“You pick the one, right tool.” -Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men
Although not exactly the best role model, I believe Anton Chigurh hit the nail on the head with this line. Mainly referring to assassinations, this quote is more than applicable for buying a watch, especially as a young professional. A watch is a lot more than a tool to tell the time. It is an extension of you, your personality and your needs. It is a companion that is there through thick and thin, something so reliable and good at its job that you only notice how much you rely on it when it stops working. This article explains how you can dress your wrist like a CEO on an Interns budget.
I created this list from my own experience not only as a young professional who needs certain functionality from his watch, but also as a watchmaker who gets to see daily the results of choosing the wrong tool for the wrong job. I have factored in not only looks, longevity and style but repair and maintenance costs, a factor almost always overlooked. I have also included a list of reasons to consider against buying each watch, so to make sure you are able to make the best choice for you.
Before you begin your hunt for a watch, there are some necessary technicalities you need to understand. A movement refers to the “guts” of a watch, what makes it tick. Quartz watches use batteries whereas mechanical watches use no electronics and require assembly by watchmakers. Automatic movements are a type of mechanical movement that don’t require as frequent winding as regular mechanical watches as long as they are continuously worn on the wrist.
1. Seiko 5 Sports Automatic: €250-350 – Most Versatile Watch
In this watchmaker and enthusiasts humble opinion, Seiko dominate the mid-range market. Renowned for producing high quality and reliable pieces, the Seiko 5 Sport is no exception to this legacy. Featuring a Day-Date dial and a water resistance of 200m, this watch goes with any suit, be it diving or tuxedo. Its powerful 4R36 Automatic movement is a workhorse, giving an impressive accuracy of +-15 seconds a day (although Seiko regularly understate their movements accuracy).
The famous reliability of this movement means Seiko recommend a service interval of 5 years, although it is not uncommon at all to see low to mid-range Seiko movements ticking away perfectly without so much as an oiling in 20 years. Seiko watches are highly prolific, so finding repair centres is about as easy as finding water in the ocean.
For people who do not like bulky, heavy watches, I would avoid this watch. Although its metal bracelet can be substituted for leather or nylon straps, the large and imposing case size of 42.5mm may prove a little too big for smaller wrists, as well as too heavy.
Overall, the Seiko 5 is probably the most versatile series of watches out there that looks good no matter what the setting.
2. Vostok Amphibia: €60 – Best Budget Piece
Yes, you read that right. The Vostok brand is famous for its insanely cheap yet amazing quality in-house mechanical movements. These watches are tough as nails, having been the go to watch for the Russian military since the 1960’s. The term in-house refers to the fact that every single component is made entirely by the company. Only 5 other brands can claim to produce in-house watches, with Patek-Philippe and Rolex being two of them.
Vostok Amphibia’s feature 200m of water resistance, with its 2416-1 automatic movement being rated as having a service interval of 10 years. These watches are made in a variety of case sizes, from 38mm-42mm, making them accessible to all wrist sizes. These are hands down, my favourite brand of watch.
However, there are some downsides to these titans of horology. Finding someone to repair the watch is essentially impossible as parts can be hard to come by outside of Russia. The straps are often very poor quality. Removing the links of my own Amphibia managed to destroy a number of my watchmaking tools. Finally, although the manufacturer claims to regulate their watches before posting them, I have received watches that are +-180 seconds, and others that are +-4 seconds. Although easy for someone with the tools to adjust them, this inconsistency may be enough to put some people off.
Overall, I would highly recommend these watches, simply for the incredible bang for your buck.
3. Tissot “Le Locle” Powermatic: €475 – Best Formal Watch
Arguably the best looking watch under £500, the Tissot “Le Locle” is no slouch when it comes to performance. It features Tissot’s Powermatic 80.111, Calibre 11.5 automatic movement, which is based off of the famous ETA 2824-2 movement, a movement found in watches 10 times the price. It offers incredible accuracy and is my own opinion, probably the best entry level movement if you are looking to enter the Swiss watch market.
Not only does the “Le Locle” come with numerous strap, dial and case choices, the prevalence of Tissot watches means repair centres are easy to come by, although the Swiss movement does mean repairs will be costly. Personally, I do not like Tissot yet I am forced to concede that this is one of the best looking and functioning watches on the market.
However, as mentioned previously, expect to pay a premium for repairs. Although service intervals are around 3-5 years, don’t be surprised to receive a £300 bill for a general service, as is the curse of the Swiss ETA movement.
Overall, it is my personal recommendation for formal and business casual attire and will dominate any office setting it finds itself in. A solid buy for the money.
4. Citizen Eco-Drive AW1231: €140 – Best Battery Watch
Arguably one of the most underrated brands, Citizen have long since been a staple of the low to mid-range watch world. The AW1231 features Citizens eponymous “Eco-Drive” quartz (battery) movement.
Powered by light, the watches face acts like a solar panel, constantly charging the watches battery meaning as long as it gets some regular light exposure, expect each battery to last up to 15 years. The battery powered movement also allows the watch to be quite slim and surprisingly light on the wrist. Although plain, this watch does its job and does it very well.
However, its use of a recharging battery means you are required to send it back to Citizen for repair. Although very easy to do so, expect to pay a lot more than you would for a regular battery change on a watch as well as quite a long turn over time in the repair centre. In some cases, expect to wait up to three months for your watch to be returned to you.
Overall, I believe this watch to be a the pinnacle of “set and forget” watches. It does its job so well you sometimes forget its even there.
5. Orient Bambino: €100-150 – Best Value Watch
The Orient Bambino has built up a considerable cult following within the watch world. Although relatively unknown outside of watch circles, I dare you to find a mechanical watch that is better value for money than this beautiful timepiece. Its signature domed crystal combined with its sparse yet striking dial just oozes utter classiness.
Its in-house F6724 movement was created by parent company Seiko to be primarily used in Orient watches and is an absolute workhorse. It features hacking seconds, allowing the wearer to stop the seconds hand when setting the time, allowing more accurate adjustments. Finding hacking seconds in watches at this price is unheard of and just adds to the luxury feel of this watch. People willing to repair these watches are relatively hard to come by due to parts availability, however this can be circumvented simply by sending the watch back to Orient.
I will mention that strap quality on the Orient Bambino tends to be lacking. Its use of low-grade “genuine leather” straps means you should expect to replace the strap every 1-2 years, or sooner if this watch becomes your daily driver. I would recommend investing in a high quality leather strap when purchasing to give this watch the treatment is absolutely deserves.
Overall, the watch has to be the best value watch for a young professional on this list. Its simple, yet classy and bold. Its reliable, sleek and best of all, very affordable.
Please note that these watches are recommendations based on the author's opinion and expertise. This article is in no way an official endorsement of the watches listed above.