If you are a follower of horology, you are bound to have noticed that over the last few years watches have seemingly reached a maximum size. Furthermore, this year shows an undeniable trend towards reduced sizes and wearability.
Additionally, recent events have shown us that unisex watches are coming into vogue.
There are many horizons opening for watch wearers. Especially if you are a serious fashion buff. However, after buying that humongous Lange uno Sohne last year, you might be finding yourself a little short on excess cash – that’s where our expert-curated list of the best watches under 200 saves the day!
To satisfy your most urgent cravings in the horology department, you do not have to sacrifice your dream of owning a home: there are some worthy budget watches available that allow you to “travel light” and look smart all at once.
So, our quest this time was to get down to the “daily beater” crowd of watches, to help our gentle readers take the best picks between these nice, but very affordable timepieces, which are bound to impress even the most die-hard watch fanatic.
This is not an easy task, but we are pretty sure we can give you some deserving alternatives. Quite amazingly, you will find in this selection also a few mechanical watches together with the quartz-based ones. This seems like a miracle, but it is indeed possible.
A Watch Priced Under 200 is Classified as a Budget Watch
Well, you might not be aware of it, but the Swiss Federation of the Watch Manufacturers publishes a yearly report of the watchmaking industry. And the watches are divided into four categories.
Budget watches can cost up to 200 CHF (as a note, CHF and USD are almost equivalent at the time of publishing this article).
Then we have affordable watches from 200 to 500 CHF.
Over that, we step into the elusive realm of “affordable luxury” up to 3000 CHF.
Then finally for the super rich, or the passionate collector, we find “haute horology.”
These price categories have remained pretty well unchanged over the years. Yet we also find that the average median price of watches is slowly rising year by year. This means that our budget timepieces are slowly but steadily creeping into the more prestigious pricing brackets – and as such are pretty important by themselves.
However, as there are a greater number of watches to choose from in the budget category, it is harder to identify the better quality models. It is also possible to be lured into believing that some are good choices simply because they are widely available. Instead, these models typically represent poor value for your hard-earned money. And as we have the utmost respect for money, we are happy to help you get the most out of it!
The Top Ten Budget Watch List
When we talk about the best mens watches under 200 i.e. budget watches, we can afford to be less conservative and slightly more extravagant, since the expense – as we already said – will be not that high. Groom+Style have included different styles in this list ranging from authoritative pieces, to very understated and then extremely elegant watches, so everyone can select a fitting timepiece to meet their tastes. But one thing is for sure, all these pieces will look way more expensive than the price tag indicates.
Groom+Stylye start our list with the watch that possibly saved the Swiss industry from oblivion during the quartz crisis: the Swatch. From their beginnings in the early 1980s, the Swatch watches have passed several phases. Once a sought-after timepiece from collectors, who fought over the limited-edition pieces, nowadays it has resumed its original mission: delivering a good quality watch which is within most consumers price range.
And the Swatch, with its numerous lines and versions, can really accommodate the needs of almost everyone, from the cheap and chic and feisty to the elegant and important-looking. Yet it always retains a playful spirit.
Along with the classic quartz-based movement, the company has issued some high-quality automatics, and this is the one we want to present. The movement, which is decorated and visible through the glass back, looks enticing, and much more important than its price would suggest.
The quality of the watch is – as usual with the products of this company – very good. The 42 mm case is made in stainless-steel, as the bracelet is, sporting a deployante clasp.
Well, I can hear you now. And the answer is – yes, it is entirely possible to find a real Swiss Made brand such as Tissot at the price of a generic fashion watch with no history.
Of course, you won’t be getting any mechanical movements in there – but you will get a Swiss-made quartz movement from ETA (both companies belong to the same Swatch group) and the fine craftsmanship of the maison founded by Charles-Félicien Tissot and his son, Charles-Émile Tissot in Le Locle.
This model looks decisively smart and sexy in a very classic way. You are bound to appreciate its 38 mm size and elegant lugs. Its lovely pristine dial looks refined, with its black-colored accents over the white, smooth surface, over which the spear-shaped hands rotate.
And if you have a tad more money to invest in your watch than our allocated budget, remember that the Tissot mechanicals are not that far away.
Skagen was an independent Danish company manufacturing some extremely cool and minimalistic watches. It was nice that the Fossil group – one of the biggest of the world – bought it. And we agree with this decision wholeheartedly. The watches they make are excellent, with great design and an amazing content for their price. A typical example is this Falster dress watch which does not look out of place anywhere.
The Falster – as an all Danish design – seems like an experiment in how much stuff can be removed while remaining contemporary yet timeless.
Despite its affordable price, it is not so common to find a watch built like this: the Falster offers a sandblasted stainless-steel case and mesh bracelet, which showcase the purity of its immaculate white dial dotted with tiny black hour marks.
The automatic movement of the Falster is visible through its glass back – it is a Miyota 8215 type of automatic movement, so it is a sort of workhorse. If you want to change the looks of your Falster, do not worry. The 20 mm quick release springbars just allow you to do that and insert any kind of stock wristband.
Bulova is a brand that belongs to the history of horology and was one of the most dominant brands of the 50s. It was a pioneer in developing the electromechanical watch, creating the famous Accutron – the most precise watch of its time. So, when you bet on a Bulova, you can be sure that it won’t be a dead horse.
Even if your budget cannot attain the level of mechanical movements, the company has a lovely offering of quartz-based watches as well, and this 97C106 is a great choice.
The style is so lovingly-Sixties, with the dial offering the day window at twelve and the date window at three, framed by cleverly designed applied linear gold hour marks which reprise the theme of the hands.
The 39 mm case, in gold ion-plated stainless-steel, looks positively elegant, and is complemented by a stainless-steel back. It houses a workhorse Japan-made quartz movement.
The brown leather wristband sports a gold-plated buckle adorned with the Bulova logo – little details that help get the most out of an affordable, but very elegant, timepiece.
This model from Braun, a company which has been at the forefront of German industrial design for 95 years, is a functional and very impressive watch, hailing its austere style from the Bauhaus. It demonstrates quite simply that it is possible to buy a German watch that does not cost a fortune and yet definitely looks smart and sophisticated.
The sleek, linear 37 mm case is made of black ion-plated stainless steel, together with a black dial sporting some lighter and very minimalistic hour markers. This gives the watch that unique and understated look. The timepiece is so thin (just 7 mm) that it almost disappears under the shirt.
The dial, despite being quite dark, feels very legible overall and becomes the perfect setting for the movement of the only colorful hand – the seconds hand, in egg yellow. The easily adjustable black ion-plated metal mesh wristband, with its metal clasp, completes the package.
The first G-Shock, the DW-5000C, was designed by Kikuo Ibe. It had a 10-year battery life, offered water resistance to 10 bars and was able to survive a 10 meter fall onto a hard surface (the engineer tested 200 prototypes by dropping them from rooftops or third story windows).
The GA-800-1A is greatly improved over the original version, of course.
It offers several unique features, even between G-Shocks, like being the only “mid-size” G-Shock (48.6 mm wide) with a third analog hand to display the seconds – a feature usually reserved for the higher range of G-Shocks. It also features a front-facing light button for easy and quick access.
This watch has been created with some cool sports and training features – like a one-press stopwatch button that will activate the stopwatch immediately from timekeeping mode and a 120-record lap time memory which includes the date and time. It also sports, as all modern G-Shocks, a 200-meter water resistance.
Its three-handed design and not-so-huge size make it a great choice for those who want a more traditional style of watch and who may not prefer the larger size of other G-Shock models.
If you are alive, then there is a distinct possibility you have heard about Timex watches. The “Timex” brand was born in 1950 as a part of the United States Time Corporation. And it was well-known for the rugged effectiveness of its timepieces. “Timex – Takes a Licking and keeps on Ticking” is among the best-known advertising slogans in history. And up to their fame, the Timex timepieces kept on ticking and diffusing themselves all around.
One of the most prominent models of Timex, issued during the 1960s, was the Marlin – a distinguished dress watch which almost everyone could buy – and comes in at 4th on our best watches under 200 list.
And the company, attentive to the evolution of styles which pay much more attention to the vintage lines, has decided to launch a new edition of the Marlin, adapted to fit the taste of modern times.
They do this first with a larger size of 40 mm – not too big, just big enough. Secondly, the mounting inside its stainless-steel case is a reliable automatic Japanese Miyota movement, which is visible through the mineral glass back.
The 8215 calibre is inexpensive, reliable and serviceable. It has 21 jewels, beats at 21,600 bph (3Hz) and offers a 38-hour power reserve.
It retails for a little bit above our intended budget, but we are sure that if you are attentive you can catch it at a discount.
Another diver watch? Yes – Invicta is a brand which is specialized in manufacturing lovely-looking watches which have an uncanny similarity to other, more famous timepieces. And it presents them at very affordable prices.
And this Mako Pro Diver has everything you need when you are shopping, with a budget of under $200, for a serviceable and sturdy daily beater.
It has a 41 mm case – just right for the kind of watch it is – and feels comfortably sturdy on the wrist. It houses a no-nonsense Japanese made SII Caliber NH35A caliber, with 41 hours of power reserve, which is visible through the glass back.
The watch features a stainless-steel case with a stainless-steel bracelet. It hosts a unidirectional stainless-steel bezel with a black ion-plated top ring.
The very legible black dial displays a cathedral set of hands, treated with glow paste, as well as luminescent hands and markers.
The scratch resistant mineral crystal glass top has a magnified date display at the 3 o’clock position. And this lovely timepiece is a real diver’s watch, sporting a 200-meter water resistance – enough to withstand some serious diving.
2. Orient Bambino ‘Version IV’ Japanese Automatic Stainless Steel and Leather Dress Watch FAC08003A0
Do you want a lovely looking dress watch with a sporty streak, which could accompany you through all the hurdles of your daily life without skipping a beat, and you do not want to spend an arm and a leg over it? If so, then the Orient Bambino is the perfect fit for you. This timepiece looks refined and elegant, yet it features a sporty feeling thanks to its black dial which evokes the watches of the 50s.
The Bambino offers a clean face, white accents and applied bronze hour marks, outlined by the bronze hands and sweeping seconds. This is framed by a sleek and clean stainless-steel case, which, at 41 mm, isn’t exactly small, but has an advantage: it’s slightly wider, but more importantly, the lugs were enlarged to 22mm to accommodate easily stocked wristbands.
The Bambino mounts an automatic caliber F6724 movement, with 40 hours power reserve. This is a new caliber from Orient that has upgraded features, such as hacking (the seconds hand stops when you set the time) and handwinding (aside from the automatic winding by the rotor).
This watch comes with a suede-like wristband in leather, so it makes for a perfect everyday watch that is not shy to accompany you even to the most serious events and meetings.
The Seiko 5 line is a memorable – and downright ancient, having been launched in 1957. It represents Seiko’s introductory (and extremely affordable) line of automatic watches. It is also Seiko’s oldest and longest continually used sub-brand.
But why the “5”? The “5” stands for the watch’s five principal attributes:
- Diaflex (unbreakable mainspring)
- Diashock (Seiko’s shock resistant design, equivalent to the Swiss “Incabloc”)
- Automatic Winding
- Day/Date Indication
- Water Resistance.
It is important to note that modern Seiko 5’s all use 7s calibers. However, this is not true of vintage models, which have used every possible movement – sometimes of higher-level Seiko watches. Any of these many watches would be a fine addition to a collector’s arsenal.
This one in particular looks extremely intriguing – a lovely diver watch with a distinct 1970s feel. The 41mm case and bracelet are made in stainless steel, and the watch features a deployante clasp. The crystal is in Hardlex, the Seiko alternative to sapphire glass, and is framed by a solid-looking unidirectional bezel.
The watch is water resistant to 100 meters, so it’s also perfect for casual diving.
Which One Should You Choose?
As you have seen, we have collected a variety of mens watches under 200, all of which would be best suited for different situations, from the most formal to the more specific. As such, it might have been best to create different lists for different situations!
From this list, the choice between these beloved timepieces would be pretty obvious in some instances: if you are into hard sports, then your best bet as a watch is a G-Shock. Yet in other cases, you might have some doubts.
An important note is that apart from other considerations, there is one (almost) universal rule: there is not a great deal of difference in quality between models manufactured by the same company.
This means that when you buy a – let’s say – Seiko, even if it isn’t the exact model we have selected in our list, you can be sure that your watch won’t be a lemon.
The good thing about watch shopping is that you can usually order them, try them on your wrist, and return them if you are not happy with what you find.
It is convenient and easy – especially since, to be enjoyed, a watch must “fit” you like a garment would.
Also, do not be afraid to experiment. Unisex is in! So, even if these watches have a more masculine outlook, ladies should try them on if they are interested.
And if you have not found anything on this list that gets your heat beating faster you can check out our list of the best luxury watches under $2000!
About the Author: Franz Rivoira is a Chartered Journalist and Marcomm Professional operating internationally in the world of high-end and luxury products, mainly watches and design objects.
He lives in Italy, but frequently travels the world, especially to Asia. He is a regular contributor to www.ddnblog.it, a reference for everything design-oriented. He is also very active on Quora, the most read Q&A portal in the world, where he has been nominated as one of the Top Writers for 2018.