5. Ming 17.01: Artistic And Doesn’t Go With The Crowd
Created by a group including designer Ming Thein, Ming watches caught the attention of watch enthusiasts with their debut 17.01 watch introduced in mid-2017. The multi-layered dial creatively utilized a “sapphire crystal donut” to make it appear as if the Arabic numerals were floating on the dial – eschewing repetitive and bland minimalism for a dial that has multiple facets done in a tasteful and restrained way. I love the guilloche work on the center of the dial as it complements the aforementioned floating numerals delightfully.
Other design features like the flared lugs, subtle branding on the dial, and smart decision to leave out a seconds hand show great economy of design and everything comes together fantastically. At 38mm wide and 9.3mm thick in a titanium case, the watch may be a little small for some but the slim profile and light weight of the case will make up for that. As this is a design oriented watch, some of the budget considerations that had to be made come in the picture when looking at the movement. It’s a totally competent if uninspiring (hence no exhibition caseback here) manual wind Sellita 210-1 that gets a 42-hour power reserve.
The 17.01 came in a limited run of 300 watches but keep an eye out for new releases from the brand that play on the design language introduced in this watch. Price for the Ming 17.01 is $900, though you’re going to have to get a pre-owned model at this point. Fortunately I see 4 or 5 for sale with no major markup, so these do come around if you want to add one to your collection. ming.watch
6. Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph aka the Bulova Moon Watch
Back in the 1960s Bulova was competing with Omega when NASA was deciding on their official choice of watch. We all know how history went with the Omega Speedmaster being the recipient of one of the greatest marketing successes in modern watch history, though a Bulova Chronograph did make it to the moon on the wrist of Dave Scott. Often colloquially known as the Moon Watch Chronograph, the Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph is a modern tribute to a piece of history at a price that’s 11% that of the Omega Speedmaster Professional.
The other monochromatic chronograph that went to the moon, the Bulova Moonwatch Chronograph is a super accurate timepiece with its own storied NASA history. The 45mm watch comes outfitted with the Bulova UHF (Ultra High Frequency) 262Hz quartz movement which is accurate to 10 seconds per year, compared to most quartz movements which are accurate to 10-15 seconds per month. The major downside someone can see here is the case size can be a little large if your wrist is on the smaller side, measuring at 45mm wide and 13.5mm thick.
Price for the Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph starts at $595 on a strap and $695 on the steel bracelet. bulova.com
7. Seiko ‘Turtle’ Prospex SRP777 Diver: Enough Said, It’s The Turtle
On the previous iteration of this list we chose three Seikos – the Monster, Sumo, and SKX007. These options are still great and there are so many cool and affordable Seikos out there, but I’m going to give it to the Prospex SRP777 dive watch, aka the the Turtle. Based on the Seiko 6309 introduced in the mid 1970s, the SRP777 did very little to mess with success in regards to the iconic and recognizable design. In fact, other than the Prospex “X,” drilled lugs, improved water resistance of 200m, and an updated movement, Seiko kept this watch just about the same.
Speaking of the movement, the reliable Seiko 4R36 provides solid value for the money. With a 41 hour power reserve, this movement also includes hand winding and a hacking seconds hand. Drool worthy design plus a solid movement and Seiko diver DNA make the Turtle a natural fit for this list at a price of $495. seikousa.com
8. Timex Archive Collection Navi Ocean: At The Top Of Best Watches Under $150
Timex has been on a roll this past year with impressive value propositions like their vintage-inspired re-release of their last mechanical watch with the Marlin, their collaboration with Todd Snyder to make some truly cool and funky looking watches, and their Archive Collection watches which are reinterpretations of designs from the 1950s through the 1970s. This makes choosing one watch particularly difficult, but the Navi Ocean from their Archive Collection is a standout.
Between the legible dial, rotating bezel, crown guards, and great proportions, Timex got everything just right with the Navi Ocean. Blue watches are a dime a dozen but this one feels natural as opposed to a design decision based on what’s popular at the moment. The watch is secure in itself and that shows when the 38mm size doesn’t actually seem too small to me. Sure, it could be a little bigger (maybe 40mm) but I find little to complain about and a lot to love in the Navi Ocean. An everyday quartz beater with a ton of personality and character, the Navi Ocean comes on a leather strap with a price of $140. timex.com
9. Weiss Special Issue Field Watch: The All American
There are brands that use “American made” as a branding opportunity (not naming any names here but I’m not talking about the other two American brands on this list) and then there is the real deal like the Weiss Watch Company. Starting in 2013, Cameron and Whitney Weiss have been making handmade watches entirely in the United States (Los Angeles, California to be specific). This is a tremendously impressive achievement especially when you consider that they now also create some American made in-house movements, as well.
Now, most of Weiss’s current watch lineup is pricier than would find a spot on this list but after seeing their Special Issue 42mm Field Watch on Mr. Porter (though not on their own site) available for $1,250, I immediately knew it deserved a spot. The price is possible because this watch uses the older Caliber 1001, which is a manual ETA movement that has been rebuilt by hand in the United States. Here done in an off-white dial with those great skeletonized hands, sub-seconds dial, exhibition caseback, and that recognizable “Los Angeles, CA” text on the dial, this is classic Weiss Watch Co.
Again, this Weiss Special Issue 42mm watch is priced at $1,250. If you’re taken by the watch and want to look at their field watches that are outfitted with the in-house movements, these are priced between $1,850 and $2,150, which is still very reasonable all things considered. weisswatchcompany.com
10. Klokers Klok-01 & Klok-08: A Conversation Starter With Seriously Cool Design
One of the best things to come out of Kickstarter has been Klokers, established in 2014 by Richard Piras and Nicolas Boutherin. Their first watch, the Klok-01 uses a simple “slide rule” inspired dial with central seconds disc, a minute ring, and outermost hour ring (all of which move at their respective speeds), the time is easily told by reading the red line at 12 o’clock.
This is the kind of watch that one understands through visuals more than my text explanation but Klokers deserves credit not just for their whimsical and fun style but inventive proprietary strap change system. It’s a little large at 44mm but Klokers just introduced the 1960s inspired Klok-08 which is essentially a different flavor of the Klok-01 in a more unisex 39mm. Klokers leave a lot up to the buyer, selling the the Klok-01 not only on a textile strap for €438, leather strap for €468, or steel Milanese strap for €498, but you can purchase the watch head for €349 and pick one or as many of the five types of interchangeable straps (all available in different colors) for between €89 up to €149.
I think what may be even more attractive due to the reduced case size is the Klok-08, which is at the time of writing available for a pre-order. This one ranges from €309 for the watch-head and €389 on textile strap. Again, the leather straps and Milanese straps add quite a bit to the price at €428 and €468 respectively. klokers.com