It’s tempting to consider Baselworld an accessible rebuttal to SIHH’s display of high-end horology, but that isn’t really true. A $20,000 TAG Heuer chronograph and a $40,000 stainless steel Patek Philippe made our Best of Baselworld list for god’s sake. And we’ll let you decide for yourself how “affordable” a nearly $10,000 Rolex GMT is. But because of Baselworld’s sheer size, affordable timepieces always manage to make their way into the show.
This year, some higher-end watch brands focused on offering lower-priced gateways into their brand (not unlike this year’s SIHH), while traditionally low-cost brands continue to pack more features into their already affordable watches. What that leaves us with is a bevy of timepieces that feel like luxury watches but cost less than $2,500. In many cases, less than $1,000.
Citizen Promaster Diver Titanium
Why it matters: The Citizen Promaster Diver is one of our favorite affordable dive watches because it’s so practical and well-rounded. Solar-charged quartz makes sense in a watch like this, and few other timepieces in its price range offer 200-meter depth ratings. Now Citizen is adding titanium to the Promaster dive lineup, and it almost makes too much sense. Titanium is lighter, tougher and more hypoallergenic than stainless steel, and it’ll be a welcome upgrade to the countless folks wearing this watch outdoors.
Who It’s For: This is in many ways the ideal beater watch: comfortable, cheap, rugged and reliable. We’d expect to see this on the wrists of outdoorsy types everywhere.
Key Features: Solar-charged quartz movement. Titanium case and bracelet. Water resistant to 200 meters
Price: $450 (rubber strap); $495 (bracelet)
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Why it matters: Hamilton’s Khaki Field Mechanical is nothing new, but this year, the brand refined it to fantastic results. It gets a new dial mirrored after the MIL-W-3818 watches the brand produced in the 1960s, and the tan-colored lum really helps cinch the vintage aesthetic. Of course, the brushed 38mm case helps achieve that old-school military look, too, and is pretty much the perfect size for anyone. The leather keepers on the olive NATO strap are a nice touch.
Who It’s For: A lot of people will love the Khaki’s old-school looks. Menswear enthusiasts (who have taken to the military-style field watch in recent years), vintage watch enthusiasts, and first-time mechanical watch buyers will all appreciate the kind of value and design this thing offers.
Key Features: Hand-winding mechanical movement. 38mm case. Water resistant to 50 meters.
Why it matters: One of the show’s most underrated releases, the Olympos is a reissue of a funky dress watch Zodiac made during the ’60s. The brand did not stray far from the original, keeping the case size relatively small at 37mm. It also packs an automatic movement into its sleek case and comes with a trio of beautiful brushed metallic dials. If you want, you can spend an extra $200 for the limited edition, which features a “mystery dial” giving off the appearance of an hour hand floating in mid-air.
Who It’s For: Anyone who appreciates a left-of-center watch. Given the dressy look of the Olympos, this will probably do well for those who need to master business casual on a regular basis for work.
Price: $795; $995 (“mystery dial” limited edition)
Bulova Oceanographer 666 “Devil Diver”
Why it matters: One of our overall favorites from the show, the Devil Diver represents incredible value for the money. Not just for being a 200-meter dive watch with an automatic movement for under $800, but for also having a totally spot-on vintage design. Little details like the applied retro Bulova logo at 12 o’clock, the light jangly bracelet and the red-and-navy color scheme make this feel as close to the original as you can get (save for the smaller limited edition version, but that costs twice as much).
Who It’s For: Vintage watch enthusiasts and anyone looking for an affordable diver. Either buyer can’t go wrong here.
Key Features: Water resistant to 666 feet (200 meters). 44mm steel case. Accurate recreation of original.
Seiko Prospex SRPB077 and SRPB079
Why it matters: These are two new additions to the Prospex diver lineup (based on the brand’s first high-beat diver from 1968), and they bring the brand’s affordable diver mastery a bit further upmarket. The SRPB077 and SRPB079 twins both feature 44m cases that wear incredibly well thanks to a relatively sleek (for a dive watch) 13.1mm case thickness; they’re also beautifully finished. They also feature the brand’s 6R15 automatic movement. While Seiko is known for making cheap divers, the finishing on the SRPB077 and SRPB079 feel on par with luxury divers that cost at least two or three times as much.
Who It’s For: This one would be a great summer beater too, but given how high-end the watch feels in person, it could work as a “desk diver” just as well.
Key Features: In-house automatic movement. 44mm diameter by 13.1mm thick case. Water-resistant to 200 meters.
Price: $850 (SRPB079); $1,050 (SRPB077)
Why it matters: Mido is celebrating 100 years and is referencing a peculiar model of the Commander (a watch that’s been continuously made by Mido since 1959) from 1979 to do it. The resulting Commander Shade is a very faithful reissue of that watch, featuring a smaller 37mm case and an integrated Milanese strap. The dial is something to behold too: it has sunray finishing and a black-to-silver gradient, a level of detail rarely seen on watches in its price range.
Who It’s For: You need to love ’70s watch design to get what the Commander Shade is all about, so we’re sure the watch will find an audience of watch fans who prefer that bold design ethos.
Key Features: Gradient dial. Milanese mesh strap. Water resistant to 50 meters.
Seiko SPB073J1 and SPB075J1
Why it matters: Seiko’s other new Presage limited edition, the SJE073, could’ve easily made it on this list, but the SPB073J1 and SPB075J1 (made in 2,500 pieces, each) are not only more affordable, they have something that the SJE073 doesn’t have: dials made from shippo enamel. On these two watches, the enamel is painted onto a guilloched dial plate, then fired at 800 degrees Celsius, then polished. The result is a rich blue dial with an underlying wave-like pattern. Both watches come with in-house automatics from Seiko: the SPB073J1 gets the 6R27 movement with a power reserve gauge and a small seconds, while the SPB075J1 has the brand’s stalwart 6R15. It’s incredible, then, that both these watches come in well under $2,000.
Who It’s For: Someone who wants a dress watch that stands out, rather than blends in.
Key Features: Guilloche and enamel dial. Water resistant to 100 meters. 40mm case diameter.
Price: $1,400 (SPB075J1); $1,600 (SPB073J1)
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date
Why it matters: Oris’s Big Crown Pointer Date has always been a great everyday watch, but a new round of updates have made it all the more compelling. Chief among them is the trio of new dial colors, in a pastel-like green a steely blue and a deep brown. Add to that the fact that you can now get it in either steel or bronze, in both 40mm and 36mm diameter cases and you have an incredible amount of choice.
Who It’s For: For anyone looking for an all-rounder, this is a terrific choice — the vintage pilot watch will work with casual wear, but everything is so refined it can easily dress up.
Key Features: Pointer-date complication. Available bronze case. Water-resistant to 50 meters.
Price: $1,600 (strap); $1,800 (bracelet); $1,900 (bronze)
Why it matters: This is a great piece for those who want Sinn’s legendary over-engineering in a reasonably-priced package. The new 836 features a “tegimented” hardened, stainless steel case which the brand states is significantly more scratch resistant than regular stainless steel. It’s also anti-magnetic to 80,000 A/m (or about 1,000 gauss), and water resistant to 100 meters. Sinn gave the hands and hour markers a hefty dose of lume, and while it’s a bit big at 43mm, we reckon that’ll appeal to a lot of people.
Who It’s For: This is a solid tough watch, so there’s a lot of appeal to those who want a field watch for outdoor adventures or regularly spend their time in environments that could potentially damage a lesser timepiece.
Key Features: Anti-magentic to 80,000 A/m. Low-pressure resistant. Scratch-resistant case.
Tudor 1926 Collection
Why it matters: This is the entry-point into Tudor (and by extension, the Rolex brand as well), and the fact that you can get in for only $1,800 is impressive. At that price, you’d expect some finer details to fall by the wayside, but this is an expertly-finished piece. Yes, it uses an ETA 2824 instead of an in-house movement, but the ETA is a proven workhorse. The dial finishing is what really gets us, as Tudor is harkening back to early Oyster Prince references from the ’50s that had a “waffle” texturing.
Who It’s For: Given that the watch is available in four sizes (28mm, 36mm, 39mm and 41mm), a handful of dial colors and either all-steel or two-tone designs, there’s a little bit of something for everybody.
Key Features: Available gold-and-steel two tone. “Waffle” dial texture. Multiple sizes available. Water resistant to 100 meters.
Longines Heritage Military Watch
Why it matters: This is another instance of a hyper-accurate reissue done right at the right price. The succinctly-named Heritage Military Watch is based on a pilot’s watch the Royal Air Force used during WWII, and it looks almost exactly like it’s inspiration thanks to a meticulously-crafted dial that’s a faded off-white and shows faint speckles of patina. Of course, the inside is modernized with an automatic movement with a 65-hour power reserve, and the 38.5mm diameter pays tribute to the small watches of yesteryear while remaining in line with modern tastes in sizes.
Who It’s For: As stated before with the Hamilton, this type of military-style watch is beloved by the modern menswear scene, so expect some love there. Of course, it also goes without saying that this will appeal to vintage enthusiasts who can’t get their hands on an original.
Key Features: Patina dial design. Automatic movement with 65-hour power reserve. 38.5mm case diameter.