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Buying Guides

Buy Smarter With The Best Watches Under Retail

By Nick Kenyon
3 Nov 2023
6 min read

From Breitling and Hermès to Cartier and Patek Philippe, here’s a look at some of the best watches that promise the most bang for your buck

There’s a strong argument that building a watch collection within a budget is a more rewarding experience than if money was no object. The enthusiast building a collection with finite resources needs to be more considered in their research, careful in their comparisons of similar timepieces, and more thoughtful in their purchases. Because while it’s a little cliche to say, when it comes to watch collecting, the journey is just as important as the destination.

Sure, it’s great if you can buy anything your heart desires, but the collector with an unlimited budget doesn’t need to be as contemplative before opening their wallet. The process of digging into the history of a timepiece brings just as much joy as the experience of owning it—something that should be savored, not skipped.

So if you’re on the hunt for a special watch — with budget as an important factor — timepieces that can be bought for less than their retail price are a great category to consider. Here are some excellent examples, which promise great bang for buck.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59

While the Gérald Genta-designed Royal Oak is obviously the flagship Audemars Piguet collection, the Code 11.59 line-up remains under the radar of most. Collectors are starting to understand the value of its complex design, with a multi-part case boasting skeletonized lugs, historically inspired dial details and an optically unusual sapphire crystal over said dial, but much of the Code 11.59 line-up still represents excellent value today. This time-only example is powered by the calibre AP 4302 with 70 hours of power reserve, and would make a great daily wear for anyone looking for something that brings classicism and sportiness in equal measure.

Hermès H08

Hermès might be best known for its peerless leather goods, but its watchmaking is no joke. The Hermès H08 remains one of the best contemporary sport watch designs on the market today, with this reference featuring a 39mm titanium case and a carefully balanced dial with hour markers expressed in a font that was specially designed for this watch. Arriving on a comfortable rubber strap and rated to 100m of water resistance, it’s a sporty timepiece that is almost guaranteed to gain wider collector attention in years to come. 

Rolex Submariner Date Two-Tone

When you consider that almost every reference within the Rolex sports category is still selling above their retail prices, this stainless steel and yellow gold Rolex Submariner Date is a rare gem in the collection. Oozing with 80s opulence, this black dial and bezel of this 40mm Submariner contrasts perfectly against the yellow gold details and with no less than 300m of water resistance, is robust enough to handle pretty much anything. If you’re after an icon for your collection, you can’t go past the Rolex Submariner.

Cartier Drive de Cartier

Well-known around the world as the master of shaped watches, the cushion case of the Drive de Cartier is a study in poise and symmetry. While everyone should own a Cartier Tank at least once in their life, this 41mm stainless steel Drive de Cartier is a more modern take on a cleanly designed dress watch and with its automatic calibre 1904-PS MC, presents itself as a compelling value proposition.  

Patek Philippe Twenty~4 Manchette

A modern winner from the most famous watchmaker in Geneva, this Patek Philippe Twenty~4 Manchette is a perfect example of understated elegance. The juxtaposition of its diamond-set bezel and stainless steel case and bracelet brings a touch of elevation to the every day, while the sunburst brushed blue dial plays with the light wonderfully. Powered by a no-fuss quartz movement, it’s a set-and-forget timepiece you’ll find yourself reaching for every morning. 

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar "Antione De Saint Exupéry" Edition

Among the many notable calibres that IWC has produced over its long history, the modern-day perpetual calendar is one that more than deserves its place in the hearts of enthusiasts, thanks to the straightforward distillation of incredible complexity. This Big Pilot "Antione De Saint Exupéry" Edition enjoys a mesmerising tobacco brown sunburst brushed dial, nodding to the legacy of powered flight in the early 20th century. It’s 46mm steel case not one for the faint of heart, but its impact on the wrist is one you won’t forget. 

Tudor Black Bay Blue

There are only a few designs that could be described as contemporary classics, but the function-forward Tudor Black Bay is one of them. Featuring a no-nonsense 41mm steel case, this blue no-date dial and bezel reference was the second-ever Black Bay from 2013 and arrives with a matching steel bracelet and solid 200m of water resistance. It might be a decade since it was first released, but the Tudor Black Bay Blue remains as modern as ever. 

Breitling Navitimer B01 "Swissair" Edition

The history of Breitling and aviation are indelibly linked, and this Breitling Navitimer B01 "Swissair" Edition was made for the skies. Featuring the iconic slide rule chronograph bezel, a 43mm stainless steel case and a matching mesh bracelet, the real head-turning detail of this watch is the contrasting red highlights on the dial and hands. With a chronometer-certified movement boasting 70 hours of power reserve, the Navitimer is as dependable a companion on the ground as it is 30,000ft above it. 

H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds

When you consider the hype around independent watchmaking has never been stronger, it’s rare to come across a timepiece from a privately owned firm that’s such good value. The H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds is one such example, crafted in the Schaffhausen workshop that only produces 3,000 watches a year and features a radiant 40mm rose gold case. While the “funky blue” dial is seriously eye-catching, you’ll be equally impressed by the quality of the manually wound movement visible through the exhibition caseback. 

Hublot Classic Fusion Titanium Skeleton

If you’re after luxury with a lightweight presence on the wrist, this Hublot Classic Fusion Titanium Skeleton is an excellent choice. It’s unambiguously modern and despite its 45mm diameter, doesn’t feel like a massive watch on the wrist, despite the impact of the intricately skeletonized dial. Powered by the automatic calibre HUB1155 with 42 hours of power reserve, sporty chronographs don’t get much better than this.

Now that we’ve considered some of the best watches under retail, if you’re thinking about pulling the trigger on any of these watches, Wristcheck is currently giving collectors the deal-sweetener of its “Make An Offer” program. To add one of these timepieces to your collection for an even better price, simply name the sum you want to pay up to 25% off the listed price, and within 72 hours you’ll be contacted to let you know if your offer was accepted. Good luck, and happy hunting.

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