Budget Watches

Low Budget Watch Guide for Men

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.

1. Country
2. Quality
3. History

Country

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.

Quality

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.

History

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.

Timex X J Crew Watch Collaboration

Timex X J Crew Watch Collaboration

Under $200

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.

Timex Weekender Central Park

Timex Weekender Central Park

Timex Weekender Central Park – $ 33 – 60

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.

Hamilton Khaki Field – Auto 42 Millimeter – $327

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 Heritage Visodate – $459

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.

Frederique Constant Slim Line FC-235M4S6 – $529 – 725

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

Best Sites

www.amazon.com – low prices, fast shipping, great return policy

www.gemnation.com
www.chrono24.com
www.watchismo.comExcellent source for unique and creative watches
www.kickstarter.comMany 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.

Neiman Marcus
Saks Fifth Avenue
Bergdorf Goodman
Barney’s New York
Bloomingdales
Nordstrom
Lord & Taylor
Macy’s
Harrods

Conclusion

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.

31 replies
  1. Rob
    Rob says:

    Do you have a preference for a certain type of watch band with business attire? I prefer leather bands but a friend prefers metal bands. What is better suited to business professional or even business casual?

    Reply
  2. J.A. Shapira
    J.A. Shapira says:

    Hi Rob,

    Great question. In my opinion, the only acceptable band to wear with a business suit is a leather strap. Many men do wear metal, but in my opinion, those are best reserved for casual wear.

    Best,

    J.A. Shapira

    Reply
    • J.A. Shapira
      J.A. Shapira says:

      In the price range, Tissot makes a very respectable timepiece in comparison to others. There are many watches I can recommend in this range but in the end it’s you who has to wear it. Unless you’re spending thousands of dollars on a watch, it really does come down to whether you find it aesthetically pleasing over “is it a good quality timepiece”. In one of my previous articles, I actually recommended the PRC 200. You can see the article here:

      http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/watch-collections-your-first-timepiece/

      Reply
    • J.A. Shapira
      J.A. Shapira says:

      I assume you’re referring to the Samsung smart watch.

      When it comes to a smart watch with business attire, unless you work in IT and consider a polo shirt and jeans business attire, my advice is avoid it. If you’re absolutely set on wearing a smart watch with business wear, my advice would be to consider the Triwa Smartwatch simply due to aesthetics. Otherwise, just use your cellphone and forgo the wristwatch.

      Reply
  3. Alessio
    Alessio says:

    Good morning, could I suggest the SEIKO SKP383 instead of the srp? it’s more elegant and the price is identical.

    Reply
  4. Burton Urquhart
    Burton Urquhart says:

    As a cheap throw away’, I would recommend a Casio AQ-S800W. Water Resistant to 100m, solar powered, so no replaceable battery, Analogue display with a small digital dual display, Stop watch, countdown timer and 5 alarms, & light. All Black with orange hi light of numbers, function buttons and hands with a silicon strap and a very light weight. All for £25 [$42]

    Citizen Ecodrive Promaster. Again a solar powered watch – Classic Diver’s style with a S/S bracelet and 200m resistant. Rotatable bezel, lock-down winder. A black face – though quite weighty. £139 [$233] Sadly only date and no day window.

    Reply
  5. Jack
    Jack says:

    I recently bought a Orient watch as a present. Automatic, Japanese movement, with a sapphire crystal, exhibition caseback, and power reserve. It cost under $200, and felt well built. I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t mention them, as they are fairly well reviewed and a popular choice in the range of $150-$500.

    Reply
  6. Falkon Nightsdale
    Falkon Nightsdale says:

    Since my loved Tchibo watch broke (after accident involving freefall from some height), and I’m not sure, whether it could be repaired again, I’m looking around for a new device. Ththat Tchibo watch was originaly for about $ 100, but later price dropped to about $50…

    And I’m facing a problem – watches seem to tending to be huge, ugly and/or expensive… Article gives a nice example in case of MeisterSinger 36 mm Neo 2Z, which I really like – but $990 is way over monthly wage of goverment clerc… :(
    Timex Weekender is also nice, but looks pretty big, and over-massively, somehow heavy…

    But Timex do have some watches I like so (except those HUGE numbers, IMHO there shouldn’t be any) or so (numbers again..)

    Other manufacturer’s interesting stuff:
    Skagen (lovely, only band IMHO shoul be plain..) or Stuhrling.

    Reply
      • J.A. Shapira
        J.A. Shapira says:

        To add to this, what you may not know, is that Max Stuhrling, the namesake behind the brand, was actually the protege of Louis Audemars (Audemars Piguet). Stuhrling was an incredibly talented watchmaker, but hated the overpricing in the luxury market and set out on his own to develop and manufacture quality timepieces that were affordable by everyone. For a low budget alternative, they aren’t bad options. Not my first choice, but not my last one either.

        Reply
  7. Dirk Bowler
    Dirk Bowler says:

    Hamilton hasn’t been an American watch company for a long time. They are a name brand of and have been using the Swatch Groups movements since the mid 1980′s.

    Question… Are there any American watch companies still in existence that manufacture the movement in the USA, and are affordable???

    Reply
      • Dirk Bowler
        Dirk Bowler says:

        As far as I can tell only RGM actually makes watches in the US. And they are anything but affordable in price. Shinola assembles watches here from foreign components, but are in the $600+ price range. Which is not affordable on my budget. Anyone know of any US watch assembler in the 300-400 range?

        Reply
  8. Juan Manuel
    Juan Manuel says:

    Excellent article, as usual. Enjoyed it a lot.

    No expert here, but I somehow miss a reference to Swatch. Apart from what they meant relaunching Swiss industry, I think they have quite interesting watches in their price range?

    All the best.

    Reply
  9. Edwin
    Edwin says:

    I have watches from manufactures such as Timex, Bulova, Casio, Benrus, Invicta, Kenneth Cole and Omega and of all the ones running It is the Omega Seamaster that is giving me problems…go figure…

    Reply
  10. Jon M
    Jon M says:

    You should also consider Christopher Ward London Ltd who offer a great range of styles at various price points. Their watches have a 60 day trial period and a 5 year, no quibble guarantee.

    Reply
  11. HBK
    HBK says:

    Surprised Maurice Lacroix hasn’t been mentioned on here. Almost all their watches are very good value; some of their quartz ones are a real steal.

    Reply
  12. David Lim
    David Lim says:

    Great article Sven! Another watch and brand to consider at the high-range of your selection would be the Celadon Imperial. Check out their blog at http://maisonceladon.tumblr.com. Its price is 900 USD available direct from the brand and the watch comes in either Cream or Red.

    I bought one of their watches a few months back (the Cream one) and have been super pleased with it. It has gold chatons and hand-engraved balance and escape cocks (a feature of watches costing ten times more!), an in-house movement, a gorgeous vintage-inspired guilloche dial and a lovely finished case with teardrop lugs. Each series of their watches is just limited to 100 pieces and they’re coming up with another series soon!

    Another brand I love is Nomos, but that comes a fair bit above your budget (and I see you’ve reviewed them before). Beautiful Bauhaus designs and in-house movements. Frederique Constant too is very nice, as is Stowa as you mentioned.

    Perhaps another avenue to consider would be going vintage. you get a lot more quality for your money, in exchange for needing greater savvy in the process. A well-kept Omega or JLC would be roughly around your budget and have far greater cred than most new budget watches!

    Reply
  13. Ilan Vardi
    Ilan Vardi says:

    Hello. I have no clue what criteria you used, you don’t bring up the main point, which is: “what is your watch saying about you?” In particular, you overlook what is likely the best choice for inexpensive watch, a Swatch, preferably in black with white dial. This can be worn for any occasion and has the advantage of avoiding saying anything about you which could be misinterpreted. If you like mechanical watches, Swatch also makes those. All Swatches have an almost unreasonable level of quality as this watch is the basis of the Swatch Group which manufactures high end watches starting with Omega and IWC up to Breguet and Blancpain, so they need to ensure a customer base which won’t be disappointed with their product. The only other watch I wear, apart from Swatch, is a 1961 Bulova Accutron. I believe that is also considered classy, a similar one is worn by the main character of the TV show White Collar, and is also featured on the new season of Mad Men, and is under $1000. The watch I would most recommend for someone trying to be a “gentleman”: Vintage Rolex Submariner (no date) 5535 with NATO strap, but unfortunately not in this price range….

    Reply
  14. Ilan Vardi
    Ilan Vardi says:

    Sorry, in my last comment I mentioned IWC, that’s in the Richemont Group. Other entry level luxury brands of the Swatch Group are Longines and Tissot which won the International Chronometry Competition (in the non-tourbillon class), so has proved the quality of Swatch Group movements.

    Reply
  15. Kory D.
    Kory D. says:

    Thank you for including the G Shock. I’ve worn one for 14 years as my daily watch through several jobs. It took the punishment of during my time as a barista, as a special ed teacher and into my current job as a child therapist. Alas, it finally ended its days, not because the watch itself died, but because the plastic band finally snapped. It’s so old now that Casio no longer makes the band for it so it is time for a new one.

    Reply
  16. Paul
    Paul says:

    Hi, love this article. Can I ask what you think of the Accurist brand?

    Being English, I like that they strive to be a quality brand with a British heart. There aren’t many brands, outside of Switzerland, Germany or the US that seem to be similar.

    Thanks
    Paul

    Reply

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