At Baselworld 2018, we reported on 11 great watches under $2,500, six of which were under $1,000. And while there were some exciting watches at Baselworld 2019, very few of the timepieces we saw at this year’s show were under $2,500 — almost none of them fell under $1,000.
Baselworld had been shrinking even before the Swatch Group pulled out for 2019, and the show’s affordable segment surely missed contributions from Swatch brands like Hamilton and smaller, independent brands alike. But the show still offered some good watches on the less expensive end of the sliding scale. Consider them exciting releases at the mid-range, mostly between $2,500 and $5,000 with a scant few empirically affordable ones sprinkled in — all good options for shoppers ready to make the leap into a market where “affordable” is an increasingly relative term.
Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition III
Why it matters: Oris has displayed a lot of versatility in the last few years, alternating between releases of the funky vintage Chronoris, pilot-inspired Big Crown Propilot, and a number of handsome divers. The Great Barrier Reef LE III falls into the latter category, but its vibrant blue dial, unique circular date window, and ceramic bezel insert take an entirely new tack. Plus, a portion of sales benefits the Great Barrier Reef, which certainly could use the help. (If this watch isn’t for you, its smaller brother, the Clean Ocean Limited Edition, also benefits our oceans.)
Movement: Oris 743 automatic (Sellita SW220-1 base)
Monta Atlas GMT
Why it matters: We’ve been taken by Monta’s Skyquest, Oceanking, and Triumph; the American-based indie brand’s Atlas GMT combines the best of them all. The look is chunky and sporty, consistent with the brand’s other products. There are several nice touches here, including a stepped GMT hand that slides over top of the dial’s raised markers. There are more affordably priced GMTs on the market right now than there ever have been, but Monta’s still stands out.
Movement: Sellita 330 automatic
Zodiac Aerospace GMT
Why it matters: In the 1960s and ’70s, Zodiac’s Sea Wolf was better known than its Aerospace GMT. But that notoriety doesn’t mean the Aerospace wasn’t kickass in its own right. The new edition is a wonderful re-make that’s extremely faithful to the original style. The blue-and-orange color scheme in particular marries some of the brand’s best bakelite hues. Whether you like the 40mm size — a major increase from its original 35.5mm diameter — is up to you and your wrist.
Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Re-Creation Limited Edition SLA033
Why it matters: Earlier this week, we declared this the dive watch vintage Seiko fans have been waiting for. That’s indeed true, with a caveat: many Seiko fans prize the brand for its affordability, and might balk at this model’s price tag. Those folks might instead shake their heads and turn to the SRP777, which looks similar and costs a tenth of the price. Or maybe not: the SLA033 has Seiko’s 8L35 movement, which boasts a 50-hour power reserve that approaches the quality of a Grand Seiko movement.
Movement: Seiko 8L35 automatic
Nomos Club Sport
Why it matters: Nomos did a number on some fan favorites for this year’s Baselworld, adding new colorways and styles that will undoubtedly please a wide variety of customers. The Club is a dangerously tempting watch for fans with less to spend — at this price point, you can almost reach it with that spending money, and it’s got an in-house movement! — and the Sport version, with its bolder case sizing and funky off-white bracelet, is right on the money.
Movement: NOMOS DUW 6101 automatic
Bell & Ross MA-1
Why it matters: Usually, Bell & Ross’s blocky creations pay homage to aircraft instruments. The MA-1, on the other hand, was inspired by the MA-1 military flight jacket, and it works well. The orange-and-olive sandwich dial looks badass, with a color scheme that you won’t see many other places, and the entire case is made from ceramic.
Movement: Sellita SW300-1 automatic
Tudor Black Bay P01
Why it matters: The Black Bay P01 was the talk of the show, and not always in a good way. Are its bezel-locking claws, asymmetrical crown placement and 12-hour steel bezel funky and cool or a misstep? It’s hard to deny the piece its merits: the “claws” help stop the bezel from turning unintentionally, and it has Tudor’s in-house movement. Debate the rest of its merits with your watch-nerd friends.
Movement: Tudor MT5612 automatic
Tudor Black Bay Bronze with Slate Dial
Why it matters: Tudor less polarizing release, the Black Bay Bronze, features a new slate gray dial. The last non-special-edition Black Bay Bronze was an instantaneous hit when it was released in 2016. This version is almost exactly the same, save for the gray look. It makes a surprising difference.
Movement: MT5601 automatic
Sinn 206 Arktis II
Why it matters: Sinn Arktis
There’s a lot going on here: The German brand made a tough dive watch that’s also a chronograph. The original Arktis, from 1999, could survive temperature swings between -40 and 80 degrees Celsius, and this one’s the same. Just hope you aren’t wearing the thing through those conditions. The idea, of course, is something that’ll never break on you, and that gives you extreme versatility.
Movement: ETA/Valjoux 7750 automatic
Citizen Eco-Drive ProMaster Range
Why it matters: Speaking of versatility, Citizen’s new Satellite Wave GPS, Altichron and Aqualand ProMasters have you covered if you’re after a trio of watches that combine tech (including light-charging Eco-Drive movements) with packed-to-the-gills good looks. The Satellite Wave GPS is a limited edition “super titanium” upgrade to a beloved pilot’s watch; and between the Altichron (titanium, altimeter and orientation) and Aqualand (stainless steel, analog depth indicator), most tool-watch fans will have their fancies tickled one way or another.
Price: $2,500 (GPS); $975 (Altichron); $775 (Aqualand)
Diameter: 47mm (GPS); 46mm (Altichron); 46.1mm (Aqualand)
Movement: F990 (GPS); J280 (Altichron); J250 (Aqualand)
Bulova Joseph Bulova Special Editions
Why it matters: Three watches, each inspired by a different early-1900s decade and case shape: round, tonneau and tank. Each is an extremely faithful homage, in the small diameters of the era, which ought to please those who like their watches to look fresh out of the Speakeasy. They’re made with the affordable and reliable Sellita SW200 movement, and come at a great price, between $995 and $1495 — which makes it all the more disappointing that Bulova only made 350 pieces of each.
Diameter: 34 and 38mm (round version)
Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
Doxa Sub 200 Limited & Non-Limited
Why it matters: This one’s naturally turning fewer heads than the solid-gold Sub 200 T Graph limited edition Doxa also released at Basel. Still, even barring the whole solid gold thing, this Sub 200 is a lot quieter than a lot of its Doxa brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s the more traditional case shape, or the simpler bezel markings. It also comes in a non-limited edition, unlike every other sub-$1,000 option on this list. Fans of the understated should be pleased.
Price: $1,190 (limited), $990 (non-limited)
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic
Seiko Presage SPB093 & SPB095
Why it matters: This one’s bittersweet for Seiko fans. On one hand, it’s an absolute home run: the porcelain dial, flared crown, and pop of red at 12 o’clock is classy and weird — pure presage. On the other, the reason everybody loves Seiko’s other Presage, the Cocktail Time, is that it can be yours for under $500 (and even less when it’s on sale, which is often), and this one costs something closer to a Grand Seiko 9F quartz watch. It’s another example of Seiko tugging on our heart strings and hurting our wallets.
Movement: Seiko 6R35 automatic