10 Great Entry Level Automatics
The watch industry today is extremely diverse. And one thing which has changed over the course of recent years is that we no longer primarily use time instruments to, well, tell the time.
The watch is now widely considered a mechanical accessory, and watchmakers are aware of the fact, offering us everything from simple, minimal styles that focus on unfussy yet attractive design to pricier timepieces incorporating advanced complications that are bound to start conversations.
There really is something for everyone – whatever your taste or price range. One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to watches is that in order to be taken seriously as a man who knows style, you need to sport a timepiece that costs the equivalent of a one bedroom apartment.
Yes, if you can afford a Rolex, Patek Philippe or Greubel Forsey (which has an ever so modest entry price tag of $325,000) then we wouldn’t suggest you consider a Tissot, but if your budget is more senior level executive than Russian oligarch, then here are ten entry-level automatic watches worth spending your hard-earned cash on.
1. TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 5
Looking for watch that works well no matter the occasion, whether a suit and tie event or casual gathering with friends? This TAG fits the bill.
The diameter of the case measures 39mm, which gives it a classy under-the-cuff look, and while you could go for a leather strap, the steel edge hands, markers and bracelet on this version make the sporty yet timeless Carrera design stand out.
All in all, a discreet and distinguished automatic with both time and date functions.
Available at Beaverbrooks, priced £1,850.
2. Longines Master Collection Chronograph
Looking for something that’s unquestionably elegant but still packs plenty of functionality? The Longines Master Collection, especially ref L2.6126.96.36.199 – a chronograph with a date function – should not be overlooked.
Although its sizeable diameter of 44mm is bigger than what you might expect from a dress watch, this style’s vintage-like dial, hands and brown crocodile strap means it looks just as good teamed with your nine-to-five suit as it does a jeans and sport coat combination at the weekend.
Top Tip: For just over £2,000 (£2,170 to be precise), you can purchase a Longines Master Collection Chronograph with day, date and moonphase functionality. So if you value high quality complications, it may be wise to consider stretching the budget slightly.
Available at Cohen & Massias, priced £1,640.
3. Hamilton Jazzmaster GMT Auto
Who said you can’t get your hands on a GMT watch for under £2,000? American watch brand Hamilton’s Jazzmaster collection includes several inexpensive yet well-appointed timepieces, ranging from simple time and date versions to chronograph and GMT models.
This particular watch won out for offering something extraordinary for its price point: a well-designed and easy to use GMT functionality.
While we’ve seen our fair share of oversized watches lately, we reckon a 42mm wide, beautifully formed and fully functional watch like this is going to be in style regardless of changing seasons and trends. The dial is detailed yet not too busy, and it’s also extremely easy to read due to the GMT second time zone hand coming in a contrast red colour.
The price, though, is what makes it so desirable.
Available at Watch Shop, priced £940.
4. Breitling Colt Automatic
Speaking of oversized watches – Breitling is one of the market leaders.
The brand’s Colt collection might not be for everyone, but if you prefer a robust watch with a rugged, military aesthetic, this could quickly become your everyday go-to.
Originally intended for, and used by, the armed forces, it has a 44mm case, a very distinctive bezel that protects its sapphire crystal, and a dial with time and date function that’s water resistant to 200 metres.
What’s more, you can customise the Colt to a great degree; choose from a selection of dials, straps and buckles online to build the exact timepiece to suit you.
See more at Breitling.com.
5. Bell & Ross BR 123 Vintage Sport Heritage
There’s a whole separate market for vintage timepieces, but it can often be a minefield to navigate, especially if you don’t know what to look out for.
So what if you want something that has the look and feel of an early twentieth century watch but don’t want to spend several hours and thousands of pounds tracking it down? Look to French watchmakers Bell & Ross. The brand’s Vintage BR collection offers masterfully crafted and timeless styles inspired by 1940s and 1960s-era aviation watches.
The BR123 Sport Heritage pays tribute to the sixties, specifically Dassault Aviation’s iconic Mystère-Falcon 20 business jet – one of the foremost business jets of the period.
It’s pretty rare to get a watch with an interesting backstory for £2,000, so if a vintage look is your thing, but hunting for decades old watches isn’t – this one’s for you.
Available at Selfridges, priced £1,950.
6. Tudor Heritage Black Bay
Often affectionately known as Rolex’s younger, cooler brother, Tudor mixes a history of craftsmanship with a distinctly modern edge.
The brand’s new Heritage Black Bay, a smart mix of past and present, is inspired by its first diver’s style, the Tudor Submariner, originally released in 1954.
Sixty years on, the Black Bay keeps the slender, elongated lugs, domed crystal and dial of the Submariner, but adds interchangeable wristbands, a robust 41mm steel case and a coloured, anodized aluminium crown tube as contemporary updates.
This is probably the next best thing you can get to a Rolex without inviting suspicion that what you’re wearing is a rip-off.
Find out more at tudorwatches.com.
Available at Iconic Watches, priced £1,800.
7. Meisturwerk Machinen MM-01
Much more than a new name in watchmaking, London-based Meisturwerk Machinen is a one-man brand, producing everything from leather goods and custom motorbikes to forged instruments and – of course – watches.
Produced in a limited quantity of just 200, the MM-01 takes its design cues from the timepieces used by US troops on jungle reconnaissance missions during the Vietnam War.
It features a front loading case construction similar to those found on military issued watches of the era, as well as an anti-magnetic movement, a rotating friction bezel and dial, and a bezel insert to optimise readability.
Made to order at meisturwerkmachinen.com, priced approximately £591 ($900).
8. SevenFriday P-Series
Searching for a statement timepiece? SevenFriday’s P-Series is designed especially for those that want something that stands out.
Interesting due to its distinct appearance rather than its mechanism, each of these watches look like it’s come straight out of a concept design book.
Their sizeable diameters and square-shaped cases make them difficult to imagine on the wrist, but they’re surprisingly wearable. Don’t get us wrong, they aren’t dress watches by any means, but they would work particularly well in casual or sports luxe-inspired outfits.
Aside from their striking design, these watches provide commendable performance, with an automatic movement, anti-reflective mineral crystal screen and water resistance to 30 metres.
Available at The Watch Gallery, from £775.
9. Bomberg BOLT-68 Limited Edition Skull
A self-professed Swiss watch brand with a difference, Bomberg made a lot of noise last year with the introduction of its new line of chronographs that transform from wrist to pocket watches in a matter of seconds.
While the BOLT-68 Skull’s look is definitely not for the faint-hearted, nor the classicist, it offers an edgy alternative to the sometimes staid aesthetics of other Swiss watchmakers.
Using an ingenious system patented by Bomberg, the watch can be detached from its base and attached to a metal chain, effectively giving you two watches for the price of one.
See more and locate stockists at bomberg.ch. Prices range from £1,300 to £2,500 depending on the exact model and material.
10. Swatch Sistem51
Last but by no mean least; if you’ve already plumped for one of the nine models listed above but still have a spare £100, then investing in this Swatch Sistem51 is one of the best ways to spend it.
Difficult to find in stores, the Sistem51 is made up of 51 components and features a date function, 90-hour power reserve and 17 pending patents.
No, it doesn’t have a metal case, leather strap or chronograph function, but it’s an expertly designed watch for very little outlay.
Available at Watch Shop, priced £108.
There you have it – proof that entering the world of automatic watches doesn’t necessarily mean having to sell an organ or two. These ten recommendations combine reliable craftsmanship with unrivalled design without being prohibitively priced.
Are you looking to invest in a timepiece for under £2,000? Which styles would you personally recommend?
Let us know in the comments section.