The £500 Budget
Over the previous weeks in different blog posts you may have noticed that I’m a strong advocator of wearing a watch regardless of budget. To me, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on a watch. It could cost £100 or £10,000. If I see you with a watch on your wrist I’m just going to assume you’re a watch person and strike up a conversation. Sure, sometimes that person isn’t actually a ‘watch person’ and things take a detour down Awkward Lane, but I like to think I have the enthusiasm to talk to anyone about what’s on their wrist, even they don’t have the same level of interest themselves.
And this actually came up in a conversation I had recently with a friend I hadn’t seen for some time. We got talking about what I’d been doing with my time (especially during the Covid-19 drama) and Straps of Manhattan obviously came up. I talked about the NATO straps, social media and this blog. I noticed a pretty worn out diver on his wrist which looked like it had seen more action than James Bond and featured more than your average scuffs and scratches.
Upon asking about it, I found out that he wasn’t happy with it. He had tried to swap it out and get something newer but didn’t think he had enough to get something decent for his money. Visiting jewellers and perusing the window displays of well-known AD’s he’d always leave feeling deflated and assumed – wrongly I might add, that he’d never be able to find anything within his budget of £500. He actually liked the idea of having a decent watch and wanted something on his wrist that he could be proud of and even talk a bit about. Sadly, he’d wrote the idea off as he assumed any watch worth talking about would have to be a luxury, expensive piece.
As you can imagine I went off on one, talking about all the watches and brands he could get for his money. I had to ease off the gas a bit as he had that face that said “Sorry I mentioned it” but, like so many people, he assumed that to have a decent watch you have to spend thousands. I’ve been there myself back in the day; When I was young, inexperienced and worried what other people might think. I actually walked away from some really nice watches and deals because I assumed that, if they weren’t high end, instantly recognisable brands, other “watch folk” would scorn me. You tend to care more about what other people think when your young. It’s one of the reasons I talk about “collecting what you love” in one of my other blogs.
I actually blame Rolex a lot for this. They have created such a strong, well-known brand and an image that when you see or hear the name ‘Rolex’, something inside you shouts “expensive luxury watch”, even if you don’t consider yourself a watch person. Everyone knows who Rolex is so it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting them on a pedestal and thinking they’re the be all and end all. When you finally go watch shopping as a newbie you are already brainwashed in thinking, “if it aint got the crown, might as well turn it down”(Literally just made that up while I typed! I like it… I’m keeping it in!) It’s actually quite impressive and I take my hat off to Rolex for achieving this but for a few people, my friend included, because Rolex is the only brand they really know, they assume anything less isn’t going to be as good. It's just not the case!
So, this week I’m going to offer you a selection of watches that you can get with a budget of £500 or less. And while there are SO MANY watches you can buy within this budget, I’m going to stick with my personal favourites and show you that you don’t have to spend £1000’s to get a decent watch that will stand the test of time. All the watches I mention here will be new (No Chrono24 hunting in this one) and prices will be based in pounds… That’s my way of saying don’t blame me for a bad exchange rate. Let’s get into it!
First up is The Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic. It is by far on of the easiest choices you can make on this budget. It’s an absolute gem of a watch that has a fantastic timeless design, an automatic movement and can be worn with anything. It was the first watch that came to mind when I heard his budget and rightly so. The Khaki Field is a much-loved piece, even among enthusiasts with a few luxury pieces in their collection. I think the thing that makes the Khaki Field so desirable is its size. It’s truly in that sweet spot of not too big and not too small. While fashion and tastes have changed over the years, the classic Hamilton has pretty much kept the same design. Sure, you can get 42mm variants but I’m talking about the classic 38mm (ref: H70455733). It is absolutely timeless and it even comes with a clear caseback. The dial is simple, easy to read and offers a date window at 3 O’clock position. At the time of writing I’ve found it new for around £465 but you should be able to get it cheaper if you shop around.
The next watch I proposed was a little bit of a punt as I didn’t know how he’d feel about going digital. Also, if you are looking for something to dress up or down, it may not work. It’s the G-Shock (fanboy alert). Sure, it’s not like you can rock a G-Shock with a dinner suit… well… Can you though? I’d say yes but, for most people it’s a no go… Their loss! But, when I say G-Shock, you’ll probably think about the infamous Mudmaster or Frogman Range - Chunky, digital go-anywhere beasts. But to wear comfortably every day, I played it safe and went with the full metal black stainless-steel option from Casio’s Origins range (ref: GMW-B500GD-1ER).
I actually have this watch in my collection and I love it. It’s bang on budget and comes in a range of colours such as all gold or silver. Sure, it might look a little “obvious” if you had on a white shirt but it’s certainly small enough to wear under one. It has a tidy little screen and all the features you’d expect from a G-Shock. It’s a nod to the original DW-5000 which is an absolute icon of a watch but has been given some modern-day features such as multi Band 6 Radio control for accurate timekeeping and Bluetooth so, with the app, you can set the time, date and time zones with your phone rather than on the watch. It is a fantastic timepiece and, if you like G-Shocks and fancy some nostalgia, I would definitely go for it. It’s available in silver and gold if you’re feeling a little Miami Vice. Additionally, if you’re looking for a conversation starter it’s up there with the best of them. With G-Shocks history and a little homework you could potentially start a G-Shock fan club at the next family party!
Next up is the much-loved Seiko SKX. I went with the SKX007 as it’s been on my wishlist for so long. I should have picked one up ages ago but G-Shock launched the Casi-Oak and, well, you know how it is! Anyway, it did make the cut for my friend as, seeing as he was already rocking a diver, I thought it’d be an obvious upgrade. I love the SKX007 and you know it’s a great watch when even serious enthusiasts and collectors give it the respect it deserves. It’s actually cheap enough (if you shop around) that with a £500 budget, you could get two but with the Seiko SKX being one of the best go-to beater watches, one will easily do the job.
The SKX features a day-date window at 3 O’clock which isn’t too obtrusive. I’m someone who always gets the date option if it’s available so for me it’s a positive. The 120 click rotating bezel is solid and makes a decent “click” when turned (oh yes, it matters!) and the lume on the watch is fantastic. It’s something you have to see in person to appreciate but it’s probably one of the best, even better than watches in a higher price bracket. The only thing you may not like is the crown positioned at 4 O’clock. While uncommon, you’ll probably get used to quickly and after some daily wear, you won’t even notice it. The watch will look great on anything too so if you like the feel of steel then you can choose that option. Alternatively, it looks fantastic on a NATO which, funny enough, you can get at Straps of Manhattan (no shame). Overall, it’s a great daily and one of the best beater-watches you can buy.
Sticking with Seiko, my next suggestion for a budget of £500 would be the Seiko Prospex Alpinist (SPB121J1). Seiko actually discontinued the original Alpinist a few years ago but have since re-released it as the SPB121J1 (That’s the specific reference of the green dial variant) and it’s a gorgeous watch. I’ll be honest, I fell in love with his all over again after seeing how good it looks on Instagram. The dial looks stunning and, while I wouldn’t normally opt for a green dial, Seiko have nailed it here. Now, I actually saw this watch on sale at the beginning of June for £499 which, in my opinion, is an absolute bargain. A quick check at the time of writing and prices range from £550 - £650 and while that’s overbudget, if you like this watch, I’d certainly say it’s worth waiting for if you can be patient and wait for a price drop.
You can get the watch in a range of colours but personally, I like the green. It’s not the sort of green you’d see on a Rolex, it’s much more subtle and “deep” (for want of a better word) and it looks fantastic. The dial itself is 39.5mm so it’s right in the sweet spot. There’s a cyclops window for the date which I don’t actually mind, although it may not be to everyone’s tastes. Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating – which is probably why the green looks so good, a 70-hour power reserve and a clear caseback so you can see the 6R35 movement (love seeing those movements). Finally, there’s 200m water resistance and a compass on the inner dial which can be adjusted using the crown at the 4 O’clock position. It's not really a watch I'd take swimming but it's nice to know it's ready for an adventure. It’s a definite upgrade from the original Alpinist and definitely made the cut. The only thing is that it’s over budget and, while my friend wasn’t fussed about going over, having to wait for a price drop might not float your boat.
My last suggestion was a watch from a fairly new company. And when I say “new” I literally mean brand new, 2015 new! It’s from a company called Marloe who are based in the U.K which, for me, was a plus straight away. Sure, we all love the classic Swiss watch but there’s definitely something cool about owning something that is made where you live – I think it’s why I also like Bremont… And Bentley… And Rolls Royce… Are British brands expensive or is it my taste?
Anyway, Marloe is the new kid on the block but from what I have seen so far, I really like what they’re doing and what they’re about. Their website actually promotes the idea of “slow living” which is right up my street. A quote from their website reads;
“As watches get smarter and lives get more complicated, there is a movement embracing the slow-living counter culture, going back to simple things, celebrating tradition.”
Already being signed up to that life I wanted to know more about The Marloe Watch Company and I liked what I saw. While they do have a range of watches, the specific watch I recommended to my friend was the Coniston Vulcan. It’s priced at £299 on the MWC website and, if you like the idea of getting there first and being an early adopter, I would say go for it. it is an absolutely fantastic way to get into watches too because you get in on the ground floor. You can learn more about the company and their values as well as what goes into their watch making process. It’s a real learning curve and, if you interested in delving deeper into watches it’s a great starting point.
Marloe Watch Company
Everyone knows Rolex, Omega and Breitling. In fact, their brand presence is so powerful that when you wear one, people make assumptions about you. Who you are, how much money you have, what type of things you value etc. There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to our watches but with a new watch brand, it’s almost the other way around. People are curious and don’t really know too much about them or the people who wear their watches. You are the one who sets the tone and, in a way, you become sort of an unofficial brand ambassador.
Personally, I think you become more interesting. I have been to plenty of watch meetups and marketing events and you do tend to see the same brands on people’s wrists. You basically end up having the same watch conversation with different people. But, if I saw you and you had a Coniston Vulcan on your wrist, what a refreshing turn of events that would be! And being an unofficial brand ambassador, you’d have a lot to talk about, especially about the Vulcan.
The watch itself looks pretty minimal with simple markers for the hours except at 12 where they have used actual numbers. The hands taper down from the centre and with the last half featuring a luminous treatment. There’s a sweeping seconds hand in a light blue which is a nice contrast against the grey and you get you choice of strap. I personally like the grey on grey and, with a 20mm lug width, it’s begging to be thrown on The Tribeca. The case is 40mm in diameter and features a sapphire domed crystal with anti-reflective coating and the crown has an unusually vintage presence on such a modern, minimal looking watch. But you, know what, it works! The Vulcan is powered by a Miyota 8N33 manual mechanical movement which is accurate to +25/-15 seconds a day.
Marloe Watch Company
The thing I love most about the Vulcan though is on the back. With a large aperture, you get to see the movement is all it’s glory. Additionally, you’ll find a quote from Donald CampbelI, a British icon who set land and water speed records, which states “Courage is not about being fearless”. I love it when a watch brand spends just as much time thinking about the back of the watch as it does the front. It shows a level of detail that should be appreciated. Marloe actually only make 1000 of these watches so if you are interested I’d get in there quick but, unlike other watch companies who make limited runs, you actually get to pick the number you’d like from a dropdown menu which is a nice touch. There's a fantastic review on YouTube (here) by Thehumblewatchguy who is fortunate enough to have model number 0001 and offers a hands-on review if you’d like to see it in the hand.
Marloe Watch Company
On the whole, £500 is more than enough to spend on a watch and you can get some absolute stunning pieces for your money. Additionally, you don’t even have to spend the full £500 as there are just so many great watches out there… Too many! You could even get multiple watches – such as every G-Shock Casi-Oak variant or a collection of different coloured swatch watches. All the watches above are based on my own opinion and subjective taste at the time of writing and recommending. Had I been asked last year it’d probably have a few different watches thrown in.
The take-home message is that you shouldn’t feel like you have to spend thousands of pounds just to have a great watch. The luxury watch segment is just a tiny piece of what this fantastic hobby has to offer and, thanks to branding and marketing, it’s become the most popular. And it’s important that you remember that. A £13,000 ceramic Hublot Big Bang isn’t going to make you any happier, any more successful or look any cooler. No watch can do that for you in my opinion. That’s on you my friend. A watch is a biproduct of your success, coolness and level of happiness… Never the other way around! And let’s be really honest here, if you can comfortably drop £500 on a watch and still be in a position where you can take care of yourself and remain comfortable, you are already in the top 10% (at least) of people in the world who has that luxury. It’s worth taking stock of that!
As for my friend, he ultimately settled on the Marloe Vulcan which, hopefully, I’ll be able to get hands on with in a future blog. It is an absolute fantastic choice and he loved the idea of buying something from a newer brand which you don’t see on too many wrists. Hopefully for he Marloe Watch Company that isn’t the case for too long as I think their watches are fantastic.
Really hope you liked this week’s post and hopefully it inspired you to get a watch that fits into you budget, showing you that it’s not about how much you spend, but rather what you can get for your money. I love being a part of this community and we are fortunate to have so many choices and options within this wonderful hobby. There is truly a watch for everyone and no matter what you paid for the watch on your wrist or the brand you chose, if you have a watch on, here’s a virtual high five from me ✋.
Thanks for your time and see you in the next one!
If you liked this article please give it a like. Feel free to share and if you want to add a comment then you can do so below. You have to sign in but your email will not be used for marketing purposes.
Additionally, you can check out our NATO straps at the store. They are available in 20mm & 22mm. Postage within the UK is free as well as all orders over £50.