Luxury watches are often associated with pretty hefty price tags. But let’s not beat around the bush here. The acquisition of a high-end mechanical watch is typically associated with the parting of a fairly substantial amount of money. So, what we’ve done for you is curated a list of affordable watches that cost less than $3,000. We’ve done our best to find a varied list of timepieces that will satisfy even the most die-hard of watchmaking fans, with many of the pieces combining wonderful aesthetics with interesting mechanics. We recently featured a list of our favorite featured luxury watches under $1,000, but this list is a bit more comprehensive and the extra budget has given us the lee-way to find some really cool watches for you.
So here it is, our best 10 favorite luxury watches under $3,000.
Seiko Presage Enamel ($1,200)
While some may frown at a Seiko costing over $1,000, one would do well to remember that Seiko actually produce some amazing timepieces that cost close to that of their Swiss-made counterparts. Take the Presage Enamel, as an example. Beautifully well-proportioned at 40.5mm in diameter and 12.8mm in depth. A somewhat asymmetrical dial, with an off-centre power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock doing well to add some abstract contrasting into the mix. A bright white enamel dial, the Japanese equivalent to a Swiss grand feu enamel dial. And black Roman numerals that have been treated to a coating at least 10-times to ensure depth and legibility. The monochromatic color scheme is offset superbly by the blue-steeled hands, and the sunken crevasses where the hands sit are a wonderful visual addition. The calibre 6R27 powers the Presage Enamel beats at a silky-smooth 4Hz and features a very commendable 45-hour power reserve. Japanese luxury watchmaking that’s both affordable and enjoyable.
Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph ($3,000)
The Freelancer Chronograph sits right on the $3,000 mark, and its inclusion into this list is one that I had absolutely no issue with. There’s a certainly element of functionality about it that I think many affordable luxury chronographs lack. From the day-date indicator on the right side of the dial to the layout of the chronograph sub-dials and real-time seconds sub-dial from the centre and to the left of the dial, there’s a certain structure at play here that just seems to work. The color differentiation of warm and cool palettes is great, and the exposed mushroom chronograph pushers and oversized crown are an ode to the timeless look of an everyday chronograph. The play of textures from the twisted lugs, to the bezel and to the outer rim of the dial keeps things interesting, and the utilization of an ébauche movement (namely the ETA SA 7750) of course keeps costs down. Affordable luxury watches; Raymond Weil is one of the best.
Baume et Mercier Clifton Club ($2,200)
I was fortunate enough to spend some hands-on time with the Clifton Club Collection last year, and I had the opportunity to play around with some of their pieces. And let me tell you, quality on quality. There are many models to choose from, but the one that caught my eye was the black dial and silver bezel choice with the orange sweeping-seconds hand. The colors at play with this piece worked supremely well. It was sporty, it was comfortable and it looked awesome. This was a watch that I could see myself owning and wearing happily for a number of years. The construct of the 42mm case was excellent, the dial was balanced and legible and to be quite frank with you, the entire look of the piece was really in-keeping with what I’d want in a watch that cost as much as the Clifton Club did. An ode to a well worked watch that won’t break the bank.
Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 ($2,195)
From the moment I came across the Intra-Matic 68, I was intrigued. The combination of a traditional chronograph’s flowing aesthetic with a very modern and robust movement really makes the Intra-Matic 68 a winner for me. There is great appeal in the Intra-Matric 68’s look and feel. At 42mm in width and 14.6mm in depth, it has presence but it can still be worn inconspicuously with thanks to a dial that’s quite low-key. The panda-dial look is one that I absolutely adore, and the Intra-Matic 68’s is no exception. The creamy-white of the outer chapter ring and the two sub-dial registers, coupled with the deep black of the dial’s main expanse is offset wonderfully well with the shine of that polished stainless-steel case. From a visual perspective, this is a very tough watch to beat. It’s powered by the Calibre H-31 which is based on the Valjoux 7753. This is a calibre that has been extensively modified, but is still relatively serviceable. One of this list’s highlights, and one that definitely deserves its place as an affordable luxury Swiss-made watch!
Oris Aquis Hammerhead Limited Edition ($2,750)
How could I not feature an Oris Aquis on this list of sub-$3,000 watches? And out of all the limited-edition Aquis pieces, the Hammerhead is definitely my favorite. This is a watch of stature, and it’s one that at 45.50mm in diameter is not going to appeal to everyone. It’s big yes, but there is enough subtlety about it so as to not have too much focus on its size. The sunburst grey dial shines brilliant in different hues depending on the light, the day-date indicator ensures an element of wearability and daily functionality, the hands and hour markers are broad and legible, and the touch of blue on the lollipop sweeping-seconds hand is, for me, like the proverbial cherry on top of a very tempting cake. The case is big and broad, and without sounding sexist this is very much a man’s watch. The Hammerhead is powered by the Oris 752, which in fact is an ébauche movement produced by Sellita in the form of the SW 220-01, thus keeping costs down. The Hammerhead is a limited-edition timepiece but it’s one that I will, if all things go according to plan, acquire very soon. Oris produced some amazing and affordable diver’s watches, and the Hammerhead is absolutely no exception. Love it!
Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC ($1,075)
The Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC missed out on our list of watches under $1,000 by the slimmest of margins, so we just had to include it in this list. As far as affordable Swiss-made watches go, Tissot really is one of the prime choices out there. And the Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC is a watch that I absolutely could not overlook. The perfect dress watch that can be dressed up or down with enough mechanical gusto to hold its own against some very stiff competition. If I had it my way, I would have made the dial even simpler, getting rid of the textured centre and just having a beautiful clean black look, or maybe even a full grainy-textured dial. But with respect to the direction of the Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC and its cost, there’s very little to fault. The Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC is of course powered by a COSC certified movement, meaning it just rose a few ranks in my books, and I’m so glad that a watchmaker as large as Tissot have realized the importance of using high-end movements and at the same time keeping their prices down. Tissot and affordable watches are synonymous with each other, and the Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC is one of their best offerings in that respect.
Longines Legend Diver Black ($2,700)
Just as Tissot are one of the Swiss watchmaking industry’s most affordable and most loved companies, so is Longines, with a rich heritage and traditions that some manufactures can only dream of having. The Legend Diver Black speaks to my youthful side with thanks to its black PVD case and black dial. This is a very dark watch, and that may put off some would-be purchasers. But rest assured, Longines have been doing this for a very long time, so they know a thing or two about putting together a decent watch. Amidst the darkness of the Legend Diver Black is a beautiful artificial patina, designed to mimic that of Longines’ divers from decades ago. And within that patina are soft green dial highlights. This is, of course, a diver’s watch, so legibility is key here. And the Legend Diver Black is supremely legible in all lighting environments. The dial’s refined look as further accentuated by the dual-crown system and the elongated lugs, rounding off a very sleek aesthetic. This affordable diver’s watch is powered by the L888.2, an ébauche movement based on the ETA A31.L01, with a power reserve of about 64-hours. Wonderful proportions, well balanced and easily one of Longines’ most appealing watches. Tick of approval for this sub-$3,000 diver’s watch.
Tudor Black Bay 36 ($2,500)
The Black Bay 36 is like the Black Bay’s affectionate younger brother. You know the type? The one that can do no wrong, that’s looked upon with admiration and love. The one that you can’t fault, try as you might. The Black Bay 36 is that watch. It’s available in a variety of strap and dial options, but at 36mm the issue with sizing may be one that will prove to be the Black Bay 36’s downfall. 36mm for me personally is small, but I know that there is a certain market out there looking for these smaller types of watches. In its entirety, the Black Bay 36 is well balanced, and I love the streamline look of the case and lugs. The hour indices do verge on the side of being a bit too large, but Tudor have exercised their growing maturity in ensuring that they still work. The iconic Tudor snowflake hour hand draws a lot of the focus for me, and it’s a watch that I do think still has some appeal to it. It’s powered by the ETA 2824 automatic movement, which of course is the reason why it’s so affordable. Wet your beak a little and take a trip down a not-so-beaten path. Cost effective and interesting, what more could you want in a watch?
Bell & Ross BR V1-92 ($1,990)
Another peculiar choice and one that I found whilst roaming the Internet looking for watches that fell within our budget. The Bell & Ross BR V1-92 is a very simple take that just works so well. At 38.5mm in diameter, the satin-polished stainless-steel case is both wearable and relevant. The slim bezel, undersized crown and thin lugs reduce the BR V1-92’s profile, and the matte black dial is both expansive and well-fitting of the piece’s exterior. The hands are filled with Superluminova, while the numerals and indices are coated with the same. The addition of a small date-window between 4 and 5 o’clock is of course quite welcoming on our end, and altogether this is a watch that’s very appealing. The BR V1-92 is powered by the BR-CAL.302 which is based on the Sellita SW300-1 which is an automatic movement and features a power reserve of 38-hours. An odd-ball of sorts, but one that I’m sure you’ll take to just as much as I have.
NOMOS Glashütte Club Campus ($1,650)
NOMOS Glashütte’s watches present themselves as fun, relaxed and have an air of youth about them that I think appeals immensely to many people. The Club Campus is another one of those fun-loving, carefree watches made to evoke feelings of amusement and of lightheartedness. At 36mm in diameter and 8.17mm in depth, the Club Campus’ stature is fairly small. But this isn’t a watch made to speak loudly and draw a crowd. This is a watch made for a very certain type of person that wants to wear something that they want to wear, and not something that maybe the community at large would approve of. It’s powered by the Alpha manually wound calibre, ensuring a power reserve of up to 43-hours. The Club Campus is a fun-loving type of watch that’s both affordable and of course very desirable.