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For many, smartphones eliminated the main purpose of owning a watch; know the time. But a watch can still be a fashionable accessory and a statement of intent.
As much as we’d love to buy one of those advertised by actors, Formula 1 drivers, and tennis players, the truth is that not all of us can afford a $1,000 watch or even a $200 one. Style, though, does not have to depend on how much money one has in the bank, and thankfully today you can find respectable timepieces without spending a fortune.
Sure, buying a watch in this price range can be tricky – many are rubbish. So before continuing with our list, here are 7 things to consider when buying a cheap watch:
Analog or Digital
An analog watch features the traditional display with numbers and hands. These watches are fine for both casual and formal occasions. Digital watches, instead, show the time in figures and are designed for a more sporty and casual look.
Watches use either a quartz or a mechanical movement. A quartz movement uses a battery’s electric current in order to vibrate a quartz crystal which in turn advances the hands. This is a simple and thus fairly convenient movement, but the battery needs to be replaced once it runs out.
Watches with a mechanical movement are more complex (and expensive) and require manual or automatic winding. This winding tightens the mainspring, and as this spring loosens, sets the gears and other moving parts to move the hands. A manual-winding watch requires you to rewind the spring by hand, while an automatic movement harnesses the energy of the body’s movements to turn a rotor that performs the winding. Although they don’t need a battery change (they don’t have one), mechanical watches need to be repaired every five years or so, to ensure their accuracy.
Finding a good $100 quartz watch will be your best bet. They do not have the appeal of mechanical ones, but they are more accurate and are the vast majority in this price range.
Ideally, you should look out for a watch with a Japanese movement. You can determine this by looking at the back of the watch or at the bottom of the dial. Finding the words “Swiss Made” is almost out of the question in this price range, although you can find watches labeled “Swiss Movement” or “Swiss Quartz” — that’s not the same thing as “Swiss Made”.
Watches with a Chinese movement aren’t bad, though they tend to be the least reliable. They are not to be avoided but neither be your first choice.
You can think of the “complications” as extra features, things like the day/date, or a chronograph (which acts as a stopwatch).
Most straps are made of fabric, leather, or metal; Fabric ones are perfect for a more casual look. Leather ones are more elegant and therefore suitable for a more formal look. Metal ones are thicker and heavier and are fine for most occasions.
Our advice, though, is to avoid “leather” ones, since cheap watches tend to use leatherette straps that get ruined very quickly. It is better to buy a good “after-market” leather strap if you want one.
Where are you going to wear your watch? In the office? While doing sports? To the sea? Or for formal occasions?
A sports watch will be perfect for those who routinely train. These usually have digital displays and come with rubber or resin straps – leather straps become brittle when water binds to skin oil and then evaporates. They are designed to track a range of activities and typically offer a better water resistance than analog watches.
If you don’t need any special features, you should consider an analog model, such as field watches that can be used for diving, hunting, and go well with casual attire. Originally used by the military, field watches have traditionally been fitted with quartz movements for accuracy and a stainless steel case for extra durability. Field watches may feature a leather, nylon, or metal strap.
Regardless of use, we recommend that you always assess the degree of water resistance. Any degree of waterproofing of 100 feet or above offers the necessary protection for most activities, including swimming.
A heavy watch can represent a sturdier build and – usually – a higher quality. That’s not always true, though, and you can quickly tire of a watch that’s too heavy and bulky.
It is not enough to find a watch that doesn’t exceed your budget. The difficult part of the equation is finding one that matches your style, what you wear, and where you go. For example, if you need a watch to wear with a business suit you should avoid sports watches; and if want one to wear at the beach you should make sure it’s water-resistant.
Focus on watches with a quartz movement and a fabric or metal strap. There are cheap watches with a mechanical movement but they are usually of lower quality.
Also, make sure the watch does not contain any fake precious metals or is gold plated. Both gold-plated and faux gold (often called “gold-colored”) watches have a tendency to chip or change color – becoming greenish.
Buying a fake or imitation watch carries the same risk. While you’ll be able to fool some, anyone who knows about watches will never take you seriously ever again.
A cheap Seiko, for example, has both class and “pedigree” and will also offer you the best value for money.
In the end, when it comes to a $100 watch, the only thing that really matters is that you like it. The movement won’t be great, so focus on how good it looks.
Without further ado, here’s our list of the best cheap watches you can buy for less than $200.
The name Casio has been synonymous with digital watches since 1974 and is a well-known brand when it comes to sports watches. Casio doesn’t try to make their watches appear more valuable than they are, adding for example fake precious stones or gold-colored metals. Most of them are sturdy workhorses that have all the necessary features – such as water resistance – depending on what kind of use you intend to make of them.
G-Shocks are not office watches, but great timepieces that cost (Check on Amazon). Whether you do manual labor, have an adventurous spirit, or you’re a sportsman, your watch must be durable enough to keep up. G-Shocks are vibration-, electric shock-, and water-resistant (up to 600 feet). The padding around the inner mechanism protects it from falls while the protruding case and bezel prevent the hits from direct contact with the mineral crystal.
Direct descendants of the original 1983 G-Shock, the modern versions are sturdier than ever before. For less than $100 you can get an almost indestructible wristwatch, that is more accurate than any luxury mechanical watch, and, if you choose the “Tough Solar” series you don’t even need to change the battery since they recharge with solar power.
There’s nothing too flashy about the design of the G-Shocks, indeed most of them have a retro look that never seems to age.
Although we love their durability, we also found out that the G-Shocks aren’t the easiest Casios to use, and you have to fiddle a lot with the various settings before thoroughly understanding all of their functionalities (like multiple time zones, date, stopwatch, multiple timers, and multifunction alarms).
We also think that “negative” displays (featuring bright numbers and letters on a dark background) are not easily readable but you can always opt for a positive display (dark numbers and letters on a bright background) for better readability. If not, there is always their excellent backlight function.
Unfortunately, the generous size of their caches is not suitable for everyone, especially people with small wrists or anyone who prefers a more flashy design.
If you want an unpretentious, hassle-free, and extremely comfortable sports watch, any Casio G-Shock in this price range is a solid investment.
No cheap watch list is complete without a Seiko 5 (Check on Amazon). Originally launched in 1963, it has cultivated a following among watch enthusiasts for its utilitarian mechanical movement and the value it offers. It’s a reliable option that can go toe to toe with many much more expensive timepieces.
As one of the most popular wristwatches ever made, the Seiko 5 earned a place in every man’s collection. It comes in many iterations, and the military-inspired ones are our favorite. In addition to using one of the most reliable mechanical movements on the market (for its price), being automatic also means that it does not need manual winding or the need to replace the battery.
Their case is made of stainless steel while the back allows you to catch a glimpse of the automatic movement. Through the scratch-resistant crystal, the dials feature large printed numbers and a day/date complication, while their durable fabric strap usually matches the color of the dial. They have a clean and simple design, and the canvas strap can be replaced with a stainless steel bracelet that makes them more “dressier”.
In addition, the matte finish bezel does a good job of masking dents and scratches and their small size renders them a very wearable option for small to medium sized wrists.
This timepiece also features the typical position of the crown at 4 o’clock. Thus you can say goodbye to that annoying moment when you bend your wrist and the crown digs into your skin.
They are also water-resistant but most of them only up to 100 feet. Therefore, although they can withstand a dip in the pool, if you’re looking for a diving watch it’s best to opt for a quartz alternative.
All in all, the Seiko 5 looks and feels like a watch that costs way more thanks to its many excellent features. Recommended.
Since its debut in 2011 Timex’s Weekender (Check on Amazon) collection has been designed with one thing in mind: freedom of choice. They are good quality versatile watches with a timeless design sold at affordable prices. They are perfect to wear from 9 am. to 5 pm. on the weekend — although we believe that you can easily wear them every day all day!
The quartz mechanism is extremely precise and all Weekenders are equipped with Timex’s Indiglo backlight. We also like the date window near 4 o’clock. The Weekenders are available in several colors and with numerous fabric and leather straps that are easily interchangeable thanks to their quick release function that allows you to match them to your look.
They are easy to wear, relaxed, and not so precious as to not get dirty or wet. If one breaks, it’s easily replaceable. This is a classic good-looking watch that is perfect for “lightening” the mood of a serious suit but doesn’t look out of place worn on a formal occasion.
All in all a great watch, and when it comes to Timex, you really can’t go wrong. If you want a classic watch in this price range, a Timex is your best option.
Want a cheap watch brimming with technology? Citizen watches are great for the price. Sure, the $500 models are overpriced to include on this list, but anyone priced at around $100 is well worth it.
In 1979, the brand created Eco-Drive (Check on Amazon), Japan’s first light-powered analog quartz movement that harnesses the power of any light source (even artificial lighting) to keep on ticking indefinitely (with a 6-month power reserve) thus eliminating the need to change batteries every couple of years. And lucky for us there are many cheap Citizen watches with this feature.
Especially their military-inspired models are very respectable and popular worldwide. Featuring a canvas strap with an adjustable buckle for added comfort, their stainless steel case has a diameter of 39mm, ideal for most men, and houses a dark dial with bright hands protected by a scratch-resistant mineral crystal. These watches are also waterproof up to 330 feet, and thus suitable for an active lifestyle – you can even use them for swimming but not for diving.
This is one of the best watches below $200 and an absolute bargain at $100.
We no longer buy a watch to tell the time; we buy it to tell the world who we are! If you want a watch that costs around $100, looks nice, is versatile to wear almost anywhere, and you feel great when it’s on your wrist, then get a Stührling Original (Check on Amazon).
Many people don’t realize that Max Stührling was actually a master watchmaker who studied under Louis Audemars of Audemars Piguet, one of the world’s most renowned luxury watchmakers.
However, Stührling wanted to produce quality timepieces that every man could afford. He left the luxury industry, in which he could easily have made a name for himself, and developed a line of watches that retail for no more than a few hundred dollars. Many of them feature an ultra-precise Japanese mechanical movement (Miyota) while you can easily find some of their Swiss quartz watches for less than $100.
Stührling does not enjoy the recognition of many other luxury watchmakers, but that does not mean that they create inferior products. Instead, their watches are proof that in order to make a statement you no longer have to spend a fortune.
Timex earns another spot on our list with their Expedition watch (Check on Amazon). The range of these models comes from 1960s infantry watches, which were virtually indestructible and adapted well to the explosive growth of outdoor activities in the 1990s. Like the Weekender (Check on Amazon) we talked about earlier, the Expedition features the kind of quality you’d expect from Timex and is versatile enough to wear to a variety of occasions.
The Expedition is, as its name suggests, ideal for outdoor adventures. And it’s also water-resistant, making it suitable for swimming but not diving.
Like all Timex watches, the Expedition has passed rigorous tests to withstand the elements, and you can wear it with the safety offered by its durability.
The Timex Expedition is a sturdy watch ready for any adventure but also ideal for everyday use; you can wear it to the office, on casual occasions, and many other places and events where you want to show off the distinctive Timex look.
Its most interesting feature is its famous Indiglo backlight technology that makes it easy to read, regardless of the amount of ambient light.
The best thing about it, though, is the variety of styles available to you. The dial and watch straps are available in 16 different styles and color combinations. Furthermore, its surprisingly low price allows you to easily buy more than one, in case you want to coordinate them with different outfits.
Timex has appeared on this list several times (and deservedly so) but this time they do it with a digital watch. This watch has a quartz movement and a clear and easy to read dial. The window is scratch-resistant and the wide and clear display is extremely legible, even under direct sunlight – ideal for reading while running. It comes with a stopwatch, is water-resistant, and lights up at night with Timex’s Indiglo technology – arguably the best on the market.
The Ironman range (Check on Amazon) is Timex’s answer to Casio’s G-Shock series (Check on Amazon) and is definitely worth considering. This timepiece is more compact than most G-Shock models, making it more comfortable in most cases.
Last, but not least, its price tag makes it one of the best sports watches around $50.