust diver’s watches. The cushion-shaped 44mm case is in brushed stainless steel with a partial black DLC coating and has a graduated bezel with black ceramic insert that can be rotated anti-clockwise for safely recording dive times. Its Sellita SW 200-1 self-winding movement offers a power reserve of 38 hours and the watch is water resistant to 200 metres. As the model name suggests, the dial is in opaline white and, like all Anonimo watches, it comes with a leather strap that is hand made in Italy.
Nautilo Bianco © Anonimo
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Emile Chouriet Ice Cliff: CHF 1,120
The Ice Cliff takes some beating among Swiss Made watches with self-winding mechanical movements. Although not a sports watch per se, it is inspired by Switzerland’s alpine peaks, to which tribute is paid by a jagged motif around the edge of the dial, evoking shards of ice, craggy outcrops, or maybe even the teeth on the gear wheels of the EC9316 calibre self-winding movement that powers the watch? A power reserve of 38 hours puts it on a par with the two preceding models in our selection, while water resistance to 30 metres ensures that it can cope with everyday wear. The design of the Ice Cliff models has been reworked for this year and they now come with a choice of blue or brown dials and steel bracelets or rubber straps.
Ice Cliff © Emile Chouriet
Maurice Lacroix Aikon Bronze: CHF 1,350
Bronze watches are all the rage at the moment and the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Bronze is undoubtedly among those that offer the best value for money, mainly thanks to the use of a quartz movement. It is a limited edition of just 388, which gives it extra collector’s value and the aged appearance of the smoked brown dial, with its horizontal lines, will complement the patina of the bronze as it ages. Gold-plated hands and hour markers complete the warm look, while SuperLuminova inserts ensure optimum legibility.
While the sportier Carrera chronographs, particularly those with the five-minute-style hour markers like this, can be a bit active, the skeletonization and smattering of colors makes this dial even more so. Note that the chronograph hands are reddish, while the palms for your time are all silver. Senna’s emblem in the running seconds sub-dial in 9 o’clock and can be found again on the bezel together with the obligatory tachymeter scale. Honestly, it’s a bit tough to see in which the date is supposed to be read initially, but it is at 3:30 with a white background, according to another Carrera Heuer-01 versions.The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 is powered, of course, by TAG’s in-house Heuer-01 motion which we’ve discussed in detail in previous posts and reviews. It features a column wheel to get smoother chronograph operation and runs at 4Hz with a respectable 50 hour power reserve. It’s a good looking movement however, you’ll have to attempt to enjoy it once again, the Senna and TAG Heuer logos published on the sapphire crystal plus the big black PVD rotor — but what did you expect?Moving on into the cheaper Ayrton Senna Special Edition watches that are in the Formula 1 collection. All these are a quartz-powered three-hand design along with also a quartz chronograph. They discuss a lot of the exact same style clues as the Heuer-01 model, together with black PVD cases and black dials paired with a lot of sporty red. In both cases, the Senna emblem (that at a glance reminds me of the Japanese hot spring symbol: ♨) is, once more, in crimson at 9 o’clock. No “S-link” steel bracelet here, but they come with black and red rubber straps that mimic that look. The Senna emblem again appears on the steel casebacks.
Aikon Bronze © Maurice Lacroix
Seiko Presage Cocktail Blue: €420
If you are looking for a reliable self-winding mechanical watch with classic appeal from an established name, then the Seiko Presage “Cocktail” collection takes some beating. Presented earlier this year at Baselworld, the collection has made it to the shops just in time for Christmas and includes two different movements: one with a centre power reserve indicator and one with three hands and date. Our choice is the latter in blue, inspired by the Starlight cocktail created by Hisashi Kishi at Tokyo’s Star Bar. With a stainless-steel case, Hardlex box-shaped crystal, transparent case back and water resistance to 50 metres, this model is practically unbeatable on price.
Presage Cocktail Blue © Seiko
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Senna Special Edition: CHF 1,350
TAG Heuer produced three special editions this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ayrton Senna winning the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time. We have chosen the quartz-three hand version with its 43mm brushed steel case with black PVD coating and SENNA logo. The black look continues on the dial, which has an opaline black background, black flange and black hour markers, with contrasting red hands.
Formula 1 Senna Edition Spéciale © TAG Heuer