Finding a quality wristwatch for less than $300 isn’t impossible. In fact, there’s a great selection out there that just needs to be whittled down to a select handful. As you make your way in the world of work you’ll be well-served by finding a high-quality timepiece that evokes who you are and your chosen lifestyle. But we also know you can’t plunk down thousands of dollars like you just won the lottery. That Rolex Submariner and the Panerai Radiomir will have to wait, but in the meantime you’re sure to find one of the watches we’ve selected a good fit. We’ve scoured the web and found ten great and highly praised timepieces for less than a year of cable TV. The hard part will be keeping your selection down to just one.
In the world of affordable diving watches, the SKX007 is at the top of the heap largely because it’s got the aesthetics of a watch far more expensive. The stainless steel case and signature “Jubilee” link bracelet contribute to comfortable wear, while the Japanese automatic movement provides fuss-free reliability and accuracy without the need for a battery. The Hardlex (mineral) crystal takes impacts and abrasions in stride, and the unidirectional bezel, killer-bright lumed hands and markers and the 200 meter water resistance mean you can go diving with it anytime. Couple this beauty with a suit or shorts and a polo shirt, and you’ll be ready for just about anything from work to after work.
This bargain icon has toughness written all over it. Known as the Eco-Zilla in watch circles, it looks like a hybridized hockey puck/land-mine, but it’s a bonafide diving watch that looks like no other watch out there. The big bezel is easy to read for underwater forays, and it’s water resistant to 300 meters – way deeper than your bathtub. The Japanese quartz movement is accurate and the comfortable rubber strap is replaceable for next to nothing. You can even dress it up with an aftermarket metal bracelet in case you decide your Eco-Zilla needs to do double-duty.
If simple style is your bag, then look no further than the Mondaine Swiss Railways’ crisp white dial and bold black hands. Modeled after the clocks in Swiss train stations, it’s the epitome of a modern classic with nothing extraneous to clutter the face, which is surrounded by a thin stainless steel bezel that’s anything but ornate. At 42 mm, its big without being oversized. The Mondaine is quartz battery powered and capped off by a scratch-resistant mineral crystal. It’s easily the bargain style icon for the budding architect who appreciates great design.
The classic field watch is the quintessential outdoorsman’s timepiece. No-nonsense, easy to read and classically handsome, it’s used by trekkers, campers and just about anyone who spends more time outside than in. Hamilton’s been making the iconic field watch for decades, and now their lineup stands at a full twelve versions. This one is as classic as it gets with a hand wound mechanical movement, simple military-style numerals, a 38mm brushed stainless steel case and a military-green canvas strap. You can also look rather dapper wearing it with a tweed jacket and cords, so it’s more than just a casual watch. We won’t tell if you happen to be a couch potato.
Though Nixon will likely never be considered a classic watch brand, they sure are popular. One of their more conservative but no less attractive watches is the Sentry. It’s got all the right components for a quality timepiece: Miyota quartz movement, solid stainless steel case, mineral crystal, screw down crown and caseback, 100 meter water resistance and luminous hands. It’s just the kind of watch you can wear to the office proudly and then head over to the club for drinks with the guys, who will no doubt ask you where you got it. Plus, for $150 it’s a steal.
This stealthy Tsovet just might be the poor man’s Panerai. Blacked out full-on, it’s made with a high-tech NyPxCel (composite) case for extreme resilience and toughness. It can withstand high impact and shock without disturbing the inner components. The reliable Swiss Ronda 515 movement is accurate and the battery lasts for five full years without needing a replacement. The natural rubber band resists cracking, while the mineral crystal resists those pesky scratches. We love it because it’s masculine, easy to read and as tough as a Musk Ox on steroids.
Big Casio G-Shocks might not be for everybody–except maybe this one. The aviation-themed watch is powered by the sun, so it’ll never need a replacement battery, and you’ll never need to change the time since it syncs with all six atomic transmission stations worldwide whenever you roam the earth. Accuracy is clearly a no-brainer, as is the functionality with 1/1000-second chronograph, 29-city world time and 200 meter water resistance. Convincing the ladies that you’re a pilot may take a bit more than just wearing this watch, though, Maverick.
You may not have heard of Japanese brand Orient, but they’re well-known in bargain watch circles. The Curator’s features and posh appearance belie its bargain price. The gold tone stainless steel case is 41mm, a great size for just about any wrist shy of Schwarzenegger’s. Orient’s own 21-jewel automatic powers the Curator’s sharp Dauphine-style hands, and the 40-hour power reserve meter is handsomely parked just below the 12 marker. Two more aspects that make this watch a steal are the high-end watch sapphire crystal and the alligator leather strap. Wear it, and you may just have what it takes to impress your girlfriend’s dad.
Though you’re unlikely to wear the Core to anything resembling a wedding, it’s just about the most attractive expedition watch we’ve ever laid eyes on. But if you wear it, you better have the exploratory chops to back it up, since it comes with an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, compass and weather indicator, as well as a storm alarm in case the crap starts to come down. It’s the right tool for mountaineering and will likely save your type-A bacon on more than one occasion. The fact that it looks damned stunning just happens to be icing on the cake.
Ask any watch nerd about the Marathon brand, and he’ll likely extol its virtues as one of the ultimate tool watches. Made available to the Allied Forces in 1941, Marathon watches are also loved by a cult of civilians. Their most basic General Purpose Mechanical is built for accuracy with +/- 30 seconds per day and a 34-hour running time on its 17-jewel mechanical movement. The dustproof, waterproof case can also withstand impact, and the hands and markers are self-illuminated with super-bright tritium gas. You may not have ever done special ops, but you can certainly look the part.