What Is A Good Starter Mechanical Watch?

Zachary V. from Georgia, USA asks:

Hello, I visit your site daily and I have had a burning question to ask since I discovered your blog. I am starting to collect watches and being a sophomore in high school, as you can imagine, limits my budget greatly. I was wondering if you could recommend a "training wheels" watch, something not terribly expensive, but something quality and worth my time. I know you deal mostly with extravagant timepieces, but I was hoping you could help. I appreciate your time and hope you have some advice. Thanks for your time.

Thanks for being a loyal reader, Zachary. We all had to start somewhere and most of us got into watches from a young age when we had very little disposable income. The good news is that there are a lot of great mechanical watches in the $1,000 and under range. Many of us have spend countless hours on eBay bidding on watches at prices we could afford. Of course, we always like to recommend Seiko mechanical watches as someone's first mechanical timepiece. We did a review of the new Seiko Monster watch here, which is a great option. There are others of course such as a Seiko 5. Citizen is also starting to offer a few more mechanical watches, and we also like Japanese Orient. On the Swiss side there is Tissot, Swiss Army Victorinox, and Hamilton to look at. We also like products from Christopher Ward when it comes to getting an entry-level mechanical timepiece from a major brand.

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  • jhanlon475

    Also check out some of the watches from Orient.  They can be found new on Ebay for very reasonable prices and they are quite good looking, if inexpensive, mechanical watches.

  • HerBis

    Hi Zachary, if I might add, as mentioned in the answer, Orient is a very good watch company with expansive automatic models. I’d suggest to start with the famed Mako divers, it’s one of the best bang for the buck watch IMO. Other than that, Seiko is also my favorite brand for Japanese autos. Their divers watches are quite iconic and collectible too, such as the Sumo, Monster, etc.. But that’s just me, as a sucker for dive watches who’s still working a way to buy Swiss divers (getting there though…).

  • mcv1973a

    Good call on Orient! I own several and I am very pleased with both their looks and quality. Excellent prices as well.

  • mcv1973a

    The Orient Mako XL is an excellent buy, and very good quality at its price point. I’m especially fond of my orange bezeled ‘Planet Orient’ which I’ve put on a black Zulu strap. She’ll do until I’ve saved up a bit more for the genuine Omega
    Who am I kidding? I’ll still be wearing it even after I’ve bought the Omega.

  • cprice2008

    As a primary school teacher my watches take a surprising pounding, in the last year both my poljot and suunto have bitten the dust. I’m now using a $2 watch and in desperate need of something better to wear on my wrist.


  • Jus_ad_bellum

    cprice2008 for dealing with grade schoolers I’d be saying Casio G-Shock! You should be looking at the pricepoints you like, it’s kind of impossible to predict what you like without indicating what look you want and a dollar range. 
    For something you won’t find on many people you meet, Cabot Watch Company aka CWC out of Britain has some great mechanical watches that are more utilitarian in look. Within the umbrella of the Swatch group of companies you can find great stuff from a number of label names including Hamilton, Rado, Longines & Omega.

  • Paulus1987

    Do not forget Certina! Great Swiss mechanical watches at a very affordabke Price!

  • Jeffersonist

    love this blog and have been doing the research to purchase my first automatic time piece. i’d like to spend under $500 for something that’ll last. i’ve narrowed down my choices to a jdm seiko sarb (cocktail time) versus one of the hamilton khaki variations. should i pay a bit more and go swiss?

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  • steward1507

    If you can afford $150 try logging into the Smithsonian website and look at the Benrus replica WW2 mechanical watch. Good value for not a lot of bucks.

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  • Lurch

    Orient is good. I am partial to the Seiko 5 Sports for an inexpensive mechanical watch. There are many choice too.

  • Lawrence

    Seiko Shogun for 800 dlls online

  • mosfet500 .

    Hi Zachary and all,
    If I was starting a watch collection I’d start with the basic mechanical watches. Someone said the Hamilton’s which I also like. A great, everyday, beat it death movement is the Seiko 7s26, you can get it new in a military style on eBay for around $50. Don’t overlook old Benrus and Bulova watches at flea markets, buy a couple of cheapo watches, take them apart and learn how they work. Lots of fun with little outlay.

  • I think Orient has some great mechanical pieces for less than $200. The Seiko SKX007/009 are two great pieces at the entry level. Christopher Ward does some great things, though their prices are a bit higher. I know that C. Wards US boutique has some discontinued models for half price (around $400). Give their boutique a call and they can tell you what is available.

  • Archie Miller

    Omega Speedmaster MOTFM

  • Aragon

    Good piece . BTW if you are wanting a USPS PS 8076 , my colleague found a fillable document here https://goo.gl/yiVV6Z