A Watch for Any Budget

When I get asked the same questions regularly, I try to make posts to point people in the right direction. This is why I wrote about my investment strategy recently and have made many book recommendations in the past. It’s also why I’m writing this post on watches today.

You see, I love watches. If any of you follow me on social media you know this to be true. This has led to many DMs, text messages and conversations asking my opinion on which watch to buy. Below is the beginnings of a watch guide for every budget. There are some Amazon affiliate links but I would never recommend something I didn’t think was awesome just to make a buck.

This guide is mostly the opinion I’ve formed after reading and studying watches over the past six years. I wouldn’t consider myself a watch expert but rather an enthusiast with a strong opinion. If you also have an opinion, feel free to comment below. I will do my best to update this post as I feel appropriate.

$10-100

If you’re balling on an extreme budget but like to wear something on your wrist then you can’t go wrong with a Casio or a Timex Ironman. They are extremely inexpensive and have been seen on the wrist of many successful people including Bill Clinton and Jocko Willink. Commonly referred to as a “beater watch,” they are great for working out, washing your car or doing any activity where you don’t want to worry about damaging an expensive timepiece. The watches in this range are going to have a quartz movement, meaning they run on batteries. If you want something waterproof that tells time and has a stopwatch feature. Some of my favorites include F91W-1 Classic, Casio Men’s CA53W Calculator, Casio G-shock DW5600E-1V and Timex Men’s T5H591 Ironman Classic.

$100-500

Seiko makes the beautiful new watches under $300. My favorites include the Seiko 5 SNKL23 which my brother received from our parents for Christmas (I make good recommendations). It looks great on the wrist and he replaced the metal strap with dark brown leather. All of the Seikos I’ve recommended here have an automatic movement made in Asia.

The Seiko divers below look like a hybrid between a Rolex Submariner and a Rolex GMT Master. I don’t love the jubilee style bracelet so I would probably stick with rubber or switch to a leather strap or oyster bracelet. Take a look at the Seiko SKX007K, Seiko Men’s SKX009 and Seiko Men’s SKX175.

My first nice watch was a vintage Omega Seamaster. I love the minimalist design as well as the history and mechanical movement. I bought mine on Etsy. These watches are always on the market but the prices have slowly crept up. Also consider vintage Hamilton watches. I love the early military styles.

If you like digital watches but want something smarter than a Casio or Timex then consider a Fitbit or Apple Watch. I strongly believe they are great stealth wealth watches and recently compared the Apple Watch to a Toyota Prius. Seriously, many C-level executives who could afford almost any watch in the world own one. Both of these brands are great for tracking workouts. My wife wears the Fitbit Charge HR as her everyday watch. She loves keeping track of her steps and I love the silent alarm since she wakes up thirty minutes before me! The new versions include the Charge 2 HR and the Alta. Also consider the Withings Activité Steel and Pop watches. They are inexpensive fitness watches for people who hate the look of inexpensive fitness watches.

$2000-7000

Nomos is a minimalist up-and-coming German brand. Many of the watches come with a glass back that allows you to look at the movement. The faces are all simple and sleek. What I may like most about these watches is how inexpensive they are when compared to their well known competition. The verdict is still out on how much they will depreciate but if you’re interested in German minimalism check out the OrionTangente and  Zuerich models.

Omega Speedmasters are some of the most popular watches in the world. Commonly known as the “Moonwatch” this is the timepiece that went with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon.  It will always be a classic but the vintage models from the 1960s keep shooting up in price. I wanted one for a long time but missed my window and can no longer justify an early model. Very little has changed from the first generations but these will be more reliable and shouldn’t depreciate too much. Here is a new Speedmaster on the steel bracelet and on the leather strap.

“To start a collection, you can never go wrong with a Submariner, GMT, Explorer or Daytona. Starting with a Submariner from the 1960s, 1970s or 1980’s or GMT’s are fantastic places to begin when acquiring vintage Rolexes.” -Scott Kaplan, Founder H.Q. Milton

I read this quote after I had already bought two Rolexes from H.Q. Milton and it really hit home to me. Through my years reading about watches I independently decided my favorite bang for the buck Rolex was an Explorer 1016 followed by a “Pepsi” GMT Master.

A Submariner is the most popular Rolex model and you can’t go wrong with one. They look great and will hold their value well. I’d lean towards buying one if I wasn’t such a contrarian. There are many great places to buy vintage Rolexes online but I’d highly recommend transacting in person with my guys if you’re ever in the San Francisco area. If you find something you like on the site they will hold it for you to pick-up in person. I don’t get any commission but feel free to tell them I sent you!

$7000-12000

Jaeger-LeCoultre has always been one of my favorite Swiss brands. I particularly love the Master Ultra Thin Moon in stainless steel and the Reverso models. Both are made in women’s sizes as well but make sure you don’t accidentally buy a quartz movement. Never pay more than $500 for a watch that runs on a battery. I’d also highly recommend buying these watches secondhand. JLC don’t hold their value quite as well as Rolex. I’ve seen Reversos a few years old for 50% off their retail price.

At the edge of the $12,000 budget is the new Rolex Daytona. These were just released last year and have a ceramic bezel. They are absolutely beautiful and if you can find one for retail price I’d highly consider swooping it up. Right now they are going for about $16,000 on the secondary market since Rolex didn’t make enough to fill the demand. While I’m traditionally a fan of vintage Rolexes, the new Daytona and the new “Batman” GMT are two noteworthy exceptions.

Over $12,000

If you have FU money consider a Patek Philippe. The Calatrava is the quintessential dress watch. I also love a good moon face, which will cost you as much as a Cadillac Escalade but I guarantee it will age better and depreciate less. Also look at the vintage market, they have been making these watches for decades and there are lots of nice Calatravas out there for one-third to one-half retail.

A. Lange & Söhne is my favorite German brand. They have the most beautiful movements I’ve ever seen, visible through the glass back. They re-emerged on the watch scene with their Datagraph. But since I always lean towards minimalism and relative affordability I love the 1815, Saxonia Thin and Saxonia Moon Phase models.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Hunter Reply

    Steve, great list. It looks like you and I share passions for fine watches and personal finance. If I were asked the same question, here’s what I would recommend (should be in order of cost):

    – Seiko
    – Shinola
    – Oak & Oscar (really like this company)
    – Kobold
    – Omega
    – IWC
    – Panerai
    – Rolex

    • Steve Reply

      Great list Hunter, I appreciate the comment. I’ve heard good things about Oak & Oscar, need to see one in person. Never heard of Kobold but looks a bit expensive, I’m a big fan of value watches that I think will increase in value (partly since I run of personal finance site). I love Shinola since they are made in USA but I’m hoping they will add automatic movements and smaller faces. Love Seiko, Omega, IWC and Rolex. Panerai great too but my wrists are too small to pull them off haha.

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