The appeal of luxury watch brands has a lot to do with image – an image of wealth and exclusivity. There are often misconceptions about how expensive brand name watches are, because the most talked about watches are not necessarily entry-level models. That’s why we have put together a list of the most affordable mechanical watches from the top 10 luxury watch brands. We have focused on men’s watches since most of our readers are male. Who knows, maybe a watch from your favorite brand is less expensive than you think.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the most affordable watch you can buy if you are on the lookout for a new Rolex. The watch is characterized by the classic Rolex aesthetics that you can also find in other Rolex models such as the Datejust and Milgauss. The biggest difference between these models is the affordability of the Oyster Perpetual.
The men’s version has a 39-mm diameter. However, if you’d like your classic Rolex a bit smaller, a 36-mm version is also available. We have chosen the 39 mm as the entry point into the Rolex universe with a list price of 5,150 euros.
Omega DeVille Prestige Co-Axial 39.5 mm
The second luxury watch powerhouse on this list is Omega. The most affordable option in their collection is not what most people think of when they hear Omega: It is not a Speedmaster or Seamaster. Although they have affordable options in the Speedmaster and Seamaster collection as well, the Omega De Ville collection has the most affordable option.
The De Ville Prestige Co-Axial 39.5 mm is a beautiful classic men’s watch that is available with many different dial colors and leather straps, and it can be yours starting at a list price of 3,000 euros.
Breitling Chronomat Colt Automatic
The third of the big three luxury brands is Breitling. This brand has many iconic watches that are divided into five different collections. The good thing is that Breitling has at least one watch under 4,000 euros in three of these collections.
The first is from the Navitimer collection: The recently introduced Breitling Navitimer 8 Automatic 41 has a list price of 3,600 euros. The second is from the Superocean collection: The Superocean II 42 is available at a list price of 3,690 euros. The last and most affordable of the three is the Chronomat Colt Automatic, which is available at a list price of 3,250 euros. The good thing about the latter watch is that it comes in two sizes that are priced equally. It’s up to you whether you choose the 41-mm version or the 44-mm version.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII
IWC Schaffhausen has built a strong reputation for producing beautifully designed watches that have become classic names in the watch industry. From the Portugieser to the Ingenieur and the Aquatimer, these names have become familiar and connected to iconic watches. One of the most iconic collections is the Pilot’s Watches, or ‘Fliegeruhren’, with the Big Pilot as the most well known of the series.
Within the Pilot’s Watches collection, you will also find one of the most affordable IWC models. The Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII is the latest in the Mark series and is available at a list price of 4,490 euros. For this price, you can get one of the most famous IWC watches of all time. It measures 40 mm in diameter and is available in a wide variety of steel configurations. The most well-known version has a black dial, white numerals, and a black leather strap, but one of the most interesting is the heritage version with a black dial, crème numerals, and a brown leather strap.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding
Audemars Piguet enters into territory that rarely warrants a description of affordable. The brand has become synonymous with high-end luxury watches and has been embraced by many celebrities from the worlds of sports, music, and the arts.
The Royal Oak is their most iconic watch. In this collection, you will also find an entry point to Audemars Piguet. The Royal Oak Selfwinding 41 mm is one of the most affordable watches from this brand with a list price of 17,900 euros. It is without a doubt an expensive watch, but it is more than just a luxury item with a high price: It’s a statement piece designed by the late Gérald Genta, a famous watch designer that forever changed the way we look at high-end sports watches.
Patek Phillippe Aquanaut
Another brand that is the epitome of luxury in watches is Patek Phillippe. Buying a Patek is a serious investment, but you are getting a unique watch made with the highest quality standards in mind. One of the most affordable Patek watches is the Aquanaut, a purpose-built watch for an active lifestyle filled with sports and aquatic pursuits. The watch was introduced in 1997 and has been successful ever since, as it bridges the gap between traditional watchmaking and contemporary design. It’s a design that is inspired by the famous Patek Philippe Nautilus, which was also designed by Gérald Genta.
It was a smart move to base the design of the Aquanaut on the very popular Nautilus, because it creates an entry-level watch that appeals to a wider audience. Entry level for Patek Philippe means you are looking at a list price of 17,040 euros.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5
TAG Heuer is a brand that has always had a strong connection to racing. To this day the brand has several collections that are linked to either current day racing or inspired by racing history. The most well-known are the TAG Heuer Monaco and Carrera models, but these are not the entry-level watches from the brand. The most affordable mechanical model is the Formula 1 Calibre 5.
The Formula 1 collection is a series of modern day sports watches that could be an entry point into luxury watches in general, as they are quite affordable compared to the other big players on this list. The name TAG Heuer appeals to a wide range of people. The Formula 1 Calibre 5 in steel with a black perforated black leather strap has a sporty racing feel and could be yours for a list price of 1,450 euros.
Hublot Classic Fusion 42 mm
Hublot has been making a big name for themselves with their successful Big Bang series, initially introduced in 2005. This series has made the brand a steady fixture in lists of luxury watch brands to keep an eye on. Good designs and a sharp eye for marketing and sponsorships has made this brand more and more popular over the last decade. However, the entry-level Hublot is a watch that was introduced five years after the Big Bang: the Hublot Classic Fusion.
In essence, it is a more understated version of the Big Bang. The watch has a thinner profile than the Big Bang with a less crowded dial, but keeps the iconic porthole case design and the bold hour markers and hands that make the Big Bang so recognizable. The 42-mm standard titanium version of the Classic Fusion can be yours for a list price of 7,100 euros; the only thing you have to worry about is whether you prefer blue, black, or grey.
Panerai Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Acciaio
Panerai has become known for their big vintage Italian diver’s-style watches since they were first introduced to the public in 1993. The company had been making watches for decades prior to that, but they were only provided to professionals in the the Italian navy and the Egyptian navy. Since 1993, two watch models have made the brand famous: the Radiomir and the Luminor. These make up the entire standard collection of the brand.
Both model ranges feature a wide variety of configurations, but the entry-level Panerai is the Panerai Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Acciaio. The beauty of this watch lies in its representation of the iconic, bold style of the Luminor. Buying this entry-level Panerai means you are buying a piece with the true essence of the brand. The iconic Luminor can be yours for a list price of 4,600 euros.
Cartier Tank Solo XL
Cartier has been making watches for royalty and world leaders for over a century. They have some of the most iconic models ever made in their collections. The Cartier Tank was first introduced in 1917 when Louis Cartier designed the watch for General John Pershing of the American Expeditionary Force. When creating the timepiece, Cartier drew inspiration from the Renault tanks that he saw on the Western Front.
Today, there are multiple Tank collections available at a wide range of prices. The entry-level Cartier Tank comes from the Solo collection, namely the Cartier Tank Solo XL. There are more affordable options in the Solo collection, but they are all powered by quartz movements. The Tank Solo XL is powered by an automatic movement and is an incredibly iconic statement piece that still resembles the watches that were first introduced a century ago. You can buy this piece of watchmaking history at a list price of 3,250 euros.
There you have it: Ten different entry-level watches from the ten biggest brands in the luxury watch industry. Hopefully you are able to make a choice between them. Each proudly represents their brand despite being an entry-level model. There is a reason these watches are part of each brand and they offer a great first step into the world of luxury watches.
By Jorg Weppelink