Long-time readers of this column, all five of you, will know that I’m not totally enamoured by smartwatches, or technology for that matter. And the recent, rather brutal, news from Apple, the world’s biggest smartwatch company, has reinforced my tepid feelings. You see, a few years ago Apple launched the HK$80,000 and up Apple Watch Edition, essentially its standard watch but with a yellow- and rose-gold case aimed squarely at the luxe consumer.
As of this month, with the release of the new Apple Watch operating system, OS 5, those watches are obsolete. They cannot be updated. This watch is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late smartwatch. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. This is an ex-smartwatch.
I can see some value in buying a smartwatch that’s in the HK$2,000 to HK$5,000 range but those at the luxe end of the market that sail over HK$10,000, well, what did you expect? We will always be beholden to rapid technological change. Is it worth the money? If you’re going to go big on a watch, better to always buy a mechanical, I say, and, with that said, here are three more that won’t leave you in the lurch in two years.
We begin with Tudor and the absolutely wonderful new Black Bay GMT. I’m not even going to try to be professional about this watch, it’s an absolute stunner. The eye is immediately drawn to the bidirectional “Pepsi” bezel – watch industry slang for half blue, half red– which works so well with the all-black dial. The steel watch is a chunky 41mm and there’s the option of a steel bracelet but I’m loving the Nato strap.
Inside is an MT5652 in-house manufactured movement that packs a whopping 70-hour power reserve and is COSC certified. Nominally a dive watch, the Black Bay GMT has an excellent 200 metres of water resistance and other features include a date window and, of course, the second time zone indicated by the large red hand. Hong Kong prices for the Black Bay GMT come out later this year but the Swiss price is 3,400 francs (US$3,446) for the Nato- and leather-strap versions and 3,700 francs for the steel-bracelet option.
Next we have a special edition piece from Breitling that will be a joy for life. The watchmaker recently jumped aboard the Mr Porter online retail bandwagon and, to celebrate, it has launched the handsome Navitimer Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Limited Edition.
A classically styled piece, the steel case measures a large-ish 43mm. Beating at its heart is the B01 movement, something of a favourite among watch nerds but, for normies, just know it’s very, very good and features 70 hours of power reserve. Breitling has a reputation for overstuffing its dials but this watch is relatively restrained, with chronograph subdials and a date window. Limited to 1,000 pieces, the B01 Chronograph 43 is priced at HK$51,680 and available exclusively at Mr Porter.
Finally, we have something a little nippy from Frederique Constant, the Vintage Rally Healey Chronograph. As you’ve probably guessed from the name, this watch is a tribute to the now-defunct British car marque Austin Healey, so there are vintage style cues aplenty, from the sporty leather racing strap to the dashboard-inspired dial layout.
The real attraction of this watch is the design, which is retro and clean but also quirky, with a “panda” configuration and Healey signature. Inside, the watch has an FC-397 movement with a decent 46 hours of power reserve. The three versions of the Vintage Rally Healey Chronograph include white or green dials, both priced at HK$24,500, and a navy dial with rose-gold-plated case for HK$27,500. Each version is limited to 2,888 pieces.