Elegant classic unisex watch?
October 21, 2018 12:29 AM   Subscribe

It may be time for a new watch soon, because my Tissot Classic Dream is hiccupping all over the place despite a new battery and two cleanings by different watchmakers. I'm tempted to just buy another of those cheap Tissots, because this thing lasted nearly nine years, but maybe something else can fit my requirements below?

- budget up to $500 if this'll last me over a decade
- absolute must: Roman numerals with a classic "wrong" watch four (IIII)
- probably technically a men's watch, because all female ones in this style have bling argh
- 38 mm / 1.5" diameter or thereabouts - substantial enough, but not overpowering on the wrist of a nearly 6' tall woman
- corporate lawyer/classic aesthetic, nothing rugged, action-oriented or rubber
- a non-metal strap that'll get exchanged for black leather anyway, I go through straps like one per year
- goes well with black / dark clothing and silver jewelry
- wouldn't say no to: date, moon phases, some kind of visible mechanism bits (I keep ogling tourbillon watches but they're all gigantic)
- not terribly important: brand name cachet
posted by I claim sanctuary to Shopping (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure other people will have solid recommendations, but if you were happy with your Tissot I'd just get another one. I did extensive research last time I bought a watch as a gift, and ended up with a Tissot because everything I found suggested it was the best quality without being insanely expensive.

I bought a Skagen for myself, but that was mostly because I wanted a classic-looking hybrid smartwatch. Based on my last Skagen I don't expect it to last a decade.
posted by ersatzhuman at 6:19 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

A Seiko Presage might be a good choice for you. This one ticks all your boxes (the metal band is removable) for instance. It will last indefinitely with regular maintenance (it is mechanical and must be lubricated periodically and adjusted for timekeeping rarely). This is one of Seiko's mid range movements and should run quite well. The Presage line includes some beautiful enamel dialed watches at about double the price, and some at the same price that meet most (but not all) of your requirements.

If you want longevity, I suggest avoiding tourbillons at this price range. Open heart dials are just fine, though, if you can find one that meets your other requirements.
posted by dbx at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Aside from the roman numeral thing, Momentum are solid yet have no brand-name markup. I used to be a watch destroyer, but the Momentum I got in 2004 still looks new. The one I have is all titanium with a sapphire crystal. If you can destroy a titanium strap, you should maybe reassess your life choices …
posted by scruss at 8:16 AM on October 21, 2018

Hi there, watch freak here. Tons of pieces out there that meet your recommendations, but based on your requirements I'd heartily recommend the following. All of these would last you a lifetime provided you service every 7-10 years or so:

Seiko SARX019

Orient Star RK-AU0002S

Stowa Marine 36

Sea-Gull 819.368
posted by lecorbeau at 10:44 AM on October 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

By the way, I live and breathe this stuff (don't believe me?), so if you have any more questions feel free to PM me. And while we're on the subject, I just thought of another suggestion for you. It's a wee outside your budget and a bit larger at 40mm, but Frederique Constant makes a great watch for not *that* much dough.
posted by lecorbeau at 10:56 AM on October 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

This Tissot is an upgrade to their Automatic and seems to fit your requirements. Jomashop is "grey market" so you'll get their warranty and not the Manufacturers, but I have bought from them without issue (and saved a bit of money). I agree with lecorbeau on the value of a Frederique Constant, as well.
posted by Crease Lambada at 11:02 AM on October 21, 2018

I really like the Stowa Marine Klassik . It comes in 36 and 40 mm. It's a little more expensive than your budget but you can also get them used. My husband has a Stowa Flieger that's going strong at 10+ years.

Aaand I see lecorbeau already came in ahead on this, but I'm going to leave it here just because I think they're a great small company.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:35 AM on October 21, 2018

Seiko will give you the most watch for your money, especially at 38-40mm. (A vintage Seiko at 38mm would probably suit you to the ground, but vintage is always tricky.) The Hamilton Valiant in black is in your range if you go with Jomashop, but I think the Tissot Le Locle beats it.
posted by holgate at 4:04 PM on October 21, 2018

So many pretty watches! I went into a watch shop to take a look at the most promising Seikos and alas, the subtle striping and the shape of the case just... grates. I may be too picky.

I also tripped and fell with my wrist straight into this Bulova 96a172 which is !!! but:
- never even heard of Bulova, and it seems like they're lower-quality than things like Tissot, Seiko etc?
- extra 24-hour dial is frankly ridiculous, do people not know if it's morning or evening?
- I have never had an automatic and I suspect it doesn't chime with my lifestyle of only wearing a watch when I go out on business - I often go for two-three days without wearing my watch, and on vacations up to a week - but all the pretty watches people recommended are automatics?

I think I'm going to go have a headache now...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:04 PM on October 22, 2018

Bulova as a brand has a long history, though it's now a sub-brand of Citizen. It's legit. The reason to suggest automatics is budget: for quartz or even some kind of hybrid like solar / Kinetic / Eco-Drive you get diminishing returns after about $250 unless you're paying for diver-level water resistance or actual bling.

(This tonneau quartz is fun, but alas IV instead of IIII.)
posted by holgate at 3:47 PM on October 22, 2018

There aren't a lot of shops that will have a decent stock of 'nice' watches. Bulova etc. are what I think of as mall jewelry store brands, and I wouldn't consider them myself. If you're getting quartz just get a dial you like and forget about the brand etc. (with some rare exceptions like the new longines VHP). Nicer watches are found at stores that specialize in them; if you're ina good sized city you can probably find one with a decent used inventory. If I wanted to see them in person before buying, that's where I'd start.

If you're in Columbus Ohio or Minneapolis I can make suggestions of such stores, too.
posted by dbx at 8:17 PM on October 26, 2018

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