For a guide on the reasons why these watches were chosen, please see the Watch Buying Guide below.
For Women’s watches, please see Best Women’s Automatic Watches.
Marketplaces: Instead of purchasing high at retail and taking a large loss when selling, we recommend buying and selling watches at a discount on tax-free and transaction-fee-free secondhand markets such as either reddit.com/r/WatchExchange , Moda Watch Club FB Group , Moda Watch Club – $5k & Under FB Group, or Watchuseek. Chrono24 is another marketplace albeit there are a lot of price gougers.
Divers: Rolex Sub Styles $150-$500
With history in Scuba, divers are rated water resistant for deep waters (200m+) and as such usually have screw down crowns and closed case backs. Superb in that they are both super classy and sporty (tool-ish) at the same time, not to mention very legible with the white hands over black dial. Because of the style’s popularity, many great value for homages are available to the iconic Rolex Submariner. We’d recommend the regular submariner style (13mm thick, 40mm case size) and not Sea-dweller (14.8mm, 43mm) or Deepsea (17.6mm, 44mm) as those are too high profile (thick), heavy, and unwieldy except for people with the thickest of wrists – you will bump it into objects frequently.
Recommended – Squale ETA $590 such as 20 ATMOS 1545 Classic from [GnomonWatches]. The Maxi version has larger more vintage indices markers. Squale has their BlueRay model as a Rolex Smurf homage. It’s slightly smaller than the Steinharts (40mm vs 42mm). Squale is a micro-watchmaker with a solid history from the 1950s (was making cases for other brands such as Tag Heuer, Doxa, Blancpain). Compared to Steinhart, Squale is more reputable, more true case size, slightly worse bezel action, better rounded lugs instead of Steinhart’s straight lines.
Steinhart Ocean 1 Black $400 with Ceramic Option (Rolex Submariner 16610 homage, most famous dive watch) [Steinhart]
Ocean 44 $440 (bigger, Rolex Sea-Dweller 116660 homage, flat bezel) [Steinhart]. Ocean 1 Vintage Red $400 (more sporty color, Rolex 1680 Red / Rolex 5513 Red homage, most famous military-issued dive watch, as seen in the classic James Bond 007 movies) [Steinhart] – a better homage than Ocean One Vintage Military (OVM) [Steinhart]. Ocean One Vintage $470 (Rolex 6200 homage) [Steinhart]. Rolex Smurf: Ocean 1 Premium Blue [Steinhart]. Steinhart also has green for Kermit (black dial, green bezel) and Hulk (green dial, green bezel).
Orient: (not sapphire glass though) Orient Ray $140 [Amazon] (classic round hour markers), Orient Mako XL (aka Mako II, Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean homage, markered dial / bigger size / worse lume than Mako) $140 [Amazon, also EM75004B Orange bezel – classic Planet Ocean style version]
Divers: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Style
Produced in collaboration with the French Navy and also official watch for the US Navy’s combat divers and Navy SEALs, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms retails for $15,700.
Recommended – Squale 39 Sub: [GnomonWatches] $1200 is a great alternative to the full priced Blancpain, as Squale even used to manufacture the cases for Blancpain.
Seiko SNZH Series: $300 As a more budget version, a Seiko with FiftyFive Fathoms dial (50 Fathoms + Seiko 5 = 55), Personal opinion: gold trim SNZ57 looks the best [eBay] (SNZH series also similar to the Breitling SuperOcean, especially if adding a numberless bezel insert).
Divers: Doxa Scuba Diving Style
Doxa watches were designed in consultation with U.S. Divers, of which included Jacques Cousteau as the chairman and his companion Claude Wesly, the first man to spend seven days thirty-three feet underwater. They have orange dials after research that it was the most legible color underwater. The aqualung, the first breathing apparatus for scuba, was invented in France during the winter of 1942–1943 by two Frenchmen: the engineer Émile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau.
Doxa Sub 300T – with the Old school case
Doxa Sub 600T – with the Modern case
Divers: Non-Traditional Styles $150-$400
Some good value unique diver watches:
Seiko Monster (hard to find) (i.e. Black Monster SRP307 2nd gen, SRP313 “Bloody Tooth” or the more popoular Orange Monster SRP309, 1st gen is SKX779 and SKX781 had square hour indices, Seiko 5 Mini / Neo / Baby Monster is not as preferred because not as rugged look and crown isn’t screw down)
Citizen BN0000 (solar eco-drive) $200 [Amazon]. Solid quality and great value but cartoonish bezel numbering.
Halios unique divers made by a small Canadian company, beautiful but Miyota movement like Magrette, but I’d be more inclined to get a [Halios]. Delfin and Tropik SS models unavailable. Order with metal bracelet.
MKII [MKIIWatches] great but $800+ (and the Vantage or Kingston are no longer for sale)
Prometheus [PrometheusWatch] (not sure of quality, and overpriced even with lower quality seagull/sellita movements, Baiji and CR1 models look good though)
Seiko Prospex Marine Master Professional 300m Diver SBDX001 or SBDX017 (MM300) the ultimate diver $1800, with a movement at in-house Swiss movements / Grand Seiko level. Might be too high profile to fit under dress shirts. [Amazon, eBay]
Squale 50 ATMOS (500m) Shiny and beautiful, coin edge bezel $830 [GnomonWatches]
Certina DS Action Diver $700 (Note: little hard to find even though big brand in Swatch group) [eBay]
Don’t get: Seiko “Tuna Can” (e.g. baby Tuna SRP637 or SRP641). Even though they are better than the old quartz $900 Tunas SBBN015 and SBBN017, they are still too large, bad bezel action and bad bracelet.
Aviation: Flieger Watches (German WWII Pilot) $200-$500
A Flieger is the classic German WWII aviation watch. Compared to other options, it is more casual and toolish than classy, especially with its classic riveted brown strap (one can switch it out with a metal bracelet or black leather). Titanium isn’t worth the extra money and is more prone to scratches (although it’s “lighter” for the real pilots). A dial is the more historically common variant (B dial was produced in small quantities), for some the B dial is “too busy” (especially for the smaller Poljot $100-$200 Russian aviators [eBay])
Because of the style’s simplicity you could go budget ie an Orient/Poljot. Cheaper than a Hamilton Khaki, Seiko SNK809K is too small 37mm (better than the miyota $200 Ticino or slightly more modern miyota Maratac $290 CountyComm or bad Parnis). For more quality, go ETA movement Steinhart $400 [A dial 44mm, A dial 47mm, B dial 44mm, B dial 47mm] (note the titanium ones not listed here are $469 with vintage-yellow font), OR Laco Augsberg/Aachen miyota $400 for its historical signification (100% true to history). [Amazon A-Dial Augsberg, B-Dial Aachen]. Other ETA: Aristo ~$425 at [LongIslandWatch Discount]. Archimede is pricey.
Aviation: Rolex GMT Master II Style $500-$800
The classic Rolex GMT aviation style is the two-color bezels (original being the Pepsi – Blue/Red). For pilots, the 24h hand is directly linked to your home time, and a turn of the bi-directional bezel in either direction, based on the timezones you’ve hopped through, can quickly indicate the current time.
Squale Dusky $600-800 [Gnomon Watches Search]
Aviation: Other World Time Watches
Citizen AT9010-52E [Amazon]
Citizen Skyhawk A-T [Amazon BL5400-52A Silver/White, Blue Angels World A-T, Other Promaster Sky eBay]
Orient Worldtimer $300-$500 Automatic [eBay, Amazon All Models]. Orient Star GMT (Star Seeker) would be another one.
Aviation Chronographs: Breitling Navitimer Style $150-$300
Affordable automatic chronographs are difficult to find. Navitimers have the slide-rule bezel, which allows for metric to standard conversions, fuel consumption, air speed and distance calculations, etc.
Quartz: Seiko SNA413 [Amazon], Casio Edifice EF-527 $87 [Amazon]
Automatic: Julian Kampmann Poljot24 Russia. Make sure to get only Poljot 3133 movements (3017 redesign made by MakTime, faithful copy of swiss Valjoux 7734).
Solar $200: Seiko [SSC009 black, SSC013 white], Seiko SSC289 [Amazon rubber, eBay SS261 metal bracelet], more contemporary Citizen Nighthawk (GMT but no chrono) [Amazon], Citizen chrono $300 [BL5400-52A Silver/White, BL5403-03X Gold/Black]
Budget Classy Automatics $80-$130
Lowest priced automatics that are still quality.
Rolex Explorer homage / Military Field style: Smiths Everest $400 [Timefactors], Bernhardt Binnacle Anchor Miyota movement $259 [Bernhardt Anchor Black], Seiko SNKM77 can look similar with $50 worth of dagaz hands and possibly also dial (but only 32mm compared to 39mm Rolex)
Hamilton Khaki King or Khaki Field
Seiko military field style: SNZG13 [Amazon]
Cartier Tank Style: Seiko SUP Series: Seiko SUP880 Solar $100 [Amazon]
Patek Philippe Nautilus: Seiko 5 SNKK 40s-50s $60 (but are smaller size 36mm instead of 42mm of the official models, hard to find)
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore: Casioak, Maurice Lacroix Aikon $1200
Rolex Oyster Datejust or Day-Date homage: Orient Union Day Date $100 [Amazon] or Orient Oyster Classic $300 [Amazon] (Orient is 40mm similar to the 41mm Datejust II and Day-Date II, better than the too small 36mm Seiko SNXJ series which is similar to 36mm Rolex Datejust and Day-Date or 34mm Rolex Air King)
Other Styles / Miscellaneous Budget Brands:
Sekonda ~$80 [eBay] (Another Russian watch but classy, only cheap if bought used)
HMT (Indian classy ultra-cheap automatic) $30-$80, find them on Ebay, ie Sona, Janata (both better than Pilot)
Racecar Driving Chronographs: Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster homages $150-$300
Affordable automatic chronographs are difficult to find. Tachymeter on “racer” watches is solely for speed. While Omega Speedmaster, it has history with astronauts in space – first watch worn by an astronaut walking on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission and is one of several watches NASA-qualified for spaceflight and is the only one so qualified for outside spacecraft usage (spacewalk, moonwalk, etc.).
Rolex Daytona Paul Newman/Omega Speedmaster Professional homages:
Quartz / Solar:
Casio Edifice $60 [Amazon1, 2], Seiko SSB Series $120 [Amazon SSB073, SSB033, SSB031, SSB025], Also Invicta Speedway (many models) [Amazon All Models] ie Speedway 9211 [Amazon], Citizen AN8070-53E [eBay], Quartz 7a28 [eBay] or 7a38 [eBay] (hard to find), Alpha Daytona Paul Newman – chronograph automatic Seagull mvmt $215 [Alpha]
Russian: Strela $600 or other 3133 models [eBay (best value), Julian Kampmann Poljot24 Russia] Note: 3 similar quality Strela brands: Strela, Poljot International, Sturmanskie. Like above, get only Poljot 3133 movements (3017 redesign made by MakTime, quality copy of swiss Valjoux 7734), ie Poljot Chronograph “Classic”
Omega Speedmaster Michael Schumacher “Mini Speedmaster”: Comes in yellow, red or blue varieties. 39mm as opposed to the full size 42mm Speedmaster Moonwatch.
Absolute Best Daytona Alternatives:
Zenith Chronomaster Sport $10k
Longines Heritage 1967 $2000
Simple Chronographs $150-$300
Stowa Chronograph $1500 [StowaShop]
IWC Portuguese homage:
Steinhart Marine $430 [Marine Chronograph] Super classy and great value for the quality, only gripe is that they might be too classy for everyday watch. Roman (Roman numerals) is more classy than Arabic (regular numerals). Better value than the double-the-price Stowa Marine Original. Discontinued – [Marine Chronometer II Roman, Marine Chronometer II Arabic]
Junghans Max Bill Automatic Chronoscope or Meister Telemeter (classic Bauhaus, but plexiglass, $1800 for chronograph “Chronoscope”) [eBay]. The Meister Telemeter looks a little too cartoony, although a great value chronograph.
Active Duty Tactical Military Watches $50-$300
Note: ABC watch means Altimeter (altitude tracking), Barometer (predict rain), Compass. Atomic means its time is corrected by radio tower
Cheap Beater: Casio G-Shock DW-5600E $41 – digital/quartz
Most Iconic G-Shock: Casio G-Shock GW-5000 $320 solar [Amazon] (the modern version of the older DW-5000C)
Size/Some Features/Mudproof Combo: Casio G-Shock G-9300 “Mudman” $129 [Amazon or Yellow – Amazon] is more mud/dirt/dust resistant, big and mudproof like GX-56 King (not quite as big but easier to press buttons), compass, has moonphase (Rangeman doesn’t), No altimeter/barometer/sunrise-sunset/atomic
Feature Rich / Bang-ability: Casio G-Shock G-9400 “Rangeman” (new version of GW-9200 Riseman) $180 [Amazon GW94001CR, GW9400J-1JF, GW9400BJ-1JF black negative display]. Solar, ABC, temp sensor, auto light by turning wrist towards your face, but no mud-resist (can take mud but not operate buttons). Compared to Riseman, the Rangeman is larger/heavier, newer sensor/module, added compass, slightly less comfortable, and illuminated by LED (though people say LED is uneven and too bright vs EL). The J (Japanese models) have the more expensive/stiff carbon fiber strap, not necessary as the regular rubber resin strap is super durable and soft/comfortable. Negative display is generally not recommended, looks cool but more difficult to read the time.
Most Features: Suunto 9 Peak All Black $500 [Amazon]. All the features and most precise sensors (ABC, storm alarm, sunrise/sunset indicator). Quartz – battery lasts 1 year but only takes 2mins to swap and weather-seal yourself
Best: Casio G-Shock Rangeman $180 for lots of bang-ability or Suunto Core for higher sensor precision and less rugged/bulky. DON’T get Casio Pro Trek (new version of Casio Pathfinder): bigger screens but not as resistant to bumps and scratches (you can actually replace the bezel on G-shocks). Seiko (ie SBEB001) and Tissot may be working on ABCs.
Mid-level Classy Automatics $200-600
Hamilton popular solid American brand and great value ETAs (however sometimes known for poor lume and strap/band quality and no anti-reflective coating) Note that they are on sale often. Classier models include Jazzmaster Viewmatic $500 [Amazon, eBay], Intra-Matic $600 (best value Bauhaus style) [Amazon, eBay], Thin-O-Matic $600 [Amazon, eBay]
Seiko Spirit (SARB) is a super classy series including the $390 iconic green Alpinist SARB017 [Amazon], the black dial SARB033 [Amazon, eBay] or white SARB035 [Amazon], SARB065 Shinobu Ishigaki “Cocktail Time” [Amazon, eBay]. Don’t believe the extra $200 is worth it for the $570 SARB021 or SARB023, Secondarily: Orient Vintage Power Reserve $200 [Amazon] or Orient Star Classic $400 [Amazon]
Zenith Defy Classic
Moonphase and Grand Complication Automatics $600-$1k (all ETA movements)
Patek Philippe 3970P Perpetual Calendar:
Perpetual Watches: Superb beautiful watches at good prices (albeit Seagull movement). Sold out frequently. Models include: Chronograph C-05 or C-07 $500
Richard Mille, Tourbillons and Skeletons $500-$2k
Tourbillon is a movement invented by Abraham Louis Breguet, to counteract the gravity of a watch. Nowadays appreciated for aesthetic reasons.
Richard Mille Style:
TSAR Bomba – Quartz $189+ [Amazon]
Zerootime T4 Archer $1300 on Indiegogo. Cheapest real tourbillion. We do not recommend, as users have reported power reserve not holding many hours of time (power reserve) and losing seconds.
Perpetual Watches Tourbillon T-01 $1450. Recommend this over Zerootime.
Zenith – Either Defy or a Chronograph
High End Tourbillon:
Breguet – We recommend Breguet for high-end, the brand from the inventor.
Other Homages and Styles $500-$2k
Precista PRS-20 $580 is a good value Panerai Radiomir homage [Timefactors]
Nomos Tangente (classic). Or Tangomat (larger Tangente with date and/or GMT)
Junghans Max Bill Automatic (classic Bauhaus, but plexiglass, $850) [eBay].
Stowa Antea $850 beautiful Bauhaus [StowaShop]
Popular but Unorthodox Styles
Oris (ie Aquis Date $1k) and Glycine $800+ both widely known to be great quality/resale value, but I don’t find their lower-end watches awe-inspiring. Oris uses Sellita movements (just as good as ETA). Glycine Stratoforte chronograph is discontinued. [eBay]
Sinn ie 556 $1.1k [SinnWatches]. This is unpopular opinion but Sinn (reminiscent of IWC), is very simple style at high price point, even if it looks super clean.
Holy Grail Watches $10k+
While personally not condoning the acquisition of “Holy Grail” iconic watches for most budgets (i.e. average / median income), and disagree with them being investments, as they get scratched up and lose value as daily wears. Safer purchases are those of Rolex or the “trinity” brands – Patek Phillippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin.
- Precious metals – Gold is preferable if the premium is not much greater than the steel models, as even though they get scratched more easily, there is value in the metal. Platinum is not recommended as models are more expensive but the metal is less expensive than gold. We believe yellow gold is more classic than white gold.
- Ceramic Bezel is valuable as it is much less vulnerable to dings and scratches
Watch Brands and Models:
- Rolex Daytona (Note: Oyster means waterproof as opposed to Cellini)
- Patek Phillippe – Nautilus is a Gerald Genta Design. A simple hour/minute/second and for 6 figures. We would rather have a Patek Grand Complication watch for closer to $200k. Patek’s brand philosophy is to maintain classic designs that will be in-style forever (passing down for generations), as opposed to AP which experiments with many designs, including obnoxious color combinations.
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – Royal Oak is the brother Gerald Genta Design to the Nautilus. We prefer the Nautilus although some would say it looks more boring. The AP has a beautiful integrated bracelet which is nice, however, the case bezel screws are more industrial-looking and we appreciate Patek’s brand philosophy more.
- Vacheron Constantin – Under-appreciated third of the trinity. We love the case design on the VC more than the Nautilus and Royal Oak. However, Patek has beautiful dials and complication designs on almost all models.
Would not recommend:
- Jewelry style: Rolex Day-Date or Datejust (too classy and not versatile), Jaeger-LeCoultre (reverso is gimmicky), Cartier Tank or Santos (boring and more jewelry focused than horology)
- Oversized and/or goofy styling: Panerai Radiomir (boring and oversized), Breitling, Hublot, Omega Seamaster (doesn’t feel as classic of styling or elegant, too sporty), Bell & Ross BR01 homage, Bvlgari
- Boring: IWC (boring except for high end grand complications), Rolex Submariner or GMT (too many great homages and overdone styling), Tudor (for people who cannot afford a Rolex, weaker design, however the titanium Tudor Pelagos is nice for people who appreciate the snowflake hour markers and hands).
Conclusions & Favorites
After all the watch styling, branding, and market pricing research, we have concluded: Watches aren’t investments because 1) scratches cause loss of value and 2) expensive timepieces entail high maintenance costs (ie $500 for a $10K Rolex). For best quality to value, go for automatic, don’t spend much more than $600 for an ETA Swiss or much more than $300 on a non-Swiss movement because one could get a decent-condition gold watch on eBay or a used high-end brand for $600, ie Omega (both of these options will better hold their value). If you plan to have only one, choose a versatile style (or have two: one professional and one casual). Regarding homages, buy only from a quality company ie Steinhart (that looks a little different) instead of cheap Chinese copies that look the same as the real thing.
Best Watch Winder: WOLF Viceroy (2.7) Single $235 [Amazon], or Triple $750 [Amazon]. Only buy the Wolf brand, as cheaper ones are worthless. However, I’d say these are an optional luxury, as the only benefit is to have multiple automatic watches but not having to worry about setting their time when you switch them up.
Best Brands for Watch Straps / Bands / Bracelets
Nato vs Zulu: For straps / bands, recommend Nato type over Zulu, as Nato runs thinner, has a watch keeper strap, and thinner squared metal hoops instead of rounded. With its thick nature and more numerous hoops, Zulu looks more rugged than sporty.
- Leather Strap Brands: Da Luca – highest quality leather (shell cordovan) but expensive $100+)
- Nato / Zulu Strap Brands: (22 lug width)
- Don’t get: Hadley Roma (doesn’t seem high quality)
Best Watch Spring Bar Tool for changing out bracelets/straps
Bergeon 6767-F Watch Spring Bar Tool (F-tool) $25 [Amazon], which is an F-tool is for metal bracelets. The Bergeon 6767-S (S-tool) [Amazon] is for leather and rubber straps (the F tool can too easy accidentally damage a leather strap because it is more fine). If you have watches with both bracelets and straps, you either need to purchase both tools or buy the other tip at $8-15. Bergeon (Swiss repair tools) is much better than the cheaper non-branded ones
Best Watch Repair Tool Kit
Best Value: Mannesmann M11760 $65 [Amazon]
Value Substitute: GTU 20 pcs $35 [Amazon]
Best Premium: Bergeon 7812 $275 (full set) [eBay], Bergeon 2819-08 $175 (just the wrench for removing casebacks) [Amazon], Bergeon 55-605 2868 Set of 5 Chrome Plated Brass Screwdrivers Watch Repair Kit (screwdrivers) $90 [Amazon]
Best Thread Locker Glue
In the case that the screw-in pins on your bracelet pop out, it is good to lock them in with Loctite Purple 222 glue $9 [Amazon]
Watch Buying Guide
Desirable Watch features:
- Movement type – Watchphiles most recommend Automatic: no battery replacement required, seconds hand moves smoother (higher bpm – beats per minute), and holds value due to the craftsmanship and tradition of a complicated movement. Mechanicals are either Automatic (winded by wrist-movement) or Manual (winded manually) and charges last ~40 hours (recommended servicing every 5-10 years). Quartz is most accurate, powered by battery (lifetime ~2 years). Some quartzes self-recharge (hold ~6 months charge, lifetime ~10-20 years), ie Kinetic (Seiko) recharges with wrist movement but not recommended (battery weakens if let fully discharge), and Solar (Seiko Solar, Citizen Eco-Drive, Casio Tough Solar) recharges with light.
- Automatic Movement brands – ETA (highest quality, Swiss-made – non-chronograph watches start at $400+ and ETA Valjoux chronographs start at $1k), Miyota (Japanese-made great/reliable with watches $250+), Seagull (okay quality Chinese, $100), followed by cheap unnamed Chinese movements ($50+). Some movements are made in-house, ie Seiko or top model Rolexes.
- Hacking is a movement feature that stops the seconds hand for better time setting
- Quality of the finish, Quality of [metal] bracelet. Bracelets usually worth more than a leather band/strap
- Sapphire Crystal glass (scratch resistant and prettier than Mineral), Seiko uses Hardlex which is decent
- Watch Size: It is not ideal to have too huge of a watch case size or thickness. The bigger and thicker the watch, the more easy to bang it into things. Also generally more complicated watches are thicker but not necessarily. For comparative purposes, a Rolex Submariner is 13mm thick, Sea-Dweller 14.8mm, and Deepsea 17.6mm.
- Brand: Don’t buy a fashion-brand watch (ie Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole): usually quartz and overpriced for their contracted-out quality. Buy from a watch-maker for better quality/price and resale value.
Note: Take your time shopping as there are many styles and tastes change. For more “lifelike” pics, look them up on Google Images or Youtube. ~38mm size is more classic while 42mm+ is more sporty.
See common Metal Bracelet Types below. Not shown, other styles include Milanese (Shark Mesh) and NASA style that was worn into space on an Omega Speedmaser (e.g. JB Champion brand is the reputable one).