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Feature: The COOLEST $100 watches

If you’ve only got $100 to spend and you don’t fancy a meal out or the cinema, then how about a watch? And not a terrible watch, a good watch. One any collector would be proud to have in their collection. Sounds impossible, but I’m going to show you a selection that do exactly that.

Timex Waterbury Ocean 42mm Recycled Plastic Bracelet Watch TW2V37400QY

How many times have you been to the beach and decided to leave your fancy watch at home for fear of getting it all sandy and scratched? Even the biggest, bravest dive watches get coddled by owners who, quite frankly, don’t want to throw a load of money in the bin.

And that’s fair enough. Call them silly for buying a dive watch and not wearing it in the sea, but the days of a Rolex costing a few thousand pounds and taking the risk are long over. Even for a few thousand pounds it hardly seems worth the risk to prove your worth to the internet.

So how about this instead then, the Timex Waterbury Ocean. It’s a 42mm, very Rolex-y looking watch that’s water-resistant to 30m—enough to splash about in—and it costs a mere $100. It’s cheap, it’s quartz and it’s made of plastic—and that sounds terrible. Have I already gone back on my word of keeping things cool? No, because this plastic is a special kind of plastic.

Well, the plastic itself isn’t that special. It’s probably made of old car bumpers and insoles. The important thing here is those old bumpers and insoles were intercepted before they ended up in the sea. That’s because Timex partnered with a company called Tide that gathers up all our old crap and recycles it so we can turn it into new crap. And the Timex Waterbury Ocean.

The finished material has an almost celestial vibe to it thanks to what can only be little flecks of toothpaste tube and milk carton. Is it a brilliant watch that will stand the test of time? No, probably not, but at least you can be comfortable actually wearing it at the beach. A push-button single deployant clasp makes sure it stays attached to your wrist so the efforts of Tide and Timex weren’t all for nothing.

Timex Q Timex Reissue TW2T807007U

You’ve got to hand it to Timex—they sure know how to keep a modest bank balance happy. It’s not often you get to spend not very much money on an achingly cool watch and it actually live up to the promise of the pitch. There’s no trick here. You won’t pay your money and receive a picture of a really cool watch. You’ll actually get a really cool watch.

I’ll tell you about said watch. It’s the Timex Q Timex Reissue, a modern Timex watch that’s a reissue of a Timex watch from a previous generation of Timex watches, reissued to celebrate the release of said Timex. You follow? The watch was a quartz then and it’s a quartz now—hence the titular “Q”—and despite the intimation that you might have to queue for this particular integrated wonder, there’s no waitlist in sight.

Instead, there’s a 50m water resistant 38mm steel case with a bracelet that fits better than cheese on a pizza. Okay, so the bracelet has got an unholy appetite for arm hair, but once it’s gone, it’s gone, and from then the Q Timex wears comfortably. It’s like ripping off a band aid, but slowly, over the course of about a week, and it goes all the way around your wrist.

There’s not a whole lot else negative to say about it. The crystal is acrylic, so it’ll come out the other side of a sweater sleeve looking like it’s been dragged through a jungle, but that’s fine. It’s character building. If it was good enough for Neil Armstrong, I’m sure you’ll cope with it.

The most impressive thing about the watch is the fact it looks so darn good. It’s got that something about it, a balance of design and colour that avoids trying too hard whilst managing to make you feel like Steve McQueen’s cooler cousin.

I’m sorry to say it’s not $100, but Timex often do sales and it occasionally comes so close it may as well be. It’s a fantastic little watch and one that deserves a slot in any watch box.

Casio F-91W

The coolest watches are usually the ones that look like they’re trying the least. Try-hard anything is always cringe, and this couldn’t be any further from that. A firm favourite of basically everybody, the Casio F-91W is that one watch that transcends time and space to become a permanent fixture in people’s lives.

Seriously, some people will buy a nice watch to celebrate a birthday or a graduation, but there are few watches like this one that literally serve an entire lifetime. They’re cheap enough to have as a kid, rugged enough to last until adulthood and cool enough to stick around for the duration. Can you imagine parking up a watch that costs so little against a Patek Philippe Grand Complication and having the Grand Complication be the one that feels like it’s trying too hard? That’s the F-91W in a nutshell.

Whether a penniless child or a private jet-owning billionaire, if you have an F-91W on, you’re the daddy. Not only does it rep such complications as a chronograph, calendar and alarm, it also fits more comfortably under a cuff than pretty much any other grand comp. Which it sort of is.

That sounds like a heck of a lot of watch for just $100. Well, it’s not even $100. More like $20. You could probably get it for less if you really wanted to. You could buy another in one of the many fun colours it’s also available in for weekends too and still get change from a fifty.

Why is this watch so revered? Casio actually makes better watches than this for slightly more or even the same. Well, what more can I say than this is the one. Did you have one of those others when you were a kid? No, you had this one. Sometimes there are things in the universe that just can’t be understood, that are okay just to appreciate. This is one of them.

Seiko SNXS79

This next one is pretty time sensitive, because there aren’t many left. It’s the go-to, entry level mechanical watch from Seiko, and they aren’t making any more of them. Well, how are you supposed to get one then? Thankfully because it’s Seiko, they made about a bazillion of them, so the last few unsold are still in reasonable supply. But they won’t be forever.

If you’ve ever fancied yourself a Rolex but you realised you were about a factor of a hundred out on cost, this is the watch you want. Not a watch like it—this. This is the SNXS79. For your $100, you get a 37mm case in steel on a steel bracelet, packing a calibre 7S26, which is a no-joke, fully functional automatic movement.

It’s not like those watches you can get on holiday with the date stuck on and the rotor weight connected to nothing. It all works. Okay, it’s not going to give you blinding performance with its 41 hours of power reserve and accuracy enough to make you seriously late it you don’t reset it after a month, but it’s a real, working mechanical movement for just $100.

It’s not a bad looker either. In fact, it’s way better-looking than it should be. Sunburst dial? Applied, lumed markers? Day and date? These are the kinds of things you’d expect of watches that have a multiplier of ten on this price. The crown is a little naff-looking poking out a bit at four o’clock, but are you really going to complain? Really? If you do, you’re just missing out on the chance to get one before they’re gone.

Casio G-Shock Octagon Series GA-2100-1A1ER

You might think the Casio F-91W is the coolest Casio, and it just might be—but not before it’s had to bloody up the G-Shock Octagon a little bit. This is the GA-2100, better known as the Casioak because of its uncanny resemblance to Audemars Piguet’s hideously expensive Royal Oak.

The GA-2100 is not, however, very expensive. It’s $100. And you’ve got the opportunity to make those one hundred very well spent dollars, because the Casioak is fantastic. It’s an “if not, why not,” watch. That is to say, do you have one? If not, why not?

I won’t pretend to know what the dials and screens on it actually mean, and what the buttons are supposed to do, because I don’t know and I kind of don’t care. It’s got dials and screens. You don’t need to know what they do. They’re already cool enough to want with an inhuman passion.

The rugged 48.5mm case gets 200m of water-resistance and is of course stuffed with Casio’s G-Shock impact-resistant technology, so there’s little to no excuse for not wearing this watch. Okay, maybe not to your wedding, but only because you don’t want to show up how much cooler than your partner you are.

It’s filled with gadgetry of course, and for a bit more money you can get a Bluetooth version too. I don’t know why you’d want a Bluetooth version, but if you do, you can. It won’t make you any cooler though, as this is already maxing out the scale at a perfect five out of seven.