Budget Hits- Cheap Watches with Street Cred.

Budget Hits- Cheap Watches with Street Cred.

By Jason Marsden


Whilst watch enthusiasts can appreciate high priced pieces there are also some budget watches that are widely considered to have credibility and respect in the watch community.

In the past I have written about my love of Seiko (especially vintage) but 2019 saw a couple of other budget pieces added to my collection.  Each for a different reason and very different style but both under US$350.


The Timex-Q

Timex is not a brand that gets much love from the watch community – sure they do some OK outdoorsy utility watches and I have a full electro illuminated dial Expedition but in general they will not be sought after. Even vintage Timex are usually best avoided with non-jeweled movements, they were sold as robust pieces but designed to be thrown away at the end of their life. Metal on metal pivots and permanently assembled movements. Today Timex offers a plethora of designs covering most categories and typically retailing for under US$250 with many much cheaper.

The Timex-Q reissue launched in 2019 and soon became a sellout success. Embraced by the watch community the Q purposefully draws on the 1970s delivering a diver style watch driven by a quartz movement.  The 1970s saw the “quartz crisis” where cheap and very accurate quartz movements just about sunk the Swiss mechanical watch industry. This watch features a friction bi-directional bezel, acrylic crystal and fine retro steel link strap that is infinitely adjustable due to its snap-grip type buckle. Some with hairy arms may get the odd ping as the strap can grab a wayward hair on occasion! With a diameter of only 38mm which is smaller than most modern diving style watches this actually makes it more wearable by men and women with all wrist sizes. Whilst the watch is a diving style with only 50m of water resistance I would not recommend anything more than an occasional splash of rain. Another charming throwback to the 70s is the battery hatch on the case back. Something not often seen these days the small hatch can be opened with a coin and allows self-service battery replacement with the appropriate battery type inscribed on the hatch cover. The quartz movement should not only keep great time but mean battery replacement will only be required every two or three years.  This is useful as the most annoying thing about setting the watch is the requirement to scroll through all the days of the week as there is no quickset for this, however once set up the day will not need to be changed for the life of the battery given the days of the week always follow one another unlike the variable number of days in a month.  At the time of writing this the watch was available from Timex.com for US$179. During 2019 this watch was sold out on several occasions but supply seems to be catching up with demand now. To date I have not seen this watch available in New Zealand and since Timex.com do not ship internationally you may be forced to purchase via the secondary market.

Casio G-Shock GA-2100

2019 also saw another surprise watch community hit from Casio. The G-Shock range has been around since 1983 and has developed and grown in offering and complexity whist retaining its tough image and performance. There have been special editions and much like Seiko the top price point has grown along with appreciation of the product line. The GA-2100 was not however a special edition but its slim profile (for a G-Shock) and unique octagonal bezel made it an instant hit. It is this bezel shape that has earnt the watch the nickname “Casioak”. This in homage to the famous (and famously expensive) Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which also features an octagonal bezel. Costing in New Zealand around $250 the bezel shape is about the only thing related to the $30,000+ Audemars Piguet. These can be found in mainstream jewelers who carry the G-Shock range and New Zealand has three colour way options, all black, black with white hands and indices and all red.  In Japan a variety of other bright colour options are also available which perhaps explains the quick change spring bars on the straps allowing mix and match customisation. Packed with a heap of features including fly back analogue day indicator, 200m water resistance, daylight saving setting, world time and two lights (one behind the LED screen and another to wash light across the analogue hands) these are incredibly wearable watches for both men and women. Whilst the full black version is the most popular amongst males even the full red version is wearable by a man looking to create a bold statement.

Whilst you chase that elusive Rolex or save for the high-end grail watch why not branch out and have some fun with some of the great budget offerings out there – who knows you may discover as much joy in wearing such a piece as you get from the luxury offerings.

About the writer

Jason Marsden is a Retail Property Manager for Colliers International and an avid watch collector. His collection includes not just some famous Swiss luxury watch brands but also a number of vintage Seiko.