Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 5 Affordable Watches for 2012 (All Under $100)

The Best Watches for Less Than $100 

In a world where every cellphone has a built-in clock (and every smartphone is virtually a mobile computer unto itself), the wristwatch is, as far as pure timekeeping purposes go, obsolete.  But obsolescence does not entail extinction.  There are situations where a wristwatch serves better as a timekeeper than a phone, just as there are situations where a pocket watch enjoys advantages over wristwatch.  But more than that, wristwatches represent one of the few accessories a man can comfortably wear in nearly any context; the same cannot be said about stacked bracelets, piercings, or any ring that has no matrimonial ties.  Here's five watches that epitomize the finest attributes of the 21st century wristwatch--and won't overtax your wallet while doing it.

5. Invicta 8926

One of the most visible Rolex Submariner homages out there (so much so that its most recent interations have been tweaked just enough to keep them firmly away from replica territory), the Invicta 8926 has a cult following of its own, and a solid reputation as a bang-for-your-buck watch.  While its bracelet lacks the diver's extension that would make it a quintessential diver's watch, the 8926 offers the same water resistance (300 meters) as professional diving heavyweights like the Submariner and Omega Seamaster, an automatic movement, and a sleek, tool watch design that demonstrates how a watch meant for the deep ocean has just as easily found its way into boardrooms and night clubs.

The 8926 is less than $80 on Amazon.com. Also available in a quartz version: the 8932.

4. G-Shock DW5600E-1V

The quitessential G-Shock, the 5600 series can take all the punishment an active lifestyle can dish out and still perform with precision and reliability.  Its no-frills yet tough-as-nails design makes it perhaps the ultimate sports watch, wherever your sport of choice may take you.  Its only weakness is its rubber strap, which--if my experience is any indication--will probably be the first thing on this watch to fail after many years of hard service, and the primary attribute that will make many sartorialists frown at seeing one peak out from beneath the cuff of your suit.  But if you're as tough as the watch you wear, you can probably brush those haughty looks aside.

The DW5600E-1V is just over $40 at Amazon.com.

3. Casio A168W-1

Casio's regular line of digital watches have served reliably since the early days of the quartz revolution, and the A168W-1 strikes a fine balance of reliability, geek-chic style, and utterly affordability.  Its metal bracelet makes it a more comfortable match with your suit, and its sub-$20 price makes it the best bang-for-your-buck watch on this list.

Find the A168W-1 for under $20 at Amazon.com.

2. Seiko 5 SNK793

The Seiko 5 series represents one of the best values in automatic watches.  Technically an in-house manufacture (with Seiko producing all the parts from the movement outward), the Seiko 5 houses the venerable 7S26 caliber automatic movement, which also powers the formidable (and slightly more expensive, at around $200) Seiko "Orange Monster" dive watch.  Watches employing comparable Swiss movements would easily set you back several hundred dollars, which makes a Seiko 5 one of the best introductions into the realm of mechanical movements.

The SNK793 pictured above can be had for just over $55 on Amazon.com.

1. Timex Weekender T2N651KW

Timex is the source of the slogan "takes a licking and keeps on ticking" for a reason.  Known for sturdy, dependable yet inexpensive analog watches, Timex's origins are derived from the same source as wristwatches themselves: World War II, and the need for mass produceable and reliable timepieces.  Timex weathered the post-war drop in military orders and the subsequent quartz crisis in the 1970s that nearly tore the Swiss watch industry asunder, all the while continuing to build upon its reputation for dependability and economy.

The Weekender series of watches represents one of Timex's most recent offerings that blends reliabilty with classic styling and affordability.  The plain, military-style dial also recalls the readability and familiarity of classroom wall clocks, and the Indiglo backlighting gives it excellent visability in the dark.  The Weekender is designed to complement the ubiquitious NATO-style nylon straps that often give vintage watches with worn out bracelets a new lease on life, but it looks just as good on a leather strap or steel bracelet--and, so outfitted, competes with all but the blingiest of dress watches with subtlety and panache.

The Weekender as pictured above (T2N651KW) is available for less than $30 with NATO-style strap or under $40 with metal bracelet (T2N656KW).  Click here for the full Weekender selection on Amazon.com.