How you define ‘affordable’ depends on the zeros in your paycheque. And in Geneva, brands assume your take home looks similar to a professional footballer’s. Supposedly ‘entry level’ pieces can cost thousands and, although a quartz movement is relatively cheap to produce, the right logo can inflate the price to four figures. You know, affordable.
But Swiss mechanics aren’t the benchmark of a good watch. Mass-produced pieces from Asia may lack the heritage, but they often boast the same technical features, at a fraction of the cost. These are the watches housing smart guts, but with a price tag that’s easier to stomach.
A skeleton automatic watch – the kind with an exposed, self-winding mechanism – can be a fair dent on the overdraft. Unless you buy the Rotary Mechanique. The dress watch offers all the technical prowess of the old boys, but you don’t pay for a Peter Lindbergh marketing campaign.
Available at Rotary, priced £239.
Minimalism is economic. But standout? Not so much. The Kartel Tarbert, however, balances the two with an understated dial on a tweed strap.
Available at WatchShop, priced £110.
Mondaine Simply Elegant Stainless Steel
Mondaine’s popularity never wanes. Based on the Swiss railway’s clocks, its art deco design is as relevant as ever, with even Apple co-opting its style for its iOS timepieces. The Pharrell of watches, if you will.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £250.
88 Rue du Rhone Double 8 Origin
As an offshoot from Swiss don Raymond Weil, 88 Rue du Rhone is often considered the cool younger brother. Something reinforced by the Double 8 Origin, a sports-led design that sits just as well with a two-piece as it does your tee and jeans.
Available at The Watch Gallery, priced £315.
Greyhours doesn’t give itself much to work with. But it also proves just how much more you get when you strip everything away. Yes, there’s a lot of minimalist watch brands. But few with recessed hour markers or straps in lamb, calf and even alligator skin.
Available at Greyhours, priced £180.
Never discount the class weirdo. Or so says the Movado Edge. A moulded dial is more Dali than DeBeers, while a rubber strap and contrast hour hand double down on the modernist aesthetic. The kid that ate crayons just got cool.
Available at WatchShop, priced £350.
Burberry The City
Bronze and brown are having quite the moment, with the two shades seen everywhere at Baselworld (Fashion Week, but for watches). Trust Burberry to grab the trend with both hands, giving its already superb City model an earth-tone makeover.
Available at John Lewis, priced £350.
Brands don’t need a 300-year history to tap tradition. As P&Co’s WW-C-27 proves, a heritage-inspired dial can sit pretty without Swiss craftsmanship. Japanese movements tick over just as well.
Available at P&Co, priced £126.
Timex Weekender Cream Chronograph
The Timex Weekender is quite the genealogical wonder. An Americana-inspired dial sits atop a Chinese assembled movement that was first developed in Japan. And the result is nothing short of universal.
Available at H. Samuel, priced £69.99.
Larsson & Jennings Lugano
All-black is a no-brainer when it comes to dressing. And the same rule applies to your wristwear. Larsson & Jennings’ Lugano matches everything in your wardrobe and, unless you cling a little too close to old-school dress codes, it even pairs up with black-out tailoring.
Available at Larsson & Jennings, priced £225.