But first, the (way too philosophical) case for wearing a wristwatch,
Q: Why wear a watch when I’ve always got my phone on me?
A: If we start dying the day we are born, then would it not behoove us to appreciate our fleeting existence instead of passing from one distraction to the next? A mobile phone is a stunning achievement in technology, but it does little to further the human experience. They are effective devices for communicating, but they’re also a gateway to addicting, wasteful distractions. But wearing a wristwatch is a constant, visible reminder that your life is not unlimited. Each flick of the second hand is a tangible signal of your eventual demise. We are all dying men, and our perishing only accelerates when we fall oblivious to the inexorable period at the end of our sentence. A wristwatch is a stylish reminder that we are always running out of paper and ink.
So, dead man, here’s 2017’s best looking watches under $300. Maybe one will catch your eye, before it and its eyeball neighbor closes forever.
A lot of bang for your bucks. Robust and dependable Seiko automatic movement. 200m water resistance. Dive-ready rubber or stainless steel strap. Automatic of course, and available in a red and blue bezel, or all black. Big fan of that crown placement at 4 o’clock too.
Timex has had a full blown renaissance in the last half decade (as you’ll see as you progress through this post). What used to be a forgotten junk brand finally got some purposeful style. The prices have remained cheap, but the looks? A heck of a lot better. That dark blue dial with the tan strap? That’s the wristwatch equivalent of a blue suit and cognac shoes. That combination works. And then some.
When some of the more affordable watch makers went off the deep end in terms of strange, almost Transformers/Voltron looking designs, Daniel Wellington launched and doubled down on the dead simple. Not even a date window on these things. Quartz movement of course. 40mm in diameter for the men’s styles. Plenty of bright striped fabric strap options, as well as more subdued leather bands.
That is one mighty fine looking throwback. Shades of Hamilton’s Pan Europ. 43.5 mm case (and what a nice shape it is), so not some wilting flower, but not overly bulky and feels great on the wrist. Ships and sold by Amazon at post time.
Lightweight timepiece on a beefy leather strap. Bertucci is the sort of watch company that specializes in one, authentic style. They’re a field watch company. That’s it, that’s the list. Drab colored dial on this one. Matte grey case. Japanese quartz movement.
The two models that don’t seem to go out of stock all that often. Been around for a while, and thanks to the upgraded movements (that now hack and hand wind) they’re that much more convenient. NOT over sized. Brilliant on the wrist without overwhelming. Beautiful domed cases. Something your grandfather could have worn, proudly. A bargain.
Looks like something Bruce Wane would wear. Classy and sharp. Even the black accented, textured crown looks like some real thought went into it. Quartz, but a sapphire crystal. And the powered-by-light thing is welcome by plenty. 41.5mm case diameter = wearable by most.
There might not be a better bang-for-the-buck diver on the market. Automatic movement that hacks and hand winds (the previous incarnation did neither). 200m water resistance. 120 click bezel helps keep track of elapsed time. Classic dive-watch looks.
Who? “Jack Mason” is a relatively new brand, and… the google machine seems to indicate that they might be an independent mark? Look, they’re a fashion brand instead of a high-quality watch maker, but they do have a good eye for style. And while it’s quartz movements and mineral crystals, if you like the looks? Why not? These do go on sale from time to time. Both are 42mm in diameter with 22mm bands. Ships and returns free via Nordstrom.
Sapphire coated crystal. Quartz of course, but at least it’s a Miyota. 42.5mm diameter with a 22mm lug width. Pretty darn sharp looking. Ships and returns for free via Nordstrom. Modern yet classic at the same time. One of the better looking dress chronos to debut in a good long time.
Dead damn simple. Small package at just 36mm in diameter. Small price. Legendary watch. Aviation inspired. Powered by a tough, inexpensive, Seiko 5 automatic movement. This is the kind of watch you’d see on many a wrist in a zombie apocalypse movie (as long as, y’know, the characters aren’t swimming through rivers, water resistance is just 30m). Exhibition caseback. Available in multiple color/strap combos.
Todd Snyder has been making some serious hay via his collaboration with Timex. First, they were once the exclusive US retailer for the Red Wing collection. Then? They came up with this throw back. Darts style dial. Grey NATO strap. Clean case.
It’s back! Not the easiest to find, but you get a lot of hard working watch for the cash. 300m water resistance means it should handle rough swimming with relative ease. Thick case has a very sturdy feel to it. Helium release valve at ten o’clock, while useless to the vast majority of us, helps give it a more sporty and balanced look. Movement hacks and hand winds. Looks terrific on a NATO strap as shown above. Sold via Huckberry at post time for the discounted price. Goes for just under $300 direct through Deep Blue. Looks like the black option (shown above) has been sold out, but the red is still available? For now?
An open-heart style with heavy styling influences from the 1970s motor-sport culture. Stationary bezel. Dependable Seiko 5 movement. No date, but an exhibition case back and a welcome 100m water resistance. 44mm diameter that seems to wear a bit smaller due to the case shape. Different for sure and not going to be for everyone, but will find a place on many a wrist.
The hugely popular, dead simple Timex “Fairfield” watch just got a chronograph big brother. Still simple, but if you like those sub dials? Then this should be a great option. Partially perforated strap is a nice, airy/spring-like touch too. Also available in a black on black ion-plated version for five bucks more.
Really outperforms the price tags. Black on black is sharp and absolutely suit worthy. The cream/beige dial sets off that retro-inspired font. Feels solid and well made. Chronograph function. 100m water resistance. Easy to wear 40mm case diameter.
A slightly less cluttered design compared to the currently on back order Military Watch by Todd Snyder. (On the 2.0 they took the cross-hairs out of the center of the dial.) Are those… brass or brassy-colored D-rings on the NATO strap? Nice.
I mean… look at it. A master class in combining retro aesthetics without falling into goofy/costume territory. Full review here.
Casio 200m Diver – $45ish (shown on after market strap)
Obligatory. Looks and feels like a much more expensive watch. Nice weight to it. Good water resistance. Classic good looks that don’t scream “I WAS CHEAP AS HELL!”
Made by the largest manufacturer of mechanical movements in the world (that’d be China’s Sea-Gull). It is an unabashed, some would say totally shameless “homage” to the much, MUCH more expensive Nomos Tangente. Same Bahaus looks, at a much more accessible price. Rotor isn’t as silent as most automatics, but it does have a sapphire crystal, and overall, the thing delivers. Full review here.
One of Seiko’s much beloved divers. 40mm case diameter that wears a bit larger. Nice weight to the watch, wears nice and comfortable on the wrist, and at its heart is a dependable Seiko 5 automatic. 100m meter water resistance instead of the usual 200m most divers come with. No screw down crown here. Doesn’t hack or hand wind either. But for those who dream of one day owning a Submariner or another high end dive watch? This is a great way to get some of that style satisfaction without taking out a 2nd mortgage. Comes and goes on Amazon.
Easily one of the most successful watch releases of the last couple of years. Timex took a couple designs from their retro-inspired Waterbury design, and paired it up with straps made from Red Wing boot leather. Available via Todd Snyder, or, Timex direct. Image above is via the Timex Instagram.
MEANWHILE… for those who prefer metal to leather. If you’re looking for a discount, you may have to wait for em’ to hit third party sellers (like Amazon) or, try signing up for their email list. Pretty sure the one time use code they send you for 15% off might work on these things.
A dress chronograph that frankly, I don’t quite understand why it isn’t kept in stock by more. Currently sold only by a 3rd party retailer on Amazon (which means it’s not even fulfilled by Amazon). Applied indices, multi-level dial, and sharp hands make it look much more expensive than the asking price. Looks great dressed up. Would also look really sharp on a brown leather strap. Even looks great upside down across a desk!
Dear Skagen: Please don’t stop making this watch. Ever. A seemingly perpetual high-style for a low-price favorite. Modern and minimalist, without being too modern and minimalist. Big fan of how they ditched the traditional date window at 3 o’clock, and instead transmit the day and date via sub-dials at six and twelve. Available in a couple different strap & dial combos, but it’s hard to beat the lean and mean looking silver dial on a black strap. 40mm case size. Nice and slim. Full review here.
Cleaner than the board of health and cheaper than possum steaks (make mine a New York strip… Rib Eye is a little too wiggly for me). No date or day window. Just simple hands and indices. Indiglo equipped. 41mm case diameter with a 20mm band width.
Zombie apocalypse imminent? Gimmie dis. Casual for sure, but the build quality, plus the fact that it’s powered by light means it can be a maintenance free go-to for years and years and years to come. Vintage military looks. Even the strap has metal grommets instead of cheap, punched out holes. Simple and intuitive. 42mm case. If you’d prefer something smaller, they make a very similar, non-chrono version which runs around $120.
The bigger, older brother of the Le Mans. Sure, it’s a quartz (Miyota), and yes the domed crystal is just mineral and not sapphire, but the looks are so well done that plenty of us overlook the sorta ho-hum specs. And the build quality really does feel nice and solid. Nothing flimsy, rickety, or noisy. Well made. Looks great. Tells the time and the 12 hour chronograph is a nice bonus. Also available direct through Armogan’s website for $232.
Secret Agent looks on a cubical worker’s budget. Good feel and solid, 200m water resistance too. Nice stainless steel band and case. Automatic movement. Exhibition case back. 40mm case dial. Also looks great on a rubber/silicone or leather strap. High end Swiss watch makers? They should subsidize Invicta’s production of this particular watch. This son-of-a-gun is a goddamned gateway drug if there ever was one.
The Please-Bring-It-Back: Orient Producer Automatic – $175ish
Full review here. Rest in peace Bae. 🙁
NOTE: As is always the case, get to know the return and warranty policy of the seller you’re purchasing from. Unless you’re buying direct from the brand, or a pricey authorized retailer, warranty details almost certainly won’t match up with the original guarantee. But, plenty of us have had a ton of luck with the likes of Amazon, Jomashop, etc, and that’s why those are linked to above, if the price is far better when compared to buying direct through the maker. Know of a watch that costs less than $300 and should have made the list? Feel free to send those tips in to: firstname.lastname@example.org