It is no surprise that every season, new timepieces hit the shelves. Brands launch their eye-catching annual magnum opus which makes headlines and seemingly pushes the envelope for watch technology and style. However, most timepieces, especially those launched by large labels, often burn a big hole in our wallets. Furthermore, the rapid pace at which new pieces are pushed out often makes us wonder if there is truly an innovative improvement in the durability and design of the watches themselves. It then begs the question - can consumers ever find timepieces that fulfil the holy trinity of design, quality and price?
Finding pieces that are affordable, durable and stylish may be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. However, you’d be pleased to find out that there are brands that strive to provide nothing but the best - and that includes having affordable watches that do not fall short of honing fine craftsmanship and superior technology. In this list, we bring to you a curated selection of 2021’s Top 11 most affordable watches that meet our yardsticks of a fine timepiece.
Before we delve into the list, here is a brief overview of the yardsticks that define a well-rounded, everlasting timepiece.
- Affordability - Luxury timepieces are often notorious for their exorbitant prices. While prices at times can be a true reflection of the calibre of the watch, oftentimes, steep prices are a result of excessive middlemen and publicity costs. Hence, affordability in this article would refer to pieces that do not compromise on quality while still being sold at reasonable prices.
- Quality - ‘Good Quality’ is promised by many brands but delivered only by a few. What does it actually mean to boast good quality? Well, for timepieces, quality can often be judged by the material of the watch, the type of watch glass used, movement, water-resistance and finish of the watch. For example, the material of the watch should at least be of (316L) stainless steel (titanium or ceramic) with PVD coating and of minimum 5-10 ATM water resistance. For each watch on the list, we will delve into how the specifications of the watch make it of high quality.
- Design and Style - In the era of fast fashion, watches with a design that is versatile and stands the test of time are a must-have. Brands that prioritise fine craftsmanship over fitting into fleeting trends are the ones that ultimately are deemed as classics. Furthermore, a watch with style is a watch that allows consumers to express their individuality. The watches on this list have designs that balance the act of being unique and everlasting.
With that, let’s take a deep dive into the pieces that tick these 3 boxes and make their mark as this year’s most affordable watches.
First, we have Sekoni Orignal’s very own Tidal Moonphase Collection. The brand was found on the ideal of ensuring watches met the sweet spot between quality, price and design. Like the other watches featured on the list, Sekoni Original proves that luxury need not always equate to steep prices or flamboyant designs. This is especially seen through the brand’s Tidal Moonphase Collection - a romantic yet classy take on modern dress watches for men and women.
In terms of quality, the watches definitely do not compromise. The dial glass of the timepiece is crafted from sapphire crystal, which is highly scratch resistant and features AR coating. The watch is also water resistant to 50 meters. Each timepiece is fitted with a beautiful Italian full grain leather strap secured with buckle clasp. Speaking of the design of the watch, one certainly cannot miss the eye-catching moonphase design on the dial which indicates which phase of it’s cycle the moon is in - a stylistic and romantic depiction of the passage of time. The collection is also as versatile as it gets with more than 10 straps to choose from including smooth leather, crocodile leather or metal mesh. While the moonphase detail enables the collection to have a voice of it’s own, the classy look of the watch makes it suitable to be paired with any outfit. Keeping to its promise, the moonphase watches are also affordable as watches in the collection retail at only USD $245 (SGD $345). To learn more about the conception of the timepiece and the story of the Moonphase Collection, you could check out the video below.
Timex is a luxury watch brand based in Switzerland and the Timex Easy Reader is one of the brand’s most enduring collections. The original collection was released in 1977 and the brand has been upgrading and revamping the pieces ever since. Their latest collection boasts impressive designs for men and women.
Looking for a piece that has the best of modernity and heritage? Then perhaps the Seiko Presage Style 60’s the perfect fit for you! The new series design takes inspiration from the Crown Chronograph introduced in 1964 and is a homage to the Seiko heritage.
In an era of fast fashion, models like the Style ‘60s stand out for it’s unique attention to retro details such as the steel straps and box-shaped glass faceted indexes. The finish of the watches is also incredibly neat - the gently rounded case is slightly slanted inward to ensure comfort on the wrist and the lugs are carefully polished to a mirror finish giving the watches a sharpness to their overall gentle appearance. The watches also have a cut-out on the dial – a so-called “open-heart” dial – partially revealing the regulating organs. According to an article by Time transformed, the open heart dial is symbolic of “comparing the balance with the heart of a human body, constantly spinning back and forth from two and a half to five times per second, bringing the watch to life.”
Special to this collection, Seiko also has Nylon straps to complement the watch and capture the vintage feel. The technical decisions made in the composition and design of the watch accentuate its identity as a piece born from another era which still seamlessly fits in an urban setting.
In the promotion video for the Presage Style 60s, great emphasis is placed on the versatility of the timepiece - despite having a retro touch, it can easily be styled with modern outfits - casual or formal. The blast from the past is also reasonably priced at around $642 USD (4864 SGD). The style 60s is certainly a sophisticated piece alluring us in with the nostalgia of the past. If you find yourself thinking you’re born in the wrong generation, then the Presage Style 60s would certainly be a timepiece that reflects your love for all things vintage and warm.
This timepiece is sure to make your jaw drop, especially if you’re one for watches with a unique history behind them. The Bulova Lunar Chronograph is a remake of the historic 1970s Bulova time-tracker which was one of the two watches to make its way to the moon.
It was in 1971 when an American astronaut David Scott had his personal Bulova Chronograph on his wrist during one of the excursions of Apollo 15. After 45 years, the brand has launched a remake of the timepiece in a limited edition collection.
Looking beyond the magnificent story behind the watch, the timepiece itself boasts impressive specs. The dial is made of Sapphire Glass With AR Coating which protects against scratches and reflections better than any other crystal. The watch also features a UHF quartz with unparalleled precision and has a 50M water resistance. For the watch strap, one can choose between a black polyester NATO strap with three-piece buckle closure, a black leather strap or a stainless steel strap.
Like the Seiko Style 60s, the Lunar Pilot also has a vintage feel to it especially since the original was launched in the ‘70s. The design of the timepiece is certainly bold just like the story it symbolises - with the prominent black tones and silver contrasts, it’s sure to make an impression. Yet, the classic choice of black tones and leather or steel straps still make for an elegant dress watch that can be styled with any outfit. The cost of having this snippet of history is a mere USD $371-$446 (SGD$500-$600), depending on the retailer you purchase the piece from. If you’re looking to turn heads without having to burn a hole in your wallet, the Lunar Pilot is your go-to this year.
The Nordgreen Pioneer is an award-winning watch designed by Jakob Wagner. The design was made to be one that was timeless and minimalistic, characteristic of the quintessential dress watch. What makes this collection stand out is the attention given to sustainability. The leather strap is vegan and the packaging used is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, making it ethical.
Delving into the specs of this piece, it has a reasonable 5ATM water resistance rating and uses a Japanese quartz movement. The dial is made of Sapphire crystal and is fully brushed instead of polished, making it hold up to scratches better. In terms of versatility, the Nordgreen Pioneer collection is as versatile as it gets. The case is available in rose gold, steel or gunmetal with over 15 strap choices to choose from. Each set also comes with an interchangeable strap.
At first glance itself, one can tell that the watches have a sleek, modern feel to it. From the use of Earth tones to the design of the dial which is minimalist, the overall piece exudes sophistication. For those who want an understated piece which can be versatile and stylish, the Nordgreen Pioneer is a great option. Furthermore, the price is very affordable at USD $319-$446 (SGD $430-600), especially taking into account the extra costs of sourcing sustainable materials and the fact that the set comes with an extra strap. This collection is indeed a great option for those who’d like to shop sustainably without compromising on quality, price and style.
Speaking about watches that are eco-friendly, one cannot miss out on the Citizen Eco-Drive Collection. You’d be surprised to find out that instead of batteries, the Eco-Drive watches are powered by any form of light ! When fully charged, the Eco-Drive can continue running - even in total darkness - for at least 6 months. For more information about the science behind the Eco-Drive technology, you can refer to the video below.
The specs of the Eco-Drive are also impressive - the watch is water-resistant to 330 feet (100 M) and the dial is made of Sapphire crystal. The collection has watches for men and women and customers can choose between leather and stainless steel straps. The designs in this collection are rather sophisticated as well and look akin to a regular, versatile dress watch.
While the specs the Eco-Drive boasts seems rather novel and high-end, the starting prices for the pieces are surprisingly affordable. The collection includes pieces which cost about USD $297 (SGD $400) and the price range can go up to a few thousand dollars depending on the model.
The Sun and Moon designs (Version 4) in the Orient Classic Collection is a bonafide show-stopper. For someone who would like their dials to have something more than the usual, the Orient presents an alluring feature of the sun and moon design as well as a day and date calendar in the dial.
Made of stainless steel and sapphire crystal, the model has an automatic movement and a leather band. One feature you’d notice is the use of Arabic Numerals. The upgrade was done so as to give the model its rich, satin finish which complements the hands beautifully.
Furthermore, the case has also been modified to have a satin finish, which gives us a much more expensive look than its predecessors from the previous collection. The collection has various crocodile leather strap and dial colours to choose from, but the model itself has a classic, almost vintage feel to it. The design delivers a luxurious look at an affordable price of USD$185-$371 (SGD$250-$500) depending on the model and retailer. With it’s classy exterior, the timepiece makes for a great accessory to tie any outfit.website, it states how “the cool look of the stainless steel complements the sharp design of the watch, resulting in a smart look.” Furthermore, the use of polished stainless steel and a slim silhouette accentuates the sublime finesse of the model. The colours in the collection are also incredibly eye-catching yet sophisticated. Veering away from the classic Earth tones like black or brown, the collection has lovely shades of blue, grey and even pink and green.
Bering Classic Polished Silver (Men - 14240-303) Image Credit: BeringTime
Bering Classic Polished Silver (Ladies - 14531-307) Image Credit: BeringTime
The specs of the watch are also top-notch. The dial is made of flat sapphire crystal and the case is made of silver IP-plated medical grade (316L) stainless steel.The watch also has a quartz movement. Despite being a relatively new brand, the Danish brand has garnered high praise for their designs and product quality. Their models are also reasonably priced at around USD $111-185 (SGD$150-$250) depending on the model. A great choice for anyone who desires something more modern and hip, the Bering Slim Classic Collection is not one to miss.
The watch itself has a stop-watch feature, is 5 ATM water-resistant, of Quartz Movement, has a dial made of mineral crystal and has a stainless steel case. However, the design of the watch itself is what makes it stand out.The slightly larger dial makes for a bold model that makes a statement and has a weighted feel. However, this is perfectly balanced with the use of Earth tones and the classic watch silhouette, making it the ideal dress watch fit for any setting.The 3 smaller dials on the face are set very well into the larger face adding detail but not cluttering the simplistic look. The models in the collection are reasonably priced at USD$96 - $118 (SGD$130-$160).
To end the list, we have a classic, sublime dress watch - The Michel Herbelin Art Deco Men’s Watch Collection. Like the Timex Easy Reader, the Art Deco Collection has been enduring since the conception of the brand itself. With new upgrades and improvements to fit modern times, the current collection boasts competitive specs while still maintaining the sophisticated and retro essence of the collection.
Made in France, the watches are of 316L Stainless steel and are water resistant up to 5ATM. The dial is also made of Sapphire Crystal, making it resistant to scratches. The collection has a wide array of leather and stainless steel straps customers can choose from. The design of the watch is simple, yet one look at the design would be enough to make an impression. The sleek design, accentuated by the rectangular dial, makes for a streamlined silhouette which makes the timepiece feel vintage but indiscreet. The simplicity of the Art Deco allows it to be great as a dress watch, fit for any occasion and style. Pieces in this collection range from USD$416 (SGD$560) up to a few thousands depending on the model.
The pieces shared in the list are testament to the fact that good price, quality and design is a triple threat that may not be as elusive as you think ! More brands are curating timepieces which not only have superior craftsmanship and style but are also created with effective cost cutting measures to keep prices affordable and accessible to a wider market.
It is safe to say then, that the notion of steep prices being a guarantee stamp of quality is a growing misconception which is especially being dispelled by brands such as the ones shared in the list. In the age of possibilities and innovation, creative ways to find a sweet spot between affordability, style and quality may just mean that breaking your bank for luxury pieces might no longer be the norm. In fact, brands which manage to check these 3 boxes truly stand out for the remarkable feat they’ve achieved.