In this listicle, I’ll be compiling a list of affordable watch brands across various price points, from $100 to $7500.
I frequently get Instagram DMs/emails asking me: “What watch would you recommend for a budget of $XXX?”. I have previously done a series of articles on this, but that was over 4 years ago, and based on the MSRP prices of the watches. As such, I’ve decided to do a complete guide of 21 watch brands I would recommend buying from $100 all the way up to $7500, based upon the market prices – as well as 3 to avoid. Let’s get into it.
Even if you don’t have much to spend – perhaps you’re a student – you can still get some very reputable brands.
Timex is a great starter brand for anyone who wants to get into analogue watches.
Nico Leonard calls this the “God-tier watch” – and honestly, I can see why.
The recent Omega X Swatch MoonSwatch collaboration put the brand in vogue, but Swatch actually has a ton of history in its own right – it arguably saved the Swiss watch industry from collapse during the Quartz crisis of the 1980s.
Perhaps you have saved up, and want to buy something nice for yourself that would last. In such a scenario, my recommendation would be to go with the Japanese – they seldom disappoint.
Undoubtedly the king of sub-$300 watches, Seiko is the best starting point for enthusiasts.
If dive watches aren’t your cup of tea, consider Orient for its wide range of dress watches.
If Seiko and Orient are too mainstream, then Citizen is a great alternative.
This is the point of entry-level luxury – time to step up to Swiss.
Perhaps the best entry-level Swiss option out there, Tissot also has plenty of boutiques for you to try its watches before committing.
Another alternative would be Hamilton, which – though Swiss-made – boasts plenty of American heritage.
I’ve disapproved of SevenFriday in the past, but that’s because it’s a bad value proposition at its MSRP of ~S$1.5K. At its market pricing however, it actually brings substantial visual interest for relatively little money.
If you’re planning on commemorating an important occasion (e.g graduation, 21st birthday, etc) this would be a good place to start.
One of the most respectable brands in the business, Longines make value-packed, classical watches.
If Longines’ vintage design isn’t your cup of tea, why not consider the Bauhaus aesthetic of Nomos’ watches?
A highly underrated Maison, Oris has been growing from strength to strength in recent years with a string of strong releases.
This is the point where things start getting serious – time to choose wisely.
Perhaps the king of value in this price segment, Tudor offers rock-solid build quality – including in-house movements – for very reasonable prices.
Another brand that has had a resurgence in recent years is Breitling, which did well to revamp its entry-level collections.
15) Bell & Ross
If you want more wrist presence for your money, then the iconic square case of a Bell & Ross will definitely be up your alley.
Welcome to a taste of luxury watchmaking.
Perhaps the “Tudor” of this price range, Omega offers a variety of iconic yet relatively affordable options that boast both style and substance.
Recommendations: The iconic Omega Speedmaster Hesalite for those who appreciate its rich history, and the Omega Seamaster Professional for those that prefer a simpler, automatic watch (or fans of Bond).
If your tastes veer more towards aviation and dress, then IWC’s watches will do the trick.
While Panerai – as a brand – is in somewhat of a decline, its watches still remain one of the most recognisable designs in modern watchmaking.
We have now crossed into the realm of enthusiasts – it takes true passion (or foolery) for one to spend this much money on a watch.
Though more known for its jewellery, Cartier is actually the third-largest watchmaker in the world, behind only Rolex and Omega.
20) Grand Seiko
A hidden gem amongst those in the know, Grand Seiko offers watches with finishing that punches well above its price point.
Last but certainly not least would be Rolex – perhaps the safest bet for your money. If you’re someone who cares about the residual value of your watches, then go for the Crown.
Watch Brands I would avoid:
I also often receive messages asking me: “Which watch brand should I avoid?”. While this is of course subjective, here are three watch brands I would personally not buy – even at their market prices.
Hublot often gets made fun of (most famously by Nico Leonard on Youtube) – and it’s not without reason.
Why not: Most buyers of Hublot opt for the Classic Fusion, which has an MSRP of over S$10K and a market price of around S$6K. At its S$6K market price, the Hublot Classic Fusion pales in comparison to its competitors from Cartier/Grand Seiko/Rolex, or even cheaper options from Omega/IWC/Panerai. It’s not particularly well finished, has a (modified) Sellita movement, and lacks brand heritage. It’s more of an expensive fashion watch than an enthusiast watch. To be fair, the brand has interesting collab watches (Sang Bleu, Murakami, etc) but those command a staggering price tag and are far from affordable.
2) Franck Muller
It’s safe to say that Franck Muller’s heydays are in the past. The brand still releases watches today, but they are overpriced, gaudy, and a shadow of the classy tonneau offerings that put the brand on the map in the first place.
Why not: My reservations about Franck Muller are similar to those about Hublot. Franck Muller’s modern watches are too large, mechanically unimpressive, and lack the level of finish expected of their price point. The latest Franck Muller Casablanca Vanguard has an MSRP of over S$12K, though thankfully it trades for around S$7K on the resale market. Still, I can’t think of anyone that I’ll recommend the Casablanca Vanguard to over say, the Cartier Santos or the Rolex Explorer I – modern Franck Mullers look like a poor man’s RM. Vintage Casablancas were a beauty (I would know, I bought one) – but the same can’t be said for the modern counterparts.
3) (Entry-level) TAG Heuer
While I’m a fan of the brand’s pricier heritage chronographs (e.g the Monaco that I bought), I often see those starting out in their watch-collecting journey buying an entry-level Aquaracer or Carrera. That, in my opinion, is a mistake.
Why not: The above-pictured TAG Heuer Carrera has an MSRP of S$4K, and a market price of roughly half that. In my opinion, that’s way too much. I personally don’t think it’s better finished or more technically impressive than say, a $500 Tissot Le Locle or Hamilton Jazzmaster. The aesthetics of the $1500 Longines Heritage 1945 or the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date blow the Carrera away too. Entry-level TAG Heuer timepieces feel generic and lack the soul of some of its similarly priced competitors – there are definitely better places to start your watch-collecting journey.
I hope this listicle will serve as useful inspiration for those seeking to purchase their first timepiece, regardless of budget. Once again, do remember that these are my personal recommendations, based on my biased tastes – so please don’t send me angry messages if you happen to be a Franck Muller fanboy.
It’s almost 2023, which means another SOTC article/video will be coming out soon. Stay tuned for that!
P.S: Check out The Shiok Store here – it serves as a curation of my favourite products from my favourite brands.
P.P.S: Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.P.P.P.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.