In a world where there’s an app for everything, a beautiful timepiece illustrates all you can still do with gears, springs, and engineering chutzpa. Last week’s Baselworld watch conference in Switzerland certainly showed off some great engineering (check out this oil-filled mechanical with a fully rotating face). But what really impressed us were the less showy, more adventure-ready models. Sure, one to three thousand dollars is a lot of pay for a watch when you can get the same functions for a fraction of the price. But the mechanicals to follow are a value in the non-electric watch world, and all can take big bumps and a dunking to at least 100 feet down. They also use Swiss-made automatic movements exploiting the natural motion of your wrist during the week to keep ticking.
The Best New Mechanical Watches: Maurice Lacroix Pontos S Diver
Sure it’s good to know the Pontos S Diver will survive minor shocks and depths to 600 feet. But we love it for the clean vintage face, illuminated numbers on the bezel, and the little serifed digits appearing in the date window. One crown turns the bezel so you can time your dives. The other sets the watch. There’s also a small port on the side for expelling helium, a gas used in deep-sea diving that can cause a watch-ruining build-up of hydrogen.
Diameter: 43 mm
Price: $3,000 (Available in October.)
The Best New Mechanical Watches: Kobold Himalaya
Waterproof to 330 feet and made to withstand shocks, the Himalaya transitions well between the office and trailhead. The Pittsburgh-based maker is known for its fans among professional adventurers and has opened a new satellite workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, to make this and other timepieces. This model, with its cream-colored face, is the newest version in the series.
Diameter: 41 mm
The Best New Mechanical Watches: Ball Fireman Classic 40 mm
The Fireman Classic is one of the most affordable fine mechanicals around. It’s tough, understated, and has tritium gas tubes in the hands and dial to shine brightly at night. Water resistant to 330 feet and shock resistant to a good 5,000 g, the Fireman Classic holds up outdoors, but we especially like how the brushed-steel case and optional rubber strap make it both dressy and understated. It has a smaller diameter and shallower height than the other pieces here for a compact, low-key appearance.
Diameter: 40 mm
The Best New Mechanical Watches: Oris Aquis Depth Gauge
Not only does this Oris dive watch let you reach 500 feet, it tells you your depth. Using the principle of Boyle’s Law for pressure and volume, the watch allows a small amount of water to enter through a hole near 12 o’clock, showing the depth in meters on the bezel. At 46 mm in diameter, it’s the largest watch here, but not especially big for a professional dive model.
Diameter: 46 mm