Shopping for a timepiece that slots in below $2,500 presents both the brand-conscious buyer and the most impassioned watch nerd with serious horological options. This is the range of both respected big-name manufactures and smaller boutique brands, both of which offer bombproof build quality and unique features. Which is to say that if you can save up over two Gs, you have some great options for your wrist.
RGM Watches Model 107
After graduating from WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program) and serving a stint with the Hamilton Watch Co, Roland G. Murphy Founded in RGM Watches in 1992. With its headquarters just down the road from the Hamilton Watch Complex in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, RGM aims to continue American watchmaking traditions. The Model 107, RGM’s oldest active timepiece, is a slim 35mm stainless-steel pilot’s watch powered by an in-house modified ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement. Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal houses everything, with the Cote de Geneve lines and perlage of the movement on full display.
Doxa Sub 1200T Professional
The Doxa Sub 1200T shares a direct link to Jacque Cousteau’s 1969 original 300T and hits the tool-watch sweet spot with a 42mm barrel case and a bevy of aquanaut-specific features. The 120-tooth, unidirectional bezel has a grippy sawtooth edge for gloved operation and boasts its own engraved dive computer — the inner ring displays elapsed time and the outer ring displays corresponding decompression depth limits. Thanks to bombproof build quality and a helium release valve, the Sub 1200T can handle dives up to 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) deep, or run-ins with mahogany desk drawers, with ease.
Junghans Meister Kalendar
The Junghans Meister Kalendar combines the intricate complications of date, day and moonphase with the marque’s minimalist Bauhaus aesthetic for a balanced, classic timepiece. At 40.4mm in diameter and 12mm thick, the Meister Kalendar wears larger than you would think, but is far from overpowering. This is thanks in large part to Junghans’ triple-calendar design, which doesn’t clutter the watch face. The elegant hands are silver plated and easily read behind the Meister’s convex SICRALAN-coated plexiglass crystal; they even feature a thin application of lume for when the moon slips behind a cloud.
Oris Divers Sixty-Five
Homage and retro-inspired timepieces are quickly becoming the norm across all watchdom, but few watchmakers have dared to reissue a heritage design so true to the original as Oris. The Divers Sixty-Five is a cleaned-up version of their mid-’60s dive watch, complete with exacting proportions and a modest 100-meter depth rating. Powered by an in-house modified Selitta SW200 automatic movement, the Sixty-Five is 12.5mm thick, with a good chunk of that being due to its double AR-domed sapphire crystal. Of course, the standout feature here is that incredibly sexy dial with its silhouetted numerals and their chunky, Mid-Century, Radium-styled Superluminova application.
NOMOS Orion 38
The Nomos Orion 38, with its white-silver-plated dial, steely blue stick hands and gold-stamped indexes, is pure, unsullied minimalism. You can quickly be sucked into the Bauhaus details of this dress watch: the chapter ring only includes the four minute markers positioned between each five-minute index; the seconds subdial has a concentric Guilloche finish; the lugs are drilled for scratch-free strap changes. Add an in-house-manufactured Nomos caliber ? (Alpha) movement and you have the complete German watch package.
Sinn Model 358 Sa Pilot
If you look closely at the Sinn 358 Sa Pilot, flanking the numeral 4 are the circled letters “Ar” — that symbol refers to Sinn’s Ar-Dehumidifying Technology. Humidity, caused primarily by temperature changes during flights and underwater dives, prematurely ages the lubricating oils in a watch’s movement and also causes fogging. Sinn uses a drying capsule, EDR seals and a protective gas in all Ar-equipped watches to keep that from happening. The 358 Sa Pilot also features sapphire crystals on both the face and case back to keep your view of each side scratch-free.
Grand Seiko SBGX061
The Grand Seiko SBGX061 is a $2,100 quartz watch. This is because it is a very special quartz watch. Where most battery-powered timepieces are accurate to within 15 seconds over a month’s time, the 9F62 movement powering this entry level Grand Seiko is accurate to within 10 seconds over the course of a year. Each of the in-house farmed quartz crystals powering this watch is paired to a circuit specifically programmed to the crystal’s frequency response rate to temperature change – the major factor in quartz watch inaccuracies. There’s also an integrated minute spiral-spring (similar to a balance spring) that compensates for any mechanical slack in the system. The watch closes every day with a flourish of precision: its date changes in 1/2000 of a second at midnight.
Longines Heritage Military COSD
Inspired by the watch Longines outfitted British Special Forces officers with during WWII, the Heritage Military COSD is an attractive, retro timepiece with bona fide field-watch credentials. Powered by a self-winding, ETA-2892/A2 derived calibre, the COSD has a 42-hour power reserve and features a date window at the 3 o’clock position — luxuries Britain’s flyboys didn’t have. The dial is unfussy and easy to read while the polished 40mm stainless steel case provides a bit of flash not usually found in similar tool watches.
Alpina Alpiner 4 GMT
In designing their Alpiner line of watches, Alpina focused on four traits they deemed essential for a great sports watch: it must be antimagnetic, shockproof, water resistant and made using stainless steel. However, for the GMT variant, they took things a touch further. While most GMT (or twin timezone watches) allow the wearer to quickly adjust the third hand to coordinate with a separate time zone, this feature inevitably means travelers need to fully adjust everything else when they land. The 4 GMT, on the other hand, employs a jumping-hour local-time, hand. This is a tricky complication similar to one employed in the Rolex GMT-Master II, made specifically for avid travelers. And this one is housed in a watch that costs less than a quarter of the Rolex.
Ball Watches Engineer II Ohio 40mm
Put simply, Ball Watches are over-engineered timepieces. They set the bar for the early American timekeeping industry, in terms of accuracy and precision, and almost singlehandedly organized and aligned America’s scattered rail schedules. The 40mm Engineer II Ohio serves as a robust, modern example of the Ball Watch Company’s continued commitment to timekeeping excellence. Powered by Ball’s RR1102 self-winding calibre — an ebauche movement based on the ETA 2836-2 — the Ohio features a 38-hour power reserve and a day/date window at the 3 o’clock position. The Ohio is shock resistant to 5,000 G’s, antimagnetic up to 60 Gauss and features 15 self-powered micro gas tubes that deliver impeccable low-light legibility.