As you forge ahead into the new year, acquiring a new watch may very well be on your mind, especially if you’ve got some holiday bonus money and are determined to make 2021 a better year than 2020 by refreshing your daily routine in a small but significant way. To help you in your search, we’ve assembled a list of five “budget” picks, i.e., sub-$1,000 watches — by no means a comprehensive list of fantastic watches within this price range, but a showcase of a few that caught our eye last year, ones we feel are worthy of a second look in 2021.
Timex Marlin California Dial
Timex has come a long way in the eyes of many watch collectors, ever since the release of its original mechanical Marlin in 2017, which is now regarded as a solid entry point into the world of vintage-influenced mechanical watches. Last year, the brand started on a high note, unveiling its M79 Automatic as a follow-up to the ever-popular Q Timex, and to close the year it unveiled another praiseworthy vintage-influenced model, the Timex Marlin California Dial.
The new model takes the 1960s-inspired Marlin case and adds a ‘30s-inspired “California” style dial, complete with a mixture of Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, and geometric hours markers atop a sunray dial and within a railroad-style minute ring. The watch is certainly one of the most affordable mechanical pieces to feature this style of dial, and for that reason has accrued a wide swath of praise within the community.
The Timex Marlin California Dial is available at authorized dealers in many areas of the world, but is also available directly through Timex, with both the sunray and black dial versions of the model priced at $249.
Brew is a brand I had the pleasure to cover a couple of times last year, and one we very likely will have the opportunity to visit again in the coming year. A lot of the love for this brand stems from appreciation of its unique designs and accessible price point: most of its timepieces are priced below $400, and none over $500.
The latest addition to the Brew Watch Co. lineup, launched last fall, is the Retromatic. Its time-and-date dial is available in four different colorways, and two different mechanical calibers are used throughout the series. The design, like those of other Brew models, is industrially inspired, and the dial textures and colors are particularly attention-getting.
Some colorways are currently limited in availability, but all are still available for purchase directly through Brew’s online store. The blue- and black-dial models currently retail for $495, while the burgundy- and green-dialed options are marked at $425.
Seiko Prospex “Urban Safari” Street Series
Seiko is always a contender in the budget-oriented category, with the majority of the Japanese brand’s range offering outsized value for the money. Fans of the brand might guess our main recommendation from Seiko would be the latest Seiko 5 Sports, which is solid wearer in its own right. Instead, we’d like to draw your attention to the lesser-known Prospex “Urban Safari” Street line.
The relatively new watch, first unveiled in early summer 2020, is an interpretation of Seiko’s classic “Tuna” dive watch design that is geared toward a more metropolitan and fashion-focused consumer. The series is comprised of four models, two fully mechanical and two others featuring digital aspects and solar powered. All feature dark or tan colorways that quickly catch the eye, both with their looks and functionality.
Pricing ranges from $550 to $580 depending on the model, though some variations can occasionally be found at a discount depending on the dealer.
Baltic Bicompax 002
Baltic is another small independent brand we frequently cover in WatchTime, and one that has swiftly gained renown within the watch community as a whole. Last year saw a flurry of new watches from the French-based brand, and we managed to arrange a lengthy hands-on with its newly introduced Bronze Aquascaphe through the spring and summer.
One of Baltic’s quieter releases in the past year was that of a refreshed chronograph called the Bicompax 002. The new model uses a distinct radial style for its printed Arabic numerals, and features a very intriguing multi-textured dial, produced in a vintage-influenced fashion that feels both understated and highly uncommon. The new chronograph is available in three different colorways, including silver, black, and blue gilt. There’s also a time-only version, the HMS 002, if the chronograph complication isn’t your preferred mechanism.
The Baltic Bicompax 002 is available directly through Baltic, and is currently priced by the brand at €540.83, or about $662.
Lorier isn’t a brand we frequently cover on WatchTime, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact it’s one of the most popular smaller independent brands on the market today, attracting loads of consumer attention even if the press coverage hasn’t quite caught up.
Its latest offering is the new Hyperion series, made up of GMT models, which coincidentally enough was released the same day as the similarly attention-grabbing Baltic Aquascaphe GMT. (Both models also use the same movement, the Soprod caliber C125.) While somewhat similar to the Baltic model, the Hyperion is a watch clearly of its own devices, available in a gilt and non-gilt dial option, both featuring a “Pepsi” bezel and plenty of vintage-inspired charm.
The Hyperion is currently sold out, but you can sign up for Lorier’s wait list here, and can purchase the watch later in the year for $799.
What do you think of our list? Are there any sub-$1,000 watches you would recommend for the new year?