Entry Point: The Cheapest Watches You Can Get From Luxury Brands in 2018 (Rolex, Cartier and More)
It’s important for even the most desirable of brands to have a strategy for its entry-level timepiece. Hook a consumer early and they may become a brand loyalist for years. And as that consumer finds success in life, so too does the brand: reel them in with an entry-level time-only watch, but twenty years later they may be buying that complicated world time watch that’s got all of Baselworld talking.
Here, we’ve gathered men’s entry-level watches for Popular Luxury Watch Brands
Some are more accessible than others, but all are mechanical timepieces that come from brands with an established pedigree of fine watchmaking. This list focuses on mid-level luxury brands and doesn’t venture into the higher-end of luxury (think Vacheron Constantin, Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, and independent manufacturers), where entry-level pieces can easily exceed five figures.
Junghans Max Bill Hand Wind
The simple Bauhaus watch that seems to draw so many into the world of mechanical watch making. Designed by the legendary designer after whom the timepiece is named, this watch lets you own a true piece of watchmaking (and design) history that is now often imitated by Kickstarter- and Instagram-based brands around the world. While Junghans may not be known as a house of high horology, there’s something to be said for a clean, well-designed watch for under $1,000.
Nomos Club Campus
Often thought of as the entry-level luxury watch brand, Nomos has created functional, minimalist timepieces since its founding after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since the development of its first in-house movement in 2005, it has garnered respect from all corners of the watch-loving community. Its relatively new Club Campus is deliberately marketed towards younger consumers (hence the name “Campus”), and its playful colors and minimalist styling are a welcome and youthful addition to a landscape dominated by centuries old companies, sometimes with the designs to match. Meanwhile, with its iconic Tangente designed priced just north of $2,000 and a world time watch priced at $6,100, Nomos offers a full line of timepieces at a price point below some other brands’ “entry level” watch.
Nomos Club Campus | $1,500
Tag Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5
Yes, there’s a lot happening with this 43mm watch. But that’s why you love a Tag Heuer. There’s racing in its DNA; and sometimes, as is the case here, in the name as well. It’s a do-anything sports watch that comes with Tag Heuer’s Calibre 5 movement. A fine introduction to auto racing’s favorite Swiss brand.
Tag Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5 | $1,800
Grand Seiko SBGX259G (Quartz)
Okay, this one’s a quartz watch. But Grand Seiko’s 9F caliber quartz movement garners such universal praise it still gets the nod here. The SBGX259G, 261G and 263G (white, black and silver dial, respectively) are 37mm stainless steel watches with all the simplicity, elegance, and superior finishing that Grand Seiko has become known for. The brand’s mechanical options start at $3,800 with the SBGA283 and SBGA285G, but the human assembly and finishing of the quartz movement, along with all the other dial and hand finishings that make a Grand Seiko so sophisticated, also make the quartz SBGX collection worth your time. With the entirety of Grand Seiko’s collection priced so accessibly, it might be worth spending a bit more to acquire a truly iconic “Snowflake,” a watch driven by GS’s revolutionary Spring Drive movement.
Grand Seiko BGX Collection | $2,200
Tudor Black Bay 36
Sure, you can get a Tudor 1926 for less than $2,000. But if you’re purchasing a Tudor, don’t you want a Black Bay? Since introducing the line in 2012, the Black Bay collection has become synonymous with the brand, and is as classic a dive watch as you’ll find today. This 36mm version with no rotating bezel is a perfect entry point for those looking for a smaller or slightly more understated sports watch.
Tudor Black Bay 36 | $2,525
Cartier Ronde Solo
While you can pick up a quartz Tank Solo for $2,500, Cartier’s mechanical options start at just over $3,000 with this 36mm steel Ronde, closely followed by a mechanically-powered Tank. Of course the Tank is a classic, but the Ronde maintains many of Cartier’s classic design elements (roman numerals, blue hands), just in a case with a different geographic motif. If you’re into the french fashion house’s playful manipulation of shapes, the Ronde may be your gateway into a lifelong Cartier obsession.
Ronde Solo de Cartier | $3,150
Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial
Omega’s De Ville collection is the Swiss brand’s entry-level collection. It comes in a variety of dial colors and sizes. Here we’ve highlighted the 36.8mm version, a comfortable size for a watch that can be dressed up or down for any occasion. The entry-level De Ville also comes with Omega’s revolutionary co-axial movement, which significantly reduces friction in the escapement as compared to the traditional lever escapement, meaning less wear and tear and longer service intervals.
IWC Mark XVIII
The modern extension of IWC’s legendary Mark series of watches, the Mark XVIII is a modern take on the Mark XI (which housed IWC’s legendary Caliber 89 movement), produced from the 1950s to the 1970s for the British military. The Mark XVII measures 40mm in diameter and 11mm in thickness, giving a modern presence to this classic pilot’s watch.
IWC Mark XVIII (40mm) | $3,950
Perhaps no case shape is as instantly recognizable as Panerai’s large cushion cases. The entry-level Radiomir comes in a 45mm case and is equipped with a 3-day power reserve in an in-house movement. It’s also rated to 100m of water resistance, which you don’t see in every entry-level luxury watch.
Panerai Radiomir 3 Day | $4,000
Zenith Elite Classic
Often the forgotten sibling among LVMH’s extensive portfolio of watch brands, Zenith is still best known for its original, history-making El Primero chronograph movement, widely hailed as one of – if not the – best automatic chronograph movements ever. Zenith’s entry-level watch is the time-only Elite Classic in 39mm stainless steel.
Zenith Elite Classic | $4,700
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36
A new 36mm Oyster Perpetual from the Crown will set you back $5,400. Prices and size options on the Oyster Perpetual rise from there, and the combination of case material and dial colors give consumers a variety of options when looking to make their first Rolex acquisition. However, if you’re reaching into this price level, you can also access most of the Nomos or Grand Seiko collections, which arguable provide more watch for your money. But that’s the power of the Crown.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 | $5,400
Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Control Date
While JLC’s most famous (and most recognizable) model, the Reverso, can be had for just a couple hundred dollars more, the Master Control is a classic worthy of attention in its own right. While the sector dial on the lowest-priced option can be divisive (pun intended), it really adds interest to the dial and proves you can do a lot with a 39mm case size. But as one of the more expensive options presented here, some may find it hard to justify the hefty price tag.
Jager Le-Coultre Master Control Date | $5,700
Blanpain Villeret Ultraplate
A brand essentially brought back from the dead in the 1980s by the legendary Jean-Claude Biver (who, until recently, was the head of LVMH’s watch division, whose watch holdings include Tag Heuer, Zenith, Hublot and Bulgari), Blancpain actually traces its history to 1735. Its watches today draw on this history and classical inspiration; the 38mm Villeret Ultraplate is a truly elegant timepiece. Unfortunately it’s the most expensive entry-level piece highlighted here.
Blancpain Villeret Ultraplate | $7,500