Finding The Best Watches Under €2,000 Today — RJ’s Pick From Breitling
Although the title sounds pretty straightforward, this assignment made me change my pick a few times. I currently have a watch on order below €2,000, but would it be my pick for the best watch at this price point? No.
I ordered it because I like it as a nice addition to my watch collection. But what if I didn’t have any nice watches yet, and I had €2K in my pocket (or bank account) to spend on a watch? Any watch! That changes the entire game.
I can pick a new, pre-owned, or even vintage watch. A few years ago, my pick would have been different from the one I made today. It wasn’t too long ago that you could have a Seiko Marinemaster 300 SBDX001 for under €2,000. It is an amazing-looking watch with a lot of bang for the buck. But those days are gone, and unless you get lucky, you won’t find a Marinemaster 300 for that kind of money.
Seamasters and PRXs
A bit longer ago, you could easily find an Omega Seamaster 300M 2531.80 for under €2,000. In fact, I bought mine in late 2017 or early 2018 for around €1,800 with the box and papers. I had a few before, which I had always sold to fund something else, but this time, I decided to keep it. And it wasn’t even ten years ago that I bought pre-owned Omega Speedmaster Professional models for under €2,000.
So, what can be bought today, in 2022, for €2,000 that would be a nice and handsome watch? The watch I ordered recently (and will pick it up after my holidays) is the Tissot PRX Chronograph. We had it in the office a few times for review, and I think Tissot did an amazing job with it and the PRX in general. It reminds me a little bit of my Rolex OysterQuartz Datejust, but it has its own nice vibe. The chronograph is bulkier than the three-hand PRX. It’s a bit thick, but it looks and wears fantastic.
Breitling Chronomat 81950A
However, if I didn’t have a single watch today and wanted to buy something nice for myself to enjoy for many years to come, I would go for something different. I guess I am quite alone regarding my choice. I’m sure this applies to both my Fratello colleagues and you, my dear Fratello readers. I picked this Breitling Chronomat in steel with some gold elements. It is reference 81950A, and you can find this watch in several variations.
Watches from the ’90s are becoming a thing with me
I have to admit that I have only one Breitling in my collection. It’s an Aerospace model from the early 2000s, though I can’t recall the exact reference number or “type.” It’s a lovely watch, but it does feel a bit wonky. The bracelet rattles, the crown isn’t very easy to operate (it feels incredibly stiff), and the rotating bezel feels cheap. However, I like the looks of the watch, and all of the functions work as they should. I am unsure what that says about this Breitling Chronomat because it was produced before my Aerospace. I can imagine that today’s Breitling watches are made better, and the ones we get in the Fratello office for review definitely feel more sturdy.
However, the 1980s and ’90s are an era that I feel is underrated when it comes to collecting watches. Perhaps the quality standards were different than today’s, but that decade had some pretty decent watches. The aforementioned Seamaster 300M comes to mind, or what about the Ebel 1911 with the El Primero movement? The Breitling Chronomat from the 1980s and 1990s is a watch that I always enjoyed looking at, and I guess the brand sold many of these based on the numerous times I ran into them. And I still do! The Chronomat also made appearances in the sitcom Seinfeld, albeit a version with a black dial and white sub-dials.
Gold and steel
It’s also from a time when a 39mm case wasn’t considered too small or too big. I would say that 39mm should work for most men and women. Even if you have large wrists, 39mm will often be fine. The thought that it might be too small is mainly between the ears. Inside of this Chronomat reference 81950A is a Valjoux 7750 movement (Breitling Caliber 13), and Breitling didn’t put much effort into making it aesthetically pleasing. It’s a plain-Jane caliber 7750. The black dial has gold/yellow sub-dials at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock, and there’s a date aperture at 3 o’clock. Between the center pinion and the date window is the famous wing logo and “Breitling” branding. The steel case has an entirely brushed finish, making it more of a tool watch than some of its later variations. The pushers and crown are made of gold, and so are the rider tabs on the bezel.
You will also find some gold on the case back of this watch, where the engraving in the center has been gold-filled. I love this watch best on the famous Rouleaux bracelet, but it will be tough finding one for under €2K. The version I found comes with a leather strap and a signed Breitling buckle.
The 39mm Breitling Chronomat 81950A is a versatile watch
Although some of you may perceive it as tacky, I think this 1990s Breitling Chronomat 81950A has withstood the test of time. The 39mm brushed stainless steel case with gold elements looks neat, and I think you could wear it with a suit as well as a T-shirt and jeans. It’s a nice all-rounder despite the use of yellow gold. In searching for a nice Chronomat 81950, I also bumped into a full-18K gold edition for under €6,000.
And it can be serviced
Another important aspect to me is the serviceability of watches. It’s something that makes me wonder about the many microbrands out there and whether they’ll be able to properly service your watch in the future. With this Breitling, that shouldn’t be a problem. That’s one of the perks of buying from a big brand. If you don’t want to spend a significant percentage of the purchase price of this pre-owned Breitling on a service, you could also ask an independent watchmaker for a quote. Since there’s a Valjoux 7750 movement inside, it shouldn’t be too expensive.
This particular 1990s Breitling Chronomat 81950A is for sale at ZeitAuktion for €1,950. The site also offers Chronomat watches on the Rouleaux bracelet for a few hundred euros more.
So, do you think this packs a punch for below €2K? Or would you rather go for the Tissot PRX Chrono or something else? Let me know in the comments below.
Find me and follow me at @rjbroer