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Feature: 5 Affordable Watches Under $1,000

Luxury watches are expensive, right? Wrong! They certainly can be, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Here are five luxury watches that won’t even cost you $1,000.

Timex Q Timex Reissue TW2T807007U

If you like nostalgic throwbacks, bright blue and red colour schemes and spending less than $200 on your watches, then the American Timex Q Timex Reissue has quite non-literally got your name on it. When Timex wistfully remembered the 1979 Q Timex and how popular it was back then, they could hardly wait to rekindle that success all over again. With this combo of stunning good looks and bargain basement affordability, bringing it back was a complete no-brainer.

The 38mm watch borrows from all the most popular Swiss watches of the period, from the Rolex GMT-Master II to the hallowed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. You could call it a rip-off, and really it is, but when the deed was done almost half a century ago—and when the price is so low—there’s not a whole lot to complain about. It’s not like any of the other Timex offerings have captured the imagination anywhere near as well.

Of course, for less than $200 you’re not going to be expecting the best watchmaking has to offer. The bracelet links are folded metal and love to get closely acquainted with your arm hair; the crystal is plastic and will likely end up more scratched than a winning lottery ticket; and of course it’s powered by a quartz movement, with the added benefit at least of being able to easily change the battery yourself.

But when a watch is this good for this little, all that really doesn’t matter, and it’s why you’ll see them in collections alongside watches costing ten if not twenty times as much. It’s a looker, it’s a genuine part of watchmaking history and it’ll cost you less than a meal for two at a decent restaurant. Winner!

Tissot PRX T137.410.11.041.00

Okay, so let’s say the Timex is doing everything right for you … almost. Let’s say it just falls a little short of all the things you want most in a watch, and that you’re willing to pay a couple hundred bucks more to iron that out. You want it to be properly Swiss made, you want the quality to be up there and you want it to have proper heritage—all for less than $400.

A tall order, you might think, to effectively triple the Q Timex’s output by only doubling the price, but Tissot are here to tell you that’s possible with the PRX. You want a Swiss watch? This is it. It says so on the dial. The Swiss get very funny about that, requiring 60% of the watch’s value as a minimum to be made in Switzerland, so when they say, they mean it. Or guess what? Jail.

So, it’s Swiss. Awesome. How about the quality? To be honest, the jump in finish to this PRX really belies the $375 price. If anything, it looks like it should cost much, much more. The links are solid, the 40mm case well-finished, the dial popping with a hit of blue sunburst and the hands and markers gleaming with a bright polish. Never mind being an expensive Timex—this is a cheap Rolex Oysterquartz.

Yeah, it’s still a quartz, but it’s a Swiss one at least. If you’re looking for a fix of heritage with the watch, the movement won’t give it to you—but the brand will. Tissot has been making watches since—as the dial will attest—1853, being one of Switzerland’s older watchmakers. And if you so desperately want the cherry on the cake with a Swiss mechanical movement too, then an extra $275 will get you that as well.

Furlan Marri Havana Salmon Ref.1031-A

Sticking with the quartz theme, perhaps your interests lie in the chronograph arena? There’s something very visually appealing about the combo of pushers and sub-dials that make a chronograph watch pop, but usually to get one you’ll be reaching far deeper into your pocket than perhaps you’d like. Don’t worry, because Kickstarter brand Furlan Marri have you covered.

By using a Seiko VK64 mecaquartz—a quartz movement with a mechanical chronograph module for the best chronograph feel—and a whole dose of inspiration from Patek Philippe’s back catalogue, Furlan Marri gives us ordinary folk a taste of the highlife without robbing us blind. At just $500, you can wear a watch that looks and feels far more expensive than it is. Sounds like the dream!

Throw in a pleasing 38mm size and particular care to get the proportions just right and you’ve got yourself a watch that seems to do a lot more than it should for the money. It really does look like it’s been unearthed fresh from a time capsule buried in the 1930s, free of the usual bloating and other weirdness today’s manufacturers insist on to bring vintage reissues up to modern sizes.

Unfortunately, such is the popularity of Furlan Marri’s offerings that there aren’t any left, but the brand insists more will be along shortly—and if you really just can’t do without a full mechanical watch, we’re told those will be coming soon as well.

Baltic BICOMPAX 002

If you can’t be bothered to wait for Furlan Marri to get their act together, however, and you want a vintage-inspired mechanical chronograph on your wrist now for less than $1,000, then French brand Baltic has got your back. The Bicompax 002 gets the same 1930s treatment, complete with a contrasting sector dial and textured finishes that should make any fan of men's watches weak at the knees.

All looks and feels very similar to the Furlan Marri, and at around $600 is priced very similarly as well, so how has Baltic managed to do what Furlan Marri couldn’t and fit its chronograph with a genuine mechanical movement? The answer is China and the Seagull ST1901 hand winding movement.

Before you recoil in horror, you should know that Seagull has been making watch movements out of China since 1955, and while they may not be the most well-finished or best-performing, they do tend to be sturdy and reliable—and for this money, you’ve not really got much else to choose from.

If that’s a real fly in the ointment for you, perhaps this will begin to turn you around: for a little extra, you can have a see-through case back on the 38mm case that will let you see the movement with your own eyes. And believe me, that’s a good thing, because the ST1901, being hand wound, is actually a rather pleasant thing to look at, and the perfect vintage-esque touch to a watch that looks so far back in time for its inspiration.

Baltic MR01 Salmon

But perhaps you’re looking for more, to stretch your $1,000 budget to the absolute max. You want not only beautiful watchmaking on the outside, but something special on the inside too. Well, here’s Baltic again for round two with the MR01, and what it’s packing for the $650-asking price just about near blew my socks off.

If you think of all the best watchmakers, chances are you’ll find a theme in the ultra-thin, and the way that’s usually done is by incorporating a micro rotor, a shrunk down version of the normal winding weight, that tucks neatly into the movement itself. But those are usually very expensive, and definitely not to be found in a watch costing this much.

Usually, because Baltic has partnered with another Chinese watchmaker to bring you the calibre 5000A, putting the MR in the MR01’s name. The micro rotor movement is surprisingly attractive and even more surprisingly thin, bringing the 36mm case down to a tiny 9.9mm thick. It’s not the biggest watch for sure, but if you’re looking for something in the vein of a dress watch and don’t want to spend big money, this is a very serious contender.

So, there you have it, five reasons you don’t have to spend big to win big when it comes to watchmaking. Whether you want seventies style, Swiss watchmaking, rich heritage, there’s something for everyone for a thousand and under. What are some of your favourite affordable watches?

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