Watches offer both practicality and a sartorial statement. But navigating the world of timepieces can be rather daunting, be that because of the varied vocabulary – from balance wheel to tourbillon – or the sheer amount of choice.
When it comes to buying a watch, everyone is likely to have a slightly different opinion. Perhaps you’d prefer something high-end, for example, an Omega? Or maybe you enjoy finding new, independent designers, such as Olivier Meylan. And while, through the decades certain designs have been more preferable than others, as a general rule, whatever watch you choose is down to personal style.
But, as with any investment, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to nail down your price point, luckily there are a number of brands selling designs around £100 that are well made and could easily pass for a price tag that’s almost ten times that.
Another important factor is how you want your watch your move – if you want extremely accurate timekeeping you’ll need to decide between quartz (battery-powered and the most accurate), mechanical (hand-wound timepieces) or automatic (also a mechanical watch, but this continues to tick without being hand-wound daily). But if you’re investing based purely on aesthetic appeal then this isn’t something to worry about.
A final design feature we’d recommend paying attention to is the size of the face. If you’re a man, it’s commonplace to opt for either a 40mm for something large or 36mm for a smaller dial. Meanwhile women tend to choose something smaller, usually around 28-36mm.
Above all, your watch should be an extension of you. So, to help you on your search for your new daily wear, here you’ll find some of the best watch brands in the business that offer timeless designs. From British designers to Swiss makers, consider this your ultimate guide.
Affordable watch brands
Drawing on his traditional Swiss watchmaking roots, David Meylan founded Olivier Meylan. Despite being a newcomer, it’s certainly made waves and can already call Russel Kane and England rugby players among its fanbase. And its roster of designs includes both men’s and women’s watches.
Our favourite is the player’s edition (£299, Oliviermeylan.com). It has a Swiss quartz movement at its core and an eye-catching design, with a blue face. However, it is a limited run, so you’ll want to get your hands on it now. For women, we think the all-black bijoux (£179, Oliviermeylan.com) is sleek and sophisticated and will go with everything.
Larsson & Jennings
Taking inspiration from modern Swedish designs, Larsson & Jennings is the ideal destination if you’re looking for a classic, minimalist timepiece. Our favourite from the brand is the mini boyfriend (£199, Larssonjennings.com), its two-tone design makes it look high-end and we love the fact the date is displayed on the face, which isn’t always commonplace with women’s smaller watches.
Established in 1895, Rotary is a great one to know if you’re after something reliable, but also affordable. With plenty of different offerings for men and women – including, leather straps (£129, Rotarywatches.com), mother of pearl faces (£259, Rotarywatches.com) and an automatic divers watch (£249, Rotarywatches.com) – there really is something for everyone.
Our personaly favourite? The Windsor ladies watch (£175, Rotarywatches.com). It has a sleek, almost vintage look, and it manages to transform even the most simple of outfits. Rotary really is a great destination that’s surprisingly pocket-friendly.
With a full range of different options, from minimalist to bold statements, Cluse’s watches are designed in-house. Whether you prefer something traditional like this black leather strap (£76, Cluse.com) or something a little more chunky, such as this steel design (£160, Cluse.com), it’s got you covered at a pocket-friendly price.
This is yet another affordable brand that’s on a mission to prove that a watch needn’t cost thousands to look and feel premium. If it’s a jewellery piece you’re looking for, we can’t recommend the brand’s octagon XS studio gold (£139, Rosefieldwatches.com), it offers something a little different, while still being eyecatching. Rosefield also has a range of more classic looking designs, such as this ace duotone (£109, Rosefieldwatches.com), which at 33mm is ideal if you’re looking for something a little larger.
If you’re looking for a digital watch, Casio is the brand to know. Its vintage designs are hugely popular, with our favourite being this simple gold timepiece, the LA670WEGA-9EF (£49.90, Casio.co.uk). While it isn’t the most catchy of names, it’s certainly one of the brand’s most classic offerings.
While Timex has cemented itself as a great brand for attention to detail and craftsmanship, it’s also leading the way when it comes to making horology more accessible. The easy reader (£54.99, Timex.co.uk) is a bracelet design and has a slender profile and great weight to it. With plenty of high-end looking designs to choose from, this really is one to remember.
Swiss manufacturer Swatch has a strong reputation for designing some of the most affordable watches on the market. For this brand, think fun, bold colours and playful silhouettes. Its most recent release in partnership with Omega – the moonswatch collection – really took the brand to new, out of this world, heights. The watches, which draw on Omega’s speedmaster moonwatch, are certainly one of the hottest in the world right now and there are 11 colours to choose from, each one named after planets in the solar system.
British watch brands
Flying the flag for British watchmaking, Bremont is a firm favourite. When it was first founded it created pilot’s watches and has since manufactured timepieces for more than 400 military units across the world. But at the heart of the brand is that all its designs are made in England. With luxury collections for both men and women, the ALT1-Z (from £4,695, Bremont.com) is one to look at. It’s been designed with world travellers in mind, allowing you to display both local time and world time standard.
Swiss watch brands
This British-founded Swiss watch designer needs little introduction. As one of the “big four” premium watchmakers, it’s the most recognised in the world and it has a strong line-up of designs, from blingy models to more understated options. Similarly, the watches hold, and sometimes even increase in value.
The submariner (£7,150, Rolex.com) is one of the brand’s most popular designs and we can totally see why. It’s crafted from a particular type of steel developed by the brand to prevent corrosion and is a complete showstopper. Inside you’ll find a self-turning mechanical ticker with a 70-hour power reserve.
Breitling tends to offer more affordable watches when compared to Rolex, but of course, this does not mean its standards are anything but extremely high. For a real investment though, it’s the navitimer B01 chronograph 41 (£6,850, Breitling.com) that showcases the brand’s mechanics and is one of its most recognisable timepieces.
Rich in history, Longines has more than 200 years of watchmaking under its belt, so it’s certainly one to know. The dolcevita collection is nothing short of magnificent, with this leather (£1,160, Longines.com), petite quartz timepiece serving as a well-priced watch that you’ll cherish forever.
Founded by Hans Wilsdorf of Rolex fame, you can expect a similar level of expertise here to the high-end designer but with watches slightly more pocket-friendly prices. For something that will add some serious sophistication and glamour to your outfit, it’s got to be the clair de rose (£2,230, Goldsmiths.co.uk), which has an impressive, sleek design and is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement.
Worn by everyone from James Bond to the first men to walk on the moon, as brands go, Omega is steeped in heritage. The brand has five main collections – seamaster, speedmaster, constellation, globemaster and city, or deville, watches. There are few timepieces that rival its seamaster diver 300m (£4,840, Omegawatches.com) – it pays homage to the brand’s history and demonstrates its craftsmanship to a tee.
Despite being positioned within the high-end market, Tissot offers some of the most affordable prices without compromising on its high quality. It serves as a great entry point for dipping your toes into luxury watches. One of our favourites is its all-new seastar (£330, Goldsmiths.co.uk), which is a dive watch that would make a fresh finish to even the most simple of outfits. It’s fair to say we’re obsessed.
Although it has been associated with all things sporty, mid-range luxury brand Tag Heuer also offers more contemporary, modest designs. The Tag Heuer link watch (£2,250, Tagheuer.com) has a slender, 32mm steel case that feels delicate yet still showy enough.
German watch brands
Glashütte is known as the birthplace of German watchmaking, and its where this brand was founded. Despite being now under the ownership of Swatch, it’s kept its independent spirit and is considered one of the most creative watch brands in the industry. Its movements are made entirely in-house in keeping with its namesake town’s traditions and in terms of designs, there’s something for everyone. From avant-garde sporty options to something you can wear to complement your black tie.
Japanese watch brands
With some of the most affordable, yet great automatic watches coming from Japanese brands, Seiko has been leading the way in terms of horological innovation ever since it was first founded in 1881. The grand Seiko quartz snowflake (£2,000, Goldsmiths.co.uk) features steel links that have a solid, yet lightweight feel. Plus, at 37mm, it’s a slightly bigger option without being overbearing.
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