It used to be a case of “you get what you pay for” when it came to affordable watch brands, both in terms of quality and kudos. Dropping a few thousand not only meant you’d get decent mechanics but also boardroom brownie points for sporting a reputable name on your wrist.
Blame the Japanese for flooding the market with timepieces that were cheap and battery-powered during the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s, but anything in the sub-$1000 bracket used to be treated with derision or even contempt. Thankfully, for your bank balance at least, this doesn’t hold true anymore.
Whether it’s because quartz got cool or watch brands for men realized that not everyone with an interest in horology had the readies to fund their burgeoning obsession, some interesting things have started to happen in the lower price brackets.
As with any search for a bargain, you have to know where to look and which affordable watches for men to zero in on, but if you do you could be in with a chance of kitting out your entire watch wardrobe for half the price of an Omega Speedmaster.
And we’re not just talking quartz watches from fashion houses – though there are some seriously cool styles to be found there. We’re talking timepieces from names with real design cachet to genuine automatics, even Swiss ones.
You won’t have to go trawling the internet equivalent of the bargain basement to find these hidden gems, either. Just read our handy guide to the best watch brands for men that are making the affordable end of the market worth taking a second look at.
Everyone needs a touch of bling in their life, right? Yes, even you in the back. That said, there’s definitely such a thing as too much bling. Obnoxious diamonds have a time and place. That time is never, and that place is nowhere. But subtle, elegant diamonds — those are another story altogether.
Citizen’s Peyten is a casual everyday watch with just the right amount of understated elegance peppered in. The diamond hour markers are meant to stand out, but only to those with an eye for the finer things in life. In other words, if you happen to catch a compliment during happy hour or at the office, you’re under the right kind of scrutiny.
Monofore, one of the best budget watch brands for men you’ve likely never heard of, has turned rectangular watches with rounded edges into an art. Too specific? Don’t believe us? Fair. But kindly put all of that to the side and bear witness to the M01.
From the domed glass to the curved dial, the 41mm gold version of this watch is the perfect accompaniment to a stiff cuff peeking out from the sleeve of a wedding jacket. It also presents a confident look when paired up with a linen shirt (sleeves rolled right the hell up, of course) or a polo tucked into a crisp pair of chinos. Wear it like you mean it and there are no wrong turns.
Rooted in Swedish design, Void watches are equal parts form and function. And the V01MKII-BL (charming name and all) is no exception with its square, stainless steel face and backlit LCD display. It comes in 10 color combinations so you can mix and match it with almost any outfit and occasion.
Heads up, though — this is a watch for watch guys, not the one you get if you’re just dabbling or looking for “The One.” Add this standout piece to your collection and break it out when you want to spark a design-adjacent conversation with interesting people who may or may not be drinking interesting cocktails with you.
Rooted in Bauhaus minimalism, Tapferkeit’s Freiheit is a sleek, classic timepiece that also happens to be one of the best cheap watches for men. Its domed sapphire glass provides a unique look that’s not too formal and definitely not casual.
Tapferkeit hits the sweet spot between affordability and durability. It’s the perfect watch to put into your everyday rotation, whether the transition is from office to happy hour or campsite to cliff jump. Speaking of cliff jumping, the Freiheit is water resistant up to 50 meters, so have at it.
Though not necessarily “cheap” in the traditional sense, Baltic watches come at an outstanding price point for the quality and craftsmanship you’re getting. The brand is able to reduce its overhead by offering direct-to-consumer sales only, which keeps the price nice and friendly on your wallet. Had enough of us justifying why Baltic has made our list of the best cheap watches for men? Great. Same.
Onward and upward to Baltic’s Aquascaphe SB01. Simply put, it’s one of the finest waterproof timepieces you’ll find for the money. It’s packed with thoughtful features like a thin, unobtrusive case and larger hands for maximum visibility. And not to bury the lede, but it’s also water resistant up to 200 meters. And it looks amazing. Definitely should have led with those.
If you’re looking for a thin, minimalist beauty of a timepiece, here it is. If you’re looking for a thin, minimalist beauty of a timepiece with a 6-month power reserve, here it still is. If you’re looking for us to move right along and introduce the Solios Black Solar Watch, here it is and we hope you enjoy each other’s company.
This is the type of sleek, handsome watch you can wear almost anywhere and with almost any outfit. Thin, minimalist hands compliment the thin, minimalist case, which all come together to complement your suit, polo, button-down, or t-shirt. Finding this caliber of watch at this price is best left to the experts.
When Shinola opened its factory in Detroit in 2012, it was the first such factory to be opened in the US in nearly five decades. Since then, the proudly American company has been manufacturing some of the most handsome and impressive watches available.
Quick aside: If you can swing it, save some room on your wrist for one of Shinola’s Traveler watches — they’re elevated-casual masterpieces worthy of their own article. But today, it’s all about The Orange Pop from Shinola’s Detrola line. Its quartz movement is hand-assembled in Detroit, and its orange-and-blue design is all personality. And as a bonus that’s related to why you’re here in the first place, the price is more approachable than it probably should be. We won’t tell anyone if you won’t.
When it comes to the luxury category, “cheap” is a tricky word to throw around. The timepieces that belong in this echelon are often of superior quality and reputation, and typically have price tags to match. And by that hurried definition, “cheap” in the luxury category hovers right around the low four figures if you’re doing it right.
Which brings us to Tag Heuer’s Formula 1 series — specifically this eye-catching emerald green piece with a sporty rubber strap and all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a Tag Heuer. This is a specific-occasion type of watch that’s best worn by the casual collector. “Oh, there’s Phil with another cool, funky watch again.” Those were your friends who are used to your cool watches like the emerald green Formula 1. Calling you Phil. Because that’s your name. Because we said so.
There should always be at least a little nook reserved in every closet, watch drawer, or closet watch drawer for an Art-Deco inspired timepiece like this one from Bulova. Quartz movement, gold-tone stainless steel, and an alligator-embossed band come together to form this elegant yet inexpensive watch.
We could definitely see you pairing this number with some linen shorts and a preppy polo or button-down, but your best play might be reserving it for a suit occasion or some type of smart-casual cocktail scenario. But there’s a reason why this is one of the best cheap watches for men — they’ll never know you picked it up on Amazon for a song.
Activity monitor. Distance tracker. Stress tracking. Heart rate monitor. Calorie tracker. The list goes on and on. Sounds expensive, right? If you didn’t already know that this was a rundown that includes some of the best cheap watch brands out there, you might think so.
But here we are, gloriously reckoning with the Fitbit Versa 2. If you live an active lifestyle and want to vigorously track that lifestyle while streaming music, texting, and talking, this is a way to do it at an unexpectedly reasonable price point.
Best Of The Rest
This Swatch Group alumnus is pretty much the benchmark when it comes to both choice and
Want a dress watch? Try its Tradition range. In the market for an oversized chronograph? Look no further than the Chrono XL line. You can even get an automatic powered by Swatch Group’s entirely machine-made movement, the Swissmatic. Everything is of such a quality you don’t feel like you’re making compromises.
Given that this Japanese watch brand grows its own quartz for its battery-powered timepieces and prides itself on making everything in-house, that you can get any of its timepieces for under $300 seems like a bonus. However, Seiko excels at this price point.
Thanks to Japanese movements being more reasonably priced than their Swiss counterparts, you can secure stylish steel automatics for under $200, while its groundbreaking kinetic technology means owning a quartz watch that never needs a battery change. Each watch is also robustly made with an aesthetic sense way beyond its price tag, making it one of the best affordable watch brands for men out there.
Think pilot’s watches and the names that instantly come to mind are the likes of Breitling, Bremont and Bell & Ross; brands you’d need a pilot’s license to afford. This is what makes the affordable watch brand
There are five collections – all named after planes – and they have everything you’d want from this style of timepiece. There are the tachymeter scales and sub dials in the Hawker Hurricane; the rugged and durable nature of the superior construction; and the wonderfully vintage-looking straps across all the ranges.
You may know Casio for its gold-plated digital bracelet watch that, for a period in the noughties, was the ironic wrist adornment of every fixie-bike riding, flat-white drinking Hackney dweller worth their E9 credentials. But to reduce it to that one signature is to seriously underestimate what this affordable watch brand has to offer.
The retro nostalgia is still there – in its aptly named Retro collection – but you can also get your hands on world timers, Bluetooth hybrids and styles suitable for scuba diving. Think of the brand as a one-stop-shop for all your watch needs, from digital to dress.
Casio’s muscular cousin is over 30 years old but its charm certainly hasn’t diminished. When it was first created by Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe, its selling point was that it had a 10-year battery life, was water resistant to 10 bar (100m) and would survive a 10m fall onto a hard surface (Ibe tested this by dropping 200 prototypes from third-story windows and rooftops).
Three decades later, this is still a design that takes some beating when it comes to durability. But now it comes with a range of added extras, from the useful – world time, automatic calendar and alarms – to the more specialist, such as moon data displays and yacht timers.
Timex is considered the Everyman of the watch world. Historically it became renowned for a particular kind of all-American dependability – George Bush Jr wore one, presumably to distract US voters from his upper-class background – but recently it has acquired a certain retro cool.
In 2017, it collaborated with Mr Porter on a limited run of three special editions inspired by its Vietnam-Era military styles, while models such as its Easy Reader and Weekender are seen on the wrist of interestingly attired men from London to Tokyo.
From its impressively complex-looking chronos to its elegant Milanese bracelet Fairfield, Timex’s nostalgia-tinged design language shines through, which is precisely why people continue to wear this affordable watch brand.
It was created to be one of the most affordable watch brands on the market and has a name that is a portmanteau of ‘Swiss’ and ‘watch’ – not the best credentials for long-lasting success. But hey, it’s amazing how much mileage Swatch has got out of some injection-moulded plastic.
Swatch’s stock in trade seems to be ‘if you can imagine it, we can do it’. It has collaborated with artists and fashion designers, been at the forefront of youth culture – it sponsored the first Breakdance World Championships – and even had the chutzpah to go automatic with a movement assembled by robots.
Set up in 2007 by four friends who were fed up with the reverence accorded status and tradition in the watch industry – the unusual name stands for ‘transforming the industry of watches’ – Triwa has been on a mission to shake up things up, albeit in a refined, tasteful Scandinavian way.
Every watch is designed in Sweden and that language is writ large in the clever blend of classic elements that are subverted with fashion colors. The leather straps are organically tanned and sourced from its country of origin, and there’s the added bonus of being able to buy them separately so you can switch up anything in your collection.
If you really like Triwa’s aesthetic, you can complete your look with a pair of branded sunglasses, too.
It could be easy to dismiss underground watch brand Skagen as a bit one-note, shamelessly milking the Scandinavian thing; it is after all made in America and now under Fossil’s control. However, a deeper look through its collections reveals some interesting models that show a real flair for watch design along with a touch of irreverence for how it’s ‘supposed to be done’. There’s the regulator-style Signatur; the Holst, with its arresting sub-dial configuration; and the very smart looking – and acting – Hagen hybrid watch.
Everything is shot through with considered minimalism and you can’t deny the quality of the build, which feels even more impressive when you consider nothing in the range is over $400. Interested in more? Read our Skagen Watch Review.
This US fashion watch brand for men was set up by Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante, who dropped out of college to prove that huge mark-ups and ritzy retail premises weren’t necessary for success.
A crowdfunding campaign got them off the ground and since 2013 they have been delighting fans with their crisply designed timepieces that cover every style a man could wish for, from the sporty heft of the Mariner to the dress elegance of the Classic lines. There’s even a bit of bling in the form of the Rogue, if you’re feeling flash.
As you’d expect, Tommy Hilfiger’s watches are a horological distillation of the preppy East-Coast American style that made his name. It is the kind of sports elegance embodied by the Kennedys, one that works best with a pair of crisp chinos and a sweater artfully draped around the shoulders.
There’s the Windsurf for a day at the beach; the Emerson for nipping about in one’s sporty little number; and the Oliver for cocktails on the deck at sunset.
This isn’t a brand that’s about mechanics or reinvention, it’s about creating a wardrobe full of classic pieces you’ll always want to wear. Especially when you’re holidaying in Westchester.
Once upon a time, it wasn’t all about Switzerland. Pre-WWII, Britain – and specifically London – was something of a horological capital. But then Hitler decided to ruin it for everyone, sending thousands of would-be watchmakers (and other artisans) to join the war effort, and causing the industry to go into decline.
It didn’t completely die, though. Despite being born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Rotary is based in the UK, which also serves as its biggest market. So expect a wealth of lines named after famous landmarks and a long history serving households on our home shores.
Sure, Rotary watches may not be crafted in rustic, romantic Clerkenwell workshops anymore, but they’re far more celebratory of British watchmaking heritage than its cousins au Suisse.
Mondaine is a watch brand more Swiss than Roger Federer personally hand-delivering a bar of Toblerone. That said, you don’t need a Swiss banker’s pay packet to own one.
Often seen as the younger, more affordable companion to the horological greats, Mondaine prides itself on packing traditional craftsmanship at a stitch of the regular price. That means quartz tickers hand-assembled in Switzerland that all bear the same logo seen on the country’s national rail service.