No need to remind you about the current situation and the gloomy atmosphere. So how about cheering yourself up by treating yourself to a little something to fulfil your love for watches in these sad moments? And because you’re probably in the same confinement situation as we are (most of the MONO’ team is…), let’s do it online. Technology can be helpful and here are a selection of very cool, inexpensive watches (all mechanical, of course) that could bring the smile back to the watch lovers that you are.
Great field watches with solid content
We start this selection with so-called field watches, timepieces with a military background, a very decent resistance to most situations and, despite their accessible prices, solid mechanical content. All three we have listed here are modern re-edition of glorious past models. Think “Hack”, “Dirty Dozen” or “survival kit”… Think mid-20th century, military-issued. You see where this is going, right?
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
When it comes to accessible military-inspired watches, the following watch has to be on your wish list. Modelled after the MIL-W-3818B, a US military specs released in 1962, this Hamilton has all the good elements of a field watch. Simple in design, reliable, robustly built and with an ultra-legible and faithful dial, it looks quite stunning. Since 2019, the brand has even improved this Khaki Field Mechanical with a new hand-wound movement, with 80-hour power reserve. And also added some new editions, with PVD-coated cases (black or brown), in addition to the classic sand-blasted steel version. At USD 500 or EUR 450, it is actually a lot of a watch for the money. Available at hamilton.com here.
Specs: 38mm diameter – steel case (PVD available) – 50m WR – calibre Hamilton H-50, hand-wound with 80h power reserve – textile or leather NATO strap – from USD 495 or EUR 445
MIlus Snow Star
Back from the ashed, Milus is a brand with a long and rich history. One of the watches that the brand recently presented for its rebirth is the Snow Star, a remake of a 1940s model designed for US Navy pilots. This watch was part of a “survival kit” to help pilots in their negotiations for information, freedom, or their lives in unknown or enemy territory (quite a cool background, admittedly). The Snow Star is modernly-sized, at 39mm, and made from 904L steel. Inside is an automatic ETA 2892-A2 Top Grade. If the silver-dial version is probably the most faithful to the 1940s model, there’s also a black dial on green canvas that really makes an impression as a tool watch. Retail price is CHF 1,690 but Milus currently runs a campaign for online orders, and by using the code “milus20“, you’ll get a pleasant 20% discount. Available here at milus.com.
Specs: 39mm diameter – 904L steel case – sapphire crystal – 100m WR – automatic ETA 2892-A2 Top Grade – canvas strap – CHF 1,690 (and currently CHF 1,352 with code “milus20”)
Timor Heritage Field
If you’re into watches, and military watches in particular, the name “Dirty Dozen” should be familiar to you. Among the 12 brands that supplied the British MoD during WWII, few have actually reissued these very cool watches. Vertex did recently with the M100, however, as a modern reinterpretation. New and very faithful is the Timor Heritage Fiel, launched as a Kickstarter project. The watch is almost 100% identical to the 1940s version and is available with automatic or hand-wound Swiss Sellita movement. The retail price will be GBP 950. More details and orders at timorwatch.com.
Specs: 36.5mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 50m WR – Sellita SW200 automatic or SW260 hand-wound – seatbelt NATO strap – and vintage-inspired AF0210 strap – GBP 950
Accessible dive watches with an instrumental look
What about a good-old dive watch? Whatever your favourite type of watch, a dive watch is a sort of must-have in a collection. Something to wear on weekends, to go to the beach or to practise sports. Something reliable, solid (or that you can use to keep track of the cooking time of your pasta). There are hundreds of great dive watches on the market, but you’ll see that you don’t need to spend 10k for very decent divers.
Baltic Aquascaphe Diver
Baltic is a young French brand that made some noise when it launched its first collection on Kickstarter, with 1940s-inspired 3-handers and chronographs. After its first success, the brand now explores another kind of watch, divers to be precise, and another decade, the 1960s. The Aquascaphe is a vintage-inspired tool watch with great design and nice details all around… Sapphire bezel, sandwich dial with grained texture, clean look, beads-of-rice bracelet or tropic rubber, light retro elements. And the overall quality is pretty impressive. Inside is a well-known, reliable Miyota automatic movement. And it comes for about EUR 700 here, at the brand’s website baltic-watches.com.
Specs: 39mm diameter – stainless steel case – diving bezel with sapphire insert – sapphire crystal – 200m WR – Miyota 9039 automatic – beads-of rice-bracelet or rubber strap – EUR 695 on rubber, EUR 790 on steel bracelet
Dan henry 1970 Automatic diver 40mm
Launched a couple of years ago in 44mm diameter version, the Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver made an impression on us, especially considering its very accessible price. Founded by an ardent watch collector (Dan Henry), the man knows a few things about designing a cool watch. Inspired by super-compressor watches, it features a double-crown to adjust the movement and rotate the internal bezel. New versions have been recently launched, with a 40mm diameter, new colours for the dial and the case, and the option of a date or a no-date display. Inside is a reliable Seiko NH35 automatic movement and it comes for a very reasonable price of USD 290. Orders can be placed here, at danhenrywatches.com.
Specs: 40mm diameter – stainless steel case (PVD as an option) – K1 mineral crystal – internal diving bezel – 200m WR – Seiko NH35 automatic – tropic-style rubber strap (5 colours available) – USD 290
Ollech & Wajs OW C-1000
Ollech & Wajs is sort of a hidden gem in the field of tool watches, a well-kept secret with great watches that has recently been relaunched. After two inaugural tool/pilots watches, the OW P-101 and the OW P-104, it was time for OW to bring back its most iconic dive watch, the Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000. The new OW C-1000 watches are modern takes on the vintage models, with an ultra-robust case yet reasonable dimensions, an impressive 1,000m water-resistance, a nicely designed dial with its own personality and an ETA 2824-2 automatic ticking inside. It is available either on a nylon RAF strap or the present (and cool) beads-of-rice bracelet, fully brushed. It is priced at CHF 1,456, not the cheapest of the lot but one of the best executed for sure. It is available online here, at ow-watch.ch.
Specs: 39.5mm diameter – stainless steel case – 60-minute diving bezel – sapphire crystal – 1,000m WR – ETA 2824-2 automatic – nylon RAF strap or beads of rice steel bracelet – as of CHF 1,456
The market for accessible dive watches might be crowded but this didn’t prevent Axel Schijns to create his own brand, Retras, in the Netherlands. Modelled after an old watch that his father gave to him, the Diver has clear 1960s and 1970s design elements, some originality with its “faded olive green” dial and cool indexes, as well as classic elements like the black aluminium bezel and a domed plexi on top. At 38.5mm, it wears great and has a lot of charm. Inside the well-built case is an automatic STP movement (clone of the ETA 2824-2 built by the Fossil Group). The watch is limited to 50 pieces and is the work of a passionate guy. It is priced at EUR 1,199 and can be ordered here at www.retraswatches.com.
Specs: 38.5mm diameter – stainless steel case – bidirectional 60-minute bezel – domed plexiglass – 100m WR – STP 1-11 automatic ETA clone – NATO strap green/black and leather strap included – EUR 1,199
Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “King Turtle”
When it comes to accessible dive watches with solid content, the name Seiko has to be mentioned. The Japanese manufacture simply rules the market with great watches entirely manufactured in-house and with one of the most impressive track records on the market – vintage professional dive watches from Seiko have come to define the modern concept of the dive watch. One of the coolest models the brand has to offer is the Turtle, a nickname earned due to its rounded shape. This year, the brand presents the Plus version, the SRPExx series “King Turtle”, which improves several aspects of the watch: ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal with cyclops lens over the date, new dials with a geometric pattern but still the same overall iconic design. A new version that adds to the perceived quality of the model, available for EUR 599. You can buy it online through seikowatches.com and through hundreds of webshops around the world.
Specs: 45mm diameter – stainless steel case – 60-minute diving bezel in ceramic – sapphire crystal – 200m WR – calibre 4R36 automatic – silicone strap or steel bracelet – EUR 599 (on rubber) or EUR 619 (on steel)
Vintage feeling for elegant watches
The market for accessible watches is mostly driven by sports timepieces. However, there are ways to wear an elegant watch without having to break the bank. Something well proportioned, something with a vintage feeling – even one that could easily be the perfect Don Draper watch. So to end this selection of accessible watches, here are three classy pieces.
anordain Model 2 Enamel
Yes… Enamel in a selection of accessible watches. This might sound impossible but Scottish brand anOrdain has managed to create a great looking piece with splendid “Grand Feu” enamel dials produced in-house. Available in multiple colours – light blue, green, grey, white, midnight green and purple – these dials add incredible charm and luxurious appeal to the new Model 2, an undeniable handmade beauty. For the rest, we have a very reasonable 36mm steel case and a hand-wound Sellita SW210 movement, which will run for years. The brand has even managed recently to create gradient enamel dials… The anOrdain Model 2 can be ordered here, at anordain.com for GBP 950.
Specs: 36mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 50m WR – enamel dial on copper base – Sellita SW210-1 hand-wound – leather straps or Milanese steel bracelet – from GBP 950
Raketa Polar Re-Edition
Many might have forgotten that, back in the days, Russia was one of the major hubs for watchmaking. We’re talking millions of watches a year, produced during the Soviet era. Among these, one of the most iconic pieces was the Raketa Polar, specially produced in 1970 for the polar explorers of the 16th Soviet Antarctic expedition, to accompany them to the harshest place on Earth. Its main specificity was the 24-hour display of the time and its surprisingly elegant case. In 2020, the Raketa manufacture reintroduces this watch in the most faithful way you could imagine. Everything is legit, from the size, the style and even the hand-wound movement, still produced on the same machines and by some of the old employees. True authenticity for a watch with undeniable charm. And witnessing the revival of Russian watchmaking is very cool indeed. Pre-orders can be placed here, at raketa.com at a price of EUR 1,120 with deliveries expected April 2020.
Specs: 35mm diameter – stainless steel case, gold-toned – plexiglass – Calibre Raketa 2623 hand-wound, in-house, made in Russia – leather strap – EUR 1,120 (pre-order price)
Tissot Heritage Visodate Automatic
If you imagine an elegant watch with day-date complication and automatic movement produced by an established Swiss watchmaking brand, you’ll probably picture something expensive… But wait until you see the Tissot Heritage Visodate, as it is packed with great content but it is very reasonable when it comes to its price. Although the Visodate debuted almost a decade ago, it remains a very intriguing value proposition from a storied brand and overshadows microbrands vying for the same market. The case is well executed, the dial is clean and elegant, it has a cool 1950s flair (look at the indexes and the logo) and inside is a very reliable ETA 2836-2 automatic movement. At just above EUR 500, it is one of the best value proposition dress watches around. It can be ordered online from www.tissotwatches.com and is available in multiple editions.
Specs: 40mm diameter – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 30m WR – ETA 2836-2 automatic – leather strap or Milanese bracelet – EUR 520 on leather