April 8, 2018
by Bilal Khan
A bit over three years ago, our David Bredan published the Top 10 Affordable Watches That Get a Nod From Snobs article. This roundup of our best watches that are actually affordable ranged from a $150 Swatch Sistem51 and we tried to keep the upper limit at $1,000, though we did make an exception for the Dietrich OTC. I felt now is a good time to provide an updated list for 2018 but that is not to say the choices on the previous list are anything less than great deals.
There are the usual stalwarts of affordable horology like Seiko and Orient on the list, but I felt the need to include some of the microbrands that have satiated the craving that both new buyers and seasoned collectors have for watches that are smart and consciously designed with distinct aesthetic DNA. Prices for watches on this list are as low as $140 with the two most expensive offerings being exactly $1,000 and $1,250, and I really made sure they provide great value for that price to justify their presence on this list. Of course it’s impossible for a top 10 list to be totally comprehensive but we will over time have updated lists, plus aBlogtoWatch is always covering new watches that offer great value and there is also no shortage of resources out there to discover new affordable watches (Two Broke Watch Snobs is a particularly good podcast co-hosted by fellow aBlogtoWatcher, Michael).
I’d also like to invite you, our readers, to comment with additions that you think are worth being on this kind of list and why. I’m very interested to see what’s out there that I missed or didn’t consider (beyond the obvious choices like Casio G-Shock or Victorinox Swiss Army since they get enough attention). Without further ado, here is my list for the top 10 affordable watches that get a nod from snobs in 2018. Note that these are in no particular order so don’t put any value on placement.
We had Orient’s overall dress watch offerings on our initial list, but it’s great to see the steady refinement and increase in quality from their Bambino Small Seconds watch introduced earlier in 2018. Classic vintage-inspired design (especially that seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock) paired with the new caliber F6222, a modified version of Orient’s in-house F6724, results in what may be the best dress watch value proposition out there today. Plus, it’s got an exhibition caseback and while it’s not anything to write home about, it’s attractively and competently finished and executed.
Sized at 40.5mm wide and 12mm thick in a case that wonderfully balances brushed and polished finishing, there are five variants of the Bambino Small Seconds watch that should appeal to a wide swath of people. The variants and reference numbers are as follows: RA-AP0001S10A rose gold-tone case with white dial, RA-AP0002S10A natural steel case with white dial, RA-AP0003S10A natural steel case with champagne dial, RA-AP0004S10A yellow gold-tone case with white dial, and RA-AP0005B10A natural steel case with black dial. All share the elegant and attractive baton shaped hands and mix of Arabic numerals and indices on the dial. Priced at $305 or $325 depending on the model, it’s not hard to see why the Orient Bambino Small Seconds watch secured a place on our updated 2018 list. orientwatchusa.com
We’ve been big fans of Undone here at aBlogtoWatch since they introduced their customizable watches starting with the Urban Vintage Chronograph which was soon followed by the H. Moser & Cie aesthetic inspired Mystique line as well as the minimalist Urban Modern. These three are all design variations on the same meca-quartz powered chronograph, albeit with totally different aesthetic personalities. And that’s what Undone is all about, allowing a vast number of customizable possibilities within the larger umbrella of your personal taste.
What’s refreshing about Undone is that they understand much of watch design these days is iterative as opposed to totally original, and they wear this fact on their sleeves. For example, when I browse their Urban Vintage collection I’m told flat out that the Auta is inspired by the vintage Heuer Autavia or that the Killy is inspired by the vintage Rolex Dato Compax. So, while Ariel reviewed their Urban Vintage Killy, I created an Urban Vintage with a totally different look and feel (which you can see above). It’s just a lot of fun and I recommend playing with their customizer.
I personally own a Mystique and can speak to the physical quality of the product which is solid, especially at this price point. Price for the Urban Vintage and Urban Modern Chronograph is $265 for a “standard” model like the Killy and $295 for a customized piece. The Mystique isn’t a customizable watch as there’s a clear cohesive aesthetic with the dials. But there are four color options priced at $325. The Mystique comes on a leather strap and a dressier alligator strap is also included in the price. undone.watch
At this point it’s a bit unfair to classify New York watch brand Martenero as a new micro-brand success story, as they’ve been attracting new collectors and enthusiasts since they debuted their Ace and Founder watches back in 2014. Again, the recipe for success for these independent brands has been thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing designs that are executed as well as they could be considering the price point.
People are willing to overlook a Miyota movement when spending the relatively modest sum of $500-$600, but only when their desire for a timepiece with a distinct aesthetic and great design is met. And that’s what Martenero has figured out and excelled at. I think the Edgemere was the watch that showed a brand becoming comfortable in its own skin and willing to make bolder design choices. There are options, but I personally love the model that our Matt Smith-Johnson reviewed. Both the touches of red and blue on the chapter ring and the playful take on marine chronometer hands just make me happy when I look at the dial.
Martenero is a brand that separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to micro-brands that want to make non-sports watch pieces that are everyday wears that fit in with office and social environments. Price for the Martenero Edgemere is $550. martenero.com
The Longines Conquest VHP is the world’s most accurate non-smartwatch housed in a very well-built and good-looking (if unexciting) case from one of the world’s most recognizable luxury watch brands. And it costs $1,000.
That is why this watch is on the list.
Of course I won’t just leave it at that, but after having spent a fair amount of time with the Longines Conquest VHP, I couldn’t recommend it more for someone seeking a sports watch at this price point. In an ideal 41mm wide case size, the VHP returned in 2017 after initially being released in 1984. Accurate to +/- 5 seconds per year, Longines and ETA succeeded in making a movement that’s also innovative with the development of the Gear Position Detection (GPD) System, which stops the movement if the watch detects an impact from a drop or fall.
With a five year battery life, the accurate movement, and Longines quality, this is one of the best quartz offerings out there, period. If you’re a mechanical movement snob (and trust me, I understand where you’re coming from) I’d still give this watch a second look and at least try it on in person to appreciate it. Again, the Longines Conquest VHP is priced at $1,000. longines.com