The Relatively Affordable Watch: Part the First

I wanted share a watch I came across today that is relatively cheap, well-made, and attractive.  These are the basic qualities I look for in watches.  I have never bought a watch for myself that cost more than $100, which if you are at all familiar with watch pricing you know is a difficult feat.  Nice watches are luxury items whose prices are, after a certain point, inordinately high.  I have written on the complex status of the value of watches in an article titled, “The Veblen Good and the Veblen Bad,” in CASE Magazine.

If you look hard enough, though, and you know what to look for, wonderful watches can be found and purchased quite cheaply.  This is what I like to do on the weekends: I troll flea markets and estate sales for “broken” watches, most of which either need a battery (if they have quartz [battery powered] movements) or a cleaning, buy them for, say, $5, and then make them work again.  If they are truly irreparable, I take them apart and save the parts for other watches that may need fixing in the future.  What I’m trying to say is that my room is filled with garbage.

I recently bought, for $70, a vintage Swiss watch made by Favre-Leuba, a relatively unknown watchmaker that was founded in 1737.  The watch is called a Sea Chief and it has a bright red dial.  It is mechanical, which means it must be wound, and it has a combination of Roman and Arabic numerals on its face.  The seller also threw in three NATO straps and a leather band.


My Favre-Leuba Sea Chief

The watch I wanted to show you is called a Timex T2P381 Flyback Chronograph.  A chronograph is a timepiece that can measure time elapsed– that is, you press a button and it starts timing; press another button and it stops; press that second button again and it resets to zero.  A flyback chronograph allows the user to reset the timer with the single press of a button: press the button to start timing, press the second button to reset the timer to zero and start counting again.  Here is a video showing how it works.  (Videos made by watch companies are always really melodramatic like that for some reason.)

Timex T2P381 Flyback Chronograph

Timex T2P381 Flyback Chronograph $120

IWC Big Pilot's Watch TOP GUN Miramar $12,700

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Miramar








The Timex T2P381 looks more expensive than it is.  It shares some design elements with the IWC Big Pilot Miramar, a massively expensive watch with an automatic mechanical movement, date complication, sapphire crystal, and chronograph.  Both watches have flat dials with numerals that are painted on.  Both have gunmetal grey stainless steel cases.  The Timex also has a tachymeter on the inner bezel, which is used in conjunction with the chronograph to measure rate of speed.

Discussing the differences in quality between a cheap Timex and an IWC Big Pilot would be pointless– the former is one of the cheapest brands of watches in the world and the latter one of the most expensive, famous, and well-made.  But they kind of look similar, and that is good enough for me.  I would never, not in a million years, spend $12,700 on a wristwatch.  I would, however, spend $120 on a watch as a birthday present or something for someone, and the Timex T2P381 is a great option at the price point.  More soon.

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