It’s difficult to find articles that focus on low budget watches for the modern gentleman. Most horologists tend to focus their attention on the important pieces and so less expensive watches often get left out. In many magazines this can be due to brand driven endorsement whereas with others it’s caused by reseller investment. In the end, magazines are businesses and just like any organization, is driven by money. While journalists tend to cling to their “artsy appeal”, the fact is we are nothing more than corporate drones as in the end, it’s really about what the boss wants – and the boss wants money.
Unfortunately, it’s the high priced luxury watches that bring that money in over the low budget boutique brands and wholesale watch companies. Fortunately, at Gentleman’s Gazette we don’t play favorites. It doesn’t matter if a product costs $1,000,000 or $1 – if it’s a good product we’ll give it a favorable review, and if it’s an inferior product, we’ll be brutally honest about why it doesn’t match up.
While most of my articles do focus on the higher priced items, at the request of some our readers it is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to my favorite timepieces shy of $1000.
Low Watch Price = An Inferior Product?
Heck no. Obviously, you’re not going to get an incredible watch, because let’s face it – you get what you pay for in most cases – however, there are many brands with a proven reputation that cost pennies on the dollar in comparison to most of the watches we focus on at Gentleman’s Gazette.
There are really three contributing factors when it comes to a low priced watch that retails under $1000.
The country that the watch was manufactured in is often a deciding factor in price. In most cases, watches with Chinese movements are less pricey than ones with Japanese, German or Swiss movements. This is due largely in part to an inferior movement, but that’s not to say the watch won’t work well for many years to come. Often some of the most creative young watchmakers from North America and other countries have to rely on the less expensive movement from China to be able to launch their line. What can happen in cases like this is those watch makers who really want to prove themselves with a top shelf product will work extra hard to ensure that every watch is really interesting and beautiful at the same time. For those manufacturers so new to the game, the initial reputation will either make them or break them. This is why one of my favorite types of watches to buy are the micro brand watches still trying to make a name for themselves in such a vitriolic industry where every action is heavily critiqued.
Obviously, it goes without saying that one of the biggest influencers of price is the quality of the materials used and the quality of workmanship. A no-name watch made in bulk by machine in China out of plastic is going to be far less expensive than that of a gold or rhodium watch, each of which are hand crafted by master artisans over the course of a year in Switzerland.
The same of course goes for the type of movement. A mechanical or automatic movement in the majority of cases will far exceed the price of a quartz movement. That being said, there are exceptions to every rule.
The historical significance of a timepiece can be one of the most powerful contributing factors to the price it sells for. Vintage pieces can often be priced based on the owner who wore them or the story behind the watch. The same rings true for new watches as well. Some companies rely on their lineage to charge more for their product. Of course, there are many exceptions such as brands like Casio and Timex which have been around for many years and yet still price their watches low.
This price point is (believe it or not) one of my favorites. When I’m at our summer home and sitting on a patio by the beach or strolling along the boardwalk, the last thing I want is to have to worry about my watch. That’s why I love owning a few of these bargains, because it allows me to check the time, wear a fashionable watch and not worry if the watch gets full of sand, banged up or hit with a wave of water. My personal pick is the Timex Weekender Central Park at $59.99 because it epitomizes the “preppy” lifestyle with a variety of straps and a classic look that will never go out of style.
Timex 1600 for J.Crew – $175
Named after the White House, this is a very classic timepiece that’s perfect for pairing with a suit or even just a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. This version, sold exclusively through J.Crew pays homage to the preppy lifestyle of the Ivy League.
Casio G-Shock – Varies
I often recommend this watch to emergency service professionals such as paramedics and police officers. This is a very handy quartz with a variety of functions built in. The watch can also take a good beating which will keep you happy for many years to come.
When it comes to a good low budget “throw-a-way” watch, the Weekender is my favorite. They do last a good while, but they’re so inexpensive that you can buy a few for the summer and interchange them based on your mood or the outfit you’re wearing. They also make a great gift for birthdays or “just because”. Of all the entry level watches on the market today, this is one of the most popular ones you’ll see the college kids wearing in the Hampton’s or Cape Cod come summer.
$200 – $400
This is a great price point for men with thousands in student loans who need a respectable looking watch for their first job in a suit. These are good collection starters and can easily be replaced when you build up a higher budget. Like the price point above, they also work well for traveling or spending a casual day at the beach.
Bulova Dress – $215
I’ve often described my hatred for Bulova, but when it comes to this price point you really can’t go wrong. This is one of the most classic designs you’ll ever see and is a great piece for your first time stepping into a boardroom.
Seiko SRP315 – $268
Seiko is kind of the quintessential Japanese brand and they’re well known for making a sturdy, consistent time piece. While there are many Seiko’s that can be found under $1000, this is one of the best in my opinion.
Uniform Wares 104 Series – $270
Now this is an interesting watch. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Uniform Wares, they’ve proven themselves popular with the 18-35 year old demographic. This is a watch you want to buy based on its visual appeal. If you like it, buy it. If you hate, don’t.
Mougin & Piquard for J.Crew – $380
Mougin & Piquard was a watch company that began in Paris around 1852. At the time, it was well known for its classic design and superlative craftsmanship. After closing its doors it was recently revived by J.Crew and is now hand-assembled in Switzerland.
When it comes to American watch manufactures, Hamilton is one of the best known. They serve as an excellent beginning to a watch collection and are well received by most watch connoisseurs. At this price, you really can’t go wrong.
$400 – $600
This is that price point where it becomes a little bit harder to select a watch from. It’s a unique price point because you have to ask yourself if you love the watch enough to buy it. Normally, I would say save up a little more or pay a little less, but the three watches I’ve listed below will give you a good bang for your buck, if this is the budget you feel comfortable spending.
Bernhardt Officer’s Watch – $459
Bernhardt is a great little micro brand that was started by Fred B. Amos in America after developing an appreciation for fine watchmaking. While the brand is still very young, they’ve focused on time-honored designs that are influenced by history. This is a brand to watch for, as I think they’ll be coming up very quickly in the watch world.
Tissot is regarded as one of the best entry-level luxury timepieces produced today. They craftsmanship is excellent and they’re well known for selling a high quality watch at a fraction of the price they could be charging.
Burberry Dress – $599
I really like Burberry clothing and even some of their leather goods. However, I’ve never been a huge fan of their watches. The round dress watch is an exception. It’s a classic dress watch with a great name behind it. At $600 it’s well worth every penny.
$600 – $800
At this price point you have a few more options. You can often find watches over the $1000 mark on sale in this category, or you can look for something vintage that fits this budget as well. Here are a few watches that are worth looking at if you’re set on buying new.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Grande Date Black Dial Watch – $795
There is no doubt that Tag Heuer is one of the most popular entry-level luxury watch brands in the world. If you want the prestige of wearing a well known luxury brand without the price tag, this is the watch for you.
Of every watch in this list, this is my top pick. Frederique Constant is a very well respected Swiss watch maker who could easily charge a significant amount more for their watches but opt not to. At this price, it’s a steal and you’re getting an exemplary time piece for the money.
Brooks Brothers Round Watch with Calfskin Band – $650
In the last two years Brooks Brothers opted to switch from Swiss Made watches to a deal that was brokered with Seiko. If you’re looking for an authentic Seiko watch with the backing of the Brooks Brothers name behind it, this is the pick for you. Two great brands – one nice watch. Note: If you can get your hands on one of the old Swiss Made ones do it.
The following are four micro brands that are worthy of your attention. They have all enjoyed positive reputations since launch and their watches are all relatively equal when it comes to quality. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Benarus Moray – $720
Halios Tropik SS – $650
Lumtec M42 Phantom – $755
Prometheus Manta Ray – $629
$800 – $1000
The final category, these watches will serve as a respectable introduction to the luxury market. Again, you can often find something far better that’s vintage or on sale, but the watches I’ve listed below will certainly keep you happy for years to come. While I won’t detail them individually, I will say that each of them caters to a different style of man and you’re bound to enjoy at least one of them if this is your price range.
Raymond Weil 2838-STC-00659 – $865
Sinn 556 1 – $900
Xetum Stinson – $995
Movado Museum 0606605 – $ 995
Victorinox Swiss Army AirBoss Mechanical – $ 475 – 995
Stuhrling Original Men’s 537.331X1 – $820
Frederique Constant Persuasion FC-292MC4P6 – $995
Max Bill Silver Dial – $960
MeisterSinger 36 mm Neo 2Z – $990
Other Brands to Consider
Here are few other brands worth looking at. Some are boutique watches while others are micro brands.
Stowa, Archimede, Steinhart, Laco, Aristo, Grovana, Junkers, Tourby, Dornbluth, Timefactors, Damasko, Zeppelin
www.amazon.com – low prices, fast shipping, great return policy
www.watchismo.com – Excellent source for unique and creative watches
www.kickstarter.com – Many new micro brands are using KickStarter as a way to launch their product. This can be a great way to get in on the ground floor and reserve a watch that could potentially become a superstar in the world of horology.
Best Department Stores
At the aforementioned price points, one of the best places to find some of these watches will be your local big box department stores. Here’s a list of some of my favorites to look for watches at.
Saks Fifth Avenue
Barney’s New York
Lord & Taylor
This concludes our guide to low budget watches. I of course, always recommend setting your sights on favorite and saving, no matter how costly it is. However, it is equally important to have a watch that suits your lifestyle – regardless of its price tag. Obviously there are MANY other watches from thousands of different brands available for under $1000. These few listed above are simply some of my personal favorites that I recommend to the average consumer. I hope you’ve enjoyed this primer. Please don’t hesitate to post questions in the comment section below, and I will do my very best to answer them.