Three Great Watches For Less Than £300
Stylish ways to tell the time that don’t cost the earth.
There’s a wonderful anecdote in A Man And His Watch, the new book from Style Council member Mr Matthew Hranek. In short, Mr Bill Murray is at The Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles, when he notices maitre’d Mr Dimitri Dimitrov’s Baume & Mercier and quickly pronounces it to be “garbage” as it’s difficult to see in the restaurant’s low lighting. Instead, Mr Murray shows off his own watch – an inexpensive Timex, with the brand’s signature light-up Indiglo functionality – which he then, in true Mr Murray fashion, gives to his friend. A short while later, Mr Murray calls Mr Dimitrov in the middle of the night and asks “What time is it?”
There are two takeaways from this story: Mr Bill Murray is an international treasure, and sometimes, it takes a lower-priced watch to do what a five-figure one cannot. This is refreshing if, say, your budget isn’t yet ready for that beautiful rose gold Jaeger-LeCoultre you’ve been eyeing up. Or if, like me, your daily life is marked by gruelling physical interactions with your own spawn, and you require a daily wearer that can take the proverbial licking and keep on ticking.
The good news is there’s never been a better time to find a well-made, handsomely designed, and relatively inexpensive watch. Whether you procure one from the minimalists at Mondaine, the preppy stalwarts at Timex, or the military-inspired relative newcomers at Techne Watches, you’ll find a level of craftsmanship and beauty that was previously unthinkable at this cost. Here then, are three watches that, pound for pound, offer unparalleled value and quality.
The legendary Swiss brand’s design bona fides are well established, owing to a design deeply indebted to Switzerland’s iconic railway clocks. This piece features another well-known example of Swiss design: the Helvetica typeface. Paired with a restrained face and a rugged leather strap that will improve with age, this is a versatile timepiece – one that weds museum-worthy design with an Affordable Art Fair price point.
The Connecticut-based brand has been around for a century and a half, but has recently been reclaiming its heritage, first through a series of high-visibility collaborations, and more recently with reissues of its most treasured designs. This preppy piece pairs an attractive, gold-tone case with a reversible grosgrain band inspired by Ivy Leaguers’ neckties, a look that complements a suit or a more casual look in equal measure. And at 36mm, the smaller case is of a piece with the trend toward more modest-sized watches.
This is the Rolls-Royce of affordable watches, and that’s not just a cliché: it’s named after the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the V-12 engine that powered the storied WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter jet. (Indeed, the design itself is inspired by planes from the same period.) The case is made from corrosion-resistant stainless steel, and the dial features large, easily-scanned Arabic numerals – details that can mean the difference between life and death for a fighter pilot, and add a nice hint of intrigue for those of us in lower-stakes lines of work.