Getting a watch from one of the world’s top brands takes a bit of cash, but maybe not as much as you think. While it’s easy to get carried away with grails costing tens of thousands of dollars or more, there are no shortage of great, often underrated pieces to be found much closer to Earth. Here are a few of the best of them.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
There’s a reason people love Rolex. Every single watch they make — even this time-only steel Oyster Perpetual — has a lot to love about it. From the proportions of its 39mm case to the solid-feeling Oyster bracelet to the choice of dials in blue, white, “dark rhodium” or “red grape”, this is a quintessential Rollie.
Tudor Black Bay 41
If you’re looking for a 1960s-style dive watch you’ve got a lot of great options, but this one should be near the top of your wish list. With its simple black and white dial, its “snowflake” hands and screw-down crown, it’s got everything you need and just enough extra.
TAG Heuer Carrera
An everyday-wearing watch from the golden era of motorsports, this one makes a case for itself in small details like seconds markers around the edge of the dial, “pencil” hands and subtle white-on-silver colouring.
CAD$3,100, TAG Heuer
You can spend a lot more on one of Breitling’s many pilot’s chronographs, but this watch carries many of the same cockpit-inspired style cues and the same professional-quality components, with one less digit in the price. It’s like getting into a Porsche Cayman before you graduate to a 911 Turbo.
Panerai does a great job at equipping their watches with interesting mechanical features and high-tech materials, but this one strips the design right down to the things that make a Panerai so cool: a big 45mm case, wire loop strap attachments, and big luminous arabic numerals.
Sure, this one is not for all tastes, but it packs so much awesome vintage style and Swiss watchmaking quality into its funky cushion-shaped case that it more than earns a place on this list.
Cartier Tank Solo
Andy Warhol owned a Tank, but in true fashion he never bothered to wind it. Why? Because this watch was so stylish that it didn’t even need to display the correct time. This one comes with a movement that winds automatically when you wear it, and a slightly larger case, but nothing else has changed.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII
Pilot’s watches, with their many subdials, rotating bezels, complicated navigational scales and other accoutrements, appeal to our love of all things mechanical and complicated, but that doesn’t mean they need ten different things going on to be worthy. This archetype from IWC proves it.
Hublot Classic Fusion Titanium
The predecessor to this watch was Hublot’s first creation in 1980, and it established the brand as one that’s obsessed with unconventional design and unusual materials. It’s come a long way since, but the Classic Fusion Titanium has everything that you want in a Hublot, right down to the green alligator strap.
Grand Seiko SBGN013
Spending four grand on a quartz-powered watch might seem strange to some, but comparing this Grand Seiko to the $25 watch you pick up in the drugstore is like comparing a Ferrari 812 to a Fiat Panda. Classic design, exceptional attention to detail and accuracy, plus the pride of owning something from a world-renowned brand, are all included in the price of this GMT.