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Buying a great watch doesn’t have to break the bank. That statement might be hard to believe when we’re inundated with reports of rappers rocking six or seven-figure timepieces, but the best watches under $200 prove that style, precision and affordability can go hand-in-hand.
Real watch collectors all respect — if not own — great budget-friendly timepieces. Notable watch enthusiasts such as John Mayer and Tyler, the Creator are both known to rotate Casios with their Rolexes and Cartiers. The late Steve Jobs, on the other hand, famously rocked a Seiko with his turtleneck and Levi’s. In short, cheap watches can be very cool — no matter your bank account. Plus, because affordable watches are easier to replace, there’s less need to worry about your watch getting damaged or stolen.
If you’re looking to pick up a worthwhile, budget-friendly timepiece, you’re in luck: brands like Casio, Timex and Seiko are pumping out some great watches these days, making it easy to find the right piece. Below is a quick guide to shopping for watches, plus some of the best watches under $200 to buy right now.
How to Shop for a Watch on a Budget
When it comes to watches, the devil is in the details. Different movements, materials and millimeter variations in size can all make or break a timepiece. Here are some basic specifications to check out before making a purchase.
Size: The most essential measurement on a watch is the case diameter, measured in millimeters. Men’s watches have been getting smaller in recent years, returning to the slim silhouettes of the Sixties and Seventies, so for most guys we suggest a watch with a diameter of around 38 millimeters. If you have big wrists, or just want a bulky look, go for something bigger than 40 millimeters.
Movement: A watch’s movement refers to the inner workings of the piece. The cheapest and most common movement is quartz, which uses a battery to function. Quartz watches run quite accurately and don’t require much maintenance, save for a battery replacement every few years or so.
Automatic movements, which “charge” themselves through the kinetic energy of your wrist’s movement, are standard with expensive brands such as Omega and Rolex. Automatic watches typically offer accurate timekeeping with higher-quality parts that last for a long time. Mechanical movements are similar to automatics but require hand-winding about every two days.
Water-resistance: A watch’s claimed water-resistance can be a bit deceptive. If a watch is rated at 30 meters water-resistance, for example, it’s best to keep it completely dry. 50 meters water-resistance should be safe in rain or splashes, and watches rated over 50 meters water-resistant should be safe for swimming. More than 100 meters water-resistance and your watch is ready for serious diving.
Style: Choosing a watch is similar to choosing a new pair of shoes: there’s a ton of variety, and not every watch will work with your personal style. Before making a choice, it’s important to envision how and where you would rock the watch, in addition to whether or not you like it as a standalone piece of art.
The Best Watches Under $200
There are a ton of great watches you can get on a budget. We’ve rounded up some of the best watches under $200 below (note: prices were under $200 at time of this article’s publication)
1. Orient 2nd Generation Bambino
Stylish dress watches are some of the most difficult watches to find at a bargain, which is why we love the Orient Bambino. Boasting a clean stainless steel case, a minimal black face and a black leather strap, the watch lends enough sophistication for offices, dressy outfits and even black-tie events. The case is slim enough to fit under a dress shirt cuff and measures 40.5 millimeters in width for a substantial feel.
Inside is a reliable Japanese automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve, meaning it’ll keep ticking while stationary for 40 hours before needing to be reset.
2. Timex x Todd Snyder Mk1 Bootcamp
If you’re looking for something a bit more casual (but still pulled together), check out this Mk1 Bootcamp watch from the Timex x Todd Snyder collaboration. The watch takes inspiration from a military watch that Timex designed for servicemen in Vietnam. Thanks to a green nato strap, aircraft-quality steel and a 24-hour Arabic numeral dial, the military inspiration comes through nicely. However, because Timex and Snyder have stuck to the vintage look, the watch is very wearable for modern civilian use whether you’re traveling, going into the office or just running errands.
3. Seiko 5 SNXS73
Easily mistakable for a Rolex, the Seiko 5 line not only nails classic looks but delivers a reliable automatic movement to boot. The stainless steel Seiko 5 comes in a few variations, but we’re partial to this silver-face SNXS73. It boasts a clean design with index hour markers, stainless steel throughout and a convenient day/date display at the three o’clock position.
At 38 millimeters in size, it should look great on almost anyone. Plus, the watch’s face is made of Seiko’s scratch-resistant Hardlex, which is better than the standard mineral crystal found on most budget watches.
4. Q Timex Reissue Pepsi
Divers are one of the most versatile styles of watches, looking just as good with a suit as they do with swim trunks. If you’re shopping for an affordable diver watch, we think this Q Timex Reissue is your best bet. As the name suggests, the watch is a re-release of a 1979 Timex diver. It comes complete with all the details of the original, including a rotating top ring, a woven stainless steel bracelet and luminescent paint. The inside of the watch departs from the original with a solid quartz movement. It’s also rated at 50 meters water resistance, meaning you can safely swim and shower while wearing the watch.
5. Breada Visser
Classic watches are great, but this Breda Visser makes a case for the modern analog timepiece. It’s named after Carel Nicolaas Visser, an abstract-minimalist Dutch sculptor. Measuring a streamlined 35 millimeters, the stainless steel case is subtly unique with a squared shape and nicely complemented by a smooth, light brown leather strap. This case houses a robust Japanese-made Miyota quartz movement.
6. Casio MQ24-9B
Recently taken to new heights thanks to Tyler, the Creator, this Casio MQ24-9B might be the coolest use of $15. With a resin case, 24 and 12-hour Arabic hour markers and a yellow-beige dial, the watch is absolutely basic — and that’s why it’s great. The resin construction also makes the watch extremely lightweight (1.6 ounces) and very comfortable on long days.
With a water-resistance rating of 30 meters, it may or may not hold up to a swim, but we say go ahead and beat it up: you can always grab a new one for the price of a cheap lunch.
7. Apple Watch Series 3 GPS
Even serious watch enthusiasts are now accepting the truth that smartwatches are fantastic. For a hair under $200, you can pick up this Series 3 Apple Watch with built-in GPS. The Series 3 offers all the core features that make Apple Watches great, including a heart rate monitor, full connectivity to your smartphone and swimming-ready water resistance. If you run or hike often, the GPS comes in handy for tracking distance and elevation gain.