No pre-owned shortcuts, just brand-new watches; that was my mantra when putting together my edition of The Best Watches Under €5,000. Rolex and Omega are out of reach, Tudor is on nearly every Fratello team member’s list, and the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 GMT didn’t cut it either — it might be a chronometer, but it isn’t a flyer GMT. I ended up with picks from Grand Seiko, Frederique Constant, and Breitling.

Not too long ago, I wrote that I dreaded the moment I had to put my list of the best watches under €2,500 together. That was because what I thought was available for that budget no longer is. And I kind of felt the same dread when I was asked to put together a list of watches under €5,000. There’s no point in even thinking about new references from the likes of Rolex, Omega, and IWC because these brands have left the sub-€5K price bracket. Call me old fashioned, but when I spend €5K on a mechanical watch, I want a famous name on the dial, one from an A brand. Finding a logo on the dial that gives you that warm, comfortable, and fuzzy feeling you could describe as luxury isn’t that easy anymore. But I did my best and found the following watches from well-respected brands.

Best Watches

The best watches under €5,000: first, the Grand Seiko SBGW231

My search didn’t only include Switzerland. Unfortunately, in Germany, I didn’t find anything to my liking. There was nothing from Glashütte Original, and I couldn’t find a watch I loved from its neighbor Nomos either (but the Sinn 358 Sa PILOT DS gets an honorable mention because of its fantastic dial). In Japan, though, I found the Grand Seiko SBGW231 from the Elegance Collection. With a price of €4,600, it fits the budget. And because of its 37.3 × 44.3 × 11.6mm case, it also fits my style. With a different strap than the original, that is. In the pictures, you see Thomas’s “GS” with an aftermarket brown strap. The good thing is that the budget allows for a very decent replacement strap.

If you like understated things, the SBGW231 is your watch. What you get is a conventional, round watch with a sober dial. But conventional and sober don’t mean dull. The case, with its delicately rounded lugs, received a bright Zaratsu polishing. This distortion-free finish remains a subtle spectacle. The same meticulous level of finishing you get with the case, you also get with the hands and indexes. These are diamond cut, causing the light to reflect from every angle. This is a watch you wear for introvert excitement. If you feel the “click” with the SBGW231, you will enjoy an inner “sparkle of quality,” as Seiko called it back in the 1960s.

The Best Watches

The surprising Frederique Constant Manufacture Classic Moonphase Date

One of the most surprising watches during this year’s Watches and Wonders — it was a modest surprise followed by mild excitement, but still — came from Frederique Constant. The green version of the Manufacture Classic Moonphase Date (FC-716GR3H6) is a €3,895 watch that is an evolutionary model. Its predecessor measured 42mm in diameter, and by reducing that to 40mm, the watch took a giant step forward. The very classically styled watch, with its 11.78mm case thickness, makes sense proportionally, and the dial design and colorway are both contemporary and classic. The clear sunburst dial in deep British racing green is vivid without being too bright and shiny.

The attraction doesn’t stop on the outside. Inside the case beats the in-house automatic FC-716 movement you can observe in action through the transparent case back. “FC” not only updated the aesthetics of the watch, but the caliber is also an evolution. This shows most clearly in the increased 72-hour power reserve (up from the previous FC-705’s 38 hours).

Best Watches

With so many watches from famous luxury brands pushing through the €5K boundary, those from manufacturers like Frederique Constant, Raymond Weil, Maurice Lacroix, and Oris — the Oris Big Crown Calibre 473 also gets an honorable mention — could find themselves in scopes of the enthusiasts who got left behind because their incomes didn’t rise as steadily as prices. But that will only happen if these brands manage to come up with watches that enthusiasts warm up to, like the Raymond Weil Millesime Tri-Compax Chronograph, which also deserves an honorable mention. Maybe this is a topic I will explore in a future article.

The Best Watches

Landing the Breitling Avenger 42 Red Arrows 60th Anniversary Edition

Last but certainly not least is a watch from Breitling. The Swiss brand might be on the rise in every single way, but it still offers quite a few watches below the €5K mark. For instance, there’s the Endurance Pro — I think the black and white version is a very cool-looking sports watch. There’s the Aerospace B70 Orbiter too. But both are quartz watches, and the smoky orange dial of the limited-edition Aerospace B70 is not for me (though I am looking forward to one with a blue dial). Luckily, there is a blue-dial watch in the Breitling collection that does it for me. It’s the Avenger Red Arrows 60th Anniversary Edition (A173281A1C1A1).

The Avenger 42 Red Arrows 60th Anniversary Edition is a limited edition of 360 pieces, and a percentage of sales goes to the important work of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. This Avenger, which draws its colorway from the flight team’s insignia, is just “so very Breitling.” I mean that in a good way. It’s robust and precise — every Breitling is a chronometer-certified watch, as you probably know — and it’s also outspoken. It also appeals to your inner child who still wants to become a fighter pilot. So why not wear a watch dedicated to a famous RAF flight team with a blue and black dial and the team’s crest on it?

Best Watches

Under €5K, £5K, and US$5K

This watch can also handle almost everything daily life requires. The 42 × 51.2 × 12.1mm steel case makes it easy to wear. On top of that, it also offers a 300m water resistance rating. As I said, the Avenger 42 Red Arrows 60th Anniversary Edition is a chronometer, and that’s because of the Breitling 17 automatic movement inside the case. In essence, that caliber is an ETA 2824-2 with a 38-hour power reserve, not a fancier in-house movement. But that also helps keep the price within our set boundaries. This UK-only watch, which I’m sure you can also acquire after sending a few friendly emails or making a few smooth-voiced calls, is £3,900 on the three-row bracelet or £3,650 on the blue leather strap. On June 19th, that means you would pay €4,615 or US$4,957 for the watch in my desired bracelet configuration.

So, Fratelli, what do you think of these picks? Are you also picky about brands when working with a €5K budget? Share your thoughts in the comments.