I started with Tescoma, local brand, nothing fancy. Then Zepter, another local one (serrated steel. Sold as universal, but good for vegetables, but that is about it. Sad, considering how expensive they are). It was followed by a Wusthof classic 8" COOK'S KNIFE - 4582 (first one I had complete freedom over choosing), which I since gifted away. It lasted for quite some time, it is still in perfect shape, returns to me for sharpening every once in a while. But just like all the others, it is way too thick and the famed finger-guard just bugs me.
I am currently using a knife that is nearly twice as old as I am, of god knows what brand and origin. It went through three generations of our family. It is thin stainless steel, definitely not forged, can be razor sharp, hold the extreme edge for a day or two, then remains average for a long time before actually dulling.
However, by the time it came to me, the blade was smaller height than the handle, which makes it difficult to use for anything apart from cutting meat (It used to be sharpened on a Sander with Cabinet Stand), anything else you have to do with front half of the blade and under angle since you cannot go flat with it. Try chopping 5kg of onions like that...
Price: up to 500 USD
material: stainless, but I wouldn't mind carbon steel, I take care of my toys.
length: 8" or longer
handle: I assume German knife grip (no idea if it is called that in English) cannot be used on a round handle?
aesthetics: Who doesn't like a nice Damascus pattern, but that is not important.
preferences: rather a lightweight than the classic German heavy-weight.