Three Affordable Alternatives to the Patek Philippe Calatrava

The Calatrava is perhaps the platonic ideal of the dress watch — but they ain't cheap. Here are a few watches with a similar look for much less scratch.

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When you picture a dress watch, what comes to mind? Something simple and thin, with a clean, unadorned dial? Something in a precious metal perhaps, but not overly flashy, paired with a leather strap. Yup — sounds about right. And it sounds like you're thinking of a Patek Philippe Calatrava.

In continuous production since 1932, the Calatrava has more claim to the "platonic ideal of a dress watch" moniker than perhaps any other timepiece. Simple, elegant, and powered by beautifully finished movements, Calatravas are a calling card for taste, distinction and...wealth.

Not everyone can afford to drop $22,000+ on a dress watch — most, of course, cannot. But that doesn't meant you can't get the "Calatrava look" for much less moolah. Much, much less moolah, in fact. Here are three alternatives that might not get you the same street cred, but that look great, keep accurate time, and can tide you over until you've saved up for that first Patek.

The Alternatives

Orient Symphony III

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Orient's a part of the Seiko universe of brands, meaning you can expect extraordinary value for not a lot of money: at $195, the Symphony III features an in-house, automatic movement with hacking and manual winding. With its sunburst silver dial, slim dauphine hands and 40 hours of power reserve, you'd be mistaken for thinking this was a much more expensive watch. (A bit on the large size at 41.6mm, the Symphony III may be a bit wide for the small-wristed out there.) A brown leather strap completes the elegant look.

Movement: Orient cal. F6722 automatic

Diameter: 41.6mm

Case Material: Stainless steel

Price: $195

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Frederique Constant Slimlime Gents Small Seconds

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There's no mistaking the resemblance here: this is FC's PP. It achieves its thinness and price via a quartz movement, but if all you're looking for is, well, the look of a Calatrava, you could do much worse than this 39mm piece from Frederique Constant. Water-resistance is 30m on this puppy, but that's to be expected for a dress watch that ships on a leather strap. A date complication at 3 o'clock adds a bit of utility to an otherwise heavily restrained look, while a gold-colored coating gives you the precious metal look without the expense.

Movement: FC-245 quartz

Diameter: 39mm

Case Material: Stainless steel

Price: $1,088

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Grand Seiko SBGW231

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If you've got a few thousands bucks to spend (but not $22,000), then you owe it yourself to look at what's on offer from Grand Seiko. The SBGW231 is a drop-dead gorgeous, pared-down dress watch whose handset and indices instantly remind one of certain Calatravas. Combine this look with an eggshell dial, a mechanical GS movement with an impressive three-day power reserve, hand winding, a box sapphire crystal and a perfectly sized, modern case, and you've got yourself one hell of a dress watch.

Movement: Grand Seiko cal. 9S64 mechanical

Diameter: 37.3mm

Case Material: Stainless steel

Price: $4,300

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