Hello everyone! This week, I’ll be doing a roundup of my favourite affordable (under $500 SGD) watch microbrands. I’ve previously done listicles of affordable tailors, affordable watch straps, affordable dress shoes, and affordable work bags – and figured, why not do an article on affordable watch microbrands as well?
Before I continue, I want to stress this – I regularly wear watches from the brands mentioned below, and my below opinions are based upon my personal experience with the watches. To be honest, I’ve debated with myself for a long time whether I should write such a listicle – every time I see listicles being shared in watch groups, armchair critics and keyboard warriors invariably proclaim: “This is blasphemy! How can XXX brand not be included? The author is clearly biased and ill-informed!” To clarify, this list is NOT exhaustive, nor definitive. There are plenty of awesome affordable microbrands that are not on this list, simply because I have not personally interacted with their watches before/do not wear their watches on a regular basis.
With that cleared up, let’s get into this listicle!
The most affordable brand on this list, Coup De Coeur watches provide a lot of bang for your buck.
Who they are: “Coup De Coeur is Singapore’s response to the modern timepiece. Our durable and rugged watches can stand up to the most active lifestyles, while adding a classy aesthetic to your boardroom presentation. Interchangeable coloured straps and unisex designs make these watches a beloved addition to anyone’s daily wardrobe.”
My opinion: To sum it up in one word – value. I sincerely believe that Coup De Coeur offers some of the best bang-for-buck watches in the microbrand market today. Their watches uses a workhorse Seiko NH35A movement, sapphire crystal, and come with a variety of strap options – you can pick one that suits your personality best! All that can be yours for as low as $224 SGD (after promo code below). Phenomenal value for money – if you’re someone who wants a “proper” mechanical watch but doesn’t wish to spend too much, Coup De Coeur watches are a perfect starting point.
Reviews: I did a review of the Coup De Coeur SGC Classic, which you can read here. I also thereafter did a review of the Coup De Coeur Elan, which can be read here! Between the two, the my preference would be the Elan due to its more intriguing design.
Where to buy: Coup De Coeur’s web-store. Coup De Coeur is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off products on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Best known for their affordable customisable watches, UNDONE has managed to establish themselves in their niche despite the relatively short span of time that they have been around. With a focus on collaborative watches this year, it looks like UNDONE is set to grow from strength to strength!
Who they are: “Established in 2014, UNDONE is the world’s leading custom watch label founded by a team of dedicated watch industry veterans. The core philosophy of the company is enabling everyone from all walks of life to create their unique personalized watch at a great value without sacrificing quality. By combining traditional watchmaking with modern-day technology, UNDONE grants people the power to narrate their perception of time through their tailor-made watches. The production of all UNDONE brand products is made in-house, allowing their team to have full control over every aspect that goes into the making of their unique watches.”
My opinion: If you like customising your watches, you can’t go wrong with UNDONE. The UNDONE customisation tool is a breeze and a joy to use, and one really gets the satisfaction when strapping a custom made (to one’s design impetus!) watch on the wrist. Despite the custom made nature of most of their watches, UNDONE’s prices are fairly reasonable – prices (after promo code below) starts at just $238 USD/ ~$322 SGD for the Urban Chronograph. This year, UNDONE introduced collaborative timepieces with Peanuts and Ultraman, which further separates UNDONE from other customisable watch brands. Overall, I find UNDONE watches great for not only meaningful gifts, but also an outlet for one to express their individuality.
Reviews: I have reviewed multiple UNDONE watches till date – I reviewed the UNDONE Aqua, the UNDONE Urban Vintage, the UNDONE Urban Tropical, the UNDONE Urban Ultraman, the UNDONE Urban Peanuts, and the UNDONE Basecamp. The UNDONE Basecamp is currently my favourite (chiefly because it’s the first new UNDONE watch design in a long while), though I love the Urban Vintage as well for its value proposition.
Where to buy: UNDONE’s web-store. UNDONE is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off products on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Reverie made a huge splash in the microbrand community with their debut watch -the Reverie Sea Spirit- due to its unique guilloche dial. Since then, this Singaporean brand has continued to make guilloche a mainstay in their designs!
Who they are: “Reverie is an independent watch company based in Singapore which creates limited edition timepieces with ornate guilloché dials. Our name stems from our dream to create beautiful watches which stand the test of time.”
My opinion: If you like guilloche, you will love Reverie’s watches. A guilloche dial is key to their design language, and all of their watches will utilise guilloche in some form or another. I find their watches thoughtfully designed – for example, the dial of the Reverie GT has depth and contrast in spades. Yet, it manages to look both clean and complex simultaneously! In my opinion, it’s one of the best -if not the best- affordable dress chronograph in the market today.
Review: I actually did a review of the Reverie GT some time back, which can be found here.
Where to buy: Reverie’s web-store. Reverie is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy $40 USD off products on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
One of the younger microbrands on this list, Alf Watch Company turned heads last year with their Kickstarter campaign of debut model, the Norrsken.
Who they are: Alf Watch Company was founded “to create unique watches at affordable prices with exceptional value. [They] believe that a great customer service is as important as the product itself which is why [they] are dedicated to providing the best customer service possible.”
My opinion: When Samuel (founder of Alf Watch Company) shared some press photos of the Norrsken (pictured above) before his Kickstarter campaign, it instantly intrigued me. It simply looked (and still looks) totally different from the plethora of generic looking Kickstarter watches that were available then. It’s boldly square, with a unique case and dial design that was refreshingly original. The price is surprisingly affordable as well. I personally call it the perfect “Apple Watch” for watch geeks! Lastly, it’s also very affordable – one of the most affordable on the list – making it an amazing value proposition.
Review: I did a review of the Alf Watch Company Norrsken here.
Where to buy: Alf Watch Company’s web-store. Alf Watch Company is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off products on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Minimalist watches are arguably the most popular type of watches currently – the widespread popularity of brands such as Daniel Wellington and MVMT attest to that. Rumoe offers that same minimalist design language, but in a much better built and automatic package.
Who they are: “Back in 2017, a group of friends and devoted watch enthusiasts set out to create the perfect dress watch; a timepiece that was not only uniquely elegant, but also unusually affordable. The fusion of their burning passion for horology and vast experience in the industry gave birth to Rumoe.”
My opinion: If you can look past Rumoe’s marketing fluff on their website, they actually make very decent dress watches. For those looking for a minimalist, elegant dress watch, Rumoe offers a wide selection at an affordable price. The watch comes together fantastically well, with attention to detail paid in numerous areas – the crown is nicely sized, making winding the watch a joy; the date wheel is blacked out to match the dial, and framed for added elegance; the case is polished to a gleam for splendor; and the seconds hand is of the right length to just brush the printed minute track. I recall wearing the Rumoe Nobel Royal (pictured above) out for the first time, and my friends (non watch enthusiasts)mistook it for a $1000 watch. If you’re into simplistic, yet thoughtful elegance, check out Rumoe’s offerings!
Review: I reviewed the Rumoe Nobel Royal here.
Where to buy: Rumoe’s web-store. Rumoe is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off products on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Nostal is a recently established Indonesian microbrand, which piqued my attention – microbrands from Indonesia are few are far between! Their debut model -the Saxodate- combines vintage styling with modern proportions and reliability.
Who they are: “To forget is human nature. We fight our nature using technology to help us remember. And so we surround ourselves with instruments to remind appointments, dates, information, and knowledge. Sadly, we sometimes forget the most essential of things. Nostal is crafted to remind us more than just time. Nostal is crafted to commemorate spirits of the past.”
My opinion: Nostal is certainly an intriguing microbrand. Their debut model, the Saxodate (pictured above) draws design inspiration from the culture/history of their home country, Indonesia. For example, the applied indices of the Saxodate are meant to resemble grains of rice – the primary export of Indonesia, which is even today still very much an agrarian society. In a nutshell, Nostal watches offers vintage styling (with an Indonesian twist) in a modern package. For those of you who like retro designs, but found the 34-36mm diameter of vintage watches too small for your wrists, Nostal represents an interesting alternative!
Review: I reviewed the Nostal Saxodate here.
Where to buy: Nostal’s web-store. Nostal is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off products on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Hailing from Hong Kong, Beacon Watches is a fairly new microbrand. With their debut collection the Pathfinder, Beacon Watches hope to offer affordable watches that serves a motivational purpose.
Who they are: “To provide a special symbolic value for our watches, our objective is to create a connection between horology and desire. Our ambition is to become one of the good watch brands, designing unique watches for people with a penchant of the delicate yet rugged time-measuring devices.”
My opinion: Beacon Watches’ USP (unique selling point) seems to be its interchangeable straps, whereby users can engrave motivational quotes. According to the team behind Beacon Watches, the vision is for their customers to switch out the straps with different quotes, depending on the occasion. I think this is a nifty idea (something I’ve not seen on other watch brands at the moment), though ultimately more gimmick than substance. The watch itself though looks pretty good in person, with the Pine Gold variant (pictured above) particularly stunning. If you’re into bigger, bolder watches, or simply want an alternative to the standard flieger design, the Beacon Pathfinder is a good option at an very affordable price.
Review: I reviewed the Beacon Pathfinder here.
Where to buy: Beacon Watches’ web-store. Beacon Watches is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 15% off all mechanical watches on their web-store! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
All watches mentioned thus far are special in their own way, but the watches from Humism are truly in a different class of their own. In fact, I would say that the timepieces lean more towards art, rather than horology.
Who they are: “We wanted to completely re-imagine watch design, to create a timepiece that makes the most of this medium’s uniqueness. And the most unique and fundamental part of a watch, as we see it, is movement. We were inspired by the potential of using time’s movement to create visual beauty, and perhaps even philosophical meaning.”
My opinion: Other brands have utilized rotating disks before (Zinvo, Perrelet, etc) but none of them has managed to turn that rotation into art. This watch is so strikingly different that I decided to use the Humism Dasein as the thumbnail for this listicle! The monochromatic design of the dial is minimalist, and yet the kinetic art effect is so stunningly complex.This is a brand that I can’t wait to see more of. The concept of watches as a canvas for art? Absoultely riveting. Oh, 5% of revenue goes towards charity as well. What’s not to like about Humism?
Review: I reviewed the Humism Dasein here.
Where to buy: Humism’s web-store. Humism is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy a free Silver Milanese strap worth $40 USD! Just add the Silver Milanese mesh strap to cart, and quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the additional strap free! (Do note that the promo code only applies to the Silver Milanese, not the Black.)
Hailing from Canada, Aevum specialises in motorsports inspired timepieces. Renowned for the bang-for-buck value of their watches, they are one of the most respected affordable microbrands in North America.
Who they are: “We design and build our watches with passion, including automotive aesthetics in a way that includes all types of enthusiasts. Whether you’ve got a hand-built drag pass car pushing 9’s, a weekend track day machine that you can boast was faster in the corners than your rival or a daily driver that you’ll never let go of; Aevum has you covered.”
My opinion: Aevum probably offers the best affordable motorsports-themed watches in the microbrand sphere. The build quality of their watches is near unparalleled for the price, the racing inspiration is evident in their designs, and the founder of Aevum (Bryan) is a genuine petrolhead – his passion shines through in his watches. As the icing on the cake, Bryan even includes a hand-crafted strap (crafted by him personally!) with each watch purchase. In fact, I can safely say that the straps on Aevum watches are by far the best I’ve seen at this price point. To me, Aevum encapsulates the allure of microbrands.
Review: I reviewed the Aevum Advance here.
Where to buy: Aevum’s web-store. Aevum is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy $30 CAD off all watch purchases! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Another brand from Singapore, Aries Gold specialises in offering great bang-for-buck offerings. Their catalog is pretty diverse as well – I think there are over 250 different SKUs available currently!
Who they are: “Amid an ambitious global expansion blueprint, Aries Gold is now an international brand sold in 28 countries (including USA, Australia, Germany) – a hard-earned milestone for the only “Made in Singapore” watch brand. After a successful collaboration with International Rock Band Foo Fighters last year, Aries Gold continues to break new grounds by collaborating with International Rock Band Aerosmith in 2017 to promote their unique code: Combining worldclass design with quality watchmaking.”
My opinion: Aries Gold is a brand that is often scoffed upon by watch enthusiasts, and I think that’s a shame. Personally, I sincerely believe that Aries Gold offers some of the best value propositions that you can get for ~S$200. Take the Jolter for example – you get a mecha-quartz chronograph with a skeletonised dial, a big date aperture, bracelet, sapphire crystal and even lume for just S$218 (after promo code below)! The design language is great as well, and with a wide catalog, there’s bound to be something available for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned watch collector or someone looking to get his first watch, Aries Gold provides a lot for very little.
Where to buy: Aries Gold’s web-store. Aries Gold is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off all watch purchases! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
A local brand known for their watch straps, Vario made a splash in the crowded Kickstarter watch space recently with their art deco inspired watch, the Empire.
Who they are: “VARIO is an online store for watches and watch accessories that allows users to show off their unique style and grow their personal collection with custom strap designs. Our brand is about variation and striking a balance between sophistication, quality, and fun.”
My opinion: While they offer a variety of stunning straps (the vintage Italian straps are my favourite), I personally believe Vario to be at their strongest with watches. In my opinion, the Vario Empire (pictured above) has to be one of the best dress watches for under S$500. It’s hard to make a distinctive dress watch that doesn’t come across as generic, but Vario nails the design through several art deco inspired touches, as well as a unique guilloche pattern in the centre. Traditionally sized at 38mm, and with a handwound movement to boot, the Vario Empire is a amazing value proposition at under S$500.
Review: I reviewed the Vario Empire here, while it was still on Kickstarter.
Where to buy: Vario’s web-store. Vario is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off all purchases! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
Rounding up this list is another Singaporean watch brand, which offers vintage inspired watch designs for the modern desk divers.
Who they are: “Advisor Watch Company is a young independent micro watch brand from Singapore. Our watch concept and inspiration are derived from I (Iconic design) + M (Modern style). Watches we produced every year is in limited pieces to ensure its exclusivity to our customers. We take pride in the quality and uniqueness of watches we produce.”
My opinion: If you’re a fan of vintage inspired dive watch design, and are on the hunt for an affordable daily beater, then Advisor has got you covered. Their watches, despite costing only ~S$300, are solidly built – expect sapphire crystal, Seiko NH35 movement, top-grain leather strap, and even lume! The finishing is one of the best I’ve seen at this price point too. In particular, I like the enduring design of the Advisor Ascent (pictured above), and in my opinion it is probably the best supercompressor that you can find for ~$250 USD. It’s affordable, robust, and well designed – what more can you ask for?
Where to buy: Advisor’s web-store. Advisor is also a partner of Wahsoshiok – readers enjoy 10% off all purchases! Just quote “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy the discount.
That wraps up this listicle on affordable microbrands! Despite the affordable price tags (all under $500 SGD) of watches from the aforementioned brands, they are all (in my opinion) great value propositions. Each brand has their own strengths, and offer something unique to the table – there’s something for everyone here!
If you liked this article, do read my roundup of premium microbrands (>S$500) here!
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!