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Ticking Admission Tickets: 10 Entry-Level Mechanical Watches


Every watch collection has to start somewhere, and often that initial watch purchase is on a somewhat restricted budget. Here’s an introduction to entry-level mechanical watches from 10 brands. To narrow the field down, we only considered men’s watches with a case diameter of 37 mm or greater.

ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL 39 ($5,700)

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39.

In 2015, the world’s best-known watch brand presented a new basic model, which remains its lowest-priced men’s watch. In return for $5,700, the buyer gets Rolex’s typical advantages: high-quality craftsmanship, a modern manufacture caliber, a case made of saltwater-resistant 904L stainless steel – and very little danger that this watch will depreciate in value. The 39-mm case contains self-winding chronometer-certified Caliber 3132. The Oyster Perpetual 39 is available with either a gray or a blue dial. For our test of the watch, click here.

BREITLING COLT AUTOMATIC ($3,025)

Breitling Colt Automatic
Breitling Colt Automatic.

Breitling’s least costly mechanical watch has also earned a chronometer certificate. A buyer who parts with $3,025 not only gets certified precision but also enjoys numerous features that are helpful for divers – a unidirectionally rotating bezel with a luminous dot; a 44-mm stainless-steel case that remains water resistant to 200 meters and includes a screw-down crown; and a black, blue or silver-colored dial with bright, luminous displays. Read our review of the Colt Automatic here.

OMEGA DE VILLE PRESTIGE CO-AXIAL ($3,600)

Omega DeVille Automatic
Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial.

The De Ville with a 39.5-mm stainless-steel case sells for $3,600 and is Omega’s most affordably priced watch for men. The brand’s own automatic Caliber 2500 offers extremely strong protection against magnetic fields and also includes a first-generation co-axial escapement which, like its current successor, guarantees uniform rate values. The accuracy is officially confirmed by the COSC, Switzerland’s independent chronometer-testing authority.

TISSOT GENTLEMAN SWISSMATIC ($365)

Tissot Gentleman Swissmatic
Tissot Gentleman Swissmatic.

You may be surprised to see what you can get from Tissot for just $365: a sapphire crystal above the dial, a pane of mineral glass in the back, water resistance to 100 meters and an automatic movement with a three-day power reserve. One reason for the good price-performance ratio is the synergy of the Swatch Group: subsidiaries supply their sister company Tissot with movements and other components. This 44-mm watch is on a cowhide strap secured by a pin buckle.

TAG HEUER FORMULA 1 CALIBRE 5 ($2,000)

TAG Heuer Formula One
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5.

Like Breitling, Tag Heuer offers its entry-level model in a divers’-watch style. With a rotating bezel, a rubber strap and water resistance to 200 meters, this 41-mm stainless-steel watch costs $2,000. What Tag Heuer designates as Caliber 5 is ETA’s self-winding Caliber 2824, which is frequently encased in entry-level mechanical watches.

JUNGHANS FORM A (840 euros)

Junghans Form A
Junghans Form A.

Junghans has long offered affordable designer watches in its Max Bill and Meister lines. Now there’s an even less costly automatic watch: the Form A. This 39.1-mm stainless-steel model encases ETA Caliber 2824, costs 840 euros, and offers both a sapphire crystal above the dial and a pane of toned mineral glass in the back. An interesting detail: the quadratic minutes indices are stamped into the dial.

HUBLOT CLASSIC FUSION TITANIUM ($7,200)

Hublot Classic Fusion Titanium
Hublot Classic Fusion Titanium.

Fans of mechanical timepieces can part with $7,200 to own Hublot’s most affordable men’s watch: the Classic Fusion with a 42-mm-diameter case, rather than the 45-mm version. (The smaller diameter is actually Hublot’s unisex size.) This watch is animated by Sellita’s Caliber SW300, which is produced in large series. The Classic Fusion is the more elegant alternative to the sporty chronographs in Hublot’s Big Bang line, whose prices for men’s models start at $12,500 for either an all-steel 44-mm version or a 41-mm steel and ceramic one.

SEIKO PRESAGE SRPB41 ($450)

Seiko Presage SRPB41
Seiko Presage SRPB41.

This Japanese manufacturer’s portfolio starts at a low price: only $450 is needed to purchase an automatic watch with a manufacture movement, a stainless-steel case and bracelet, and a screw-down see-through caseback. Caliber 4R35 has a 41-hour power reserve and both hand and automatic winding capabilities. It shows hours, minutes, central seconds and date. This 40.5-mm Seiko Presage watch has a box-shaped crystal and is water resistant to 50 meters.

PATEK PHILIPPE AQUANAUT ($18,939)

Patek Philippe Aquanaut
Patek Philippe Aquanaut.

Like all Aquanaut models, Reference 5167A-001 unites a sporty design and a finely decorated manufacture movement. Automatic Caliber 324 S C with date display ticks inside a 40-mm stainless-steel case with a pane of sapphire crystal in the back. The wristband is made of abrasion-resistant and nonfading composite material that’s embossed with the same pattern as the dial. This Patek Philippe steel watch for men is priced at $18,939.

SINN 556 ($1,080)

Sinn 556
Sinn 556.

The German watch brand Sinn will give you a steel watch that is water resistant to 200 meters at a price of $1,080. You also get two non-reflective sapphire crystals and a screw-down crown. All this comes in a 38.5-mm-diameter and 11-mm-slim timepiece that prioritizes utility. The functional features include ETA’s sleekly simple but robust self-winding Caliber 2824, brightly luminous indicators and a non-reflective, matte-finished case.

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39 Responses to “Ticking Admission Tickets: 10 Entry-Level Mechanical Watches”

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  1. Great article. I interpret entry level to also include nicer watches for those just getting into collecting for the first time. This list should satisfy them and keep them occupied with the hobby for at least a year.

    Reply
  2. The Omega Cal.2500 does not offer “considerable protection from magnetic fields”. It is not equipped with a silicon balance spring and is not an in-house Master Chronometer movement. In fact is offers practically no protection from magnetic fields. It appears the author is confusing the Cal.2500 with the Cal.8500 or the Master Co-axial Cal.8500M or the newer Master Chronometer movements. Said it in 2018 so I will say it again. This author is peddling nonsense and cannot be bothered to update the article to correct his error.

    Reply
  3. AVelazquez

    This list is absurd, how can any watch over $1,000 be considered entry level? This is what deters me from wanting to be a collector.

    Reply
  4. William Hudson

    Frankly, I found this to be a very poor list of first time mechanicals for the newbie. What happened to Oris, Raymond Weil, Hamilton and Bulova swiss? I could cut the retail cost down substantially for the first timer…

    Reply
  5. You dont remember when you were an entry level of anything? You were born wealthy? what does an entry level watch blogger make???? likely no more than say $30K

    I was entry level in 1988. I made 50K in 2020 money….how can you insult our intelligence with a Patek in this category….child please

    entry level is $1000 and below and back then i would have to save 2-3 years for it given student loans, food, rent and car payments. cmon man be for real

    my first luxury watch…Navitimer B01 was when i was in my 40s and i was shaking to pay the $6K at the AD….now i have many watches invluding one Patek

    plus – where do you get that Patek for $19K…tell me so i can buy

    i enjoy your reports but sometimes you are delusional

    Reply
  6. Peter Huppertz

    Interesting how an article published on May 5, 2020 had its first comment in April 2018.
    Rehash much?

    Also, some watches listed here are as entry-level as a thing that is definitely not entry-level.

    Reply
  7. 0uatiOW

    First off, how can anyone in their right mind put Rolex, Patek, Hublot on a list of entry-level watches? If you can afford to fork out several thousands of $$ on your first watch, calling it “entry-level” says more about you than the watch. Patek Philippe markets itself as exclusive, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t label themselves as entry-level either.

    One more thing – this article was clearly published some time ago, from the dates on the comments, but you state the publication date as yesterday. Looks like my reaction mirrors those of most of your previous readers. If you’re going to resurrect old articles, you should make that clear.

    Reply
  8. Gopal

    I bought the Rolex 39 (Blue Dial) last August and love it. The dial was what attracted me to it – and I am very pleased with the purchase.

    Also own an older Omega DeVille (bought a decade+ ago).

    Reply
  9. OK guys, when is a Patek an entry-level watch? The Aquanaut costs almost $20,000 retail, but if you cannot find the unicorn at a Patek boutique, the real cost is $30,000 or more at a second hand store.

    Reply
  10. Drew Robinson

    I just wanted to give you kudos on such an awesome list you put together. Cheers!

    Reply
  11. Gerry Dimatos

    I have the money for the Aquanaut.
    I would buy one tomorrow if I could.
    My Authorized Dealer tells me that there is a waiting list to get onto the waiting list.
    The first waiting list is 10 years….
    From Gerry Dimatos in Australia.

    Reply
  12. MATT SPARKES

    Some interesting responses here, debating on the meaning of ‘entry level’. Lets face it if you are new to mechanical watchers you are not going to spend over $1000 on a watch only to discover you prefer the convenience of a quartz or smart watch. Even the Seiko given here is an odd example, why not go full Grand Seiko to compare to the Rolex?
    Why not start with a Seiko 5, Longines or Tissot and see if you can live with the ticking, sound of the automatic mechanism and resetting the watch if it stops over the weekend on the dresser?

    Reply
  13. Mike F

    Ah yes I remember fondly the days of my youth; saving my meager earnings from my newspaper route until I could afford that $18K entry level Patek

    Reply
  14. UltraWatch

    The author clearly states right under the headline that: “Here’s an introduction to entry-level mechanical watches FROM 10 BRANDS.” Yes, there are a hundred watch companies you could include but this isn’t a dictionary it’s a blog article and he had to pick and choose. I’m sure the choice had to do with some of the more generally recognized brands people have heard of before. The article isn’t “the cheapest mechanical watches you can buy”. And guess what? $18k for some people is no big deal and also guess what $1k is HUGE deal to some people too. You guys are being too harsh, in my opinion.

    Reply
  15. Peter Morland

    My Invicta 8926OB with its accurate Japanese NH35A movement looks great. At less than 100 bucks it is what entry level is. Patek, Rolex, Omega? Give me a break.

    Reply
  16. Erik Behrendsen

    Entry level mechanical watches? There are plenty that I and most watch people would consider entry level that is under $500.00 Let’s start with something like that — we can always talk about watches higher up the grapevine, but I think this is where you plant the seed to sow a lifetime of watch enthusiasts!

    Reply
  17. Marcella

    Certainly a Tudor BB should be in the list before a PP when discussing entry level?

    Reply
  18. Timothy W . McCarthy lll

    I have all ways been a person whom notice fine watches on people.When I see a nice watch on a person. I would ask if they know or had the time just to say that’s very nice watch .Then sit back and here the story about the watch . it made me one of there best company’s that I work with on many nice jobs of all kinds .I in plumbing but that’s just my day to day stuff . fine watches a very nice to see it dose make my life bit better with a fine watch on my arm.thank you Tim

    Reply
  19. So I guess your definition of entry level is anything priced between $1000 and $19,000? If that’s the case, there are hundreds of other watches you should include on this list.

    Reply
  20. You guys must be pretty out of touch if an $18 Patek Philippe is considered entry level.

    Reply
  21. Y’all must be pretty out of touch for an $18k Patek Phillipe to be entry level.

    Reply
  22. $18939 is not a restricted budget. That kind of money will enable you to buy a significant number of high end Rolex and Omega watches for example. I’d rethink what you call entry level.

    Reply
  23. Entry-level? For who???
    The Seiko and Tissot yes, but the others are hardly entry level unless you have a lot of disposable income

    Reply
  24. David Huntington

    I would not call $18k for a patek philippe entry level for a mechanical watch. Please.

    Reply
  25. Ryan Stark

    The Oyster Perpetual comes in THREE colors, not two. It’s available in blue, dark rhodium, and red grape. The latter was left out by Mr. Krupp and is in my opinion, the finest color of the trio.

    Reply
  26. Leonid Shikhel

    I would love to buy the Aquanaut 5167A-001.
    I live in New York area. Where can I find for the price you have mentioned $18,939.

    Reply
  27. Simon Rowlinson

    The Omega Cal.2500 does not offer “considerable protection from magnetic fields”. It is not equipped with a silicon balance spring and is not an in-house Master Chronometer movement. In fact is offers practically no protection from magnetic fields. It appears the author is confusing the Cal.2500 with the Cal.8500 or the Master Co-axial Cal.8500M or the newer Master Chronometer movements.

    Reply
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