There is probably not another accessory available to modern men that makes more of a statement about who you are — or at least, who you want to be — than your watch. While many of us suffer from the fear of missing out that requires us to wear an Apple Watch — constantly connected to the internet, monitoring our heartbeats, and alerting us to communications of all sorts — others are happier with timepieces that are expressive in a more aesthetic, sartorial way. Would that we could all claim a hand-me-down Rolex or a Patek Philippe that’s been “in the family,” but sometimes dropping (at least) $5,000 on a watch may seem extravagant when compared with paying off student loans, a mortgage, or putting food on the table for a growing family. Collecting a wardrobe of watches, built over time, at “decent” price points while still investing in quality allows for a bit more variety of expression and caprice.
We’ve assembled a group of the best men’s watches that range in price from around $500 to just over $1,000, each selected for owning a moment in time. Besides fitting our price and value equation, these watches also reflect retro-styling, a trend that is definitely having its moment in the world of watches.
Hamilton Spirit of Liberty Auto
Hamilton went back to its Pennsylvania roots for this beauty, part of its American Classic Collection. The burnished watch band features the phrase “Without liberty, life is a misery,” etched into its surface, credited to Andrew Hamilton, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the mid-1700s (before the United States even existed). An automatic watch with an 80-hour power reserve, the silver case and brown face have a distinctively mid-century modern vibe.
When paired with its textured indigo face and watchband, the distressed bronze case of this chronograph makes it the perfect complement to your favorite pair of beat-up jeans, yet its elegant good looks also make it a dressy enough option to wear with a casual suit. Its 300-meter water resistance means it will be a great match with a swimsuit or wetsuit, too!
Casio Limited-Edition G-Shock GWRB1000X-1A
This watch is designed for the severe environments faced by pilots, and that tough-guy, right-stuff image comes across right away with its Carbon Core Guard structure. The red accents are reminiscent of the fleeting late 1980s, early ‘90s Euro Style design movement that featured deep black materials with thin red accent lines (also related to the iconic Eurostile font). This version also features solar power generation, as well as Bluetooth connectivity for automatic time adjustment.
Citizen Promaster SST
Another bruiser of a watch, the Promaster features a gray ion-plated stainless steel face with textured details. If you need to keep track of speed, this is your timepiece. It features a 1/1000 second chronograph, recall of up to 20 lap times, both an analog and digital display, a 99-minute countdown timer, and an average speed calculator. Thanks to Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology, which is powered by light, the Promaster never needs a battery recharge.
Movado Modern 47
Updating its classic Museum Watch with bright, bold colorways, Movado takes its signature minimalist styling in a vibrant chromatic direction. Available in red (our favorite), yellow, or blue, the 40mm case features PVD-finished stainless steel and a leather strap for a matte, almost plastic appearance. It’s a perfect summer watch to pair with the season’s bright swimwear, as a pop of color against linen, or just a great accent.
Shinola The Canfield
Shinola is always known for a slightly retro, mid-century modern style, and this Canfield is no exception. It’s the brand’s first watch to utilize a top-loaded case construction for a larger face and clearer view. The dove gray face is a minimalist’s dream, lending a sort of elegant and gravitas to the watch’s simple styling. Perhaps best of all, the watch normally retails for $700, but during Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale through August 4, it’s yours for nearly 33% off.
Timex American Documents at Todd Snyder
Another model made in the United States, this watch would look completely at home in Houston’s NASA Apollo Mission Control Center. The U.S.-sourced stainless steel case and Gorilla Glass crystal make for a sturdy accessory with an austere face and hands. An amazing gift, the timepiece arrives in a solid cherry wood case.
Autodromo Group B S2
Autodromo is known for its automotive-inspired styling, and its “Group B” watch is a classic representation of modern engineering and streamlined design. This updated version is inspired by a 1980s bright blue color scheme and is named for the Corsica Rally (part of a European auto racing championship). A bright pop of color against neutrals is a key trend we’re seeing for menswear collections for spring 2020.
Lum-Tec M84 Automatic
OK, so yes, we went over budget with this one, but this antiqued-finish watch case and band are not only built tough, the timepiece looks like it’s already been through a lifetime (or two) of serious — if loving — wear. The design hails from military heritage, but the innards feature a Swiss automatic movement, eight layers of lume paint, a sapphire crystal, and watertight construction. It also comes complete with made-in-the-USA bragging rights, assembled by hand in Mentor, Ohio.
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