Got 5 grand burning a hole in your pocket? Wondering what to buy? Well, today we’ll take a look at ten superb mechanical timepieces that can be yours for LESS than $5,000- some a lot less than 5 grand. The sub-$2,000 market is dominated by Hamilton, while my sub-$5,000 list is dominated by Bell & Ross. Tudor also has a significant presence here. Ready to start? Let’s go.
Bell & Ross BR 126 Officer Black
I am starting the list off by cheating because, depending where you live, this piece retails for slightly more than $5,000. But I know for certain that you can negotiate a healthy discount to bring the price (including taxes) to below 5 grand. I think this is my very favorite piece on the list. If you can afford it, buy it. At 41.5mm with domed crystal and classic pushers, this piece has enormous presence on the wrist. With a dressy, shiny, black crocodile strap and deployment buckle, this is a piece to wear with a suit. The style is that of a WWII-era pilot piece and, in this black/silver color scheme, it just POPS on the wrist. The BR 126 has a fine ETA movement which is visible through the back. There are several variations of the BR 126 and I once wore a BR126 heritage with a black case, but THIS one has amazing character. Number 1.
Bell & Ross BR 123 Sport Heritage
I know it’s wrong to include two pieces from the same general family in the same top ten list, but the Sport Heritage is so cool, I had to do it. This is the non-chronograph, although you can also buy the BR126 Sport Heritage Chronograph (the ‘126’ is the chrono) for under 5 grand. But the BR123 is way less expensive and has a superb character with a cleaner dial so I chose this one for the list. I saw an advertisement showing an airline pilot wearing one (possibly the 126 chrono) with his uniform and this said it all about the Sport Heritage. They have that classic look- like a 1960’s pilot or something. Classic yet sporty. The rubber strap is amazing- it looks like material but has the durability and versatility of rubber while remaining incredibly comfortable. The gorgeous ETA movement is visible through the back and I am crazy for this piece. It sits thick on the wrist and has fantastic presence and… character. Get one.
Maurice Lacroix Pontos S Chronograph
This is one of the coolest sporty watches I have ever seen. I’m referring to the one on a red-and-black fabric strap. It is supposed to be a diver but I view it as a racing chronograph. It’s gorgeous with an almost ideal 43mm size. Priced just under (or just around) $5,000, this is a great choice.
Montblanc TimeWalker Voyager UTC
I am a fan of Montblanc watches. Some people (wrongly) dismiss them as a jewelry-maker-turn-watchmaker, but Montblanc invested heavily into a serious facility in Le Locle during the late 1990’s and, since then, they have won some prestigious awards for their innovative movements. The TimeWalker is my favorite line from Montblanc and I have chosen the Voyager UTC. I really like the chronograph TimeWalker with their thicker cases, but I believe they are all now above 5 grand. The Voyager UTC is priced well below 5K and offers a dual time zone. This feature is useless for me, but it is cool to find one on a gorgeous piece at this price. This piece wreaks of quality and has an uber cool rubberized leather strap. I love the shape and style of the Arabic numerals. The UTC is a fabulous all-purpose piece. You can also find other variations of the TimeWalker in different colors… excellent choices.
Tudor Fastrider Chronograph
I wear one. It is well below 5K. In terms of value, or bang for the buck, this is hard to beat. A chronograph, beautifully made, with a date and quick-change mechanism for said date…yeah, this is superb. The biggest problem with this piece is that it is not really recognizable. It looks great, but doesn’t seem to have any real snob value. I recommend the black dial, Arabic numerals on stainless steel strap.
Once again, this is right around 5K, but you can negotiate one for less than 5 g’s. Just. Plan. Cool. This is a titanium, strudy, all-purpose, utility piece. Wear it on the beach, wear it to the office, wear it with jeans… this is superbly made and classic.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay
Well under 5K. Retro. Cool. It has a variety of strap options. This is just stylish and I quite like it. This piece, despite its price, will certainly earn some respect at cocktail parties.
Bell & Ross BR03-92 Golden Heritage
Now I just cannot have a list of under-5-grand timepieces without a Bell & Ross instrument piece — a) because I dig Bell & Ross and b) because their square instrument series are THE most recognizeable Bell & Ross and c) because many of them fall well below 5 g’s. Here, I chose the BR03-92 Golden Heritage because my local authorized dealer calls this one THE Bell & Ross to own. This is a 42mm square piece, with no chronograph. This has a ”dirty’ dial and gold tone hands and gorgeous leather strap. To note — it uses a Sellita movement, not an ETA. Watch snobs may have some issues with that. But you can choose several BR03 — my second choice was the BR03-92 Black which is an iconic piece — stainless steel case on sensational black rubber strap. And there is also the BR03 Heritage with an amazing black case on tan leather strap. Take your pick, but consider the BR03 line.
TAG Heuer Link Calibre 16
You really have to have a TAG on this list. And there are a few to choose from, but their prices keep creeping up. Many of the Carrera, for example, are now far north of $5,000. Here, I chose the Link with an automatic ETA 7750 movement. The Link series have, perhaps, the coolest of all stainless steel straps and this one has really modern pushers on a 43mm case. To me, this is a nice piece to wear with a business suit that also goes well with your weekend attire. This is also well below $5,000… a real beauty.
Oris Artix GT Chronograph
The 10th spot was tough to fill. You’ve got Baume & Mercier, Longines, and even some entry-level Omega. But I chose the Oris because… every time I see one, I stop to look at it. I like it. I like the entire Artix lineup. The Artix GT Chronograph retails for well below $5,000 and offers an ideal 44mm case, chronograph function, ETA 7750-based movement with a LINEAR seconds display. Now that is something you rarely see — especially at this price. The Artix GT Chronograph has a large crown and large pushers, giving a great racing look. I would choose the leather strap, which offers a more high-end look. This piece has an exhibition caseback and even a ceramic bezel. Not bad, eh?
I hope this list has given you some ideas. Happy shopping- the fun is always in the search.