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.
Budget Automatics $80-$130
Lowest priced automatics that are still quality.
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)
Seiko 5 SNKK 40s-50s (Patek Philippe Nautilus or Audemars Piguet Royal Oak homage): $60 (but are smaller size 36mm instead of 42mm of the official models, hard to find)
Seiko military field style: SNZG13 [Amazon] (get this over a Hamilton Khaki King or Khaki Field)
Seiko SUP Series (Cartier Tank homage): Seiko SUP880 Solar $100 [Amazon]
Orient Union Day Date $100 [Amazon] or Orient Oyster Classic $300 [Amazon] for a Rolex Oyster Datejust or Day-Date homage (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)
Sea-Gull Rodina: (Bauhaus style, Nomos Tangente homage, sapphire, seagull movement) $120 [Seagull]
Flieger Aviator 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.
Classically-Styled Divers $150-$500
Traditional diver styled watches which are best value buys for their quality. Includes homages to the iconic Rolex Submariner, superb in that they are both super classy and super tool-ish (for “diving”) at the same time. Which means they are versatile to work with any outfit!
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, Orange bezel – classic Planet Ocean style], Orient M-Force Beast $285 [Amazon]
Seiko SNZH Series (Blancpain Fifty Fathoms homage): $300 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).
Seiko SKX007 $200 [Amazon SKX007K2, Amazon SKX007K2, Ebay] or for more retro squarish hour markers: [Amazon SKX173]. Better quality (ie 7S26 movement) than SNZF17. Upgrade the bracelet with the superb Super Oyster Evo S (solid end links) $70 from (email [email protected]), or the Type 2 from [WJean eBay], or a Snapcode [Amazon].
SKX007 is the newer version of the Seiko icon 6309-7040, which you can still buy used $150-$300 [eBay] (better than the 6306, can’t trust integrity of watertightness unless fully restored and pressure tested) Other substitute: $300 [Amazon SNE437P1]
Seiko SRP700 Series $300-$400 ode to the older Seiko classic diver 6309-7040 model style. $329 [Amazon SRP777 – black but rubber strap – better than the subtle Navy SRP773 and weird gold bezel lettering on SRP775, Amazon – great sunburst color but pricier at $437, Amazon – blue red “pepsi”)
Squale 20 ATMOS 1545 Classic (200 m) ETA $490 from [GnomonWatches]. 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).
Steinhart Ocean (Rolex homages):
Ocean 1 Black $400 with Ceramic Option (Rolex Submariner 16610 homage, most famous dive watch) [Steinhart]
Ocean 44 $440 (bigger, Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller 116660 homage, flat bezel, also a solid substitute for Seiko Marinemaster SBDX017 MM300) [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]
Others: Aviation (Bell & Ross BR01 homage) [Steinhart, Chronograph], and Ocean 1 Premium Blue [Steinhart]
Non-Traditional Styled Divers $150-$400
Some good value unique diver watches:
Seiko Tuna “Tuna Can” diver look, get an SRP637 baby Tuna $300 [Silver Bezel Amazon, Black Bezel Amazon SRP641] – better than the old quartz $900 Tunas SBBN015 and SBBN017 or $200 Tauchmeister
Hard to find: Seiko Monster (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)
Makara Bronze Diver: great value bronze $400 (usually bronze have high premiums for no reason, albeit Seiko auto) [Makara Hawksbill Sea Turtle]
Tudor Snowflake homages (ie Black Bay): Borealis Sea Hawk 1500m $350 (albeit Seiko auto, Tudor Pelagos homage) [BorealisWatch], Dagaz Ultra-Flake SKX Mod $300 (seiko auto, sapphire) [dagazwatches], or Seiko SKX173 [Amazon]. Other Borealis divers: Sea Dragon $290 [BorealisWatch] and Scorpionfish [BorealisWatch], Seiko Black Bay homage [eBay]
Sporty Chronograph homages $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. Tachymeter on “racer” watches is solely for speed.
Breitling Navitimer homages:
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]
Rolex Daytona Paul Newman/Omega Speedmaster Professional homages:
Quartz: 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]
Automatic Sporty Chronographs:
Russian Automatic Sporty Chronographs: 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”
Active Duty 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 Core All Black $260 [Amazon], Alu (aluminum) Deep Black $280 [Amazon], Brushed Steel (Stainless Steel model with sapphire glass) $350 [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.
Tissot PR 516 GL (old world sporty feel) $415 [Ebay] or newer Tissot Visodate $375 [Amazon, eBay] (albeit black has a white day/date). Tissot Le Locle [Amazon – Black, White]. Other popular recommended models: Powermatic 80 [Amazon, eBay], PRC 200
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]
Steinhart Marine $430 [Marine Chronometer II Roman, Marine Chronometer II Arabic] Super classy and great value for the quality (IWC Portuguese homage), 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.
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]
Perpetual Watches: Superb beautiful watches at good prices (albeit Seagull movement). Sold out frequently, unfortunately. Models include: Chronograph C-0 $380, Chronograph C-05 $500 (Patek Philippe 3970P homage)
Rolex Explorer homage: 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)
Precista PRS-20 $580 is a good value Panerai Radiomir homage [Timefactors]
Certina DS-1 Powermatic 80 (ie 3 hands) $655 [Amazon]
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]
Beautiful but Slightly Overpriced $500-$2k
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]
Junghans Max Bill Automatic (classic Bauhaus, but plexiglass, $850, $1800 for chronograph “Chronoscope”) [eBay]
Longines Column Wheel Chronograph L688 (inhouse) movement [eBay]
Popular but Not My Style
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.
Citizen BN0000 (solar eco-drive) $200 [Amazon]. Solid quality and great value but cartoonish bezel numbering.
Android (Seiko or Sea-gull or Miyota ~$200 is well priced but ETA expensive at $600+). Larger watches and lots of colorful styles, albeit non-classic. [Amazon, Amazon miyota, eBay], ie Divemaster 200, Octopus, Mechanical Chrono
GMT/World Time Watches
Citizen AT9010-52E [Amazon]
Steinhart GMT-Ocean 1 Black (Rolex GMT Master II homage) [Steinhart], Steinhart Vintage GMT $440 [Steinhart]
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.
Holy Grail Watches $10k+
While personally not condoning these for most budgets (i.e. average / median income) the acquisition of “Holy Grail” iconic watches, and disagree with them being investments, as they get scratched up and lose value as daily wears, the below is a ranking of holy grails, for those who want iconic watches and not their homages. A preference would be towards gold (if available for the model), as even though they get scratched more easily, there is value in the metal, not to mention the classic styling.
- Rolex Daytona is the top holy grail
- Omega Speedmaster
- Fluted Rolex Day-Date or Datejust with diamond markers
- Omega Seamaster (wavy dial discontinued)
- Breitling Navitimer.
Would not recommend: Rolex Submariner (too many great homages), Patek Phillippe (does not have as unique or flashy style for the $, Nautilus is sleek but doesn’t look special same as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak), Jaeger-LeCoultre (reverso is gimmicky), Cartier Tank (boring), Panerai Radiomir (boring), IWC (boring), Breguet Tourbillon (get the Perpetual).
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.
- For ultra-budget class @$200: Orient Bambino ie $200 [Amazon], a Perpetual $200 [SC-01 or SC-02] (currently sold out), or the classic Seiko SKX007 $200 [Amazon] then add Super Oyster bracelet $80 (see above for sellers).
- For quality class @$400, SARB033 [Amazon, eBay], Steinhart Marine [Marine Chronometer II Roman], a Steinhart Ocean (Rolex submariner homages) ie Steinhart Ocean 1 Black $400 [SteinhartWatches] with Ceramic. For one-of-a-kind with high finish quality, you’ll have to go pricier such as the Squale 50 ATMOS Blue $830 [Squale] (beautiful sunburst color).
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: [CheapestNatoStraps] (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
- 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.
Common Metal Bracelet Types: (there is also Mesh)