Most armchair horologists will tell you that a decent watch should cost about as much as a compact used car, otherwise, the piece is garbage. That’s an unfair, not to mention erroneous, assessment. The market is overrun with solid, quality timepieces at almost any price point, and in a world where you can’t escape clocks, watch manufacturers are desperate to unload their merchandise. You don’t need to drop much cash to get a good watch at a fair price, but it’s easy to get swindled as you get into the lower reaches of cost, because there’s a lot of truly cheap rubbish out there, too.
When picking a watch in the very low triple digits or below, you typically can’t select something based on flash, because they’re often dressed up garbage that will lose time so often, they’re just bracelets that tick. Usually you’re better off seeking out new companies trying to make a name for themselves, or some of the standby operations that have a reputation for quality. Transparency about materials and movement are the primary things we looked for when we sought out the 15 best watches under $150, and these all come correct to the show.
Bertucci 11041 DX3
Field Marshal: Using a battery to power the Japanese quartz movement is usually an aspect we try to avoid, but the on-board power is meant to keep this running at peak efficiency. It’s also the only issue to be had with the luminous numerics that won’t inhibit night vision, the bombproof poly-resin casing, and Mil-spec nylon band, ready to head into the bush.
Casio G-Shock GA110-1B Military Series
Phoenix: Casio could have disappeared as a joke for the ages when one of their most notable pieces was a calculator watch and some goofy keyboards, but the G-Shock series has put them back on the wrists of the world. Bearing water, shock, impact, and magnetic resistances, along with a smashing face displaying world time and a rich array of alarms, this can be your phone away from phone.
Skagen SKW6082 Ancher
Whiteout: Inspired by the simple steed, the Ancher strives to be as easy to understand as a bicycle tire, and with quartz movement that is as reliable as a heartbeat, it’s as uncomplicated a contraption as you’re likely to find. Backed by leather calfskin, the steel frame and mineral dial window shine with casual grace.
MVMT Watches Black Face
No Show: A statement that’s hard to miss, yet completely without fanfare, the inky black face of the MVMT line of minimalist watches states, unequivocally that it’s here to look good and tell time. Stainless steel and mineral glass, this never fails to make an impression, and looks far more costly and stylized than many pieces that seek to rob you blind.
Aulta The Leeway Nylon
Active Style: 316‑L stainless steel starts the party off, while a nylon band in glowstick orange ensures you never leave this beauty behind, whether at work, at play, or somewhere in between. Remove the strap and replace it with a touch of black leather and this transfers easily to a professional piece bearing a savvy kind of minimalism, with chronos for weekends at the track.
Braun BN0032WHSLMHG Classic Mesh
Metal Marvel: Braun’s engineering prowess at constructing reliable electric razors translates beautifully to their line of watches, along with the same austere yet elegant look that made them a household name. Quartz 3-hand movement keeps time with rhythmic efficacy, and the look is a combination of matte brushed steel, and the glint of the shimmering band.
Timex x J. Crew Andros
Dive Time: A life-saving bezel and a body that is powered by quartz analog movement make this an inexpensive diver that will never lose time when you’re watching your oxygen consumption, or just relaxing on your pontoon boat with a drink in hand. Peaceful luminescence lights up the simple numerics that are easily read through a diving mask.
Citizen BM8180-03E Eco-Drive
Military Time: From the stitched canvas band in olive drab to the time marker at the peak, with numerals on the outside for marking seconds, this looks like the best friend of a ‘40’s bombadier. Solar powered with different movement for indoor or outdoor light, winding is never a concern, nor are damaging batteries that will sink into landfills.
Orient CEM65004B Black Mako
Surf Pro: With its rubberized band and 200 meters worth of water resistance, the Black Mako is meant to take an Olympic level beating for paddleboarding, wake boarding, or motorcycle water skiing. Powered with automatic movement, you don’t need to worry about winding it, or electronic components that give up the ghost at the worst time. Should you decide to do some reef crawling, you’ll have a hard time scratching the mineral dial.
Leather Timex Weekender Chronograph
Quick Change: This is the perfect example of a tried-and-true name who can churn out a lot of watch for a little scratch. Triple chronos and a one-two punch of standard and 24-hour time give you more ways to track your day than you probably need, all with a beautiful Horween leather band that adds the perfect finishing touch. Timex is one of those brands that will never you down.
AVI-8 AV-4003 Hawker Harrier II
Old & New: The Harrier II has a pilot’s watch design, but it plays fast and loose with the style, using a stacked days of the week feature beside the date. Huge luminous hands and digits allow for tracking hours, minutes, and chopping off exact seconds, even in dim light or the fog of war. The case is an aluminum and stainless steel combo that’s as streamlined as the Japanese quartz movement.
Orient ER27006B Classic Automatic
Gentleman’s Wager: Orient is often the brand to reach for if you want something striking and ready to do business, but also not so costly you can’t roll up your sleeves and do some of the grunt work. Japanese automatic movement spins the angular hands at pace, and you even get a leather band embossed with an alligator print for that predatory aesthetic.
Seiko 5 Black Dial SNZF17 Automatic
Band Together: We must admit, half the allure of the SNZF17 is the push-button stainless steel band. It locks down for safety, keeping the glowing face in place during the most strenuous of activities, and allowing the aluminum, unidirectional bezel and 7S36 Seiko movement to work without interruption.
Casio EF-527D-1AVEF Edifice
Information Overload: Bearing a look that is more cockpit instrument panel than wristwatch, the Edifice is the multi-tool of time. Intended to be used for everything it comes with multiple controls and a staggered double-crown to complement the Quartz movement. At a large 45mm, it still tells you more than most apps…and all Tweets.
Swatch Sistem Chic
True Swiss: Though once a punchline, no one is laughing at the self-winding mechanic and Swiss construction that works its accuracy right into the aesthetic of the Chic. Held in place by a dense silicone strap, you do only get a plastic casing and minimal water resistance, so avoid any serious close-quarters combat near lakes if at all possible.
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