Certainly, EUR 5K or more will buy you superlative finishing, innovation, modern materials, superior precision… And status. Luxury watchmaking doesn’t come cheap – most of the time for obvious reasons – but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the desirable ticking sound of a mechanical watch with a much tighter budget. In fact, there are dozens of options available on the market, many of them provided by young microbrands relying on Kickstarter. Still, if you don’t feel adventurous and want a watch with pedigree and a well-established name, we’ll have you covered.
Want to celebrate a special moment? Looking for your first serious watch? Need a classic watch for a new position at the office? Searching for a nice gift to congratulate your freshly graduated son? Well, we’ve listed 5 watches from long-established brands for less than half a grand.
Citizen Classic Automatic NH8350-83L
Citizen is the other Japanese brand. If Seiko is more established in the Western world, with a wide collection of watches ranging from EUR 200 to prices we’d better not mention here, Citizen should not be overlooked. Active for over a century in the watch business, the brand knows what it’s talking about and is widely recognized for the incredible price/quality ration of its watches. With the Citizen Classic Automatic NH8350-83L, you’ll have the ability to treat yourself with an all-rounder, a watch that looks good in every situation. But there’s more to it… It is almost entirely crafted in-house, movement included, it comes on a steel bracelet, it has a day-date complication and, of course, it is automatic. Best of all, it has a retail price of USD 189 (and you can find them for less than that on the web). No excuses for not going automatic anymore!
Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 11.1mm height – stainless steel case – mineral glass crystal – 50m water-resistant – in-house Miyota 8200, automatic – 20mm stainless steel 3-link bracelet with folding clasp – reference NH8350-83L – USD 189 or HKD 1,470
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Let’s move to the cradle of watchmaking: Switzerland. You might have the idea that a mechanical watch produced in the Swiss mountains will remain an almost inaccessible dream or that it will require you to save up for months… But you’d be wrong. There are some Swiss-made, some good ones, with very cool design and robust movements, that are priced under EUR 500. One of the best examples is the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. First of all, the design is brilliant, with a vintage look, military elements and retained dimensions. Second, it features a hand-wound ETA movement, which brings the pleasing ritual of winding your watch on a daily basis, and with 80 hours of power reserve. And finally, it just looks cool… Sorry, we said it already but it really does. Available in multiple editions, with steel case, which can also be PVD-coated in black or in brown, with black, white, brown or green dial, all on NATO straps in textile or leather. Prices start at EUR 445.
Quick Facts: 38mm diameter – stainless steel with matte finish, optional black or brown PVD coating – sapphire crystal – 50m water-resistant – Hamilton H-50 calibre, hand-wound – leather or textile NATO Strap – from EUR 445 (and up to EUR 530)
The New Seiko 5 Sports
When it comes to affordable mechanical watches, the name “Seiko 5” will certainly be mentioned more than once. For years, Japan’s most famous watchmaker has been selling truly accessible watches under the “5” collection – a reference to the 5 specs all watches should have since 1968 and the creation of the concept: an automatic movement; a day-date complication; a significant water-resistance; a crown at 4 o’clock; and a robust steel case. This year, and despite a bit of debate in the watch world, Seiko brings an entirely new “5 Sport” collection, inspired by the legendary SKX007 and its diving credentials. The watch is modern, available in no fewer than 27 models – some classic, some bolder, some colourful, some gold-coloured… All share the same 42.5mm steel case, well-designed and robustly built, with 100m WR, a unidirectional diving bezel, nice textured dials and a reliable in-house automatic movement visible under a see-through caseback. And all of that for prices ranging from EUR 269 to EUR 340…
Quick Facts: 42.5mm diameter x 13.4mm height – stainless steel case (with optional PVD coating) – unidirectional bezel with 60-minute scale – Hardlex glass – 100m water-resistant – Seiko Calibre 4R36, in-house, automatic – multiple choices including steel 3-link bracelet, steel mesh bracelet, rubber and leather strap, textured rubber strap, NATO textile strap – From EUR 269 (and up to EUR 340)
Timex Marlin Automatic
You probably don’t think of Timex as a luxury watch company. It’s somehow known as being a king of quartz, abandoning mechanical movements over a quarter-century ago. Still, it’s among the most recognizable watch brands in history with a reputation for both affordability and reliability, and recently, the brand came back to the mechanical market with this watch, the Marlin. First relaunched in hand-wound and 34mm, it now comes in a modern size with a Japanese automatic movement, with the Timex Marlin Automatic. The design is classic and clean, the execution is very honest considering the price and inside ticks a proven automatic Miyota movement. A no-brainer watch, discreet, timeless and truly accessible, at USD 249. A great “first serious watch” option. But mainly, it marked the comeback of Timex in the mechanical game, and that is very cool.
Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 13mm height – stainless steel case – domed mineral crystal – 30m water-resistance – Miyota 8215 calibre, automatic – leather strap with stainless steel buckle – USD 249
Tissot Heritage Visodate Automatic
When it comes down to accessible Swiss-made automatic watches, Tissot is clearly the benchmark brand. Hard to believe, but you really can enjoy the prestige of a Swiss automatic watch for less (well, here just above) EUR 500, without compromising on the quality or the design. Best-in-class is the Tissot Heritage Visodate Automatic, a watch that has the pedigree – inspired by a famous 1950s collection – the mechanics and the elegance. This watch is your typical graduation gift or the watch you could offer yourself for your first job at the office – without having to wait for your end-of-year bonus. It is classic, restrained, well-proportioned and well-executed, it features a solid ETA 2836-2 automatic movement and a practical day-date complication. Once again, an excellent value proposition. And even though it is priced at EUR 520, its overall quality and features (sapphire crystal, butterfly clasp) entirely justify its place here.
Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 11.6mm height – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 30m water-resistant – ETA 2836-2, automatic – 20mm black leather with stainless steel butterfly clasp – EUR 520 (in the configuration above)