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Buying Guide: Affordable Complications

Watches that simply tell time are a dime a dozen, and sometimes close to a dozen a dime. But start adding more functions and things can get complicated — and expensive.



Jack Spade Seiko Sportura Chronograph Timex Intelligent Quartz Chronograph Citizen Primo Nixon 51-30

Watches that simply tell time are a dime a dozen, and sometimes close to a dozen a dime. But start adding more functions and things can get complicated — and expensive. While we’re just starting to forgive the quartz watch for dealing a near death blow to our beloved mechanical timepieces, there’s no denying that when you want more bang for the buck, battery power is the way to go. You’ll pay dearly for dual time zones, flybacks, alarms and tide trackers on the mechanical side of the fence, but if you’re willing to put up with a tick-tick-tick seconds hand, we’ve found five watches that are happy to complicate your life for under (or around) five hundred dollars.

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Timex Flyback Chronograph

The flyback complication allows for instantaneous reset and restart of the stopwatch function and is typically only found on higher-end mechanical chronographs. This Timex, part of the Intelligent Quartz line, sports a flyback function and even has another bragging right: it uses linear, or retrograde, displays for the elapsed time. This, all for less than a new strap on a top-tier timepiece.

Buy now: $160+

Citizen Primo Chronograph

Citizen owns the solar-powered space with its Eco-Drive line of watches. While many look, shall we say, cheap, the Primo Chronograph has a decidedly sportier visage. The gray ion-coated steel case and perforated leather strap with orange stitching wouldn’t look out of place in a Formula 1 paddock; a precise quartz chronograph tracks elapsed time down to 1/5th of a second.

Buy now: $395

Nixon 51-30 Tide

Tide watches may be mere folly for landlocked flatlanders, but for surfers, sailors, and other breeds of watermen it can mean the difference between a good day on the ocean and a broken keel, or worse. The Nixon 51-30 (51 millimeters, 30 ATM depth rating) is a dive-style watch with a countdown rotating bezel, a bold dial and a simple tide gauge that tracks ebb and flow. Warning: this one is not for the small of wrist.

Buy now: $425

Seiko Sportura Alarm Chronograph

The Sportura Alarm Chronograph could be mistaken for a more traditional mechanical timepiece with its tri-compax dial layout and pump pushpieces. But this is Seiko, the brand that introduced the world’s first quartz watch, so this battery-powered ticker packs a punch, with a programmable alarm and a chronograph that allows for split time measurement.

Buy now: $475

Jack Spade Cortlandt Dual Time

Part of the new collection from Jack Spade, the Cortlandt draws inspiration from the last generation IWC Aquatimer with dual crowns and clean lines. A Swiss-made Ronda movement drives four hands, showing home time and travel time. That second crown rotates the 24-hour bezel.

Buy now: $500

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