Just in time for the holidays, we bring you seven great watches – for men and women – under USD1,000, as selected by women insiders in the watch industry. This article was initially conceived of in response to the male-insiders-only article written in the New York Times just over a week ago. For that article, entitled “A Watch With Snob Appeal for Under $1,000? Six Watch Insiders Offer Picks” the author opted to inquire about top watches under $1,000 as selected by 6 different men, including our Founder, Frank Geelen. We, at MONOCHROME, wanted to hear what women have to say on that topic too. Additionally, we can bring some choices for both men and women as well – something the men really can’t do.
Each of the women insiders weighing in here has been covering the watch industry for anywhere from 10 to 34 years – writing for some of the most prestigious watch and consumer magazines in the world – making each a true industry insider. It should be noted that we understand that watches under USD1,000 are a difficult category to expound on, yet it is a category that captures the hearts of many a millennial. So here are seven watches with great appeal that women industry insiders feel are a great choice in the price category.
From left to right – Tracey Llewellyn, Carol Besler, Sophie Furley, Victoria Townsend, Sandra Lane, Roberta Naas, Elizabeth Doerr
Roberta Naas, Founder of ATimelyPerspective.com – New York (also, Monochrome-Watches USA/Women’s Expert)
Brand: Vortic. A small-batch watch brand based in Colorado, making custom watches using restored vintage movements and, in most case, great 3D-printed cases. You can even build your own watch. While many are priced higher than $1,000, you can get something really nice for $995.
Model: The Chicago, built using antique pocket watch movements made by Elgin, once the world’s largest watch manufacturer.
Why I like it: “I struggled with which watch to pick today, because I was torn between a great Movado Heritage Series Calendoplan Chronograph (yes, a $950 quartz watch that packs a powerful vintage appeal), an unusual Klokers watch and Vortic. In the end, the Vortic won out because it is a grand blend of so many things: vintage movements, high-tech 3D printed cases, Americana. The Chicago watch is part of the brand’s American Artisan series, and, as mentioned, houses a vintage American-made Elgin pocket watch movement that has been refurbished in America by American watchmakers. In great contrast to the historic element, the cases are titanium 3D printed by Imperial Machine and Tool in New Jersey, which specializes in 3D printing for aerospace and military uses. The back piece is stainless steel, milled in Colorado, and the crystal is Corning Gorilla Glass (made in Los Angeles). Even the hand-crafted straps, made from American cowhide leather, are crafted for Vortic by Hadley Roma Stylecraft division based in Florida. (For a little more money, one can opt to trade up for a Horween Shell Cordovan horsehide leather from Chicago, IL, but to be honest, the cowhide straps have a great look.) In all, the Chicago watch is a grand package of old and new, of mechanical and modern and has a rich American lure.”
Sophie Furley, Editor-in-Chief, Revolution Switzerland – Geneva
Brand: Omega, Vintage purchase. Swiss luxury watchmaker Omega, founded in Bienne in 1848.
Model: 1970s Omega Electronic F300Hz Seamaster Chronometer powered by a tuning-fork movement that predates quartz movements.
Why I like it: “One place to find a great timepiece under $1000 is on the pre-owned market. Like with used cars, you can often find a great deal for a brand that would normally cost much more. But unlike cars, a second-hand watch doesn’t have any mileage, so if it has been well cared for, it is just as good as new!”
Price: $650-$800, depending on where you buy it
Sandra Lane, Editorial Director of Alam Assaat Wal Moujawharat – Dubai
Brand: Seiko. Internationally, Seiko is widely associated with basic, quartz watches but in the Japanese domestic market (say “JDM” for real watch-cred) people have always known that the company makes excellent mechanical watches too – and its Presage line, made available to the international market only since 2016, offers outstanding value for money.
Model: Seiko Presage “Cocktail Time” Created solely for the Japanese Domestic Market in 2010, the design was a collaboration with a famous Japanese cocktail barman – which led to the public nicknaming it “Cocktail Time.” It was launched internationally in March 2017 with a choice of dial colours: silver, ivory, pale grey, dark grey, ice-blue, cognac-brown and – my choice – deep blue.
Why I like it: “That dial. It looks gorgeous and is loaded with the kind of details normally reserved for Haute Horlogerie. Deeply etched with a sunray pattern, it has been given a graduated blue coating (also known as fumé, meaning smoked) and finished with seven layers of gloss. As a result, it looks alive – and really comes into its own when the light plays on it from different angles. (Nerd-alert: wearing the watch, you may find yourself staring at it for ages as you twist your wrist one way and another.) A fine fillet of polished metal has been applied around the date window (something you don’t see on many higher-end watches) and the tapered kite-shaped hour markers are also applied. The fine, printed minute track nicely echoes the ribs of the sunray pattern, and the tip of the fine second’s hand has been curved to avoid the parallax effect of viewing it through the curved glass. The box-shape Hardlex mineral glass and fluted winding crown add a subtly retro feel (and note the manicure-friendly shape of the crown!). The case-back of hardened mineral glass allows you to enjoy the movement – a solidly reliable Seiko mechanical calibre. While the finish is very basic – as may be expected at this price – the partly skeletonised rotor with a brushed golden surface treatment contrasts nicely with the metallic tones of the movement itself. At 40.5mm, the watch is as big as my tiny, girly wrist can take, but with the metal link bracelet worn slightly loose, it feels great.”
Price: $425 and up, depending on where you buy it
Carol Besler, Independent Watch Journalist – Toronto.
Brand: Mido. An often overlooked Swatch Group brand that shares movements with sister brands, including Tissot, and represents high-value entry-level luxury.
Model: Mido Belluna II Automatic, 33mm, with a mother-of-pearl sector dial and contrasting oversized Roman numerals. It reminds me of the Cartier Ballon Bleu, sans the creative crown.
Why I like it: “The automatic, Calibre 80 movement, originally made for Tissot by ETA. It has a lower frequency – 3Hz (21,600vph) instead of 4Hz (28,800vph) – a high-performance Elinchron II balance spring, and an impressive 80-hour power reserve (compared to the standard 38h). The mainspring was made longer but thinner, allowing it to be coiled into a standard barrel size, thus saving space. It also incorporates a seconds hand, rare on a ladies’ mechanical watch. Proof that an over-priced, over-decorated timepiece is not the only option for women who want a top quality mechanical ladies’ wristwatch.”
Tracey Llewellyn, Deputy Editorial Director, Revolution Press – London.
Brand: Hamilton. Begun as an American brand, the company headquarters is now in Bienne, Switzerland, and is part of the Swatch Group.
Model: Khaki Field Auto 40mm
Why I like it: “As one who has always admired the military watch aesthetic and its prevailing philosophy of clarity, legibility and functionality, the Hamilton Khaki Field Auto 40mm is a pretty good choice of wrist-wear for me. Supplier of timepieces to the US Army during the Second World War, Bienne-based Hamilton carries the slogan “American Spirit. Swiss Precision.” Each version of the Khaki Field uses a simple and effective colour palette, my personal favourite being olive green strap and dial with a stainless-steel case, while the large white numerals and hands with lashings of luminescent material make for easy reading in all light conditions. The proprietary H-10 automatic movement has 80 hours of power reserve, so that even after a watch-free long-weekend, it will not need re-setting or winding. Simple, robust and water resistant to 100m, the Khaki Field ticks so many boxes, all for under $700.”
Elizabeth Doerr, Co-Founder, Quill & Pad – Germany
Brand: Ming. A micro brand created from one passionate enthusiast’s search for the perfect watch.
Model: Ming 17.01. Encased in titanium and wrought through and through with deliberate details that vastly exceed what almost every other watch in this price range offers, the hand-wound Swiss made 17.01 is an all-around daily wearer for the undercover watch connoisseur.
Why I like it: “I think this is one of the best buys in watchmaking today, perhaps only superseded by the likes of Nomos and Seiko with their manufacture movements. The watch’s slim titanium case, coming in at 38mm x 9.3mm, can be comfortably worn by both men and women and its many case and dial details perfectly suit the fan of Haute Horlogerie’s demands on a timekeeper. The MING 17.01 is perfect for the A. Lange & Söhne wearer who may not want to take a gold watch on a beach vacation, for example. And its quick-release strap system even allows for wardrobing (and it comes with three straps)!”
Victoria Townsend, Freelance Journalist – Paris
Brand: Hamilton. From Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where it was founded in 1892 to its home today in Bienne, Switzerland, Hamilton International is a brand with authentic U.S. heritage. Equipped with quality Swiss Made movements since its acquisition by the Swatch Group in 1974, Hamilton watches are often THE reference for a first-purchase beautiful automatic watch.
Model: Hamilton Jazzmaster Lady Auto
Why I like it: “The Jazzmaster collection, launched in 2003, now has more references than there are notes to play, and one of the most recent ones, the Jazzmaster Lady Auto, is a serious eye-catcher with performance to match. Hamilton has been creating ladies’ watches since 1920 so the brand knows how to make them fit, and this 34mm round steel case is small enough to sit gracefully on any lady’s wrist. Its feminine good looks are enhanced by curved Arabic numerals and graceful hour, minute and seconds hands on a textured patterned dial seen through the sapphire crystal. A flower configuration with a round aperture at 12 o’clock proudly shows off details of Caliber 2824-2 with a power reserve of 80 hours; a further look is provided on the back. Water resistant to 50 meters, this watch comes with a black or white dial and matching leather strap. Easy-to-wear and tough enough for everyday use, the black model is also perfect for night-time glitter. From a brand that inspires confidence with 125 years of history, the versatile Jazzmaster Lady Auto is a true find.”
This article has been written by Roberta Naas, founder of watch-magazine A Timely Perspective. Roberta is also the author of six books on watches.