Ever since humans invented a way to manufacture a tiny device allowing us to keep track of time, watches have been fashion statements, status symbols, and even marks of adulthood. And just like a doctor’s advice always sounds more reliable if they’re wrapped in a white coat, a part of us may admire simplicity and doing away with the frills – but we can’t truly take an adult seriously if they’re sporting a battered string of plastic underneath their jacket.
What Makes a Good Watch?
In short: quality materials, durability, and artful appeal.
We should never confuse a good watch with a luxury watch. There are many diamond-studded pieces out there that are worth tens of thousands of dollars – and while they do have amazing craftsmanship and very precise technology, they are not something we can wear on a daily basis without a security detail behind us or serious compensation issues.
All the watches on this list are below $1,000; they are “entry level” luxury watches, so to speak, but are luxury nonetheless. There are thousands of models out there in this price range, although most have overhyped packaging, flimsy mechanisms, and sometimes even questionable or gaudy designs.
The watches we have included on this list all come from reputable brands and are sure to become old before they start looking old. They’re beautiful pieces with personality; after all, style comes in every shape, color, and wrist-friendly size.
Time is Money: Business-Like Watches for the City Day
These watches are all ready to join your Monday to Friday routine. They are efficient and practical, ready to be combined with your office’s dress code without blending in too much.
Ideal for: Depending on the version, you can wear it on your high-stakes Monday meeting or save it for Casual Friday. This watch’s durable and polished steel finish comes in silver and white, silver and blue, rose-gold and white, and titanium white coloring. In a parallel universe, four different business firms engage in a never-ending feud to choose the model that should rule over Wall Street. They are all equally fascinated by its finely crafted dark leather band and neat edges. All well above what you would expect from such an inexpensive luxury watch.
Equipped with: A scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, Swiss quartz movement, and chronograph function. It’s also immersion resistant, and can be taken down to 100 meters or 330 feet below the surface.
Ideal for: Ruling the world and the coffee shop alike. The JG500 model features thin, airy lines and a well-tended calligraphy that evokes the best aspects of car racing. Its black and white simplicity seems created for practical people who know how to be efficient with a smile. A good investment for 750 US$.
Equipped with: A genuine, hand-stitched leather strap, Miyota Multifunction movement, calendar, luminous hands and water resistant technology (up to a depth of 100 meters).
Ideal for: Those who believe nothing is more daring that keeping things simple. Take titanium-polished steel on matte black, add a zesty line of orange and little else; the Melbye can take on the challenge.
Equipped with: A readable but subtle month and date window, a fold-over clasp that is very easy to adjust, and quartz movement, as well as a low price tag.
Ideal for: The doers who have nothing left to prove because their reputation precedes them. Helvetica fonts and perfect symmetry go along with everything, and at such a low price, they can fit into any budget.
Equipped with: A very slim fit, Japanese-quartz movement, and a sleek mineral crystal cover.
Ideal for: Those who don’t want to waste time stopping home in between the office and the after-office cocktail special. The Swissmatic’s sharp colors (either black on white or silver on black) and comfortable alligator leather strap were made to project poise. It’s yours for less than $400.
Equipped with: Automatic movement, a splash-resistant synthetic sapphire crystal, calendar, and leather strap with a stainless steel clasp.
Ideal for: Professional pilots, weekend flyers, or anybody who wants to bring a vintage flair to their daily look. And if you wanted to be a pilot as a child, but your poor eyesight stood in the way, you might find the Augsburg is a very smart choice thanks to its large numbers and easy-to-read dials.
Equipped with: High-contrast markers, glow-in-the-dark dials, Japanese automatic movement, and a highly-resistant leather band reinforced with metallic studs. This reasonably-priced accessory can be submerged up to 50 meters deep.
Ideal for: Nature lovers and those who appreciate the crisp, clean air of a Sunday morning – what better way to carry said feeling to your mid-week slump than with this slim, unassuming masterpiece? This is one of the brand’s best loved models, and has managed to stay relevant since 1968 for a reason.
Equipped with: High-precision quartz movement, a soft calfskin leather band, a date display window, and a price tag of less than $500.
Ideal for: Those with a secret nostalgia for the Greatest Generation or Westerns, and gentlemen with a weakness for versatility. The Khaki Field Mechanical pays homage to some of Hamilton’s best-selling models and aims to be worn every day; the classic leather strap can be replaced with a perlon strap.
Equipped with: Mechanical hand-wind movement and luminescent numbers. The old-school calfskin strap is equipped with a protective lid.
Ideal for: Those who have fought for the privilege to wear business-casual outfits but refuse to sacrifice style. The gray tweed strap is meant to stand out the way only truly professional people can. The minimalist design evokes cleverness and adaptability.
Equipped with: An ultra-thin design that makes it very comfortable for men with small wrists, and a superb water resistance for its low price.
Ideal for: Thanks to its rich brown and Mad Men aesthetic, the Bambino is a great piece for anybody who needs to subliminally project power and bravado. Rose accents on a titanium-black background are a bold choice that will impress subordinates and competitors alike.
Equipped with: Japanese mechanicak movement, calendar window, and a very competitive price tag. Silver and blue, brown and gold, and silver and gold versions are also available.
Nights Are a Time to Shine: Dressier and Elegant Pieces
Whether it’s a black-tie event or a wilder escapade, there is something about nights out that allows us to be a bit freer. Gone is the need to keep a low-profile or to avoid ostentation. These watches are ideal for when it’s time to stand out.
Ideal for: Men looking for the perfect complement to their power suit. The silver and cream design is full of light and shine at first glance but has a painstaking amount of detail hidden on the engraved logo and silky background. At less than $600, it is well within the brand’s expectations.
Equipped with: High-precision quartz movement, an ultra-soft leather calfskin strap with a deployment-buckle clasp, calendar window, and an extra dial for seconds.
Ideal for: The fashion-conscious who like to live fast and enjoy slow. A daring black-on-black-on-silver design inspired in car racing culture will show everyone around you that the competition is over.
Equipped with: Three chronographs, a tachymetric scale, calendar window, and a black leather strap of superb quality. Prices start at less than $250.
Ideal for: People who are seeking the benefits of a smartwatch in a well-made, non-plastic package. Faithful to their colorful idea, the Connected comes in five different color combinations, and they all look like they would fit in a black tie event.
Equipped with: Thanks to its full smartphone connectivity, it has a movement tracker, music controls, and an “answer call” button. The watch itself has quartz movement and is water-resistant.
Ideal for: Lovers of simplicity who are not afraid to seek a new favorite. Its gold coating makes it ideal for impressing your in-laws. The green sundial version also works as a great conversation starter.
Equipped with: An adjustable Milanese bracelet band, Swiss quartz movement manufactured by Ronda, and a crystal sapphire glass. It can cost you less than $300, depending on the finish.
Ideal for: Night lovers. The Eliros comes in different models, but they all clearly draw inspiration from nocturnal beauty. The smooth silver sundial opens up to allow delicate blue details for those who have the time to appreciate the small beauties in life.
Equipped with: Anti-reflective sapphire glass window, high-grade mechanical movement, and a moon phase calendar. At less than $800, it is one of the most affordable creations by Lacroix currently available.
Ideal for: Artists and those with artistic souls, as well as art deco lovers and history connoisseurs. A rectangular watch with brazenly radical fonts and Mediterranean-inspired dials. This model is available in steel and rose gold finishes, and both serve as an eye-catcher.
Equipped with: Automatic movement, a calendar, and silicon hairsprings.
Ideal for: People who are looking for versatile chicness. Its matte silver coating will look at home on any all-black suit, tux, or adventurous outfit. It is also an ultra-thin, ultra-light model that will remain unobtrusive throughout the night.
Equipped with: Much of the same technology as the luxurious Eco Drive, but a much friendlier price tag. Its light-powered movement system makes it completely battery free – but not pool-friendly.
Ideal for: 1960s nostalgics, admirers of Hunter S. Thompson and classic Americana, and anybody who is ready to conquer the glitzy side of town for the first time – and prefers to play it smart instead of playing it safe. Depending on the version, you can get the Intra-Matic starting at $550.
Equipped with: Automatic movement, calendar window, and an unassuming black leather strap. The martini is not included, but it should be served automatically as soon as the bartender spots the Intra Matic on your wrist.
Ideal for: Commanders and people who inspire command. It’s hard to determine if they designed the watch based on the model name or vice versa. This is a strong watch with a carefully diffused background and sturdy dials. The silver Milanese bracelet is also meant to see action.
Equipped with: Fully-automatic movement, calendar, sapphire crystal glass, and an upper-tier price (starting at $850.)
Ideal for: People who are not put off by complication. It takes a certain attitude to wear a rectangular watch, especially when current trends move towards ultra-thin round designs. The Rectangular Complication is still stunning and deserves to be shown around.
Equipped with: Automatic movement, calendar, time zone display, a moon phase feature, and sapphire crystal glass. At approximately $900, it’s a worthy investment.
The Outdoors Don’t Have to Be Rugged – But They Should Still Be Chic
As versatile as the watches above are, they simply would look out of place during a beach trip or when out trekking. Those who have a taste for extreme sports and demanding adventures don’t necessarily want to look shabby, but they definitely need a reliable, sturdy watch that will help them pace themselves or drive their own feats to the limit.
Ideal for: Lovers of the extreme, mountaineers, CrossFit aficionados, and globetrotters. The Tough Viking line was named after the Tough Viking obstacle race – a very demanding fitness competition designed by Sweden’s Navy. This low-cost watch was worn by contestants throughout the event and made it out unscathed.
Equipped with: Heroic sturdiness, Swiss quartz movement, calendar, and PC carbon reinforced case. It is completely water- and immersion-resistant, and can be worn while scuba diving.
Ideal for: People who don’t want to look shabby just because they are on vacation. Their leather-strap Monaco will make you look ready to drive fast on Mediterranean beaches, but it’ stylish enough to take it to the Opera later in the evening.
Equipped with: Quartz-movement, 6-hand dials, luminous hands, and date display, for less than $450.
Ideal for: Race car lovers, Ferrari owners, and anyone with a good eye for a branded bargain (less than $300) in black and red. The powerful color combination works perfectly here thanks to the carefully-placed silver details and assertive profile.
Equipped with: Mineral crystal cover, quartz movement, and a water-resistant chronometer.
Ideal for: Mountaineers, skydivers, campers, and people who can appreciate the practicality of the I.N.O.X. paracord strap. Despite its rather bulky protective bumper, the I.N.O.X. Carbon is still chic and stylish thanks to a minimalist black background and smooth carbon finish.
Equipped with: Swiss quartz movement, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and calendar. In addition to the nylon paracord, leather and steel straps are also available.
Ideal for: Divers and people who love to go for a swim on short notice. The Prospex SRP777 is a remake of the old SEIKO turtle with increased aquatic capabilities but the same 1970s charm.
Equipped with: Chronometer, automatic movement, and a sea-friendly silicone strap for less than $300.
Burberry Tricolor Webbing
Ideal for: Burberry lovers, people who like to chase their fitness goals both in the city and the countryside – and need something comfortable but nice that looks well in both.
Equipped with: Swiss quartz movement, dual time zone, calendar, and a fabric strap featuring the brand’s checkered color scheme.
Ideal for: Adventurous travelers who don’t want to miss their train, beach lovers, and anyone who wants the poise of carrying a watch but wish to adapt it to their laid back spirit. At less than $300, it’s a bit above budget for most college backpackers, but they are never on time anyway.
Equipped with: Swiss quartz movement, sapphire glass cover, luminous dials, and an easy-to-read layout.
Rebel without Class? No Need for That!
Maybe blazers, ties, or ski lounges are not your scene. If you are the rowdier type and aren’t afraid to make a point with your fashion accessories, or if you like to let your secret headbanger out on weekends, these are the watches for you. Instead of classic beauty, we bring you non-conforming dares.
Ideal for: Musicians, aspiring musicians, and those who want to live like one. The watch’s pitch-black materials and gold details provide a futuristic steampunk appeal that would be all the rage among the City’s top creators but that wouldn’t look out of place among their bosses. At around $750, it’s a worthwhile investment for those fond of mixed-gas diving.
Equipped with: Analog-quartz movement, anti-reflective sapphire crystal cover, and superb diving capabilities – it will resists depths of up to 300 meters.
Ideal for: Race bikers and leather-clad motorbike lovers who enjoy a side of style. Anyone who loves industrial design will also enjoy the Chronobike’s screw-and-chain inspired details and highway red touches. It packs a lot of attitude for less than $175.
Equipped with: Quartz movement, mineral crystal dial window, triple-chronograph display, a very sturdy Caouchouc strap, and eternal calendar.
Ideal for: Anyone who wants to jump at the chance of an unusually affordable TAG Heuer. Their Formula 1 special is one of the few models below $1,000. It’s for lovers of extreme sports who know black goes with everything and doesn’t have to be boring.
Equipped with: Swiss quartz movement, synthetic sapphire window, date feature, and a high-grade rubber strap.
Ideal for: Anyone who loves skulls – there is one engraved in the background! Dangerous and rakish types that are perfectly capable of impressing the in-laws when needed.
Equipped with: MIYOTA quartz movement, rotatable bezel, mineral glass window with sapphire coating, smooth black steel band, and date display.
Ideal for: Graphic designers, tech mavericks, and anyone who is lucky enough to let their portfolio speak for their credibility. If you love the casual vibe of a microbrewery but can still recognize unpretentious quality, this is the watch for you. Prices start at less than $250.
Equipped with: SEIKO mechanical quartz movement, precision sweep chronograph with accuracy of up to 1/5 of a second, mineral crystal window, and calendar.
Ideal for: Those who like smooth surfaces, clean lines, and retro scenery. The HDS One double-dial not only looks exactly like your speedometer, but is surprisingly legible even for those who are always keeping one eye on the road.
Equipped with: High precision quartz movement, sapphire crystal glass, and easily-interchangeable bands. Nylon, black leather, and silicon bands are all available, depending on your lifestyle.
Ideal for: Men who love traveling, do it often, and enjoy the concept of being a world trekker. This watch features a design that takes us back to Pan Am’s golden era and evokes comfortable experimentation. Deep blue with rose gold touches are not seen together often, and will require a smart dresser to match it.
Equipped with: GMT time zone display, calendar, sapphire crystal window, and Swiss-made quartz movement.