The Best Watches Under $1000 (2021): Longines, Tissot, Seiko, Hamilton - Rolling Stone
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The Best Watches Under $1,000

A thousand bucks can get you an investment-worthy timepiece with change to spare – if you know where to look and what to look for

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Shopping for watches around $1,000 can sometimes feel like a bleak endeavor. It’s a middle ground between grail-level timepieces and affordable sets you can buy at department stores. If you’re currently in this situation, fear not: $1,000 can get you a great timepiece. The best watches under $1,000 have the build quality and features to compete with the most prestigious brands, and they can outlast cheaper, more common watches.

Many of the watches in this price range are top-of-the-line offerings from brands known for more affordable watches. This means you might not get that instant clout of, say, a Rolex, but real watch lovers will recognize and appreciate these timepieces for what they are. In terms of specifications, you can expect the best that watchmaking has to offer: automatic movements, sapphire crystal and high-quality materials. These premium touches are what will make a watch not only look expensive, but last as an heirloom for future generations.

If you’re reticent about buying an analog watch in 2021, it’s important to note that (somewhat surprisingly) high-end watches haven’t disappeared with the advent of smartphone clocks and smartwatches. Instead, more people are embracing the beauty of old-school movements and the style of throwback designs. As proof, check out the recently-released automatic and mechanical watches from big brands such as Seiko and Timex.

Although $1,000 might not seem like much in a world where celebs are rocking $30,000+ Audemars Piguets, it’s more than enough to snag a high-quality, investment-worthy timepiece. Read on for our watch buying guide, as well as our picks for the best watches under $1,000.

What to Look for in a Good Watch

For some enthusiasts, watch buying is a full-time hobby. But unless you’re looking for an ultra-rare (or ultra-expensive) timepiece, a few key considerations are enough to identify a great watch. Below are a few things to keep in mind while shopping for the best watch on a budget.

Movement: The three main types of watch movements are automatic, mechanical and quartz. Automatic is the gold-standard (used by famous brands such as Rolex and Omega), harnessing the kinetic energy of the wearer’s movement. This allows the watch to “charge” itself and continue running without any intervention. Mechanical watches are the true vintage choice and must be hand-wound every couple of days. Quartz is the most common movement today (and the cheapest) using a battery that needs replacing every couple years or so.

Brand: With watches, a trustworthy brand typically means a trustworthy watch. Old, established brands often have well-founded reputations for lasting quality. A watch’s origin matters too, as some countries have higher quality standards and more competitive watchmaking culture. This is why Swiss watches are so desirable, and why Japanese watches have become synonymous with reliability (similar to car manufacturing).

Crystal: A watch’s “crystal” refers to the material used for the dial cover. Sapphire is the most desirable as it’s very hard to scratch, and reduces glare. Seven of our eight picks use this sapphire crystal. The other type of crystal you’ll encounter is mineral, which is a specially-treated glass. Cheaper watches also use plastic-like acrylic crystal, but none of our picks use this.

Water-Resistance: Almost all watches are labeled as water-resistant, but many watches can’t actually withstand a shower or prolonged submersion. If a watch is rated at 30 meters water-resistance, try not to get it wet at all. Fifty meters of water resistance is enough to withstand rain and occasional splashes. Any rating over 50 meters is safe for swimming, and 100 meters means a watch is ready for real diving.

Features: Some watches have added features such as a day or date reader or a chronograph (a stopwatch separate from the main dial). These can be convenient, but they’re also just cool.

The Best Watches Under $1,000 (Men’s)

1. Mido Ocean Star Captain Automatic Men’s Watch

Mido, a Swiss brand with over a hundred years’ experience, makes some excellent diving watches that fly under the radar of most shoppers. This Ocean Star Captain is a great example, boasting a classic diver look and an impressive automatic movement under the hood. Although it’s stylish as a daily watch, the Ocean Star is capable of real adventure thanks to a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and 200 meters water resistance.

mens diver watch mido

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Mido Ocean Star Captain Automatic Men's… at $619.99

2. Longines La Grande Presence Automatic Men’s Watch

Classy dress watches are among the most expensive options at most watch shops, but you don’t have to drop tens of thousands for a sophisticated timepiece. This La Grande Presence comes from Longines, a Swiss brand with a reputation for suave timekeepers. The brand was founded in 1832 (making it the sixth-oldest Swiss watch brand in the world) and their rich heritage is apparent in watches like this Presence.

Like any great dress watch, the La Grande delivers a minimal, classy style and a premium build quality. It features an automatic movement (which can be viewed through the skeleton back), a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and clean, elegant lines throughout.

dress watch mens longines

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Longines La Grande Presence Automatic… at $867.89

3. Tag Heuer Formula 1 Quartz Black Dial Men’s Watch

Tag Heuer is one of the biggest names in the Swiss luxury watch world, making this sub-$1,000 Formula 1 a steal. But don’t let the attainable price tag deceive you: this watch brings premium materials and a versatile, classic style. With a stainless steel case and a rubber strap, the Formula 1 strikes a good balance between casual and smart: wear it with a suit to dinner or jeans and a t-shirt while traveling. Wherever you take it, the watch’s sapphire crystal ensures protection from bumps, and its 100-meter water resistance permits real diving.

tag heuer mens watch deal

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Tag Heuer Formula 1 Quartz Black Dial… at $995

4. Orient Star Automatic SAF02003W0

If you’re in need of a classic, no-frills timepiece, check out this Star Automatic from Orient. The watch’s stainless steel build, minimal face and versatile 38.5-millimeter size make it ideal for everyday wear. But one of our favorite features is the watch’s 40-hour power reserve, which means fewer resets when you put it on. Plus, the power reserve level is indicated underneath the 12 o’clock position. The watch also features a handy date complication and 50 meters water resistance for occasional swims or showers.

stainless steel watch mens orient

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Orient Star Automatic SAF02003W0 at $340

5. Tissot Gentleman Automatic Black Dial Men’s Watch

Although best known for affordable timepieces, Tissot quietly offers some excellent watches at a higher price point. This Gentleman Automatic watch is one of their nicer products with a reliable, Swiss-made automatic movement and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It’s also exceptionally good-looking, boasting a throwback two-tone colorway and a black leather strap. Plus, although it might not look too rugged, 50 meters water resistance offers good damage protection — even while showering or swimming.

vintage watch mens tissot

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Tissot Gentleman Automatic Black Dial… at $999

6. Frederique Constant Classics Automatic Watch

Coming out of Switzerland, Frederique Constant is younger than most watch companies (founded in 1988) but their pieces are as good – if not better – than many of the old guys. This Classics Automatic watch is proof of Frederique Constant’s expertise, sporting a classy, modern look and premium materials. One of the watch’s standout features is a titanium bezel, which, combined with its 50-meter water resistance, makes for real durability. But our favorite thing about the Classics piece is its style: the watch is neither old-fashioned nor hyper-modern and looks great with just about everything in our wardrobe.

dress watch mens fancy

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Frederique Constant Classics Automatic… at $850

7. Seiko Presage Automatic Men’s Watch SRPD42J1

This Seiko Presage SRPD42J1 is another example of an affordable watch brand pulling out all the stops to make a premium timepiece – and succeeding. As expected from a mid-level watch, you get a reliable automatic movement, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and upscale looks. The case is made of rose gold-tone stainless steel, which is complemented nicely by a brown leather strap. It also houses an impressive 41-hour power reserve, so it can sit for almost two days without requiring a manual reset.

gold watch mens dress

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Seiko Presage Automatic Men's Watch… at $409

8. Rado Diastar Automatic Black Dial Men’s Watch

Off-beat watches are having a moment right now (see pieces like Kanye’s Cartier Crash). This Rado Diastar nails the slightly weird, totally cool look with the Swiss brand’s recognizable, non-traditional case. The Diastar’s shape actually serves a purpose, reducing the likelihood of scratches on the face (it also has a sapphire crystal for even more scratch protection). Below this crystal, you’ll see a relatively simple face, save for day and date complications placed at the unusual position of six o’clock.

cool watch under 1000

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: s at $519.99

9. Hamilton Ventura Open Heart

If the Hamilton Ventura looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen Men in Black. The watch is part of the alien-fighting uniform, and it looks just as exciting in the real world as it does in the Will Smith films. Because watches are now less about function than they used to be, we think the unique shape of the Ventura (and its cinematic history) makes it a great addition to any collection.

This Open Heart iteration of the Ventura upgrades the standard watch with an automatic movement that can be viewed through a window under the twelve-o’clock mark. Materials have also been upgraded in the form of a sapphire crystal and luxurious calfskin leather strap.

hamilton watch ventura

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Hamilton Ventura Open Heart at $749.00

10. Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular

We love analog watches, but smartwatches are fantastic too. With a $1000 budget, you can pick up the latest and greatest: the Apple Watch Series 7 with GPS and cellular functionality. Using the smartwatch’s crystal-clear, crack-resistant retina display, you can check texts, track heart rate and blood oxygen levels, stream music or podcasts, make phone calls and so much more. With the addition of GPS and independent cellular connectivity, you can connect the watch to the internet and make calls without being connected to a smartphone. The Apple Watch comes in a range of colorways for styles, but we’re partial to this chic graphite Milanese loop bracelet for daily wear.

best apple watch metal bracelet

Courtesy Amazon

Buy: Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular at $769

The Best Watches Under $1,000 (Women’s)

11. Tissot T-Classic Automatic Ladies Watch

Ladies’ watches can be tricky to shop for. Some are feminine to the point of cheesiness (see: bedazzling all over) and some are too plain. We think this Tissot T-Classic avoids both pitfalls with a sophisticated yet interesting face that incorporates mother of pearl and a subtle string of jewels. But it’s not all looks: the watch boasts an automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve.

bracelet watch womens tissot

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Tissot T-Classic Automatic Ladies Watch at $449

12. Gucci Diamantissima Stainless Steel Ladies Watch

This Diamantissima is one of Gucci’s more tame-looking watches, providing just enough flair to elevate casual outfits or blend in with dressy attire. To achieve this look, Gucci uses a stainless steel mesh bracelet, a mother of pearl face and four diamonds to mark the three, six, nine and 12 o’clock positions. Despite its elegance, the watch can actually hold up to light swimming and showering thanks to 50 meters water resistance.

gucci watch womens

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Gucci Diamantissima Stainless Steel… at $575

13. Longines Presence Ladies

This ladies’ version of the Longines Presence is pure elegance with classic roman numerals on a white dial. Top-tier materials (including a sapphire crystal) and a reliable automatic Swiss movement are neatly packaged in a petit 25mm yellow gold-plated stainless steel case. Overall, it’s a sophisticated dress watch that’s fit for dressy occasions as well as more casual settings. Plus, the watch comes with the substantial heritage of the Longines brand.

gold dress watch ladies longines

Courtesy Jomashop

Buy: Longines Presence Ladies at $825.00

In This Article: Fashion, RS Recommends, watches

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