I don’t have to take any time to explain the value of wearing a watch. It is a statement piece. It says a lot about you. It says you give a shit. It says you’re not glued to your smartphone. But most Gen-Y men simply can’t afford a Rolex or an Omega or any watch that costs many thousands of dollars. But that doesn’t mean you can only wear a Fossil or a Casio (not taking anything away from those brands, and they many some great watches.)
There are also a ton of insanely-affordable antique watches out there that you can buy and have cleaned up for the price of a few video games.
A reputable jeweler can give even a rusty and non-working watch a good cleaning and repair for about $125. This does does not and should not apply to crazy expensive and rare watches. I’m talking about the ones we’re going to find at estate sales and online.
Here a few watches I’m currently looking at — and please add your own below in the comments section!
1. A vintage 1960s Bulova Date King
Bulova has made a ton of watches over the years. If you want an old watch that’s not too flashy, but is accurate, reliable, and looks good with jeans or a suit, you can’t beat a 1960s Date King for the money. I got this 1964 Bulova Date KIng on eBay for $26.50. After a good cleaning, it will be a great accessory.
One note about these watches (and most inexpensive vintage watches) is that they are manual. On the plus side, there are no batteries. On the negative side, you have to wind the watch pretty much every day.
2. United States Military A-11
The watch that won the war. If you want to wear the watch your grandfather wore throughout World War II (and if he still has the original, treasure it…) buy an A-11.
These are military spec watches — not to say they’re unbreakable, they were just all made to be uniform, like everything else in the military. They were produced starting in 1941 by Elgin, Bulova, and Waltham. The Elgin is considered the “official” watch, but they are all legitimate military pieces. There are dustproof, waterproof, black, white, and coin bezel variations. The Hamilton company also made a watch like this for the military in WWII. It’s not called the A-11, but it’s basically the same thing.
Now, a mint condition A-11 from the era is a $1,000 watch. However, you can find decent ones online for under $100, and broken ones are all over the place. Remember, they made literally MILLIONS of these.
For the Gen-Y man, the watch screams hip-traditional. You like things simple — the watch tells time and that’s IT.
3. 1980s Movado
The signature Movado black-and-diamond look hasn’t really changed. A nice, new, automatic (meaning no batteries or winding) Movado will run you $800 to $1,000.
Here’s a Movado that’s got a few years on it. It needs a new band, but so what? $249.99.
You can walk into any small jewelry store and find an old Movado at a bargain. In downtown Boston last week, a jeweler showed me two 1980s Movados with the black-and-diamond style. One could be had for under $200. A larger one was under $300. And something tells me if I put $150 cash on the table, I’d have a Movado right now.
4. A 1970s or Cold War Era Poljot Okeah
A lot of serious watch collectors include Soviet watches in their showcases. The Poljot 3133 is a popular movement born out of a Soviet Air Force watch worn by pilots. Yuri Gagarin wore a Poljot (Pilot in Russian) Shturmanskie watch, which helped inspire the 3133, when he became the first name to launch into space.
You can get a Poljot 3133 for under $200 in good condition. You can get a good Shturmanskie for under $500. Be wary of reproductions.
5. Seiko SKX007K
The Seiko SKX007K is not just an entry-level diver’s watch, it’s a damn decent diver’s watch.
It’s good to 200 meters, is automatic/non-winding, and has a rugged, sportsman look to it that tells people you mean business.
If you want to build a nice watch collection, you might even want to start here. Why? Because you can get one for $150, and any watch guy will respect it. Get it with the rubber band instead of the metal bracelet to stay authentic.
6. Mondaine Stop2go
At $600, this one is actually pretty much at the top of my Gen-Y list, but I wanted to include something Swiss that someone our age could actually afford. Mondaine is not a fancy Swiss watch brand, but it is a real Swiss, made in Switzerland, watch brand. You can get a brand new Mondaine for about $250.
Mondaine watches have a nice movement and a design inspired by the Swiss Railways Clock. What makes the Stop2go watch unique is that the second hand travels normally for 58 seconds, then it stops for two seconds and hops to the next minute. That oddly interesting feature, combined with an electronic switch for setting the watch make this one a keeper.
7. British WW2 Omega
Omega is one of the biggest names in antique and modern watches. It’s on pretty much every collector’s wishlist. You are not going to find a new Omega on this list, but how cool would it be to own a British WW2 military issue watch that, oh, just happens to be made by Omega?
Everyone contributed to the war effort. You can find brilliant examples of WW2 German watches also, and we’ve already discussed the American A-11.
You can get a decent British WW2 Omega for about $300. I saw the variant to the right on eBay for $235.
There are a ton of fakes. This website gives good guidance for determining if you are buying an authentic WW2 Omega.
It’s just a beautifully simplistic watch. Not for everyday wear, but it’s elegant and casual at the same time.
8. Orient M-Force CEX04001Y0
If you find it, buy it. For under $200, you can have a watch that has all of the bells and whistles you are used to seeing in a watch 10-20 times the cost. You will also find an awesome variant with a yellow dial for around $400. The Orient M-Force is an automatic watch, good to 100 200 meters underwater depending on the variant, with a power reserve indicator so you know when to change the battery, and a very comfortable, if not slightly heavy, feel on the wrist.
9. Hamilton Khaki Field
I don my cap to Askmen.com for recommending the Hamilton Khaki Field as one of their best “Watches Under $1,000,” and at $300-$500, you can buy two for that price.
Hamilton is an old name in quality watchmaking. It has Swiss ETA 2824 movement that is seen in some of the best watches in the world. It is a great work watch, but it’s not too delicate and fancy that you can’t wear it to the bar afterward.
I like the watch, and I’d be happy to own one, but this is the only watch on the list that gave me some pause. I only included it because of Hamilton’s history in the business. And I think I’d rather own a vintage Hamilton than a modern one. Today, Hamilton is owned by Swatch Group, which is the largest watch company in the world. It owns Bregeut, Winston, Jaquet Droz, Omega, Tissot, and makes all the watches for Tiffany & Co., and if you Wikipedia the Swatch Group, you see that Hamilton’s rich history has earned it a place in…the bottle half of Swatch Group’s brand portfolio.
This is good and bad. Good: You get standardized quality and the same ETA movement seen in more expensive watches. Bad: It’s Swatch’s bargain basement brand, only rated slightly above, well Swatch itself.
What do you think? Am I over-thinking it? Let me know below.
10. An Overstock.com watch
Your mom loves Overstock. Your girlfriend does too. It’s catnip for female online shoppers, so hear me out for a second. Oh, and Overstock.com carries Rolexes.
If you’re looking for a new watch, you can get a Tag Heuer for around $1,300. For something a little more realistic, you can get a Hamilton for under $400; a simple or complicated Citizen Eco-Drive for under $200; or a very adult-like Seiko for under $100.
There’s plenty of shit on there too, so be careful what you buy. One word of caution: I have a few Emporio Armani watches. They look nice, and the name is very telling. But that’s all you get is the name. The watches are made by Fossil, so you’re just getting a regular old watch. Armani watches are luxury in name only.