If you’ve been following along here on HODINKEE through 2017, you’ve probably heard me laud watch brands for the number of great, affordable watches they’ve introduced this year. Obviously the term “affordable” is relative, but it’s nice to see brands big and small put effort into creating quality products under $10,000 (in many cases well under $10,000) that can appeal to both new watch buyers and seasoned collectors alike. With 2018 fast approaching, I thought I’d look back at a few of my favorites, focusing specifically on simple time-only and time-and-date watches at fair prices that I think would be solid choices for nearly anyone.
Grand Seiko SBGW251
It’s not uncommon during Baselworld for new releases to create a bit of a stir online – but this watch created downright craziness. A stainless steel tribute to the very first Grand Seiko from 1960, this is pure, clean, and awesome. The SBGW251 has a numeral-free dial that features razor-sharp hands for the hours and minutes and a bright blued steel seconds hand to add a little color. This is the rare modern watch that you could easily mistake for a genuine vintage piece and the fact that it is a great looking, affordable limited edition – and the first watch to feature the new Seiko-free Grand Seiko branding on the dial – contributed to its success.
Tudor Black Bay 41
This might not be the most groundbreaking watch on this list, but it is one of the best. While more than a few of us over here at HODINKEE HQ are, and always have been, huge fans of the Black Bay 36, it’s just a reality of the modern watch market that selling 36mm wristwatches to men is pretty tough these days. So, Tudor took the same no-nonsense design and put it in a 41mm case that is a little more consumer-friendly. The Black Bay 41 is a great looking time-only watch (no date!!!) that is about as all-purpose as it gets. Personally, I suggest getting it on the steel bracelet and finding yourself a nice distressed leather strap to rotate in when you need a change of pace.
Cartier Tank Américaine In Steel
When I reviewed the new stainless steel Tank Américaine a few weeks ago, I didn’t really pull any punches. I love this watch. For the 100th anniversary of the iconic Tank, Cartier could have succumbed to temptation and created some sort of overwrought, overthought, out-of-left-field tribute piece or haute horlogerie talking piece. Instead, they smartly stuck to what works and created the Américaine in steel for the very first time. The result is a super wearable watch that for a lot of people could be the first and last nice watch they ever need to buy, while still having that dose of watch nerd nostalgia to keep the die-hards interested.
Blancpain Bathyscaphe 38mm
I’ve been a fan of the Bathyscaphe for a while now. I reviewed the original back in 2013 and my only real complaint was the size of the 43mm case. Well, problem solved. The new Bathyscaphe 38mm is exactly what it sounds like – the modern take on the vintage diver in a reduced 38mm case. All the little details are there – the filled hour markers, the red-tipped seconds hand, the ceramic bezel, etc. – you just get them in a more compact package. Doing something like this could be problematic, but Blancpain has done a good job, and the balance isn’t at all disrupted by the downsizing.
If we’re talking high-quality basics and good deals, you can’t not bring up the Tissot Ballade. For under $1,000 you get a great everyday watch with versatile styling and a movement fitted with a silicon hairspring. There are a lot of $5,000 watches that don’t offer either, and here you get both. I’ve personally recommended this watch to a few people and so far not a single one has been disappointed. Also, the more I look at the dial, with its combination of a brushed outer ring, a hobnail inner section, and applied markers, the more I love it.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date With Sector Dial
If you didn’t see this one coming, you obviously haven’t been reading HODINKEE very often this year. While I know it’s not a totally uncontroversial opinion, the sector dial Master Control Date is a serious candidate for my top overall watch of 2017. It’s beautiful, it contains a high quality in-house movement, and it comes at a more-than-fair price of $5,700. There’s a similarly styled Master Chronograph that gets an honorable mention here too – I know for a lot of people that was the stand-out watch of SIHH 2017, and it’s pretty hard to argue with them.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Tribute To Mark XI
This year was supposed to be all about the Da Vinci for IWC, but to me the brand’s best new release was unquestionably this vintage-inspired pilot’s watch that pays homage to the original Mark XI. The old-school dial includes a number of subtle tweaks from the standard Mark XVIII, but the most noticeable change is the inclusion of the blocky stick-shaped hands. At 40mm, the Pilot’s Watch Tribute To Mark XI is still very much a modern watch, and a pretty outstanding one at that. On the included NATO, it’s a pretty pitch-perfect weekend watch.
Longines Heritage 1945
This one has a bit of a HODINKEE connection – it was inspired by a 1940s Longines calatrava owned by our founder, Ben Clymer. The watch is even presented on a strap similar to the one on which Ben often wears his watch. It turns out good taste translates quite well, and the modern incarnation of his classic is straight fire. The Heritage 1945‘s brushed salmon dial is warm but clean, and the applied dots at the odd hours perfectly complement the Arabic numerals. It’s automatic instead of manual and a little bigger at 40mm, both of which make it a little easier for the everyday wearer.
Omega Aqua Terra Railmaster
This is a watch I’m shocked hasn’t gotten more attention this year. Sure, Omega released a lot of headline-grabbing pieces at Baselworld, but a whole new Railmaster collection surely deserves some real love. These time-only models fall under the Aqua Terra umbrella, but they’re very different in styling and finish. The brushed case is sturdy without being bulky, and the oversized markers and crosshairs give the dial a really graphic quality. The movement has a co-axial escapement, is Master Chronometer certified, and is anti-magnetic, too. That you can get one of these Railmasters for $5,100 (on a strap it’s just $4,900, but you want to pony up the extra $200 for the bracelet, I promise) is sort of crazy to be honest.