As prevalent as smartwatches and smartphones are, there’s no question that analog wrist watches are as hot as they’ve ever been as a statement on style and craftsmanship. You don’t have to have deep pockets to get a great wristwatch today, but it’s just as easy to go all out for high-class brands. In fact, you can find an excellent watch at every price range, from less than $100 for the more economical brands to thousands of dollars for the most luxury of options.
Depending on your budget, these are the watch brands to know, and a suggestion on a specific model, for every price range from under $50 to over $5,000.
Under $50: Casio
Remember the scene in ‘80s classic comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles when John Candy is rejected after trying to get a motel room by trading his Casio watch? It’s not the sole fault of this movie, but it can be hard to shake Casio’s cheap image. Still, while the watch brand is a budget option, the models are solid and Casio certainly knows its audience. (And yes, that goes for before the G-Shock sub-brand hit the scene.) Lovers of affordable timepieces swear by Casio for reliability, accuracy, and quality.
Watch to Know: AE-1200WHD-7AVCF
If James Bond was on a budget, he might choose this multi-function wonder that provides a multi-mission LCD display, world time functionality, 1/100th second stopwatch, five alarms, 100-meter depth rating, and one of the coolest dials on a digital timepiece. For a pittance, you even get a stainless steel bracelet. Go with the gray bezel version, which blends nicely with the steel.
There’s no question that Invicta makes some of the craziest looking watches on Earth, and you shouldn’t touch most of them with a 10-foot pole. Details like blue metal bracelets, purple dials, and skull-shaped cases sully the brand. That said, there are actually some excellent exceptions when you sift through the styling chaff that would make Liberace turn over in his grave. Invicta materials and construction are shockingly good for the price point, and if you select a less trendy piece, it could easily be mistaken for a watch that costs 20 times more.
Watch to Know: Pro-Diver Automatic
It’s hard to comprehend a solid stainless steel 200-meter automatic dive watch that doesn’t have at least a triple-digit price tag. The Invicta Pro-Diver is right-sized at 40mm, and the presence of a unidirectional bezel, cyclops date window, screw down crown, and lumed hands and markers mean you can actually dive with it. From a distance, it can pass for a Rolex Submariner, making it far more upscale than its price tag would indicate.
Buy Now $76Runner-Up: Swatch and its Clearly New Gent
$100 to $200: Timex
Timex used to be a bit of a joke back in the ‘80s. The whole “takes a licking and keeps on ticking” slogan did, however, stick. Then the brand gained traction with its Ironman line of practical digital watches, but nobody wore them to be stylish. In fact, until quite recently, Timex was never regarded as more than just a bargain timepiece. How times have changed. Over the past few years, Timex has emerged as a truly fashionable brand, and its watches have been priced a tad higher to reflect this. Thanks to handsome offerings like its revived Q Timex line of vintage-inspired watches, the handsome Waterbury line, as well as its trendy Weekenders with numerous colorways, Timex has found a new niche while still offering its reliable and low-cost standbys such as the Expedition and Ironman lines. Timex has also collaborated with mavens of style like Todd Snyder to create special edition watches almost any guy wouldn’t mind having in his affordable collection.
Watch to Know: Q Timex Reissue 38mm Stainless Steel Bracelet
For less than $200, this watch delivers more style and comfort than watches that cost twice as much. The 38mm stainless steel case is comfortable on the wrist, and the fine 7-link stainless steel bracelet exudes all kinds of vintage goodness as well as providing great articulation and easy adjustment. The domed acrylic dial adds vintage ethos, and the coin battery hatch means you never have to take it to a jeweler.
Buy Now $179Runner-Up: Fossil and its Limited Edition Fossil Blue GMT
$200 to $500: Seiko 5 Sports
Seiko is an horological powerhouse, making some of the most beloved watches across a range of prices from digital beaters all the way up to exclusive Grand Seikos. The sweet spot, however, might just be the line of Seiko 5 Sports watches that offer unparalleled value. As of last year, the new designs up the ante in terms of aesthetics. You would be hard-pressed to find a better set of all-around timepieces for the price. The five key features (hence the name) are mechanical automatic movement, day/date, 100-meter depth rating, the crown at 4 o’clock, and a durable case and bracelet.
Watch to Know: SSK003 GMT
The GMTs are new to the Seiko 5 Sports line, and they are worth a look. Because of the added GMT function, the movement had to eliminate the day function, but the date pops under a cyclops window. Every watch has 41 hours of power reserve, super-bright Seiko lume on the hands and markers, and the super-comfy Jubilee bracelet. The SSK003 is one of four colorways, and it’s our favorite because of the deep blue dial, the Batman bezel, and the fiery red GMT hand. Most importantly, the watch is a mechanical GMT watch at a price no-one else can beat. The watch also brilliantly bears the iconic Seiko SKX007 look that will never go out of style.
Buy Now $475Runner-Up: RZE Watches and its Valour
$500 to $1,000: Vaer
Watch microbrands are small-batch watches with limited production that are sold direct-to-consumer. There are no in-house movements, and typically the watches aren’t manufactured in the brand’s own factory. Vaer is one of the microbrand standouts thanks to excellent materials and assembling every watch in the United States. The brand specializes in quality dive watches and field watches with both quartz and mechanical automatic movements. All of the watches are modestly sized (36 to 40mm), and each model is a daily wear watch that will last, as well as receive numerous compliments.
Watch to know: D5 Meridian Automatic
This watch is a new classic by virtue of its 39mm case size, deep blue dial and bezel, and a stunning gold gilt with raised indices that dress it up beyond the standard stainless steel diver. The Miyota 9039 mechanical automatic movement is tremendously accurate, and there’s even AR coated sapphire glass up front and sapphire glass on the display back to show off the engraved rotor. What you get for the price is, to say the least, remarkable.
Buy Now $659Runner-Up: Hamilton and its PSR Digital Quartz
$1,000 to $5,000: Longines
Read any watch enthusiast forum and you’ll find a rampant love for Longines watches. The vintage-style Swiss brand doesn’t try to look edgy or overtly bold. Its strength is in the adherence to classic styles and quality watchmaking. With a history dating to 1832, Longines still stands today as a brand with timeless style and tremendous value. You can wear any Longines watch without looking pretentious, but everyone will note your subtle style and great taste. The fact that it uses modified Swiss movements at attainable prices is reason alone to have Longines on your radar. What’s more, their watches will still look great when it’s time to pass it down to the next generation.
Watch to know: Longines Spirit
One of its most recent releases looks like it could’ve been in the Longines catalog for decades. The Spirit checks all the right boxes: a WWII-inspired field watch, 40mm diameter, lightweight titanium case and bracelet, and a COSC-certified mechanical automatic movement. In terms of style, there really isn’t a business casual outfit that it won’t pair with wonderfully.
Buy Now $2,950Runner-Up: Oris and its Aquis Date Calibre 400
Over $5,000: Omega
Rolex gets a lot of attention as the go-to premium watch brand. Well, Omega has something to say about that with similarly classic offerings that deviate from the beaten path with quality and skill. The iconic Speedmaster Moon Watch will forever remain in the annals of horological icons, but new pieces like the X-33 Marstimer and the Speedmaster Chronoscope help keep the brand from resting on its laurels. The in-house Co-Axial Master Caliber movements are superb, and Omegas are widely considered to be some of the best watches made today.
Watch to know: Seamaster 300 Co-Axial Master Chronometer
This is a watch for the ages, and it’s not a Speedmaster. With vintage styling cues inspired by Seamasters from the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Seamaster 300 stands out with its double-layer sandwich dial and the arresting vintage Super-LumiNova underneath the main dial. The broad arrow hands are similarly lumed, and they contrast the lollipop seconds hand. Pair all this with a matching aluminum bezel and a flat, brushed stainless steel bracelet and the stunning METAS-certified Omega Master Co-Axial caliber 8912 strutting its stuff through the transparent caseback, and you have yourself a modern heirloom.
Buy Now $6,500Runner-Up: Jaeger LeCoultre and its Reverso Classic