We talk about clothing a lot on Everyday Wear, but part of a good daily wardrobe is having a good watch. Here’s a guide for those of you who want something which makes a better statement than an Apple Watch, while also wanting to spend less than an Apple Watch. We’ll skip talking about Rolexes for this guide, and instead offer a practical guide to some quality time pieces for many styles. Good, fashionable, and long lasting watches don’t have to cost thousands of dollars.
A good dress watch, something you wear with a suit, is simple and understated. It should have a high quality leather band and a plain dial. The go-to for this is Orient’s Bambino line of watches. Not only are these mechanical, and thus take no battery power and are wound with the movement of your arm, but they are classic in style, practical in function, and very inexpensive (while looking fairly expensive).
Most of these can be had for under $200, which is a steal in the world of mechanical watches. The Bambino Small Seconds is my pick for a versatile watch. Get it with a white face and a brown strap and you can likely wear it as your only watch for a decade or more. A black strap or a black face will dress it up, but will limit the versatility.
A couple of other options:
- Tissot has a couple options to consider as well.
- Hamilton’s Intramatic is a fantastic choice, but is more expensive.
- Dan Henry’s 1947 is more unique — something you are not likely to see on many people’s wrists.
- Seiko 5 Automatic at $80 is about as inexpensive as it gets, but you’ll need to get a leather band for it.
Dress watches are about style first, and price second. Buy the one which speaks to you, but don’t waste money on needlessly expensive watches. I wear a Bambino Small Seconds for my dress watch with a brown band and a white face. It’s perfect for that. Look for watches that aren’t flashy, have a leather band, and don’t stand out.
Most people will get the most value out of a good casual watch, of which the range of offerings are vast. To be clear, you can wear any watch in casual settings, the only requirement is to match your personal style. You can wear the above dress watches in a casual setting (tip: put a light grey suede band on the Bambino to dress it down), but if your casual wardrobe is jeans and a t-shirt, that watch may look more out of place. Here are a few options to consider:
- Diver Watches: These are modeled after the classic Rolex Submariner, and could be dressed up in a pinch, but are best suited to casual wear. Take a look at offerings from: Orient, Casio, Seiko, and Steinhart. I’d start with the Seiko, but can vouch for the Steinhart being worth the price if you want a solid piece.
- Field Watch: These are a more classic and timeless look, and are modeled after a military watch which was issued to infantry or officers. The top one to look at is Hamilton, for next to nothing at $40 you can grab a well known Timex, for in between the two take a look at MWC who makes all sorts of Field Watches with cool things in them (like tritium vials). Another to look at is Lum-Tec who does limited runs and makes beautiful watches which are very durable — but they cost more.
- Aviator Watch: Like with field watches, these are basically what was given to pilots in WWII era. They are marked by having an triangle at the 12 position and don’t have standard hour marks. Seiko has a inexpensive option while the likes of Steinhart has much better looking and quality options. I generally would stay steer clear of these unless you already have other watches and want to branch out.
- Chronographs: These are watches for timing things and generally have multiple push buttons on the case, with the most popular being Omega’s ‘moon watch’, the Speedmaster. You shouldn’t buy that, everyone owns one and there are better options. I’ll skip over the obvious choices and point out two ridiculously affordable options, which also make quite a bit of a style statement: Dan Henry’s 1963 and Undone’s Tropical Vintage line. Personally, I’m torn between which one will be my next watch.
The above run the gambit of prices, starting at just $40 and going up from there. The biggest thing to think about here is to get a watch which is very versatile, where you can buy many straps to swap them out for more variety (look for 20mm or 22mm lugs on watches, those are the easiest and cheapest to find bands for). Buy a few NATO straps, a Perlon, a leather, and maybe even a bracelet for your watch and you’ll likely be set for life. If you are getting one watch to start, I would start with a dressier looking field watch (something like the Khaki Field can be paired and dressed up a touch), or a more statement making dress watch like the Intramatic which can look sharp on a suede strap for more casual settings.
You can typically dress up a watch by adding a leather band with sheen to it, and dress down a watch by putting it on a NATO, or softer looking leather strap.