I think that there are lots of people who would be interested in buying a mechanical watch, but who would prefer to spend a few hundred euros, pounds or dollars, rather than the few thousand that are needed for an entry-level watch by most of the luxury watch brands. So in this article I’ll look at some watches that could be considered as a top twenty entry-level mechanical watches for men under €1000, in ascending price order. This post was first published in December 2014 and it has been updated (latest update 13 December 2017).
1. Winner Automatic – about €20
This is an automatic watch, made in China. It’s about 40 mm in diameter and 13 mm thick. The case is labelled as being in stainless steel, water resistance 3 atm, with a transparent caseback. The strap is made of leather. It’s also available with black dial. Price on eBay is about $20. The calibre is a version of the Standard Chinese Movement, designed in China from 1969 and put into production in factories all over the country from about 1971. The problem with this movement is the oscillating weight: it’s not heavy enough to wind the watch effectively. In practice it becomes a hand-wound watch. The calibre runs at 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hertz), with a power reserve of minimum 40 hours, and a precision of -/+ 30 seconds max deviation per day. There are many other similar products available from websites like eBay, at around the same price. Read more here.
2. Swatch Sistem51 – €195
This is a watch that reflects Swatch Group’s desire to occupy all levels of the watch industry, from the cheapest quartz watches with its Swatch timepieces, to the area of cheap mechanical watches. Sistem 51 has a sealed movement, assembled and regulated on a giant automated production line. It’s impossible to perform maintenance on it. The name of the watch, Sistem51, refers to the number of components in the original 1983 quartz Swatch, and this was the target set for the number of parts in the new mechanical watch. The dots near the centre of the dial correspond to the six rubies inside the movement and are a design reference to the Pleiades constellation and its 51 visible stars. On the back, a transparent caseback reveals the oscillating weight, colourful and eye-catching. The movement runs at 3 Hertz, and it has a power reserve of 90 hours. This is achieved in part by the use of plastic for pallet fork and escapement, reducing friction. Watch life has been estimated by the manufacturer at between 10 and 20 years. Price €195.
3. Helm Vanuatu – about €230
The Helm Vanuatu is a dive watch, price. US $275, plus $30 world-wide shipping,.Helm describe the watch as compliant with ISO 6425, which means that they test all watches for water resistance, in water at a pressure of 37.5 bar, 375 metres, followed by the subsequent condensation test, while the other ISO 6425 tests are performed on a sample of watches, i.e. a small percentage of production. Its unidirectional rotating bezel has minute markings all the way around and so it can be used for approximate timings of any event, whether under water or on dry land. It’s large, but not so large as to be impractical. You get a stainless steel bracelet plus a nylon strap, with a choice of four colours. Inside, a self-winding mechanical movement. It’s pretty much the perfect general-purpose sports watch. Helm is a fairly new company, based in North Carolina in the U.S., though the watches are made in China. The movement is a Seiko NH35 automatic calibre running at 21,600 vibrations per hour, 3 Hertz, with a power reserve of 40 hours. It is rated at -20/+40 seconds per day. The photos provided by Helm show that its finish is purely industrial, but that’s no problem as you’re not going to see it. It can be wound using the crown, and it has the stop-second function for precision time-setting. Read more here.
4. Deep Blue Master 1000 Automatic Diver – about €232
The Master 1000 Automatic Diver by Deep Blue has a stainless steel case 44 mm across and 15 mm thick. This watch is water-resistant to 330 metres, with screw-down crown and screw-in stainless steel caseback. It is powered by the Seiko NH35 automatic movement, running at 3 Hertz (21,600 vibrations per hour), power reserve 40 hours, stop-seconds function. The watch has a helium release valve at 10 o’clock. Silicon strap. Currently priced at US$ 249, approximately €232 (usually US$299). Read more here.
5. Zinvo Blade – €258
Zinvo is a company registered in Geneva, Switzerland, though its origins are in Boston, MA, USA. Their Zinvo Blade has a fairly large case at 44 mm diameter and 12 mm thickness, with distinctive short, angled lugs, brushed finish and machined rings on the caseband. The caseback is in bright steel with a sapphire window displaying the movement. Water resistance is 100 metres, a good rating considering that the crown is the usual push-pull and not screw-down. The most unusual feature of this watch is the transparent plastic disc that replaces the seconds hand. A turbine motif is printed on this disc, and the disc slowly rotates at one revolution per minute. It is placed above the hour and minute hands, and so it rather obscures them most of the time. The date window at 3 o’clock is also extremely difficult to see. The hour and minute hands are long enough so that the tips just project beyond the turbine blades, but even so, it’s not the sort of watch that you can glance at and immediately know what time it is. Zinvo work a lot on the fashion aspects of their products and so their objective is a watch that looks cool with designer gear and in smart cars. The mechanical movement is by Miyota, and the watches are assembled in Asia. The Zinvo Blade is priced at $280, €258. Read more here.
6. Tissot Gentleman Swissmatic – €355
This watch combines some elements of classic watches, such as the printed guilloché-type texture on the dial, the fluting at the edge of the bezel, and stylized numerals, to create a period effect. The case is 44 mm in diameter, 12.4 mm thick, with a 10-atm water resistance. The sapphire caseback displays the new Swissmatic self-winding movement that has a power reserve of up to 72 hours. The Swissmatic is based on the Sistem51 mentioned above, with some parts in steel and others in plastic. The view through the display caseback reveals the simplicity of the movement. A very aggressively-priced product with which Tissot and Swatch Group want to ensure that they offer the lowest-price Swiss-made watch on the market. €355. More info on the Tissot website.
7. Haigh & Hastings M2 – €372
This diving watch by Australian company Haigh & Hastings comes in a range of colour options including the “Australia” version with green and yellow bezel, with straps to match that you can specify when ordering on their website. The watch is water-resistant to “1,000 ft/300 m Down Under,” with a stainless steel case 44 mm across and 13 mm thick, sapphire watchglass, screw-down crown and stainless steel screw-in caseback. Inside, it is powered by the Japanese NH35A movement by Seiko, which is automatic, running at 3 Hertz (21,600 vibrations per hour), power reserve 40 hours, stop-seconds function. It currently ships to Australia, the U.S. and the U.K., price AU$ 588, US$398, approximately €372. Read more here.
8. Steinhart Ocean One Vintage Red – €380
This is a popular watch because it has the look and feel of the Rolex Submariner, for about a twentieth of the price. The Ocean One Vintage Red by Steinhart is of excellent quality, with a well-finished steel case, a firmly-ratcheted bezel, and a well-regulated Swiss-made movement offering good precision. It is a diving watch in a 42 mm case, waterproof to 300 metres. The self-winding ETA 2824-2 movement in its “Elaboré” version (the second in a series of four, ascending in quality from Standard, through Elaboré, Top, and Chronometer) gives it a power reserve of about 38 hours, and the stop-seconds function for precision time-setting. The watch has a screw-down crown, and a screwed caseback in stainless steel. The bezel is in aluminium. Price €380. Read more here.
9. Torsten Nagengast Timeline i16 Aviator Basic pilot’s watch – €415
The i16 Aviator Basic pilot’s watch by German company Torsten Nagengast Timeline is a lower-priced version of their i16 Aviator pilot’s watches, with a distinctive case, a classic no-logo pilot’s watch dial, and an Asian-made hand-wound movement. The watch is based on a cockpit instrument from the Soviet fighter Polikarpov I-16, and so, with its four screws, it follows the same principle as Bell & Ross watches with the square case. The case is 43 mm wide and about 12 mm thick, and it is available in black PVD or bright steel finish. The hand-wound movement has been rotated through 180 degrees so that the crown is on the left, and the continuous seconds subdial is at the top. Torsten Nagengast Timeline say simply that it’s an Asian movement, so presumably something like a Chinese-made Seagull ST-3600, a clone of the ETA 6497. The price is €349 without VAT, €415 inclusive of VAT. Read more here.
10. Seiko Prospex Automatic Air Diver’s SRP589K1 – €422
Steel case 45 mm in diameter, screw-down crown, screw-in caseback, water resistance 200 metres. The hour markings and hands are coated with Seiko’s Lumibrite luminescent paint. The watch is fitted with the Seiko accordion-style strap, strong and flexible in silicone. The movement is the automatic 4R36 movement, with hand-winding and stop-setting functions. It runs at 21,600 vibrations per hour, 3 Hertz. The watch has a list price of €422 but it can be found on various websites at much lower prices – as low as €183. More at the Seiko Prospex website. Read more here.
11. Archimede 1950s – from €495
This is a classic dress watch based on minimalist 1950s design, with baton hour indices, Plexiglas watch glass, and a narrow bezel that increases the apparent size. The case is 39 mm in diameter, thickness 9.8 mm. The Plexiglas watch glass is more liable to scratching than a sapphire glass, but it provides an interesting period appearance, and small scratches can be removed by polishing. The dial is delicately curved, and likewise the hands; the slim stainless steel case is finished with areas of bright and satin metal. The movement is the Miyota 9015, which can be seen through the sapphire caseback. The Miyota is made in Japan, it’s reliable, tried and tested, and has a time-keeping accuracy comparable to the Swiss ETA 2824-2. You can choose between white and black dials. The basic price is €495 (€416 if you order from outside the EU). The version with Milanaise bracelet costs €575, and with a 7-row bracelet it costs €595. The company provides the possibility of having a short text engraved on the outer ring of the caseback, at a small extra cost. Shipping costs vary from zero if you live in Germany to a maximum of €40. Order from their website http://www.archimede-watches.com, or visit the brand by appointment in Pforzheim, Germany.
12. Victorinox Alliance Mechanical – about €614
Founded 130 years ago in 1884 by Karl Elsener, Victorinox established their world-wide fame with the Original Swiss Army Knife, and today, the company also makes watches, fashion garments and fragrances. The Alliance Mechanical (reference 241666) is a classic dress watch in stainless steel, with eggshell or dark grey dial, and a range of bracelet and strap options: the standard is leather with folding clasp. It is 40 mm in diameter, 10.5 mm thick. The dial has Arabic numerals and applied arrow-shaped hour indices, and a touch of colour added by the red seconds hand. The piece is powered by the ETA 2824-2 automatic movement which provides a power reserve of about 38 hours. Water resistant to 100 metres. Price about €614 ($750). Read more at http://www.victorinox.com/
13. Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba – €645
You could call this a “diving watch light.” It’s an example of the “sports watch” category that is receiving a lot of attention from many brands. The Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba looks like a diving watch, with unidirectional rotating bezel and screw-down crown, but its water resistance of 10 bar/100 metres makes it suitable at most for surface swimming. It is moderately sized at 40 mm diameter, with a steel case. The dial and bezel are of diving watch inspiration, in two alternative colour schemes, black and orange, and all-black. The watch is powered by the H-10 calibre. This is the self-winding ETA Powermatic 80, ETA CO7.111, which provides 80 hours power reserve, double with respect to the 40 or so hours of the ETA 2824 movements. Prices from €645 for the version with NATO strap. Read more here.
The Khaki Air Race doesn’t have any of the traditional pilot’s watch features, but the visual design is reminiscent of Panerai, with numerals and hour markers which are hollowed out and filled with SuperLuminova. The Hamilton Khaki Air Race is in two versions, one with a silver dial with blue numerals, and one with a dark, anthracite grey dial with orange numerals. The former celebrates Hamilton’s role in the Red Bull Air Race, the second is dedicated to Team Hamilton, consisting of Nicolas Ivanoff who is a competitor in the Red Bull Air Races. The watches are in two sizes, a unisex 38 mm, and 42 mm. They are water-resistant to 5 bar (50 metres), no swimming. The watch has a sapphire crystal caseback revealing the H-10 calibre movement, the self-winding ETA Powermatic 80 that achieves 80 hours power reserve. The 42 mm versions of the Hamilton Khaki Air Race cost €695 with leather strap, €745 with steel bracelet. The 38 mm versions cost €645 with leather strap, €695 with steel bracelet. Read more here.
15. Certina DS Powermatic – €670
The Certina DS, reference C026.407.16.037.00, is a classic 40-mm dress watch, with an automatic movement based on the ETA 2824 that can be found in several of the watches described here, but that has been completely upgraded. It is now called the Powermatic 80, as shown on the dial, and the movement has the calibre reference ETA C07.111. The “80” in Powermatic 80 refers to the power reserve, made possible by a relatively low oscillation rate, 3 Hertz (21,600 beats per hour). The movement is itself very good-looking and it can be viewed through the sapphire caseback. The watch is great value for money at €670 (inclusive of VAT); price varies according to strap/bracelet options. Click here to find a map with retailers: Certina is not yet available in all European countries.
16. Stowa Marine Automatic – €690
The Marine Automatic is based on a 1940s pocket watch made by Stowa, the company that was founded by Walter Storz in 1927 and is now based in Engelsbrand, near Pforzheim. The piece has a classical dial of beautiful balance, with date at 6 o’clock, blued hands and black Arabic numerals. The Stowa logo at the top adds a period touch. The polished stainless steel case is 40 mm in diameter and 10.2 mm thick, mounted on a leather strap with polished steel buckle. The movement is the ETA 2824-2, which can be seen through the transparent caseback. Price €690 inclusive of VAT, €580 for international (non-EU) customers. You can buy online at http://www.stowa.de/
17. Mido Multifort Escape – €810
The Mido Multifort Escape is a watch that has a lot of pilot’s watch features, such as the simple dial layout with Arabic numerals, hands with SuperLuminova, and large conical crown, but it has other elements that give it extra character, for example the lovely aged steel case, 44 mm in diameter and 11 mm thick, and the vertical stripes pattern on the dial (a trademark of Mido’s Multifort watches). It could be described as a “sports pilot’s watch” with its water resistance of 100 metres. The display caseback reveals the Calibre 80.611 movement, self-winding with a Mido-branded oscillating weight. This is Mido’s designation of the ETA C07 or Powermatic 80, which provides a power reserve of 80 hours. The watch is made in three versions, all at the same price, €810. Read more here.
18. Frederique Constant Classics Index Automatic – €850
The Classics Index Automatic is a dress watch by Frederique Constant. The watch is made in two versions, steel, and steel with rose gold plating. The Roman numerals and guilloché on the dial give it a feel of classical distinction. The case is in polished stainless steel, 40 mm in diameter, 10.3 mm thick, so it is slim enough to slip under a shirt cuff. Behind the solid caseback, the Classics Index Automatic is powered by the self-winding FC-303 calibre, basically a Swiss-made Sellita SW200-1, with the stop-seconds function and quick date-setting. The stainless steel version costs €850. Read more here.
19. Tissot Ballade
Tissot says “it’s time to make technological precision accessible.” While the Tissot Ballade is by no means the cheapest mechanical watch in the world, priced at €895 for the gent’s model, it could be the cheapest chronometer-certified watch. The Powermatic 80 SI used in the Tissot Ballade has a silicon balance spring, with improved isochronicity and regularity at different temperatures. This enables Swatch Group company ETA to have these movements certified by COSC, allowing the watch to be labelled a chronometer, with a precision of maximum deviation -4/+6 seconds per day. Read more here.