Every watch collection has to start somewhere, and often that initial watch purchase is on a somewhat restricted budget. Here’s an introduction to entry-level mechanical watches from 10 brands. To narrow the field down, we only considered men’s watches with a case diameter of 37 mm or greater.
ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL 39 ($5,700)
In 2015, the world’s best-known watch brand presented a new basic model, which remains its lowest-priced men’s watch. In return for $5,700, the buyer gets Rolex’s typical advantages: high-quality craftsmanship, a modern manufacture caliber, a case made of saltwater-resistant 904L stainless steel – and very little danger that this watch will depreciate in value. The 39-mm case contains self-winding chronometer-certified Caliber 3132. The Oyster Perpetual 39 is available with either a gray or a blue dial. For our test of the watch, click here.
BREITLING COLT AUTOMATIC $3,025
Breitling’s least costly mechanical watch has also earned a chronometer certificate. A buyer who parts with $3,025 not only gets certified precision but also enjoys numerous features that are helpful for divers – a unidirectionally rotating bezel with a luminous dot; a 44-mm stainless-steel case that remains water resistant to 200 meters and includes a screw-down crown; and a black, blue or silver-colored dial with bright, luminous displays. Read our review of the Colt Automatic here.
OMEGA DE VILLE PRESTIGE CO-AXIAL ($3,600)
The De Ville with a 39.5-mm stainless-steel case sells for $3,600 and is Omega’s most affordably priced watch for men. The brand’s own automatic Caliber 2500 offers extremely strong protection against magnetic fields and also includes a first-generation co-axial escapement which, like its current successor, guarantees uniform rate values. The accuracy is officially confirmed by the COSC, Switzerland’s independent chronometer-testing authority.
TISSOT GENTLEMAN SWISSMATIC ($365)
You may be surprised to see what you can get from Tissot for just $365: a sapphire crystal above the dial, a pane of mineral glass in the back, water resistance to 100 meters and an automatic movement with a three-day power reserve. One reason for the good price-performance ratio is the synergy of the Swatch Group: subsidiaries supply their sister company Tissot with movements and other components. This 44-mm watch is on a cowhide strap secured by a pin buckle.
TAG HEUER FORMULA 1 CALIBRE 5 ($2,000)
Like Breitling, TAG Heuer offers its entry-level model in a divers’-watch style. With a rotating bezel, a rubber strap and water resistance to 200 meters, this 41-mm stainless-steel watch costs $2,000. What TAG Heuer designates as Calibre 5 is ETA’s self-winding Caliber 2824, which is frequently encased in entry-level mechanical watches.
JUNGHANS FORM A (840 euros)
Junghans has long offered affordable designer watches in its Max Bill and Meister lines. Now there’s an even less costly automatic watch: the Form A. This 39.1-mm stainless-steel model encases ETA Caliber 2824, costs 840 euros, and offers both a sapphire crystal above the dial and a pane of toned mineral glass in the back. An interesting detail: the quadratic minutes indices are stamped into the dial.
HUBLOT CLASSIC FUSION TITANIUM ($7,200)
Fans of mechanical timepieces can part with $7,200 to own Hublot’s most affordable men’s watch: the Classic Fusion with a 42-mm-diameter case, rather than the 45-mm version. (The smaller diameter is actually Hublot’s unisex size.) This watch is animated by Sellita’s Caliber SW300, which is produced in large series. The Classic Fusion is the more elegant alternative to the sporty chronographs in Hublot’s Big Bang line, whose prices for men’s models start at $12,500 for either an all-steel 44-mm version or a 41-mm steel and ceramic one.
SEIKO PRESAGE SRPB41 ($450)
This Japanese manufacturer’s portfolio starts at a low price: only $450 is needed to purchase an automatic watch with a manufacture movement, a stainless-steel case and bracelet, and a screw-down see-through caseback. Caliber 4R35 has a 41-hour power reserve and both hand and automatic winding capabilities. It shows hours, minutes, central seconds and date. This 40.5-mm Seiko Presage watch has a box-shaped crystal and is water resistant to 50 meters.
PATEK PHILIPPE AQUANAUT ($18,939)
Like all Aquanaut models, Reference 5167A-001 unites a sporty design and a finely decorated manufacture movement. Automatic Caliber 324 S C with date display ticks inside a 40-mm stainless-steel case with a pane of sapphire crystal in the back. The wristband is made of abrasion-resistant and nonfading composite material that’s embossed with the same pattern as the dial. This Patek Philippe steel watch for men is priced at $18,939.
THE ALCHEMIST ($62.95)