Best watches for beginners under £500
Now, following on from Calum's article about what watch to get for an 18th/21st watch, please do check it out its brilliant by the way, I wanted to follow it up by writing an article about the best ‘starter’ watch for the new horologists out there for £500 or under. I feel that with one of the age groups that we are hoping to really influence with this blog, i.e. the young horologist, as the name of the blog suggests, it would be an appropriate imparting of knowledge on my part.
Now, as someone starting out with watch collecting, you are flooded with information, different watch movements, styles, colours, straps, the list goes on. And it is flipping hard to clear ones head enough to make a decision, this, hopefully, is where this article comes into its own.
The first important question to ask yourself before buying a watch is do you want Quartz or Mechanical? Quartz is easier to maintain, as it is powered by a battery which needs relatively infrequent replacement. However, as a value-prop, quartz is less desirable to a collector. However, as with most first pieces, inevitability is not something that is considered in a purchase. My first watch was gifted to me for my 12th birthday. It is a quartz Timex Expedition Compass, which is Quartz, and has never been serviced or had the battery replaced in 8 years, and still runs like clockwork, and has regular wrist time for sentimentality.
The second question to consider is what size suits your wrist well? in the under £500 mark, you can get a piece anywhere from 34-50mm (if you really want what i personally consider to be a small dinner plate on your wrist). If you go vintage, you should be expecting to get something in the 30mm-36mm range, and something new in the 39.5mm-44mm range. For example, the very famous and popular Seiko SKX, sits at a very nice 42.5mm, the upper echelon of what I would personally wear, but a fantastic size none the less. However, at the other end of the spectrum, my Vintage Enicar shockwave, a fantastic fun little summer piece from the mid 70’s sits at 36mm, food for thought I think.
Another important consideration is case shape! This may seem like a silly thing to be considering for a ‘nube’ watch collector looking to start their collection, but there a lot more watch shapes out there than just the conventional circular shape. Square and rectangular watches, such as the Tag Hueuer Monaco, or the famous Cartier Tank, are examples of how incredibly awesome watches look if they are not traditionally shaped. Although the Tank was first released in 1917.
Seiko SKX range
My first recommendation, and probably the one i would recommend the most, is the Seiko SKX. If you have read any of our articles, you will have seen my review of my Seiko SK7002. The Seiko SKX line are incredible watches, especially as a first ‘proper’ watch. For £180 odd, you can get a well sized, 200m water resistance, fantastic looking piece, that collectors will have in their collections alongside Nautilus’ and Submariners, and hold them in equally high regard. For a first proper watch, and for under £200, these are a fantastic option.
Swatch Sistem 51
My second recommendation, is actually a swiss made manual piece, for £150. The Swatch Sistem 51, although some may consider a ‘kids watch’ due to its vibrant design, is actually a highly collectable piece. They are incredibly fun little watches, and come in a characteristically Swatch range of vibrant colours. I myself plan to purchase the one shown below in a few months, as a fun weekend piece.
Vintage (Omega, Longine, Zenith, Hamilton etc)
My third recommendation steps up a gear, I am going to tell you that if you look hard enough, you can pick up a vintage Omega, Longine, or Zenith, for less than £500, probably less than £200. These pieces, being vintage, are obviously mechanical. As this is the case, proceed with caution, I would recommend going for one where the seller has said that a recent service has been undertaken on the watch, so as to avoid having to occur additional costs after purchasing. The best advice for where to find one of these beauties would be to have a look on www.Ebay.com , and as always with buying Horology on Ebay, proceed with caution.
Now, if any of you reading are fans of the Horology God, Mr TGV, you will be familiar with the gorgeous azzura blue Squale 1521. This is a fantastic diving piece, with one of the nicest curved cases i have ever seen on a watch. Now, brand new, the Squale will set you back $850, or around £640. I know this is a little higher than the price i set for this article, but my article my rules. For an extra £140 brand new, you can get a fantastic looking dive watch. The 1521 also comes with 500m water resistance, as well as the brilliant ETA 2824, which is self winding automatic movement. On the secondhand market, however, you pick up one of these bad boys in very good condition for about £450-£500. This is a fantastic dive piece for a first watch, and would be a worthy beater for many years, if you could stretch the budget a little. The azzurra blue dial is one of the most stunning I have ever seen, and will definitely be a conversation piece.
My final recommendation is a more dressy piece, but could also be worn casually, because frankly who cares when you wear a ‘dress watch’?! This is the lovely Bambino series from Japanese watch makers Orient. This is a simple, time only piece, which will set you back a mere £200. And Orient, like there fellow Japanese Rivals Seiko, are fiercely reliable, as a lot of Japanese watches are, so you know you are getting bang for your buck. This piece comes in a number of iterations, in terms of case and dial colour, and is currently in its third version, the V3. If you want to go slightly older, and consider a V1 or V2, due to the lower price, or maybe the style is more your thing, the price is significantly less.
To summarise, these are not all of my recommendations for a cracking 'first watch' for a budding horologists, because this article would get dangerously close to a dissertation. It is purely a selection of brilliant and affordable watches, of different styles, which would not only be a great first watch, but would also be watches that will stick around in your collection for years and years to come, and could even become an heirloom piece for a son or daughter. If you have any questions about any of the watches I have spoken about, or want any other advice, please contact us.
Editor and Co-Founder