For Rolex, Audemars, Patek, IWC and other high end watch brands, success depends on culture, craftsmanship and customer cultivation. At the sub-$1k end of the market, it’s dog eat dog. Success depends on product, penny-pinching and PR. Here are my choices for the three best watch brands who’ve mastered the three P’s to sell excellent quality timepieces for under a grand . . .
During World War II, the Hamilton Watch Company stopped producing consumer products to equip more than a million American soldiers with battlefield wristwatches. Today’s Hamilton – based entirely in Switzerland – is best known for selling a range of simple, elegant and hardy mechanical and automatic “field watches.” Hamilton’s “American spirit” – their value-for-money proposition – still holds true.
Thanks to Men In Black, the Ventura is Hamilton’s most famous timepiece. The classic black Ventura is quartz-powered, but no retro watch better captures Post-War American exuberance. Bonus! Hamilton’s shop-by-price widget keeps cash-strapped buyers focused on sub-grand timepieces.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a simple, reliable and stylish mechanical or automatic watch for under a Cleveland, Hamilton’s ready to make it happen. A quartz Ventura might be the last watch you’ll ever wear.
In Which Watch for Rehab, I bitched about the Citizen ProMaster Tough‘s bland design. True! But it’s also the hardiest, simplest, most accurate and strongly luminous timepiece $250 can buy. If that doesn’t suit, Citizen has seven other collections of inexpensive watches all built like a brick shit house, many veering off into high tech blingery.
That’s because Citizen’s at the technological forefront. They sell the world’s most accurate non-synchronized watch (+/- 1 second per year), an atomic timekeeping series (+/- 1 second per 20 million years) and the fastest GPS-synchronized watch ($636 Satellite Wave GPS Freedom above). All quartz, all powered by ambient light.
Bottom line: If you want a sub-$1k watch that’s tough as dirt – and almost as cheap – Citizen offers a winning combination of tech and spec.
As much as I love traditional watches, leaving Apple off the list of the three best watch brands under $1000 would be like the AMA downplaying the discovery of penicillin. The Apple Watch keeps perfect time. It’s rugged and splash proof. The battery never needs replacing (recharging FTW). So the Apple Watch is a damn good watch. And . . .
It does everything short of cook you a three-course dinner. From heart rate monitoring to voice recognition-activated text, email and scheduling, number 5 is alive with thousands of practical (and fun) activities. A competitor may eventually introduce a smarter smart watch, but that day is a long way off – even in digital era terms.
Bottom line: Everyone – even watch snobs – should have an Apple watch. Yeah, it’s that good.