First: Ain’t a damn thing wrong with quartz. But there is certainly something wrong with someone projecting their tastes in watches (or clothing, or shoes) onto others in the form of snobbery. There’s hardly anything more insufferable than a watch snob who just aches to have someone notice what’s on his wrist.
Second: There’s just something about automatic and mechanical watches. It’s hard not to be impressed by their movements powered by tension, springs, and gears, all without the aid of that newfangled source of power known as “electricity”. To some (and not all), they’re the difference between candle light and a dimmer switch. They might sometimes look the same, but the romance is superior with the former.
No matter what camp you’re in, the following are all lookers for less than what the dude in the corner office is sporting (& is hoping you notice at lunch). As always, buy and wear what you like and can afford. Hard to go wrong there.
The Cheap and Effective: Seiko 5 SNK80 series – $50.00 – $70.00
Small in stature and price, but big on variety, quality, and wearability. Kryptonite to the quartz J. Crew Timex Military watch. 21 Jewel movement, Scratch resistant Harlex mineral crystal, and budget friendly price. At 37mm in diameter it’s small, but still well loved by plenty. (Photo credit: Michael Pollak.)
The Endangered Species: Seiko SNZJ5 – $150 – $200
One of the best, and hugely difficult to find. Comes with a stainless steel band but looks incredible if you swap that out for leather, a fabric NATO, or even a silicone strap. More on this line over here.
The Chinese Throw-back: Sea-Gull M186A – $145.00
Sea-Gull makes a full quarter of the world’s automatic watches. They are the biggest. And while a lot of their designs can drift into the strange, they’ve got a couple option that look like they were pulled straight from an estate sale.
The Cut-Out: Bulova 96A111 – $190.94
Full skeleton can get a little much. A well placed cut out window showing the inner workings of your time piece is welcomed by some. Bulova’s 96A111 has been hitting that sweet spot with a nicely dressed up look for years. 43mm so it is a bit on the big side. Has more flash to it than the Amazon pics. Japanese movement. Extremely well reviewed. Photo Credit: Ernesto Castellanos
The dynamite dress watch: Orient Bambino – $182.00 w/ WINTER2012
It’s a relatively recent addition to the Orient lineup (did it come out in late 2011? Early 2012?), and it might eventually displace the Mako dive watch as the brand’s flagship. Heirloom looks without the I-need-an-inheritance price. Domed crystal is a well executed throwback style, and the 41.5mm case is the perfect width for most. More here.
The Now in Mid Size: Maratac Pilot – $239? (Sold Out for now)
Of course it’s sold out. But at least they’ve made a mid-size in the new style for 2013. The regular, 46mm Maratac Pilot is BIG (full review over here) so plenty have been waiting on a mid-size. It’s coming, or, it was here and now gone, but it exists. Maybe. Somewhere. Still wish they’d make one around 41 or 42 mm since the mid sized option is a smaller 39mm in diameter.
The Dependable, Sizable, Diver: Orient Mako XL – $224.00 w/ WINTER2012
In this world of vanity sizing, an XL shirt means it’s going to fit a human of epic proportions. So you’d think the Orient Mako XL would be the size of a grandfather clock. Not so. It’s certainly on the larger size at 44.5 mm in diameter, but it wears a bit smaller. It doesn’t swallow up an average sized wrist, and it should be proportional for you big fellas. Available in a few different dial and bezel combos. Standby for a full in person and giveaway in the not too distant future.
The Perfect Casual: Hamilton Khaki Field – $380.49
All hail the Hammy Khaki Field. If you work in a place where wearing a suit would get you funny looks, yet you love a well built automatic, then this Hamilton, while pricey, is worth saving up for. Not huge, but handsome as hell. Photo Credit: Robert Donovan
The Nearly New: Christopher Ward “Nearly New” Watches – $300 – $500ish
These only come around once or twice a year, but if you get on their mailing list, you can get access to “nearly new” watches at a bit of a discount. For example, during the last sale, a Nearly New C60 Trident was going for $385 and it wasn’t final sale. When it showed, it wasn’t for me (a bit smaller than expected) and they were good enough to reimburse me to ship it back to the U.K. Great customer service out of them, and the watch was stunning in person.
The New Success Story: Anstead Oceanis – $499.00
He came, he kickstarted, he… well he actually succeeded. Kickstarter has had a few recent stumbles in the world of style, but the Anstead Oceanis doesn’t seem to be one of them. Created by a Navy Veteran and the project caught fire. There was a few month delay in delivery, but he did deliver and has launched a regular retail site. Runs on the new 24-Jewel Sekio NH36ª. An impressive 300m water resistance. One mean looking bezel. Was a $250 reward and now $499. (Shakes fist at sky with regret)
The Splurge Dress Chrono: Tissot Carson – $525 – $630 ($725)
Careful, the white dial option was just being fulfilled by Amazon, but have since gone to a third-party only (the more expensive black dial is still being fulfilled by Amazon). Hard to find, but if you can get your hands on one… it’ll likely knock your socks off. The step up stainless case hints at art deco, while the white dial and hands are razor sharp. Runs on the relatively new Swiss Made C01.211 movement. Pushers are crisp and snappy. Sapphire Crystal. Exhibition case back. A perfect for plenty 42.5mm in diameter. Up there in price, but finding a Swiss Made chronograph with these kinds of looks for under $700 is no easy task.
The Rose Gold 401K Killer: Hamilton Viewmatic – $604.00
What else? Anything that should be added to the list? Leave your favorite affordable automatic in the comments.