There’s a common misconception that everything on offer from a so-called “luxury brand” must be stratospherically priced in order to qualify as such. But while fine watchmaking houses such as Cartier, Panerai and Rolex do indeed offer timepieces that cost well into the 5- (and 6-) figures, each one of these brands has an entry-point watch, an offering that, while it may not cost as much as a fine car, still encapsulates that particular brand’s style, design and skill.
On offer below are the men’s entry-level watches from each of 10 well-known watchmaking companies. Some are mechanical watches while others are quartz, but all represent their respective brands well, and get you in the door to some of the best companies in European and Japanese watchmaking.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34
Available in several different dial colors and sizes, the Oyster Perpetual is a smaller version of a watch that Rolex has been making in various iterations for decades. A simple, time-only watch with a stainless steel cases on the iconic Oyster bracelet, it features the COSC-certified, in-house 3130 movement with +/- 2 seconds per day of precision. Timeless and hardy, the Oyster Perpetual is a watch that will simply never go out of style.
Diameter: 34mm (also available in 36 and 39mm)
Movement: Rolex calibre 3130
Price: $5,050+ (depending on size)
Omega Deville Prestige Co-Axial 36.8mm
Available in myriad different variations, the Deville Prestige Co-Axial gives you access to the famed co-axial escapement, designed by horological great George Daniels. For our money, the black dial on steel bracelet is perhaps the most versatile variant: at just a hair under 37mm, it’s a simple watch that will pair well with casual or formalwear.
Movement: Omega caliber 2500
Panerai Radiomir Base Logo – 45mm
Featuring an in-house P.6000 calibre movement with 3-day power reserve, this time-only watch features many of the Panerai hallmarks: a highly luminous movement with Arabic numerals; a hand-wound movement; a cushion case; and water resistance, here down to 100m. This is a great way to get into the famed dive watch brand whose roots stem from an association with the Italian navy.
Movement: Panerai P.6000 calibre
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Small
The least expensive Reverso in the Jaeger-LeCoultre catalog, this version of the iconic watch features a quartz movement in place of a mechanical one as well as a smaller size, but is in every other respect a classic Reverso. With its reversible watch head and stainless steel case, the Reverso Classic Small is perfect for engraving and personalization.
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 657
Cartier Tank Solo
Though this larger version of the famed Cartier Tank features a quartz movement, all the rest of the hallmarks of the Tank are present: a rectangular case, an elegant white dial with Roman numerals, a thin handset, and a crown set with a synthetic cabochon-shaped spinel all scream classic Cartier.
Movement: Quartz movement
IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII
Based on the famed Mk. XI pilot’s watch that first debuted in 1948, the Mk XVIII features a legible, black dial with white Arabic numerals, central hacking and sweep seconds, a soft iron inner case for anti-magnetic protection, an AR-coated sapphire glass and a date display. With several dial and strap options available, the 40mm Mk XVIII is a perfect modern military watch.
Movement: Calibre 35111
Breitling Colt 41 Automatic
Available in black, blue or silver dials, the Colt 41 Automatic has some serious pro features, including a chronometer-certified movement and 200m of water resistance. You also get a unidirectional dive bezel, a date aperture and a glareproof, sapphire crystal. A handsome diving watch from a storied brand.
Movement: Breitling 17
Tudor Black Bay 36
Drawing on the classic Tudor references from the 1950s and 1960s, the Black Bay 36 is a robust, time-only watch available in multiple sizes, two dial colors and several strap and bracelet offerings. Relying on the venerable ETA 2824-2 movement keeps the price reasonable, and 150m of water resistance means that this is a watch you can wear every day without worry.
Movement: ETA 2824-2
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
Powered by the TAG Heuer Caliber 5 (an ETA 2824-2 with a carbon-composite hairspring) and introduced at Baselworld 2019, the new Autavia Isograph is available in a base iteration for $3,500, making it an entry point for those who want the (TAG) Heuer aesthetic but might not be ready to drop serious money on a chronograph. Numerous dial and strap/bracelet combinations give the user plenty of choice.
Movement: TAG Heuer Caliber 5
Grand Seiko SBGX259/261/263
Don’t think that because the these watches features quartz movements that you’re getting any less of an impressive timepiece. With a perfectly proportioned 37mm case and matching bracelet, 10 bar of water resistance, a Seiko 9F movement and four dial color choices, the SBGX series is an elegant everyday watch, and the perfect introduction into the world of Grand Seiko.
Movement: Seiko 9F62 Quartz
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