You know how everyone’s always saying the middle class is being killed out? Well that applies to the watch world as well.
When you look at the watch market, it’s basically split into two broad categories: expensive, unattainable timepieces from luxury brands and cheap watches from household names.
The good news is both microbrands and legacy brands are trying to fill that gap between these two major categories by making reasonably priced and well constructed timepieces that most people can afford and, more to the point, that most people can actually buy without bumping into the usual ‘supply chain-related’ availability issues.
So here’s a list- in no particular order – of 6 watches you can actually go and buy, right now, for less than $1,000.
1. Undone Popeye series
Technically, this is not one watch but it is a collection of watches designed as a tribute to Popeye, the iconic sailor man created by E. C. Segar in the 1930s.
The collection consists of four different pieces, including a ‘destro’, as in a watch with the crown located on the left-hand side of the case.
All four are equipped with a Seiko-sourced automatic movement and prices range from $399 for the ‘Sailorman) to $480 for the Blacksand ‘Destro’ model.
2. Bulova ‘The Other Moonwatch’ Lunar Pilot
When you say ‘Moonwatch’, Omega is the first brand that springs to mind but there’s actually another watch from a slightly less glamorous watch brand that went to the moon and that’s Bulova.
In the 1970s, Omega was standard issue for all NASA space missions but in 1971, astronaut Dave Scott ended up wearing his own Bulova Lunar Pilot during the Apollo 15 space mission because, as the legend goes, the Omega he’d been given was broken.
Many years later, his Bulova ended up fetching $1.6 mln at auction.
Bulova still makes the Lunar Pilot, several versions actually, and they’re all available for less than $1,000, including the model you see here.
And they’re all equipped with a high-beat movement that Bulova invented and patented.
Priced at $560, it’s also very attainable.
3. Seiko SNK series
The problem with Seiko is that watch influencers and watch enthusiasts have been praising it for too long, banging on about how “they’re so cheap, man” for so long that Seiko eventually listened and upped the prices.
Fortunately there’s an entry-level Seiko that’s still available to buy, still well priced and definitely a great way to start your collection.
It’s the SNK 800 series (part of the ‘5’ collection), available in four colourways (beige, green, blue and black), fitted with a canvas strap and powered by a reasonably accurate Seiko automatic movement.
Sitting around the $100 price mark, it’s basically the cheapest automatic Seiko you can buy and for once, that’s actually a good thing.
4. Namica Neo Tokyo
The Namica NeoTokyo is a $399 automatic timepiece you can buy from… Kickstarter.
Yup, this is a crowdfunded project. But don’t worry, it’s simple and straightforward.
You allocate 399 of your hard-earned dollars to back the project BUT your payment will only go through when and if the campaign is 100% successfully funded (which in this case it was), and then you’ll receive your watch.
And you get a lot of bang for your buck because the 40 mm case houses a Seiko-sourced automatic movement and it is protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
On top of that, the Neo Tokyo is also 200 mt water resistant.
Plus it’s got a cool neon purple dial, so you can’t go wrong.
5. Zelos Mako V3 300M TI ‘Teal’
Zelos is a microbrand that’s been rising through the ranks for years.
People want it, buy it, and then they sell it, which is important because the pre-owned market is often used as a thermometer to measure the impact of a watch in the community of fans and collectors.
At the time of writing, the Mako V3 Teal (also available in three other colours – burgundy, green and black) retails for $549 and for that cash, you get a ceramic bezel, titanium construction, sapphire crystal and an automatic movement.
Not too shabby.
6. Tissot PRX Collection
Tissot has knocked it out of the park with the PRX because it encapsulates everything watch lovers and buyers want at the moment.
It’s a sportswatch that comes with a Royal Oak-like integrated bracelet, a curved bezel, and it’s available both as a quartz or an automatic model.
It also offers you at least seven different colour options, from more traditional ones like black or blue dials, and more quirky ones like the Powermatic 80 made from steel + 18k gold with a bronze dial.
For the base model, quartz-powered with a blue dial and sapphire crystal, it can be yours for just $375.
Honourable mention: Studio Underd0g Watermelon
Studio Underd0g – which is spelled with a zero not an O – is a quirky microbrand that creates watches mostly inspired by food.
This is my favourite, aptly dubbed ‘Watermelon’, and the only reason it didn’t make the list is because it’s technically sold out.
The 38.5 mm stainless steel case houses a manual-winding movement with a chronograph complication.
It is also fitted with Super-LumiNova lume and sapphire crystal as well as a sapphire caseback, so it definitely knocks it out of the park in terms of value-for-money.
Plus it’s a watermelon, everyone loves watermelons.