Watches can be an expensive habit, but if you’re reading this you probably already know that. Like us, you likely spend way too much time poring over blogs and auction sites, nerding out on ultra rare 1960s Rolexes and esoteric high complications from obscure watchmakers with hard-to-pronounce names. While those superlative pieces are fun to admire, not all covetable watches will require you to take out a second mortgage on your house. There are plenty of cool watches to be found under a grand, and even more if you can stretch your budget to two. Here are a few of our favourites, all of which provide quality movements, beautiful designs and—most importantly—pleasure. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what watches are all about.
Hamilton American Classic PSR
We spend a lot of time talking about mechanical movements and all of the incredible things they can do, but Hamilton’s newly re-launched PSR reminds us that digital watches can be things of beauty, too. Based on the Pulsar, a cutting-edge electronic watch from 1970, the new time-only PSR is a statement piece with more than its share of funky retro style.
Seiko is a brand that distinguishes itself in the details, and this Presage model is no exception. The dial is enamel, which attains its unique, slightly imperfect texture as a result of being fired at extremely high temperatures in a kiln. The design of the dial is an unusual and austere combination of simple hour markers and spade-shaped hands, and the strap is horsehide. None of that is obvious at a glance, and that’s exactly the point.
Rado Coupole Classic Chronograph
Many chronographs try to impress with a lot of numerals, measurement scales and extra markings, and while we definitely have a place in our hearts (and our watch rolls) for these, we like this one for doing exactly the opposite. With three small subdials, a subtle date window, and a red seconds hand for a sporty pop of colour, this Rado is just minimalist enough. It also features an advanced electronic movement that’s accurate to +/- 10 seconds per year, and contains a perpetual calendar that will display the correct date without readjustment until the year 2399. Whoever you pass it down to will no doubt be just as impressed.
Mido Ocean Star Tribute
There are so many great vintage-inspired dive watches out there that some truly fine examples of the genre can occasionally get overlooked. This one, with a battleship’s worth of midcentury nautical design, deserves a closer look. From its paddle-style hands, to its shark mesh bracelet, to its Swiss automatic movement, you’ll be challenged to find a better example for the price.
A classic, all-purpose daily wearer from a Swiss brand with a long history of quality. The steel case, in a very wearable 40mm size, contains a modern automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve. That means you can shelve the watch for the weekend without having to set the time again on Monday morning.
Nomos Club Campus
The Club Campus is designed to deliver maximum value, along with great looks and some pretty serious watchmaking cred. This Campus’ orange-on-white “California” dial (Arabic numerals on top, Roman numerals below), pairs beautifully with its grey velour leather strap, while the movement (manually-wound and made in-house by NOMOS in Germany) is a rare find in this price range.
TAG Heuer Formula 1
Formula 1 cars are infamously expensive and temperamental, but this watch from TAG Heuer’s F1-inspired collection is neither. What you get instead is a timepiece with a high-octane look inspired by the legendary race circuit (tachymeter-scale bezel, automotive-grade stainless-steel case) containing a robust and highly accurate quartz chronograph movement.