A recent story by Fast Company reported that, despite the ubiquity of smartphones and smartwatches, “old school watches are back in vogue and millennials are leading the way.” Specifically, style-forward analog watches made by young, upstart brands ranging from $100 to $300 in price were winning the coveted space on millennials’ wrists. The idea is that, in a hyperconnected world saturated with push notifications, a traditional watch is a source of simplicity and respite. It’s a nice thought.

Except most of the watches profiled in Fast Company’s story use quartz movements. And hey, that’s fine. Really. Especially given that most of the watches you’ll find in the under $300 range are battery powered. At some point, however, newbies to analog watches might feel tempted to upgrade to something powered by a mechanical movement. For that, there are just as many brands (both big and small) willing to cater to you with reasonably priced watches powered by gears and springs. The best pair modern style with truly old-school timekeeping tech — and are attainably priced.

Orient Bambino V4


For years, the Orient Bambino has been a stalwart on the affordable watch market, offering utterly refined looks and an in-house mechanical movement for less than the price of many quartz watches. The latest addition to the Bambino range is the V4, which gets a bump up in size from 40.5mm of the original Bambino to 42mm. The V4’s most defining visual feature here, though, is its variety of vibrant, sunburst dials that — in conjunction with its domed crystal and gold-tone indices — give it the look of a watch worth hundreds more.

Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: Orient Cal. F6724 (auto)

Laco Stone 40


Though you may not have heard of it, Laco was originally founded in 1925 as Lacher & Co. in Pforzheim, Germany. Its current lineup is made up primarily of reissues of older models (most notably WWII-era “flieger” pilot watches), but the Stone 40 looks considerably more contemporary. Its gray sun-ray dial and slim case draw most of its looks from the Bauhaus style. And though the movement is based on a Miyota movement from Japan, the watch still meets the standards for the “Made in Germany” label.

Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Miyota 9015 (auto)

Seiko Presage SRPB41J1 ‘Cocktail Time’


For years, Seiko’s Presage series of watches wasn’t available in the US, but a recent push by Seiko to bring the dressy timepieces stateside means that the “Cocktail Time” — long a JDM model coveted by Seiko enthusiasts in the US — can now be easily attained by in America. The watch gets its nickname from its radiant guilloche dial that shimmers when hit with direct light. Inside ticks a Seiko 4R35, an automatic workhorse made by the Japanese watchmaker and used in a multitude of its more affordable offerings.

Size: 40.5mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Seiko 4R35 (auto)

CWC Navigator Automatic


The Cabot Watch Company (CWC) started supplying watches to the British military in 1972 and continues to produce watches to military specification. The Navigator is based on the G10 watch design, which was originally powered by a hand-winding movement (then replaced by quartz), but forgoes it in this instance for an automatic mechanical movement from ETA. Still, it’s a true field watch, and the rest of the Navigator remains very simple, with a legible luminous dial, a restrained case size and not much else.

Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: ETA 2824 (auto)

Martenero Ascent


Though there are many American watch micro brands out there, New York–based watchmaker Martenero sets itself apart with its playful-yet-handsome designs and use of mechanical movements. The Ascent features great details like hexagonal markings at each hour and a colorful second hand. Plus, it’s available in four different dial colors. Buyers can also choose between a 38mm or 42mm case, and the whole thing comes affixed to a U.S.-made leather strap.

Size: 38mm or 42mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Miyota 9015 (auto)
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Carpenter M9 Brooklyn Field


Speaking of notable American micro brands: Carpenter watches are designed and assembled in Brooklyn. While the M9 here is ostensibly billed as a field watch, it feels more like a cross between a Shinola and a Nomos (that is very much a compliment). It seems perfect, then, for pretty much any conceivable occasion, and the reliable Miyota movement inside means it’s a great option for people who love the Shinola look but are ready to move on to mechanical movements.

Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Miyota 821A (auto)

Defakto Vektor


Defakto is a small, German microbrand with a penchant for releasing affordable, modernist watches. Its most recent release, the Vektor, might be its finest yet. The brand describes it as “retro futuristic,” and seems to have cinched it by combing a Bauhaus-inspired base with a stealthy, almost-sci-fi-inspired black and orange-red colorway. Despite its low price, the watch itself is fairly slim at just 9.8mm thick, thanks to a lithe automatic movement made by Miyota.

Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: Miyota 9015 (auto)

Tissot Visodate


If you want an affordable, handsome watch from a longstanding Swiss brand, odds are you’ll find what you’re looking for from Tissot. The brand’s Heritage line is especially well stocked with properly-executed retro designs. The Visdoate doesn’t look particularly extravagant, but it does call back to a watch made during the 1950s to celebrate the brand’s centenary, which paired a day and date display with an automatic movement. What makes this new version so special is its commitment to the details of the era, specifically its domed dial and handwritten-style Tissot logo.

Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: ETA 2836-2 (auto)

Fortis Terrestis 19Fortis PM


Fortis is a Swiss watchmaker that doesn’t quite get its due here in the U.S. The brand has produced a number of watches used in both aviation and space travel, though it most mostly dabbles in tool watches. Its forays into dressier options are fantastic, too. Take, for instance, the Terrestis 19Fortis PM, which pairs a svelte 9.5mm-thick case with a textured gray dial and gold-tone hands and indices — giving it the proportions and finishings of a watch that should cost thousands, not hundreds.

Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: ETA 2892-A2 (auto)

Junghans Max Bill


Swiss architect and designer Max Bill was one of Staatliches Bauhaus’s most accomplished students, and the timepieces he made for Junghans are some of his most recognizable works. The Junghans Max Bill of today is a dead ringer for the watches Bill designed for Junghans in the ’60s, with a clean dial, sharp typography, elongated markers, domed crystal and thin bezel. It has easily become one of the templates for Bauhaus-inspired timepieces today, and though its look has been copied by many, very few have been able to pull off its minimal elegance.

Size: 38mm
Water Resistance:
Movement: ETA 2824-2 (auto)
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