Editor’s Note: In compiling this list, we focused specifically on watches with an MSRP at $1,000 and did not include gray market deals or sales. Watches here also range from $500 to $1,000 — for cheaper watches, you check out our favorite watches under $500.
Don’t fall under the misconception that to buy a really nice watch you need to spend thousands of dollars. Yes, you can get some truly special timepieces from luxury brands if you decide to spend a couple grand, but you can get a surprising amount of watch for your money for less than a single grand, too. Want a monstrous titanium dive watch? You can get that for under $1,000. Or a super-thin, mechanical dress watch? We found two. Want a brass case or an enamel dial? They’re all here, as well, along with a handful of other great-looking, reliable timepieces from watchmakers big and small.
Additional Contribution by Matt Neundorf
When people think “moon watch,” Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster Professional comes to mind. It was the first watch worn on the moon, after all, but there are actually quite a few timepieces that have ventured off this rock. When Mission Commander David Scott and his Apollo 15 crew touched down in the Hadley-Appennius, Scott checked his Bulova and logged the landing at 06:16:29 p.m. This Bulova 956B251 is a high-beat quartz powered homage to that very watch.
The Hamilton Intra-Matic remains one of our favorite affordable timepieces. Its simple mix of elegance and style harkens back to an era when understated design ruled drawing boards. Featuring a large sunburst dial, decorated minimally with Hamilton’s vintage “H” logo, faceted lugs and a thin leather band, the Intra-Matic could easily pass as an heirloom timepiece, without the fuss of vintage upkeep.
Archimede Pilot 42H Bronze
Bronze has become an exceedingly popular choice of material for watch cases in recent years, championed by big names like Tudor, Zenith and Panerai (to name a few) for its rich, eye-catching hue and its propensity to patinate with age. While the material is most utilized by high-end brands, German microbrand Archimede makes a bronze version of its flieger-style pilot’s watch that slots in well under $1,000 and even features an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement inside.
Stowa Antea ‘Back to Bauhaus’
To the uninitiated, the Stowa Antena looks like a replicant of the Nomos Tangente, but its roots actually go all the way back to the 1930s, when both Stowa and A. Lange were creating very similar minimalist timepieces just before WWII. While the basic shape and dial layout remain the same as that early watch, but its most prominent update is its choice of font, Bauhaus STD, an evolution of a typeface created by Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer in 1927. Customers also get to choose between three different configurations: a 35.5mm watch with a hand-winding Peseux 7001 movement or a 36.5mm or 39mm version with an automatic ETA 2824-2.
Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80
Though the progress of innovation in mechanical watchmaking is slow, in the last decade or so, silicon balance springs have become one of the industry’s greatest innovations, albeit one primarily used in higher-end watches from brands like Omega, Tudor and even Patek Philippe; silicon provides resistance to magnetism and allows for more accurate timekeeping. It’s remarkable, then, that Tissot’s sub-$1,000 Ballade uses one as well; further, it’s a fully certified COSC chronometer, accurate to within -2/+4 seconds per day. It’s like a budget version of the Omega Globemaster.
Autodromo Group B
Autodromo has consistently reached for new design heights as a maker of auto-inspired watches since its first model was introduced in 2011. One of its most recent releases, the Group B, has a 39mm case comprised of a uniquely designed titanium capsule mated to a stainless steel chassis.
Junghans Max Bill
Understated, slim and impeccably clean, this Bauhaus-inspired Junghans is perfectly sized to peek out from under a French cuff. Its case measures 38mm and houses a self-winding movement (based off the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2) between 10mm of polished stainless steel and Sicralan-coated plexiglass. Super Luminova has been applied to the hour and minute hands as well as markers at both 6 and 12 to help it shine through the night.
Christopher Ward Trident C60 Titanium Pro
Christopher Ward has always offered a lot for the price, and that’s absolutely true even on the higher end of the brand’s wares. This iteration of the stalwart Trident dive watch, for example, is made out of lightweight titanium, packs an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement and is submerisble to an incredible 600 meters. The stleathy-looking black and gray color scheme is also a huge plus.
Seiko Prospex SPB051J1
No list of great, affordable watches is complete without a Seiko diver. The SPB051J1 is a reissue of Seiko’s first dive watch, the 6217, which originally debuted in 1965. The new iteration is certainly bigger than the original at 42.6mm in diameter (versus 38mm of the 6217), but it packs Seiko’s in-house R615 automatic movement and is water-resistant to 200 meters.
Seiko Presage SARX019
Similarly, Seiko makes some incredible value dress watches under $1,000, too. Most notably, the brand has introduced its Presage line to the U.S., and with it comes a host of reasonably priced watches that bridge the gap between the brand more budget-friendly options and high-end Grand Seikos. Among those watches is the SARX019, which, amazingly, features a handcrafted enamel dial, joining the ranks of brands like Patek and Ulysse Nardin. Seiko’s reliable Seiko 6R15 automatic movement ticks away within, and the watch comes affixed to a leather strap with a deployant clasp.