I thought I’d write about automatic watches for those on a tight budget like myself. I recently added a Tudor Black Bay to my rotation of watches but the majority of my collection is comprised of far more affordable timepieces.
Alot of affordable watches these days are quartz. There’s nothing wrong with a quartz movement and the quartz timing mechanism makes them more reliable and accurate than an automatic or manual movement. However, there is an inherent elegance to the smooth sweeping of an automatic second hand compared to the “ticking” of a quartz movement.
The thing with Quartz watches is the batteries need to be replaced every couple of years although companies like Citizen and Seiko have created solar-powered batteries that do not need such replacement. Automatic watches also need servicing and regulating every couple of years should the time slow. The costs of the service can outweigh the costs of purchasing a new watch and the maintenance costs should be a consideration when purchasing a new timepiece.
Unfortunately, an affordable automatic that is also reliable and stylish is difficult to find on a budget and I think the following watches represent good value for money.
Cost: Around $150-250 from Longislandwatches.com or Ebay
Orient have been in the watch making business for a long time and they make alot of affordable watches with distinct vintage styling. They are currently owned by Seiko and they use in-house movements, which may prove problematic to service in Australia as they don’t have any service centres locally. The Bambino uses a basic 21 jewel movement that’s quite reliable and has a date function.
The Bambino is a callback to the vintage dress watches of the 60s but it is sized for modern proportions and the domed crystal is a nice touch. It is also available in a quartz version called the Capital that is slightly cheaper and can be picked up for under $100 when on sale.
Tianjin Seagull is a Chinese watch company that started making watches in 1955 and they develop their in-house movements which often find their way into most automatic watches made in China. The 816.362 uses the ST2130, a Chinese copy of the Swiss ETA 2824-2 with 28,800 beats per hour and a hacking movement that stops the second hand when the stem is pulled out. The high beat rate means the second hand sweeps more smoothly than say, a cheaper automatic movement with less beats per hour. Someone recently tested the ST2130 and it compared favourably to the Swiss movement.
I own one of these watches and I like the details. It has a clear case back that allows you to see the inside movement and the silver-toned hands, sapphire crystal and white dial works surprisingly well. A great value dress watch.
Cost: $240ish to $300 from ebay, longislandwatches.com
The Monster is a distinctive diver’s watch that uses the Seiko 4R36 hackable movement. It’s reliable, heavy duty and comes with a slightly domed Hardlex crystal. It’s available in several colours but I strongly recommend getting the version with the bracelet.
Seiko SNZH53J and SNZH57
Cost: Around $150-190ish from Ebay
Seiko made a diffusion line branded as the Seiko 5, which is marketed at a lower price range and there’s some great watches in there. The SNZH53 and SNZH57 are homages to the Blancpain Fifty Five Fathom and the design reflects that aesthetic. While they don’t have a screw-down crown and I wouldn’t recommend taking them for a swim, they are an affordable automatic watch at a great price.
Cost: Around $230ish-$300 from Ebay
A true diver’s watch with screw down crown and a steady workhorse 7S26 movement. Probably the greatest thing with this watch is the sheer customisabiltiy of it. There’s alot of parts vendors out there like Dagaz and Yobokies who stock custom dials, bezels and hands that can turn the watch into something that looks like the following;