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These luxury watches are great for kickstarting your collection

Watchmakers reel in millennials with new ranges at affordable prices.

Each year, hundreds of watches make their debut at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, one of the two most important trade fairs – the other being Baselworld – in the watchmaking calendar. Some create a splash, others provoke barely a whimper.

Among the new SIHH releases which generated buzz last month were the Clifton Baumatic by Baume & Mercier and the FiftySix collection from Vacheron Constantin.

(RELATED: Check out our SIHH coverage and the top picks here.)

The Clifton Baumatic is interesting because it features the brand’s first in-house calibre, developed with expertise from the Richemont Group. The movement comes with features usually seen in more complicated timepieces, including a silicon escapement, a balance spring as well as a power reserve of five days. The watch’s biggest attraction, however, is its price. Similar watches with such horological muscle usually cost five figures – the Clifton Baumatic, however, is priced between $3,800 and $4,750.

Similarly, Vacheron Constantin’s FiftySix collection – priced between $17,100 and $52,400 – intrigued many because of its pricing. This makes it the cheapest in the brand’s stable, almost half the price of most of its entry-level offerings.

Luxe watch brands have been moderating their prices in the last couple of years to battle a market made lethargic by difficult economic conditions, the falling Swiss franc and China’s war against corruption.

There is another reason why watchmakers from IWC to Piaget are focusing on providing better value – to reel in younger buyers.

(RELATED: How top watch brands can weather this downturn, as told by Su Jia Xian, our columnist.)

 At last month’s SIHH, IWC launched its Jubilee Collection, which includes cheaper chronographs, to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Ditto Cartier with new iterations of its classic Santos watch, as well as Jaeger-LeCoultre with its new Polaris collection.

Mr Tom Chng, founder of the Singapore Watch Club, says the trend is good for consumers and watch lovers.

“Brands which many thought of as out of reach are now slightly more accessible. Consumers can expect to see better value for money.”

He adds: “It’s a good move to capture more junior collectors, luring them into the brand and keeping them as fans early on in their horological journey.”

Here are some interesting entry-level offerings at the SIHH this year.

  • MONTBLANC 1858 COLLECTION
    The watchmaker unveiled three different collections at the SIHH, but the most attention grabbing is the 1858 collection. Taking its cue from the vintage Minerva pocket watches and chronographs from the 1920s and 1930s, the range includes the 1858 Automatic; 1858 Automatic Chronograph; 1858 Geosphere; 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100; and 1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition 100.

    Inspired by the rugged outdoors, in particular mountain-climbing and hiking, the collection is built to be hardy, with features including anti-glare crystals and compasses. The Geosphere, for instance, is a world time watch, but, at $8,300, it costs a lot less than most world time watches. Other models in the collection are priced between $3,960 and $103,100.
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This article first appeared in The Straits Times.