Looking for a nice, reasonalby priced watch.
November 25, 2007 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a good wrist watch for myself for Christmas, 400$ or less please.

I'm a 19 year old male, no experience with watches besides the whole 20$ cheap mall watches I got to keep track of how long i was running etc.

- Stainless steel/metal band please however I'm open to suggestions for a leather banded watch if you've had an extremely good experience with them.

- Anything from 400-500$ would have to be a really good jump in quality please.

- Able to go underwater and come out still working is a definite plus.

If you think I'd be better off waiting until I get closer to graduation to ask/get myself a watch I'm also willing to listen to those reasons and hold off on a watch for another 2 years.
posted by Sgt.Grumbless to Shopping (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You can find lots of really nice watches for a lot less than that. I have a really nice Bulova Marine Star I got for $140... All stainless, water resistant to 200 meters... There's tons of them online.
posted by pupdog at 11:05 PM on November 25, 2007

The thing about watches is that, in terms of quality, a quartz movement is a quartz movement. Your $20 casio keeps time about as well as a Rolex.

At around $100, I like Skagens. They're thin, sleek, they use nice metals, and they look cool.

At around $400, people seem to like Hamiltons.

That's all I can think of. My in-laws bought me a ridiculously overpriced Swiss number, so I'm outta the watch-buying game these days.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:06 PM on November 25, 2007

2 Perspectives:

1) You want something that will look awesome to old white men, and good quality too.
Anything you buy now for 400-500 will be kind of a gimmick, like a weird way of telling time, or a funny material. The real jump in percieved opulence happens around 1500 or so, with a Rolex, Tag Heuer, Oris, Cartier, Panerai, etc. Wait till graduation.

2) You want a sweet looking watch that will look cool to other people.
Check out U-Boat, some go under 1000. These things are gigantic, they dwarf my wrist, and look cool. Also, tokyoflash has some awesome watches with really impractical ways of telling time that you should check out:
And my girlfriend chimes in, "toy watch". These are for the fashion conscious, and they are made of plastic.

Just remember, quality is all a complete myth in the world of watches. That $10 fossil has a movement that will last 30 years, just like that rolex. Unless, of course, you want that automatic watch. Personally, I waited for the rolex, and I was happy; especially since I buy
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:06 PM on November 25, 2007

Seconding Skagen.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:16 PM on November 25, 2007

I've had a couple Casio Oceanus watches that I've liked. They're all under $300 and waterproof, most are steel, and they look good. They also have various nifty features and keep perfect time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:18 PM on November 25, 2007

From personal experience, I heavily recommend Seikos. They have a bajillion different models and variations, and they're well made. I've beaten the tar out of mine, and it's never let me down. You can get both traditional-looking watches and more 'sporty' dive watches in waterproof forms, either in quartz or self-winding movements.

The watch I wear every day is an almost 18 year old Seiko, and I've dragged it across four continents and through unspeakable muck. (Interestingly, the only problem I ever had was it was when I took it into a hot spring in Iceland and left the stem unscrewed -- water entered and jammed the setting mechanism, but not the movement itself. A few bucks for cleaning and it was good as new, and I was off Icelandic time...)

Even the more expensive models rarely go for more than $400, and there are many models in the low $200s. Even the chronos are mostly around $300. They even have some perpetual calendar models for $220ish (although not waterproof, I think).

I won't lie, every once in a while I get tempted by one of the kilobuck German or Swiss watches, but frankly I can't imagine a better watch, either in terms of functionality or styling, so why would I want to pay more for it?

All the prices I'm quoting are from Princeton Watches, which just happened to be at the top of a Google result and has a lot of models with photos.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:19 PM on November 25, 2007

I like my Rotolog.
posted by floam at 11:21 PM on November 25, 2007

I've got one of the St Moritz-Momentum watches as shown here, a plainish one with a titanium case and crystal glass. Very durable and reasonably priced. I've had it in and out of a lot of fresh and salt water, caves, dirt, etc. Seems ok to me.
posted by Rumple at 11:22 PM on November 25, 2007

Going along with floam, Nixon makes some nice watches that meet your criteria. I've got very little watch snob street cred, though, so you may want to let one of them chime in.
posted by IvyMike at 11:26 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a Nike kids' watch that I've repurchased twice now because although they fall apart quickly, they cost $40 and I've gotten tons of compliments on the one I have. It's hard to argue with admiration and functionality when the durability of a $40 product is lacking.

Don't rule out the cheap and pretty, is all I'm saying. With $400 you could buy ten of my watches, which would last you, to be frank, maybe 15 years. But how long do you intend to have the watch you're shopping for?
posted by crinklebat at 11:36 PM on November 25, 2007

I have a Tissot PR50 Titanium. Very hardy, fantastic workmanship and looks classy too! Linky
posted by puddpunk at 11:38 PM on November 25, 2007

if the underwater thing is not indispensable, get yourself from a reputable seller (there's plenty on eBay) a vintage Zenith; it's a wonderful brand, I inherited 2, from my father and paternal grandfather, their stuff from the 1950-60s is excellent and affordable and will keep its value if you resell

if you really want metal and underwater instead, and can not or don't want to invest in a vintage Rolex or Speedmaster, save your money and get a cheap Seiko, you'll be OK
posted by matteo at 11:56 PM on November 25, 2007

I guess up to 400$ would have been a better way to put it, no need to spend more than is necessary. Thanks for all the responses, didn't even think about it because I've never really been in the market for a half-way decent watch. So thanks again.
posted by Sgt.Grumbless at 12:29 AM on November 26, 2007

In your price range you have to decide if you want a more classic watch or a chrono/dive watch. The chrono/dive gives you a lot of bells and whistles which you will probably never use (and if you really need those functions you're better off going with a nice digital number.)

Personally I prefer watches with more classic layouts, one stem for setting the time and maybe a date function. No dials or moon phases or anything wacky like that.

Avoid over the top, crazy ass, super sized "designer" watches... they will make you look like a tool in the wrong setting (which is anywhere outside of a dance club.)

Simple, classy, dressy but little sporty is what you're going for. Something that will look good whether you're wearing a dress shirt or a t-shirt.

I highly recommend Seiko. I don't care what anyone says... they are hands down one of the best values in the world. $200 will put in to a classic looking watch that will last you 20 or 30 years, maybe more.

I just bought this one and I'm very pleased with it.

Whatever you do, don't covet douche watches like Rolex or Tag... those are for people who sale cars for a living.
posted by wfrgms at 12:37 AM on November 26, 2007

Seconding Tissot recommendation, I also have a PR50, but mine is a chrono. I hate watches and wear them only as jewelry and this is an incredibly comfortable, classy and hard-wearing watch. Also, sapphire face means that while you let the casing and strap get gently worn in and full of character, the glass remains utterly pristine. I lurves it!
posted by Iteki at 1:01 AM on November 26, 2007

Damn. I really wish I could recommend you look at quality vintage watches from reputable dealers -- you really can't beat 'em for impressing old guys or having something totally cool and unique -- but maybe they aren't the best choice for a first "good" watch. Especially if you're taking the watch underwater (you can't guarantee watertightness on old watches unless you renew the seals, which usually means additional work by a qualified watchmaker.) Sporting an old watch is one of those things, like a barbershop shave and haircut, that instantly connects you to past generations of guydom. That's a nice thing to be able to do so like I said, damn.

If you're feeling super-masochistic and think you might want (and be able to live with) a vintage watch after all, PM me to discuss. Otherwise, maybe you want to think about something new but with a solid dude vibe.

Other posters have made excellent suggestions, Casio and Seiko especially; I'm going to muddy the waters a bit with a couple less-well-known brands offering lines with a high Dude factor.

I can't vouch for the brand personally, but I like the looks of these Laco watches, and they're reasonably water-resistant and in your price range. I've seen them offered by some well-respected dealers who stand behind their wares, so the quality is probably pretty good.

's business was built on reasonably-priced watches with styling inspired by classic, masculine designs. Quality-wise, they're supposed to be pretty solid. Take a look at their Diver Series -- most, if not all of these should fall well within your price range after the typical heavy on-line discount. Look at their full catalog here and here if you think you might like a different style.

Ollech & Wajs is another brand you might want to look at.

Most watch discussion boards are full of decent info but concentrate on expensive timepieces. The solution? Check out the posts on the Poor Man's Watch Forum. This site specializes in watches under $1000 and the posters seem to know their stuff. PMWF maintains lists of current past and future "Top 20" best watch buys -- most of these are under $500. Definitely look at those lists.
posted by Opposite George at 1:36 AM on November 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

Since no-one welse has mentioned them, I'll suggest a Citizen Eco-Drive. I've got a very nice Chronograph from them that I picked up about 4 years ago for £75 (about $150).

The "cool trick" they've got is that they're solar powered, and hence don't need the battery replacing. No battery replacement means no need to crack open the waterproof seal and hence, while I'd never go diving with it, I'm fairly comfortable with letting it get wet.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 1:48 AM on November 26, 2007

Oh, and since it would suck if your final choice gets trashed when you take it into water, read this discussion of water resistance specs and how they translate to acceptable use. Also, no watch, save a handful of very expensive exceptions, will retain its water resistance if you push the buttons under water, so don't do that.
posted by Opposite George at 1:50 AM on November 26, 2007

There are lots of good reasons not to buy the same cheap watch over and over again...For instance, how about the sense that it's not going to unexpectedly crap out when you really need it to work? Or maybe you'd like to give it to your kid someday? And on and on.

I've owned a few very nice (but not terribly expensive) watches, and I feel like I've changed as many watch batteries as I need to for the rest of my life. Therefore, all of my nicer watches wind/charge themselves.

In that vein, two suggestions (I've owned both):

1. Citizen Eco-Drive
2. Seiko Kinetic

If you get one of the above in a simple style that pleases your aesthetic, you'll find it hard to go wrong.

I've been wearing my Citizen for about five years now. It's a lovely two-tone design with a black face. It's solar, has a stopwatch, alarm, only needs the date set once, and can keep track of one time zone other than home.

I don't take it off when I swim. I've dropped it on cement floors, smacked it on walls as I've walked/run past, and hit it on very large rocks as I've stumbled on hikes. It's got a nick here or there, but it really doesn't seem to care about all that.

I get compliments on it all the time. It may just be my favorite Christmas present ever. Also, if you comparison shop, you can really snag a great deal. This one listed at $350, but my wife managed to leverage a couple of sales and bought it for $210.

Really. The budget you've stated is plentiful. Get yourself a watch you can love for years and years. If it's dependable and it looks nice, then it's well worth the investment.
posted by SlyBevel at 2:02 AM on November 26, 2007

Personally, I am extremely partial to Movado watches.

Recognizable by most people, but rare enough that it stands out. Looks good dressy and casual, and depending on the model, extreemly durable. Heck, this thanksgiving my father complimented me on the one I was wearing. A pleasant surprise from a person who usually doesn't notice details such as that.

The price range is about right for some of the lower end models and even some of the higher end if you look for one of their outlet stores or have no objection to checking pawn shops.
posted by petethered at 2:49 AM on November 26, 2007

Oh, and Rado watches are VERY slick, but most likely outside of your price range, but I haven't bargain shopped around for one so I may be wrong.
posted by petethered at 2:52 AM on November 26, 2007

For that sort of money, Ollech & Wajs make lots of great everyday watches that are the real thing.
posted by col at 3:04 AM on November 26, 2007

2. Seiko Kinetic

I had one, and it crapped out. I am sure it could be fixed, but I didn't love it enough to want to spend $300 fixing a $350 watch. It lasted about four or five years of everyday wear, getting banged around, getting wet, etc, so it wasn't like I didn't get any use out of it.

But my real point here is that in retrospect I would suggest either buying a cheapish watch (perhaps $100 max) that you simply plan to replace when it dies, or buy a really nice watch (of whatever price) that you are committed to getting serviced and repaired for decades. The in-between watches, that are semi-nice and semi-worth repairing, I am no longer a fan of -- you pay a lot, but don't get so much out of them as you do with the cheap ones or with the really nice ones. (And by really nice, I don't mean automatically spending $20,000 -- there are some fantastically wonderful vintage watches available for surprisingly affordable prices on some of the links above -- by nice I mean something that has a "feel" of quality, and with the classic styling that looked good thirty years ago and will look great thirty years from now.)

The cheapest way to go is to just own a series of Timex or Casio $30 watches, replacing when the battery dies (I've never had them be 100% waterproof after a battery change, even when I had the fancy shop do the work, but I am probably rougher on my watches than most people). A couple of years ago I bought myself a nice, light (titanium case) analog watch from St. Moritz; they do in-house servicing and promise to extend the warranty to six years if you have the service done by them. I feel like I've gotten my $100 worth already -- the watch looks really nice and gets compliments; it has survived a lot of salt-water immersion and rough treatment, too -- so if it dies tomorrow I won't be angry, and my cost per year will have been about the same as it was when I was going through a Timex per year.

At least once a year I go into a nice shop and look at and handle the kinds of mechanical watches you can get if you are willing to pay up to a couple of thousand dollars. The drooling is fun, but so far I have not chosen to actually buy one. Someday I will buy a vintage mechanical, but my gut feeling is that they wouldn't hold up to how I wear watches, and I would need to treat it more like jewelry than a timepiece -- taking it off when I go swimming, taking it off when I will be crawling under the house, etc. And right now what I need is a watch, not a piece of jewelry, so I go and I look and listen to the mechanical sounds, but I don't buy.
posted by Forktine at 5:07 AM on November 26, 2007

Seiko, Citizen, Bulova, Tissot. Not necessarily in that order.
posted by rhizome at 7:45 AM on November 26, 2007

I've made this point before, and I hope it's not unwelcome, but keep in mind that you're really just buying jewelry. Your phone keeps better time than your watch will, and it probably has all the chronograph stuff too.

I mean, in modern technological context, a wrist watch is kinda silly: a device that you strap on your wrist that has one function -- it tells the time. (If Apple were to invent the wrist watch today, call it the iTime, it would be a huge flop. Where's my mp3? No camera? Bluetooth?? Why would anybody want this silly thing?) So forget about accuracy, features, and such -- just buy something that looks nice, goes with your clothes, etc.

There are lotsa vintage watches on eBay, stuff worn by guys in the trenches in WW1, or used by train conductors.. I just think they have lot more character than new stuff. And if they lose 60 seconds every day, who cares? Check your phone if you want the time. If the wrist watch is a throwback, then by god make it a "throwback"!
posted by LordSludge at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2007

My current watch is a Vostok sub commander, supplied by Russian Watches International . The site also supply a range of underwater watches, for example this Amphibia Submariner Watch. Watches like this are a bit different as pointed out by Lordsludge, and it will leave you some money left over for a more dressy watch in the future.

My five year old wind up is still running fine, and although initially feeling a bit heavy (military replica Vostoks are quite chunky), I got used to it in no time. Metal Bracelets can be supplied, and you might find something on the site you like.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2007

For your $400-$500 whatzitsname, I'd get 4 or 5 Skagen's and have one for every day of the week.

Oh, wait. I already have.
posted by deCadmus at 10:08 AM on November 26, 2007

And I have no idea how that apostate apostrophe sneaked into the above message.
posted by deCadmus at 10:10 AM on November 26, 2007

Solar. Atomic.
Also, Citizen is an excellent quality watch (but not atomic).

If you are going to wear it every day for the rest of your life, and for $400 bucks you should, then wear something nice for Pete's sake.
posted by ewkpates at 10:23 AM on November 26, 2007

I'm also throwing in my vote for Seiko Kinetics. I've had a couple since high school, and of course have beat the tar out of them as well. my current one I got 3 years ago, and it's almost as sparkly as when I received it. And God knows how annoying watch batteries are to deal with...

Although, if you're going for a more current style, I'd take a look at Nixon watches. There are quite a few models that push the non-traditional angle, but still are classy and functional.
posted by blastrid at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2007

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