If you’re just getting into watches, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a diverse and interesting collection to choose from. Here are some of the best affordable watches, that will still turn heads among your watch friends.
You could easily argue that any Swatch on this list would be a good shout (with the possible exception of the curiously priced Flymagic), but the Sistem51 takes the crown because it is not just a great model from a world-famous, incredibly credible brand, but also because it is mechanically interesting. It is pretty darn hard to get any kind of technical conversation starter at around $300, with the best of the rest capable of dividing aesthetic opinion. With an automatic movement, optically dazzling “mystery rotor” and a raft of colourful, engaging styles, the Sistem51 collection is hard to beat.
Reissues tend to go one of two ways. They are either a massive success or a crashing failure. Chalk this one up in the former column. Here, Timex has nailed the design. Employing enough restraint to let the original style speak to a modern audience was a smart move. This update benefits from modern-day manufacturing and is a joyous time capsule of a watch at a little under $400.
A couple of years ago, Casio dropped their biggest, most bad-ass Mudmaster the world had ever seen. It retailed for about $1500. It was popular and it was super-functional. And so it is no surprise that the Japanese powerhouse decided to follow it up with a new iteration for 2019. What is surprising, however, is exactly how amazing that follow-up turned out to be. With the addition of Bluetooth technology and the refinement of several aesthetic elements (curved crystal, much-improved light, and carbon fibre case components) you would have expected the GG-B100 to retail close to $2000. It doesn’t. It’s priced at less than half its predecessor’s retail. Astounding.
For the huntsman in your life. Marathon makes cool, ultra-functional (very small) wristwatches for the kind of guy who likes Cerakoted tactical equipment and camouflaged pyjamas. Don’t lie, you know someone like that (and it’s okay if it’s you). Luckily for utility belt-wearing woodsmen, there is a watch to suit their needs. The mechanical GPM is a rugged treat at less than $1000.
Baltic has built a pretty nice reputation for itself over the last couple of years, but the brand’s best model is far and away the Aquascaphe. A classic diver that looks like it could have tumbled through a time portal to the ’70s, the Aquascaphe comes in a couple of hundred bucks below four figures and offers vintage styling and solid mechanical performance for all who choose this up-and-coming micro as their daily wear. And don’t sleep on the tasty “beads of rice” bracelet. It’s a winner and a nice value boost for the price.
Classic Seiko divers have a ripe collectors market, and this model — a modern fan favourite — is a steal at around $1000. A “baby Turtle” case, solid link bracelet, and high-performance lume for the price makes this one to watch. Furthermore, owning one of these babies buys you entry into one of the largest and most passionate collector networks going.
Hamilton is always a good bet for a solid mechanical watch with a decent power reserve for around a thousand dollars. The Khaki King series gives about as much as one could expect for the price tag, with the added benefit of a worldwide retailer and servicing network that will keep this one ticking for years to come.
An odd choice, purely because it is a discontinued model only available on the pre-loved market. There are plenty of excellent examples of this odd, undersized series (available for around $2500) that never quite grabbed the market like the Speedmaster Professional upon which it is based. A base ETA movement with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module, this dainty and oft-forgotten Speedmaster relative has some vintage kudos that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The entry-level Club model caused a storm when it was released a couple of years back and it remains a solid choice for fans of German watchmaking looking to get something in-house on their wrists for significantly less than five grand (the Club Campus retails around $3000). Wearable and classic with a youthful bent, the surprisingly versatile 36mm Club is a winner on all fronts. Available with either a closed case back (which can be engraved) or a sapphire display window showing off the famous Alpha calibre.
This industrialised school project is one of the only enterprises of its kind in the world. The advantage? You, the customer, get a proprietary chronograph that has the look and feel of something four times the price (the current asking prices start at CHF 1399). Fans of the Audemars Piguet concept series should check this out. Although limited production means this model is unlikely to hang around for long, the privately owned training college conducting this build is hopeful that the success of this model will lead to future projects in a similar vein.
At a shade under $9000 this may seem like a pricey watch to include on a list of models that offer a lot of bang for your buck, but the whole point of the list is identifying pieces that leave you shaking your head at the value proposition rather than simply affordable models. This quaint Austrian maker can offer an in-house dead-beat seconds movement for less than five figures (the A11S), and it’s wrapped up in one of the slickest, most wearable skins you’re likely to see. The model with rose gold markers is particularly handsome, and like very few models in its price bracket.