Whether you’re into haute horologie or South Park, the best affordable watches of 2023 offer something for watch lovers of every taste and budget. Folks looking to buy one of their pricier counterparts for anything approaching sticker prices, though, will be disappointed. Thanks to the soaring popularity of watches in general, and the hype around limited-edition watches in particular, the vibiest tickers of the year—the puzzle dial Rolex Day-Date, say, or the Swatch x Blancpain Fifty Fathoms—turn out to be some of the hardest to find at retail.
5 Affordable Tickers We Lusted After This Year
But here’s the good news: while you might not be able to score an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar “Cactus Jack” edition, there are plenty of other best-of-the-year affordable watches that are available to buy right now (and don’t require selling an organ to do it). Here’s where to start.
Timex x Huckberry Ironman Flix Watch
There’s a lot more to pre-Y2K style than leather blazers and giant mall jeans. Huckberry dialed it back to ’99 with this reissue of one the decade’s most beloved digital watches, which is as sturdy, reliable, and stylish today as it was in the Spice World era.
Casio G-Shock 40th Anniversary Watch
In 1983, Casio changed the game forever with the release of the first G-Shock. The brand dropped a whole bunch of commemorative pieces released to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, but this remix of the classic DW6900 with a transparent jellyfish-style case is the, ahem, clear winner.
Fossil Blue GMT Watch
Back in the ‘90s, Fossil was one of the world’s biggest watch brands in the world, with a catalog of 500 styles ranging from 1940s-style triple-calendars to wacky cartoon-adorned collabs. Now, amid a full-fledged 21st-century renaissance, they’re balancing a fresh crop of freaky designs with solid everyday pieces like this oversized GMT diver.
Seiko 5 Sports SRPK31K1 Watch
Rolex isn’t the only brand that can ignite a frenzy by tweaking a case size. With a new 38mm case (down from 42mm, a big deal in watch terms), Seiko made their beloved diver more wearable for even more folks—and reaffirmed the Sports 5 as the biggest cheat code in watchmaking.
Orient Bambino Version 7 Watch
The Bambino has long been one of the best propositions in affordable automatic watches, and a new crop of colorful dials—including salmon, this year’s tastiest flavor—make it even more irresistible.
Casio Pro Trek x Pendleton Watch
Historically the Pro Trek hasn’t received as much attention as its sibling the G-Shock, but this woodsy collab with the maker of your favorite flannel shirts ought to help change that.
Citizen Tsuyosa Watch
2022 was a great year for anyone looking for a slick automatic watch under $500. Thanks to the new Citizen Tsuyosa, however, 2023 was an even better one.
Paulin Modul B Quartz Watch
This Glasgow-based indie imprint upped its game in a big way in 2023 with a slew of funky new releases. Didn’t think you could love a brown and yellow dial this much? Us either.
Brew Metric Automatic Watch
With a ’80s motorsport-inspired case, a meca-quartz movement, and a seconds subdial marked to help you time the perfect espresso shot, this might be the only truly practical chronograph of 2023.
Bulova Jet Star Watch
The ’70s style case and integrated bracelet aren’t the only thing this archival re-edition brings to the table. Thanks to a high-frequency quartz movement (which, not coincidentally, was one of Bulova’s biggest claims to fame in the ‘70s), the new Jet Star is both funky and accurate.
Baltic Hermétique Tourer Watch
A salmon dial might be the standout ingredient here, but like any great recipe, the Hermétique Tourer succeeds on the strength of perfectly balanced supporting elements like a subtle grained finish, a set of Breguet-style numerals, and an off-center sub-seconds dial.
Tissot PRX Powermatic 35mm Watch
Tissot’s disco-era mega-hit is available in nearly 50 variants, including a digital version, a chronograph, and a whole whack of comely dial choices. This year’s launch of a vintage-inspired 35mm case fitted with the brand’s vaunted Powermatic 80 automatic movement, though, is the one we’ve been waiting for.
Timex Giorgio Galli S2 Watch
If you’ve fallen hard for a Timex watch in the last few years, it’s probably thanks to Giorgio Galli, the brand’s prolific Milan-based Chief Creative Director. Following the success of the S1, Galli’s latest self-titled drop pushes into new territory with an ultra-minimal dial and an upgraded Swiss automatic movement.
Bulova Rat Pack Watch
Bulova’s long-running partnership with the Sinatra estate has occasionally veered a little too far into cheeseball territory. This one, however, hits the bullseye with a subtle vinyl-textured dial, a gold chapter ring, and nary a fedora in sight.
Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic Watch
In the mid-1950s, the American Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 Task Force (which is a truly superb name for a task force) helped to establish a permanent research base in Antarctica. This re-issue, complete with fauxtina lume and a classic 3-6-9 explorer-style dial, is similar to the ones worn by the task force’s crew, and the latest in a string of bangers from this recently re-animated Swiss brand.
Paul Smith + Braun Swiss-Made Watch
Smith’s signature splash of color on the small-seconds hand is just enough to bump this minimalist ticker (which is also the first Braun with a Swiss automatic movement) into grail territory.
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