Check your watch; because this is a golden time for timepieces. Today, in a world flush with manufacturers and ever-improving innovations, you can pick up a pretty decent watch for as little as £200. It may not turn heads at any parties, or make an impression in the boardroom, but it’ll do a job — and do it well.
Step that budget up a little further, though, and things start to get exciting. With many mid-level watchmakers proving that you can create masterpieces at a lower price point — and some of the bigger players even experimenting with affordable timepieces — £500 can get you a truly impressive piece of kit these days. Below, we’ve rounded up eight of the best…
For an affordable icon, the Seiko Prospex (SRP775K1)
What’s it built for? Diving, in a word. Part of the Japanese watchmaker’s celebrated ‘Turtle’ SRP collection, this particular Prospex has 200-metre water resistance, a screw-down crown and lashings of LumiBrite on its dial.
What’s its best feature? Easily that bulbous case shape — the one that lends the SRP series its reptilian nickname. Slightly inflated, exceedingly comfortable and incredibly idiosyncratic, it’s an affordable icon.
When should you wear it? Not only in the water. A Seiko Prospex is one of those rare, less expensive watches you can wear as a status symbol. Be in the bar or the office, buckle this on and it’ll be clear you know your stuff.
Seiko Prospex SRP775K1
For design supremacy, the Bamford Mayfair Date
What’s it built for? Although it may share the waterproof qualities of the Seiko above (albeit at a slightly shallower 100-metre resistance), the Bamford Mayfair is made to be seen above ground — a watch about town.
What’s its best feature? The design, clearly. With style touches and design elements cherry-picked from watches considerably higher in price point, this is a chance to wear a masterfully-made timepiece at a cost that won’t break the bank.
When should you wear it? In the city. The Swiss Ronda 715 Date Quartz Movement may not be quite as impressive as automatic alternatives, but the subtle blue colouring and military-grade titanium-coated case will show that this watch means business.
Bamford Mayfair Date
For high legibility, the Mondaine Giant
What’s it built for? Telling the time. That might sound like an obvious answer, but Mondaine’s signature, highly legible clock face is an icon of timekeeping design. And, with other innovations — including handy BackLight Technology — this is as readable as watches come.
What’s its best feature? Surely the prominent red second hand. It’s the trademark feature of the style and, as the ‘Giant’ is suitably large (42mm), it’s scaled up again to really catch the eyes of the wearer and admirers alike.
When should you wear it? When travelling. It may lack the meticulous functions of more expensive movements — such as GMT or Dual Time capabilities — but you’ll never miss a train or flight again with those big bold hands keeping you right.
For a watch with a story, the Q Timex 38mm
What’s it built for? Specifically, to honour and celebrate Timex’s watchmaking heritage. Since its initial release back in the 1970s, this natural evolution of the revered Q Timex 1978 nods to the iconic features of the original.
What’s its best feature? It could be the utterly functional battery hatch, or perhaps that domed acrylic crystal — but we’d say it has to be the a rotating bezel, in that striking red and blue ‘Pepsi’ colourway.
When should you wear it? All day, every day. On that purely practical, super-soft silicon rubber strap, this is a watch as head-turning as it is useful — and the twin weekday and date indicators will ensure you’re always on time.
Q Timex 38mm
Spinnaker Cahill 300 Automatic
What’s it built for? Outdoorsmen and divers with a penchant for vintage-tinged timepieces. The Spinnaker Cahill 300 Automatic also caters for those who like custom wristwatches; with 8 different colourways available.
What’s its best feature? That impressive 300 metres of water resistance. Why? Because, despite the steel bracelet and highly-luminous indices, this doesn’t look like a watch solely designed for divers. It would look as at-home in the boardroom as on a boat, so the fact it has those rugged specs is impressive indeed.
When should you wear it? From depth to desk — but we’d err towards the former. Because, while you might shell out over ten times this amount for a big brand dive watch, Spinnaker’s affordable option will blow all others out of the water.
Spinnaker Cahill 300 Automatic
For a rugged timepiece, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
What’s it built for? War. Of course, the fact that Hamilton’s Khaki Field Mechanical is armed for battle doesn’t mean that you should strap it on and go out looking for trouble. But it’s nice to know it could hold its own in a fight…
What’s its best feature? Although the H-50 calibre, with its 80-hour power reserve, is particularly impressive, we’d have to say the canvas strap. There’s something practical, rough and rugged about it.
When should you wear it? Outdoors. This isn’t a watch to wear with a suit — it’s a watch to wear with walking boots and tactical jackets; to hike with, climb with and take on an adventure.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
For a formal touch, the Certina DS Caimano
What’s it built for? Looking smart. The antithesis to the Hamilton above (although the two share a power reserve of 80 hours), this Certina is an affordable slice of Swiss good-looking luxury.
What’s its best feature? The dial, without a doubt. Silvered with several different textures and subtly punctuated with those rose gold-tone markers, it’s sophisticated way beyond its price point.
When should you wear it? At the dressiest event you can get yourself invited to. Jostling among a sea of Datejusts and De Villes, the Caimano will still more than hold its own.
Certina DS Caimano
For an everyday option, the Tissot Everytime Systematic
What’s it built for? Versatility. As the name suggests, this was a watch developed by Tissot to be the ultimate all-rounder. With water-resistance, a design to span dress codes and a 72-hour power reserve, we’d say they succeeded.
What’s its best feature? The stripped-down, pared-back design. Some may call it underwhelming, but we can see the Everytime Systematic for what it truly is; an adaptable watch for any occasion.
When should you wear it? Have you not been listening? Wear it whenever, wherever, however you want. It’ll know what to do.
Tissot Everytime Systematic
For hidden layers, the Uniform Wares C40 Day-Date
What’s it built for? At first glance, you’d probably think Uniform Wares’ C40 was built for dressy occasions. But look closer, and you’ll find features that betray it as one of the most versatile watches on this list.
What’s its best feature? One of those features; its strap. Crafted from caoutchouk (no, we can’t pronounce it either), this natural rubber strap almost looks like leather — making it both handsome and hardy.
When should you wear it? It’s another all-rounder. But we’d suggest strapping it around your wrist for a fancy event — and then wowing your fellow guests with its do-everything design.
Uniform Wares C40 Day-Date
Want more watches? Here are the best new watches of 2020 (that you may have missed…)
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