Last updated April 2018
There are myriad of options nowadays in the watch market, drowning consumers like yourself with information overload. With brands covering every possible price-point, it can be quite intimidating for a novice watch enthusiast to get their feet wet into the foray.
It’s also more complicated nowadays, with certain brands being owned by a conglomerate, making a fleet of 6-7 brands, basically owned by one company. So it’s best to be educated so you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. This is where the crew at Gracious Watch come in.
First of all, we thank you for taking the time checking us out and to help you get through that feeling of overwhelmedness that comes with buying a watch. It shouldn’t be the case so let’s get through it together. It should be a fun, educated, and entertaining part of your day. No peer pressure and no shady sales tactics. It’s all about knowing what you want, and getting it. So take a breather, maybe grab a plate of your favorite snack and let’s explore what the world has to offer, side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
Recommended Entry-Level Brands
So with entry-level watches, these are usually $500 or less, and to the novice enthusiast, you’ll be inclined to believe that no watch is worth your time for $500 or less. We are firm believers in buying the best watch you can afford, and not be influenced by people who immediately discount entry-level brands. So we’re here to give you an idea of what watches are being offered in this price range, the best brands we think within this realm, and what watches are available for you to consider.
Remember how we mentioned earlier how conglomerates exist today in the watch world? It exists everywhere! Some focus on their bread-and-butter products to offset the costs of producing experimental, innovative, and future-forward pieces, which usually involves a lot of research and development. In the automotive world, BMW focuses on their 3-series a lot because it’s their best selling model, and it’s what everyone knows them for.
The other thing that they’re known for? M models like the M3, M5… Those models are limited in production and require deeper pockets to end up in your garage. Basically untouchable by the majority of BMW owners but their 3-series is serving their purpose, fuelling the innovation required to get the M-Division afloat, while getting the mystique of being a ‘driver’s car’ solely set by the M-Division and let that aura trickle down to the rest of the model lineup. It’s a great example of symbiosis and we have one brand that lives and breathes that same methodology.
First up is Japanese watchmaker, Seiko. The heavyweight has now merged with printing manufacturer, Epson, to build Seiko Epson Japan. The company creates various watches in all price-points, with their Grand Seiko lineup at the top of the chain- these pieces possess painstaking amounts to detail and are crafted to highest standards.
All these watches possess one trait that Seiko is known for, reliability and longevity at great prices.
While Grand Seiko may be encased in platinum, or have the more advanced technology to run the pieces, these traits of high-quality craftsmanship are still evident all over Seiko and trickle down to their entry-level model line: Seiko 5.
Built on 5 key principles that must be met before being released for production, Seiko 5 have the same reliability and durability at a more affordable price. It’s also a great entry-level watch if you’re looking for an automatic movement, which is a must for any watch enthusiast.
These watches are offered in various styles so it’s hard for us to pick one but were created with the everyday person in mind. The must-haves include:
- Automatic winding
- Day/date displayed in a single window
- Water resistance
- Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position
- Durable case and bracelet
With those traits in mind, it’s no wonder why the Seiko 5 is a popular choice amongst watch enthusiasts as an affordable ‘everyday’ watch to have around. With the durability of Seiko movements and the added bonus of getting an automatic movement for a great price, provides value for the money. The day/date are value-added features and the water resistance just solidifies how reliable these watches are when put to the elements.
‘Value’ is all about what you prefer the most and how you rank these traits and if the following criteria resonate with you, then Seiko 5 should be part of your shopping list.
Next up is a subsidiary of Seiko, which is Orient. A formerly independent Japanese brand, Seiko Epson included Orient as part of their brand
A quick glance of Orient lineup shows bold bezels, unconventional sub-dial placement, and a place to experiment with style taking a higher priority than functionality. Orient is focused on pushing the boundaries of what is seen as a ‘wristwatch’ and their product lineup speaks a lot about their vision.
However, they do have some conservative pieces but with bolder watch faces to keep in-line with that vision so it’s a hodgepodge of design. Our good friends at WatchesYouCanAfford.com reviewed the Orient Leo and the Bambino– both worth looking at.
Without taking up too much time on the WYCA review, they laid out our observations to a tee: bold configurations, uncharacteristic sub-dial design, and very individualistic pieces. The model range can start from $100 all the way up to $5,000 but expect the same quality all throughout.
One thing that is noticeable is that the quality assurance is not as well-defined as Seiko, but could that be because they’re still independent? They’re not watches that disintegrate when you sneeze, but just the minor details that WYCA mentioned kind of stand out. So there are ups and downs within this price range, so just be educated and be on the lookout for things that you otherwise would overlook.
While that may be the case, we shouldn’t overlook Orient and what they have to offer on the playing field. It’s just a part of providing timepieces within a certain price range, and some aspects may be overlooked such as fit and finish. Surprisingly enough, we find Seiko to be different, but to begin with, the finish isn’t a concern in the Seiko 5, so maybe it’s expectations set by the brand? What do you think? We’d like to hear from you on that aspect.
Orient makes robust mechanical movements that last. Also, the Bambino…
To differentiate from the crowd, we have an American brand that also has a wide portfolio range to cover various price points: Timex. With over a hundred iof years of watchmaking experience, Timex has a colorful history first starting out within military applications, and growing to become a mass-producer of affordable quartz timepieces.
For many years, they have gathered licensing rights of luxury brand names to make their branded timepieces, including Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Versace. They also have technological pieces focused on athletes and active living such as the Ironman line, or the Expedition collection. One piece, in particular, stood out for us and that is the Timex Weekender Chronograph.
An in-depth review is available here, and the good choice of polished steel round casing, with a contrasting motif, really sets the tone for this piece. It can be as functional as it is elegant. I wouldn’t see this as ‘out of place’ with a business casual attire, and would elevate any casual outfit you’ll have on. It has a great design but nothing too crazy or ‘fashion-forward’, but rather a nice blend of good aesthetics and environmental awareness, with the latter focusing on modern tastes.
The Weekender Chronograph provides any enthusiast a good compromise between a well-executed piece at a more-than-fair price tag.
With the entry-level saturated with various timepieces, one brand has created a conglomerate of brands, that has captured the minds (and wallets) of every consumer out there. Built out of necessity, Swatch grew from a solitary brand to a force to be reckoned with, having multiple brands under their group, The Swatch Group.
With an extensive budget focused on being the top brands in the market today, The Swatch Group is determined to be known as the benchmark of watches in terms of brand, technology, and marketing with the namesake brand covering the entry-level market.
Swatch’s main focus is to target kids and the teenage market (16 – 24 years old), by focusing their efforts on affordable, fashion-forward timepieces that are accessible by various retail verticals, online and otherwise.
The best way to execute this successfully is to utilize lots of color in their design, and to use plastics and rubber for their most popular lineup such as the Skin collection. However, Swatch also utilizes metals in their Irony collection to cover all discerning tastes. Various collections cover the entry-level market and it would be hard to not find a Swatch watch that you wouldn’t like.
Our personal selection has to be the Sistem51. In fact, we love it so much that it’s part of our 7 Picks of Affordable Watches! The key thing about this particular watch collection is to offer an affordable watch but with a mechanical system.
The neat part was that Swatch was able to successfully achieve this goal by creating a movement consisting of 51 moving parts. With a 90- hour power reserve and being able to choose various, funky designs, then the world’s your oyster with this particular collection to get that balance of affordability with fine craftsmanship.
A Japanese powerhouse, Citizen has created a brand that plans to disrupt the market by providing innovative timepieces that can compete with the heavyweights like Seiko 5, or Timex Weekender.
They also have mid-tier pieces as well, but they are great entry-level watches offering examples for about $200 range. They have great collections that will give entry-level brands a run for their money, as Citizen has various technologies in play that puts them at an advantage against the competition.
One particular technology that Citizen is known for is Eco-Drive. The way it works is these watches harness the power of light to run the watch and to power the battery within it. It uses the watch dial as a receptor to absorb light and charge the rechargeable battery, creating a reusable power cycle for the wearer.
While the Eco-Drive technology is available in various Citizen watches, our great pick has to be the BM8475-26E. Our partners at WatchesYouCanAfford has created a detailed review here, but the gist of it is that it is a beautiful, very modern timepiece and available for less than $175. With more features, the price goes up but for a great daily watch that has great technology running it, it’s great value for the money.