Okay, KC, so you're thinking about buying a wristwatch, but you don't want to break the bank. I understand completely, sir. Whenever I'd get some snooty customer telling me about his watch collection that's worth two hundred grand, I'd mention that there were some great watches on the market that don't cost the Earth. Not every watch in a collection needs to be a Quarterback, folks.
Right, now pay attention, 007. If you're looking for something that's simple and clean, then the Helios watch that you mentioned earlier might just fit the bill.
Pic courtesy of www.watchismo.com
It's got a minimalist, Germanesque design to it that's straight-forward and to-the-point. It tells the time and date. It's got a little sub-seconds dial at the 6 o'clock end to help break up the landscape of the dial. Very space-age look. Quartz-operated (battery), so it's accurate to within a couple of minutes a year.
I had a quick search on the web and found them retailing for about $600.
Other than that, I don't know much else about them. My only worry with a brand like that is whether or not they'll still be around ten years from now, when you might need some visible part replaced like the winding crown or the dial. Although, if you get ten years out of this watch, then it will only have cost you sixty bucks a year.
I mentioned in my reply to your comment on my last post that there is also a brand called Braun that make a nice clean watch as well. Braun, as you may know, are well known for making electric razors, but it is also a design house which has always made some beautiful products in the past.
Picture courtesy of www.hypebeast.com
Another clean design, but the dial is filled out a little with the numerals, which is nice. Again, battery operated. Don't know the pricing on these. Probably around the same as the Helios above.
If you wanna go Swiss-Made, then Tissot is a good entry-level brand. The PR100 series is automatic AND is rated to 100 metres water-resistant.
Picture courtesy of www.tissot.ch
Now, don't say that you'll never dive down to 100 metres. Nobody does. However, the water-resistance rating has more to do with pressure rather than depth. Of you're swimming on the surface at the beach, your arm is coming down into the water and this exerts 40 or 50 metres of pressure on the watch, and, more importantly, on the crown. The crown is the little winder thingy that you use to set the time. There are rubber gaskets inside the watch to keep water out. If you want a watch to be good enough for swimming, then do yourself a favour and get at least 100 metres water-resistance. Anything less is 'splash-proof'', ideal for washing your hands and not much else.
And whatever you do, don't wear it in the shower. Hot water can open up a whole new world of hurt. Over time, regular exposure to water can weaken the rubber seals that are designed to keep water out.
However, if you're certain that you'll never get the watch wet, then don't worry too much about water-resistance.
The Tissot above is also an automatic watch. This means that the time-keeping will fluctuate on a daily basis. Battery operated watches get a constant source of power from the quartz battery inside them and the time-keeping remains pretty constant. Automatic and hand-wound watches relay on the tension of the mainspring and this is where the time-keeping will be fast or slow throughout the day. That's the nut-shell explanation. I've probably had to explain this to customers a million times over the past decade, so please forgive me for wanting to put a bit of time between my retail life and my current one.
Anyway, if you want automatic and minimalist, the the German brand Junghans is another one to consider. The Max Bill editions (named after the famed Swiss architect & designer) look like this;
Picture courtesy of www.selectism.com
One thing to consider- this watch has a hesalite crystal. That is, the glass on it is easy to scratch and a good, hard knock will break it. This is what most watches used up until the Eighties when they developed Mineral Crystals first (which were harder to break) and then Sapphire crystals (which are harder to break AND scratch). Still, the hesalite crystal gives the watch a 'warmer' look, whereas sapphire crystals can look a little clinical.
That's a short write-up on modern watches. If you're seriously considering vintage, then it's a veritable mine-field out there, filled with repainted dials, tampered-with movements and other nonsense which can affect authenticity and re-sale value, not that you'd be planning on re-selling.
Since you live in the States, I would look at vintage Hamilton watches. They should be pretty plentiful on the second-hand market. Alternatively, you could look at the Viewmatic or Thin-O-Matic range that they've brought out in recent years. Thanks to "Mad Men" (and the Typosphere), there's been a resurgence in popularity of mid-Century design (just ask Ton at I dream lo-tech) and many brands have delved into their archives to bring out re-editions of past designs. Hamilton have done a great job with the Thin-O-Matic, especially.
Picture courtesy of www.acquiremag.com
The one main concession to modern times is the size of these watches. Whereas the originals from the Sixties would have measured around 34mm in diameter, these modern versions are 40mm.
Here's the 37mm Viewmatic model. It's a nice size for wrists up to 7 inches in diameter. Your wrists, based on your blog pics of you typing, look about 6.5 to 6.75 inches in diameter.
Picture courtesy of www.hamiltonwatch.com
It's another nice watch. The hands have thin strips of SuperLuminova in them. What that means is that they will glow in the dark after being exposed to light. Handy!
If you want vintage, then the original Thin-O-Matic looked like this;
Nice. Looking at it closely, you can see that there has been some water-entry at some point due to the corrosion on the hands. Although, the dial is in great shape.
Picture courtesy of www.watchaday.blogspot.com.au
As for WWII-era watches, they are highly sought-after by collectors, and therefore, expensive. The more trashed, the better, since this is often a sign that they were used in actual combat.
Having said that, there are a number of brands that produce watches based on older designs. If you want a vintage looking military watch in a modern iteration, then check out the Smiths military range over at
Russian watches, I dunno. They might look cool enough, but I wouldn't schedule my morning train-trip to work by them. Nice to have as a spare, but you may find it unreliable as a daily time-keeper. Although, I could be wrong, since there are collectors out there who buy nothing but Russian-made watches.
Ken, there are many different options available when it comes to buying a watch for a few hundred dollars. Like anything else, you do get what you pay for. Mechanical ones will be pricier than battery-powered watches, yet battery powered ones will be more accurate.
Wristwatches have become a big industry in the past decade and I have seen the prices for vintage and modern watches increase steadily in that time. Having said that, there are still a few brands out there that deliver a lot of bang-for-buck. Seiko, for example, produce a huge range of watches in various styles and their prices won't break the bank. Of all the Japanese-produced brands, they are the best. You could pick up a decent Seiko for under $250.
Personally, if I were looking to get a new watch and didn't want to spend a lot, I'd look at either Seiko, Tissot or Hamilton. Each of these brands make a clean and simple watch.
Another thing to determine is how important water-resistance will be to you. If you're careful or certain that, should you go for a 50m or less water-resistant watch, you won't submerge it under water, then most of the watches listed here will be fine.
Entirely up to you. Oh, one more thing- in this world where everybody whips out their mobile phone to check the time, I think it's commendable of you to want a wristwatch. I think it's actually more expedient to just raise your left arm to glance at your wrist rather than get your phone out of your pocket.
And it's just damn cooler, too.
Best of luck if you decide to proceed. Any questions, you know how to reach me.