Cool watches for a limited budget
Today, we’ll be talking about buying watches on a tight budget. Given the weakening Canadian dollar and soaring watch prices, one can’t help but seek out less expensive ways to soothe the urge to acquire new timepieces. So we’ll look at some candidates for your watch box that cost less than $1,000. Before we begin, I realize that I will contradict myself. I have written many times about making the mistake of buying the first watch that you can afford. I made this mistake many times and ended up selling several “lesser” pieces (at a loss) in order to buy “bigger” pieces. In the long run, it is better to wait and save and buy your favorite watches. But that takes time and patience! And sometimes you get the urge to just put something new and shiny on your wrist. Today’s recommendations may not cure the craving for a new Rolex or Omega. But they may serve as a plaster on the wound and provide a bit of fun for the summer. Let’s explore…
The first ovious point to discuss is the pre-owned and/or grey market. You can find all sorts of interesting stuff on Canadian watch forums. But the pre-owned or grey market is really a topic all of its own. Today, let’s focus on watches that you can buy brand new, from a store, that cost hundreds and not thousands of dollars.
My first suggestion will really disappoint many readers. I can’t believe I am actually putting this into a blog. Ugggggh. Maybe I should change my mind. Ah, here goes… quartz. There- I said it. And I already regret it. But hear me out. If your goal is to acquire something new, something fun, something different, something functional, and something affordable, you should consider a quartz watch. It could be a weekend beater or an occasional pick when you’re too busy to set your JLC. I have been looking at watch shops recently and I actually became infatuated with a quartz chronograph. I am far too embarrassed to show you the actual watch. But it is really gorgeous, if fairly low-end. It has a Japanese quartz chronograph and I love the way a quartz chronohgraph resets. In fact, while I have never valued quartz watches, quartz CHRONOGRAPH movements have always seemed cool to me with their fluid reset motion. “My” quartz chronograph watch has a car brand on it and it just fun. With taxes, the store would let it go for $365. I would certainly not wear it to a big meeting or a fancy cocktail. But I would wear it to go golfing or on quiet days at the office. And maybe on casual weekend days. For the record, I did not buy it. But you see my point. If you have that itch to acquire something new but cannot afford a Rolex, then you could dish out 300 bucks and bring home a shiny new toy. Does that make sense? I saw some cheap, but attractive quartz models for under 200 bucks. You could pick up something like that and enjoy some nice design and color on your wrist when you need a change.
Another option I have been looking at is the purchase of a brand new watch, directly from the company’s website. In particular, I have been looking at Archimede, Stowa and Steinhart. As you can see, I am dying for a classic pilot watch. I want a 45mm or 47mm with the classic ETA Unitas movement. Currency is killing us, but you can still buy a lot of these watches for under $1,000 including shipping and duties. If you search, you will find many other “smaller” brands that sell directly from their website. These sites offer interesting and unusual watches at great prices. These watches often use less expensive movements, but they offer an affordable remedy to the condition we all suffer from. And in many cases, you are still buying an automatic or mechanical movement, so your pride is not hurt so much. I think Adam knows a lot about micro brands and many of these brands offer interesting mechanical options for less than a thousand bucks.
Now on the topic of non-Swiss movements, a lot of watch collectors are turning to Chinese pieces. I read a lot about this phenomenon in watch magazines. Guys are shunning the pretigious Swiss brands in favor of complicated Chinese watches such as tourbillons and annual calendars. These complicated Chinese pieces sell for a couple of thousand dollars rather than a couple of hundred thousand dollars as many ultra high end Swiss pieces do. More basic Chinese watches can be had for a few hundred bucks. As well, there are quite a few up-and-coming brands that use Japanese Miyota movements. Ancon comes to mind. Some of these watches are a complete copy of more famous Swiss pieces. But some are fun and interesting in their own right. You can buy a brand new Ancon, with a mechanical movement, for under $1,000 including taxes. Is that not a compelling argument? For 700 or 800 bucks, you can bring home a new toy with a proper mechanical movement.
But you don’t even have to look outside of the Swiss world. Hamilton offers a wide range of Swiss-made watches that use renowned ETA movements for under $1,000. If you factor in some store discounts, you can get a sweet Hamilton for just under a grand. Tissot also offers some models in this price range. And then you can find lesser known Swiss brands such as Marvin. Now, Marvin has recently made some gorgeous watches with mechanical movements. You can order from Marvin’s website, but currency and duties may push your bill above $1,000. I recently found a manually-wound Edox dressy piece at an authorized dealer that was marked down like 30% or something. It was $1100 including taxes. So you see, you can actually find a SWISS MECHANICAL timepiece for under $1,000.
This summer has been interesting for me for watch shopping. I have started to pay more attention to the sub-$1,000 offerings and I have begun to appreciate many of their characteristics. In many ways, a nice quartz chronograph looks like a great idea if you already have a few luxury mechanical pieces. It doesn’t even try to replace that proper piece in your collection, but it offers something different, fun and less expensive. You can knock it around and use it to time burgers on the BBQ. On the other hand, you can buy a Hamilton Intra-Matic for just under a grand. Now here is a Swiss, mechanical, gorgeous retro timepiece that you can wear with a suit. I guess the good news is that you can buy something fun, with some cool characteristics, without breaking the bank. And maybe that’s exactly what you need this summer.
As always, the fun is in the search.