It doesn’t take a genius to understand why those of us who want to look sharp might also want to find some more affordable watch brands.
As feats of both design and engineering, a good watch is easily one of the coolest and most stylish accessories you can own.
But some of the very best watch brands charge some pretty exorbitant prices, putting them out of reach for the vast majority of budding watch collectors.
(I’m looking at you Patek Philippe, Omega, Tag Heuer and Vacheron Constantin.)
Fortunately, the traditional luxury brands are hardly the only game in town.
Whether you’re looking for fashion watches or something more casual, today there are plenty of places to find stylish, well made watches that will let you look baller on a budget.
In this post I’ve rounded up some of the absolute best affordable watch brands that make great, high-quality watches, but won’t require you to refinance your house or miss your next mortgage payment.
The (Absolute) Best Affordable Watch Brands
Breaking Down the Best Cheap Watch Brands for Men
The Best Affordable Luxury Watch Brands
High Quality, Without the Hefty Price Tag
Easily one of the most famous and well respected watch brands in the world, this venerable Japanese brand uses high-quality materials and is well respected in the watch industry.
Seiko watches famously offer a strong combination of both style and quality, without the huge price tag that usually accompanies comparable Swiss watches.
(Although there’s more than one Swiss company that offers a similar combination of high quality and great value, as you’ll see below.)
In addition to great watches and good prices, another cool thing that Seiko offers is a prestige factor that few – if any – affordable brands can match:
Their watches were once worn by no less a style icon than James Bond himself.
Bond’s wrist is always reserved for some of the best brands in the watch world, and the producers have had an exclusive deal with Omega since 1995.
But back in the late 70s and early 80s, Roger Moore’s 007 wore Seikos in four of his seven appearances, lending Seiko some cultural cachet that few brands in this price range can match.
Hamilton began as an American brand, having been founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
But in 1969 it was purchased by The Swatch Group, the same Swiss parent company that owns the well known Swatch brand (among others), so today it’s one of the few watch brands that combines Swiss watchmaking expertise and American heritage.
This unique combination of American heritage, Swiss expertise, unique design, quality, and affordability make it one of the most popular and sought after brands in this price range.
Japanese-owned Citizen has been making well crafted watches for nearly a century, after having been co-founded by Japanese and Swiss investors in 1930.
They have a number of popular collections of both men’s and women’s watches, all of which come at a fairly accessible and affordable price point, especially compared to high-end luxury brands.
Citizen is well known for introducing the Eco-Drive, the world’s first watch to be light-powered, which used solar cells to charge the battery and offered 200 hours of power reserve.
Today Citizen watches are also known for their accuracy and precision, both of which once terrified luxury Swiss watchmakers:
The brand uses quartz movement technology to ensure that its watches keep accurate time, and helped usher in what traditional watchmakers called the quartz crisis in the 1970s and early 80s.
While Swiss watchmakers chose to keep their focus on traditional mechanical watches, Japanese companies like Seiko, Citizen, and Casio went all-in on quartz timepieces, which are more accurate and more affordable than mechanical options.
Now owned by Epson (the same parent company that owns Seiko), Orient is another well respected Japanese brand that offers reliable timepieces at reasonable prices.
Before being acquired by Epson, they were best known for making watches with mechanical movements (meaning they had to be hand-wound, rather than winding automatically), and at one point even made models powered by artificial light and solar power.
GQ once named them the king of sub-$500 watches, so they’ve got quite a bit of industry cred to go along with their decades of history.
The Best Affordable Swiss Watch Brands
Swiss-Made Craftsmanship That Won’t Break the Bank
Easily one of the best affordable Swiss watchmakers on the market, Tissot is based in Le Locle, Switzerland – the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking – and has been producing watches since 1853.
Like other Swiss brands, Tissot has a long-standing tradition of producing affordable watches that are not only accurate and reliable, but stylish and eye-catching.
In addition to affordability, Tissot is known for both its innovation and its durability.
It was one of the first watchmakers to introduce pocket watches with two time zones, and also developed the first mass-produced pocket watch with interchangeable parts.
But unlike some other (less reputable) brands that sell affordable watches, Tissot doesn’t cheap out when it comes to materials or testing.
They’ve cultivated a well-earned reputation within the watch community for durability, longevity and build quality, making them one of the best-value brands on the market.
A solid Swiss brand, Frederique Constant was founded in 1988 by Aletta and Peter Stas, with an initial focus on affordable luxury watches that combined classic designs with modern features.
It quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality watches at a reasonable price point, and in 2004, the brand introduced its own movements created in-house.
They’ve continued to innovate and expand their range of watches since then, and today they have a wide selection of stylish and high-quality timepieces, making them a good option for anyone who wants to expand their watch collection.
Another of the newer crop of Swiss luxury brands, Raymond Weil was founded in 1976 by the eponymous watchmaker and his business partner Simone Bédat, who later left to launch her own brand, Bedat_&_Co.
The company began as a response to the aforementioned quartz crisis, which threatened to destroy the Swiss watch industry.
Weil combined his passion for music with his love of watchmaking to create a brand that combines precision engineering with timeless design.
Today the brand is well regarded as one of the best affordable luxury watch brands in the world, offering a range of watches that blend classic design with modern technology.
Their commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and affordability has made it a favorite among watch enthusiasts and collectors for a long time now.
Their focus has always been on the more affordable end of the luxury market, so it’s a great place to turn if you want to score a great watch at a great price.
Swatch was founded in 1983 with a mission to create stylish and affordable watches that would appeal to a younger generation.
In fact, the brand’s name is meant to be a portmanteau that combines the words “second watch” into one name, a nod to its goal of providing a fun, affordable alternative to traditional luxury watches.
Swatch quickly gained a following for its bold designs and playful aesthetic, and its unique combination of Swiss-made quality with colorful and collectible watches.
Victorinox is another brand with a rich history rooted in Swiss craftsmanship, but unlike most of the other Swiss brands on this list, they didn’t start with watches.
Founded in 1884 by Karl Elsener, the company started as a cutlery workshop and went on to create the legendary Swiss Army Knife.
Drawing on their expertise in precision engineering, they expanded their product line to include watches in the 1980s.
Today, Victorinox watches are known for their reliability and durability, making them a good choice for adventurers and everyday wearers alike.
With a range of styles and prices that won’t break the bank, Victorinox offers a taste of Swiss luxury without the hefty price tag.
Moving from one adventurous Swiss brand to another, Alpina is a Geneva-based watchmaker founded in 1883 by Gottlieb Hauser.
Over the years, the brand has established itself as a go-to for those who demand durability and functionality in their timepieces.
They’re credited with having invented the sport watch when they introduced the Alpina 4 in 1938, which established the four criteria that a watch must meet in order to be called a proper sport watch:
- Stainless Steel
And with prices starting at just a few hundred dollars, today Alpina is an excellent choice for those looking for a stylish and affordable watch that doesn’t compromise on quality or functionality.
Owned by the Swatch Group, Mido is an entry-level Swiss brand that offers a wide range of well-made, reliable watches that are affordable for a broad range of consumers.
Mido’s approach to watchmaking combines timeless design with cutting-edge technology, which is unique at the lower, more affordable end of the Swiss watch market.
The brand is one of the world’s top producers of chronometers, the extremely accurate timepieces regulated by a Swiss testing agency, and in the ‘70s they invented the Aquadura Crown Sealing System, which uses all-natural cork to ensure their watches are water resistant.
Known for its iconic design – inspired by the famous Swiss railway clock – Mondaine offers affordable watches with a minimalist aesthetic and high level of attention to detail, from the sleek and simple dial to the precise movement.
In addition to being both timeless and iconic, what’s great about Mondaine’s classic Swiss Railway watch is that it’s also incredibly versatile.
It can easily be dressed up or down, which means you can pair it with pretty much anything in your wardrobe.
So if you’re on a tight budget and only want to buy one watch that you can wear the hell out of, it’s a great candidate.
The Best Affordable Casual Watch Brands
Pretty Cool Pieces, Very Cooler Prices
Timex is well known for making cheap watches, and is often the first brand you’re exposed to when you get a new watch as a kid.
But make no mistake:
Casio is another Japanese brand that’s best known for their digital watches, which have obviously lost a lot of ground to smart watches in terms of functionality.
But they’ve also carved out something of a cachet for themselves, and much like everything else from the 90s, they’ve started to come back into fashion in a pretty big way.
Don’t get me wrong: a handsome automatic watch made from precious metals like gold and platinum will always have a place in a man’s wardrobe.
But Casio is a great place to turn for a more casual, old-school watch that evokes the carefree cool of the ’80s and early ’90s.
Owned by Casio, G-Shock was first introduced in 1983 as a more athletic sub-brand that’s developed something of a cult following among athletes and adventurers.
In addition to being water resistant and durable as hell, its watches are also shock resistant (hence the name) and designed to withstand extreme conditions, which is why it was initially marketed toward outdoor adventure enthusiasts and people in the military.
But it soon became a cultural phenomenon, embraced by everyone from streetwear enthusiasts to fashion icons.
Fortunately, its status as a cultural icon notwithstanding, G-Shock remains an affordable watch brand, offering some of the best watches that combine high-performance functionality with eye-catching style at an accessible price point.
If you’re looking for fine metal bracelets or a sleek stainless steel case, they’re probably not your best bet.
But if you want a high-performance watch with legit water resistance and durability that also happens to look cool as hell, it’s easily your best option.
Stuhrling is a Brooklyn-based company that makes Swiss-quality watches.
They got their start in 2002 by making arguably the most technically challenging type of watches, tourbillons, which have an added mechanism that counters gravity’s effects and helps it keep time.
Since then they’ve expanded into all manner of chronographs, dive watches, dress watches and more, applying the same technical proficiency and attention to detail that a tourbillon requires to each new model.
The result is some pretty gorgeous and well made watches with looks that rival the Rolexes of the world, but price tags that are much more affordable.
As its name (sort of) implies, AVI-8 is a watch brand that pays homage to aviation and the heroes of flight.
Founded in 2012 in the United Kingdom, AVI-8’s watches feature flight-inspired designs, such as cockpit gauges and military-style dials.
In addition to this classic and masculine design aesthetic, they also have an admirable commitment to accuracy and attention to detail.
Each watch is carefully crafted to ensure that it captures the spirit of aviation while maintaining a high level of precision.
I had a chance to try the Limited Edition (and hence, no longer available) version of their Jubilee Automatic as part of my Watch Gang review.
And I was quite impressed by both its looks and its construction.
Its eye-catching design was inspired by the P-51 Mustang, a long-range, single-seat fighter plane used during Operation Jubilee in WWII, and it has an NH35 Japanese automatic movement.
You can check out my full review to read more about it, but (spoiler alert) overall I was very impressed by the value and quality of what AVI-8 had to offer.
Founded in 1837 in Chiasso, Switzerland, Invicta no longer belongs in the Swiss portion of this list because it was acquired by American owners in 1991.
Though it still makes a small collection of wholly Swiss-made watches, many of its other watches include both Swiss and Japanese automatic movement, so they’re not true Swiss watches.
Nonetheless, Invicta has earned a decent reputation within the watch world thanks to their continued attention to detail and commitment to craftsmanship.
In recent years they’ve also gained a lot of notoriety by partnering with major brands and sports leagues to put out themed collections, including watches based on Marvel and DC Comics, NFL teams, NHL teams, MLB teams, and more.
Founded in Hong Kong in 2014, Undone Watches is a relatively new player in the watchmaking world.
What sets Undone apart from other affordable watch brands is its focus on customization and personalization.
Customers can design their own watches, choosing everything from the case and dial to the strap and even the second hand.
This level of customization is quite rare in the watchmaking industry, making Undone a popular choice for those who want a watch that is truly unique.
I had a chance to test out the process myself, and was quite happy with the results.
While many of the best affordable watch brands are Swiss, Triwa is a rare Swedish entry that offers both unique designs and a sustainable approach.
Like other watch brands in its price range, Triwa offers a range of minimalist and modern timepieces that are both stylish and functional.
But the brand’s commitment to sustainability is both unique in this space and quite admirable.
It uses recycled materials and eco-friendly production processes, making it a top choice for conscientious consumers.
Plus, like all other things Scandinavian, they have a sleek aesthetic that helps their designs stand out.
Whereas Hamilton began its life as an American watch company that’s now owned by a Swiss brand, Movado basically went the other way.
It was founded in the well-known watchmaking town of La Chaux-de-Fonds way back in 1881, but more than 100 years later it was purchased by a company called the North American Watch Group, and moved its headquarters to Paramus, New Jersey.
But don’t let the New Jersey address scare you off:
The brand has remained true to its Swiss roots for decades, and continues to make some of the most stylish and well priced watches on the market.
Their famous (and unimpeachable) Museum Classic watch will set you back more than a grand, so that particular model falls a little outside of the “affordable” label.
But their Bold line is almost as impressive, and comes with price tags that are anywhere from one half to one third the price of the Museum.
MVMT is one of the more popular direct-to-consumer watch brands to spring up in recent years.
They owe their fame and reputation both to the style of their modern and affordable quartz watches, and to the smart marketing campaign that’s targeted millennials and Gen Z through podcast ads and social media.
They’re a great option for anyone who wants a low-cost watch that looks a little more modern and “of the moment” than a lot of other players in the watchmaking industry.
(And if you don’t want to sort through their entire offering, I’ve put together a list of the most stylish MVMT watches for men that will help you narrow your search.)
Another brand that combines unique design with a savvy social media strategy, Daniel Wellington is a Swiss watch brand that tends to target younger buyers.
Though they’re aimed at a youthful demo, many of DW’s watches have a classic style that puts an updated spin on vintage and classic dress watches that evoke an earlier era while still looking totally modern.
Fossil Group is an accessories company (and staple of malls across North America) that makes everything from leather goods to smartwatches.
Fossil has been making watches for years across a wide variety of styles, including field watches, sports watches and more.
In my opinion their watches tend to lean more casual than some of the other brands on this list.
But while they may not be luxury items, they’re still stylish and well made watches that often look great with casual get ups.
Now owned by Citizen, Bulova was originally founded in New York back in 1875.
They make a range of watches, clocks and other accessories, but are best known (at least in my opinion) for making some of the best affordable luxury watches on the market.
Their dress watches are sleek and sophisticated, but don’t carry the hefty price tag you’d expect from other luxury watch companies.
In fact, I wore a classic black Bulova with a silver case and rose gold arms and dial on my wedding day, and I can honestly say that my wrist has never looked so well adorned.
The Best of the Rest
While the affordable watch companies above constitute our favorite affordable brands, they’re far from the only ones worth considering.
Each of the watch brands below offers its own combination of stylish timepieces and affordable prices, so they’re all worth looking at for an even wider variety of styles, models and price points.
More Resources ↓
More Men’s Watch Advice and Recos to Take Your Watch Game to the Next Level
- In-Depth Watch Gang Review
- How to Wear a Pocket Watch
- How to Wear a NATO Strap Watch
- Timex Weekender Review
- In-Depth Jowissa Watch Review
- In-Depth Undone Watches Review
- The Most Stylish Watch Boxes for Men
- The Best MVMT Men’s Watches
- The Cheapest Rolexes for Men
- The Best Smart Watches for Men
- In-Depth Vincero Watch Review
- The Best Watch Subscription Boxes
📷 Banner image: Taylor Beach / Unsplash (Thanks Taylor!)