The watchmaking industry is like every other industry. The more you spend, the better the products will be… At least on paper. Surely, a 6-digit price tag will open the doors to high-end finishing and haute complications. But you don’t necessarily need to spend half the price of a decent car to access nice mechanical watches. In fact, we’ve seen many watches right under the all-important 1k mark delivering a lot of joy. Solid construction, reliable automatic movements, and even some fancy features that you often think are reserved for the elite. And to prove that, we’ve listed five of the best affordable new watches of 2022, all mechanical and all below EUR 1,000.
Baltic Aquascaphe Titanium 41mm (EUR 852)
Baltic has rapidly made a name for itself in the field of affordable watches, with a collection of vintage-inspired models first sold thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. Then, things went fast with the release of new models, all more successful than the previous one… And if the brand has recently moved towards higher-end watchmaking with Swiss-powered chronographs, the Aquascaphe Titanium 41mm we’ve selected represents Baltic’s sweet spot. A classic design for a dive watch, it packs a lot of high-quality features, such as a grade 5 titanium case, a robust but not overly large 41mm diameter, an ultra-domed sapphire crystal and even a ceramic bezel. It also has everything to handle a serious dive session and, all in all looks very appealing. Keeping the price reasonable is a Japanese Miyota movement, but the rest of the watch definitely looks the part. Another successful run for the brand!
Quick facts: 41mm grade 5 titanium case – unidirectional bezel with brushed ceramic insert – sapphire crystal – 300m water-resistant – glossy blue or matte grained black dial – Miyota 9039, automatic, 4Hz, 42h power reserve – EUR 852 (or EUR 710 without VAT)
Dan Henry 1975 Skin Diver (USD 430)
Dan Henry, himself an avid watch collector, has managed to create a brand that triggers vintage lovers by creating watches that are undoubtedly inspired by some of the industry’s greatest hits. While we can question the lack of inspiration in some of the designs, the new Dan Henry 1975 Skin Diver really has some strong arguments. First of all, this new watch has clear old-school influences, but it feels more creative than before. Second, it packs a lot for the money. A small-ish dive watch – hence the skin diver name – it measures a reasonable 38mm diameter, with a more-than-sufficient 150m water-resistance. Then comes the options: date or no-date; brushed steel or sapphire bezel; black, white, orange or gilt dial; quartz or automatic movement. We’d certainly chose the latter option, but the rest will be up to you. Various FKM rubber straps and a sapphire crystal complete the package, as well as a Miyota movement. But what else would you expect at just north of 400 dollars?
Quick facts: 38mm stainless steel case – unidirectional rotating bezel in steel or sapphire – sapphire crystal – 150m water-resistance – orange, black, gilt or white dial – Miyota 9015, automatic, 4Hz, 42h power reserve (date or no-date) – FKM rubber strap – from USD 430
Hamilton Khaki Field Murph 38mm (EUR 945)
Moving towards more established brands often means increasing the budget. And while this is true in the present case, we are still in accessible territories. Hamilton, a Swatch-owned brand with American roots, has long been known for crafting appealing sports watches that pack a lot of features. Another important theme for the brand is cinema. At the junction of the two was the inaugural Murph watch, playing an important role in the 2014 movie Interstellar. Initially released in 42mm, it comes back this year in a far more compact 38mm size, still with all (or almost) the features we like in the previous watch. Still powered by a Powermatic 80 movement, with a long power reserve and anti-magnetic properties, it has a classic military/pilot design with a cool-looking dial. It’s 100m water-resistant, has a sapphire crystal and wears incredibly well on the wrist. One regret, though… the lack of the Morse-decorated seconds hand found in the 42mm version, even though the watch in the movie didn’t have this feature.
Quick facts: 38mm stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistant – jet black dial with beige accents – calibre H-10 (ETA Powermatic base), 3Hz, 80h power reserve, antimagnetic Nivachron hairspring – black leather strap with white contrasting stitching – EUR 945 or USD 895
Orient Bambino 38 (EUR 275)
With this one, you won’t get all the extras of a luxury watch. The movement decoration is simple. The crystals are mineral glass. The leather strap is stamped with an alligator pattern. But keep this important thing in mind, the Orient Bambino 38 cost about the same price as a fashion-branded, quartz-powered watch found in a department store. Except, it’s made by an esteemed brand, its dial has applied markers and is domed, and it has an in-house automatic movement. And then there’s this classic, elegant look with refinement and almost-perfect proportions of the case. So yes, the Bambino isn’t the most groundbreaking watch when it comes to specs, but it’s a solid alternative to enter the world of mechanical watches. Not only does it look good, but it also comes with an attractive price of EUR 275. What else do you need?
Quick facts: 38.4mm stainless steel case – domed mineral crystal – 30m water-resistant – convex dial in black, silvery-white or beige – calibre F6724, in-house automatic, 3Hz, 40h power reserve – leather strap with faux alligator pattern – EUR 275
Seiko 5 Sports Style GMT (EUR 470)
Seiko has nothing to prove anymore in the field of affordable yet high-quality watches. Just bring the SKX007 to the table, and most debates will be closed. Except that the SKX007 doesn’t exist anymore. Its non-official descendant has a name, and it’s the well-established Seiko 5 Sports collection, which has received a truly capable new member this year, a GMT watch. And I’ve recently given it the title of “best summer watch you can get“. Why? It’s solid enough for most outdoor activities, it looks really cool (specifically with the blue edition here and its chrome-like bezel), and it can dive to depths most of us won’t reach. But the best comes from its new dual time function, making it a great travel watch that you won’t be scared of wearing and using hard. Being a Seiko means Hardlex crystal, solid construction and in-house movement. Sure, it’s not a true GMT, but at EUR 470, this isn’t really a problem anyway. Special mention for the bracelet, adding a 1980s vibe.
Quick facts: 42.5mm stainless steel case – bidirectional bezel with two-tone Hardlex crystal insert – Hardlex crystal with cyclops – 100m water-resistant – glossy black, sunray-brushed blue or orange dial – calibre 4R34, in-house automatic, 3Hz, 41h power reserve with GMT Function – five-link Jubilee-style steel bracelet – EUR 470