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5 Best Watches Under $1000: Timeless Investment on a Budget

For the curious people who have gone down the rabbit hole into the world of watches, you may be thinking about purchasing a watch under a certain price point. It’s always good to explore what these price tiers have to offer and see if there happens to be anything that strikes your interest as a potential purchase or an aspirational piece you can work towards in the future.

In this article, I’m going to review five of the best watches under 1000, in my opinion. Now, there are a bunch of great watches out there under that price point, but I’m going to cover a few from a variety of tiers and brands, from those just getting into the world of watches to pieces that die-hard enthusiasts will find interesting.

Key Takeaways

  • There are many watches that would aptly fit under the ‘best watches under 1000’ title that come from a variety of tiers and brands.
  • The Blue Planet from CIGA Design is a forward-thinking watch with a unique rotating dial that won a GPHG award.
  • The Casio World Time is the best value digital watch you can own, packed with features and retro charm.
  • The About Vintage 1926 AT’SEA is a vintage-inspired dive watch with modern functionality and a quartz caliber that beats at four times a second.
  • The Seiko 5 GMT is an affordable gateway to GMT functionality, with an updated jubilee bracelet and reliable Seiko quality.
  • Vostok Amphibia watches are quirky Russian timepieces that are entirely mechanical, made in-house, and offer a variety of case and dial designs.
INTRO Watches Under 1000
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Our Top Picks

Ciga Design Blue Planet
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Pros

  • Unique rotating dial
  • Won a GPHG award
  • Refined titanium or affordable stainless steel case
Cons

  • Takes some getting used to for telling time
  • Not suitable for timing crucial events

Right off the bat, the Blue Planet from CIGA Design is by far the most forward-designed watch on my list. The Blue Planet is really for someone who has already explored a bunch of watches in their collecting journey and is looking for something a bit more, you know, different.

I want to preface that this watch is coming from a Chinese brand, but before you even think about skipping over this watch, just know that the Blue Planet won a GPHG award, beating out other larger brands. This is the first time a Chinese watch brand has ever won a GPHG, and is forever ingrained in horological history, which I think is pretty cool.

The one I have comes in a titanium case, which is refined and plays really well into its space-age theme, but there’s also a stainless steel option that comes in under the one thousand-dollar price point. Of course, the main attraction of this watch is the dial. At first glance, it may look static, but it actually rotates a full rotation every 24 hours, much like the Earth. The outside rings display what time it is in conjunction with the navigation pointer pointing to exactly what time it is, and it does all this mechanically using an automatic caliber. So telling time takes some getting used to, but it really forces you to slow down to see where things line up on the watch. And as I’ve said before, this isn’t a watch for you to time something crucial – you’re bringing the wrong tools to the job in that case. In this case, it’s a watch to really take some time and admire.

If you take a closer look at the landforms on the watch’s dial, there is incredible detail to the depths of finishing, and can really be appreciated up close and in the right lighting. It’s almost as if you’re looking at a globe on your wrist, which makes me feel like a kid again looking into those snow globes during the holidays.

Keep Reading: Ciga Watch Review: A Closer Look at The Future of Chinese Watch Making 

Casio World Time
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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Packed with features
  • Retro charm
  • Water-resistant and durable
Cons

  • Not as bulletproof as a G-Shock
  • The digital display may not appeal to everyone

Now, even though I find myself wearing analog watches most of the time, I love a good digital watch for those days when you just need to quickly strap something on and go about your day. And by far, the best value digital watch you can possibly own is the Casio World Time. For the cost of a good lunch for one in the city, you’re getting a watch that can tell you every single time zone in the world, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and an alarm function, all laid out in a dial design always displaying home time and this retro backlight that is so nostalgic.

When this watch was released sometime in the 90s, there was no UI design framework for how a digital watch should display all these functions on a single watch dial and also be able to read and live comfortably on the wrist. So what you see on the World Timer is Casio’s way of doing what made sense to them, and it still looks good to this day.

The World Timer is always talked about in the watch community, but probably not as much as their G-Shock lineup. G-Shocks are another great line from Casio, but they are often bulky and too rugged for an everyday watch. The World Timer, although not as bulletproof as a G-Shock, can really take a beating. Its plastic case design is water-resistant up to 100 meters, and it includes a 10-year battery.

In the end, the World Timer from Casio is as straightforward as it can be. It’s easy to use with its four pushers and easy enough to understand how to set the time and use each watch function without bringing up the manual, unlike some other digital watches out there. If you’ve never owned one of these watches before or are in the mood to experience some retro tech, the Casio World Time is your answer, especially for its low cost.

About Vintage 1926 AT'SEA
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Pros

  • Vintage-inspired design
  • Modern functionality
  • Smooth sweeping quartz caliber
  • Capable dive watch
Cons

  • Quartz movement may not appeal to mechanical watch enthusiasts

This list wouldn’t be complete without a great dive watch. This vintage-inspired dive watch, the 1926 AT’SEA from About Vintage, combines modern materials and functionality in a case design that looks like it came straight out of the 1960s. There are several variants of this model, but my favorite by far is this black vintage-style colorway, which features a creamy handset and hour markers paired with a gilt aluminum bezel.

The large screw-down crown without the addition of any crown guards is a welcome design element that I personally love, which is very reminiscent of early dive watch designs. All of this is housed in a 39.5-millimeter case featuring brushing and polished bits. To me, this is a great size that is appropriate to this vintage aesthetic while still having a great wrist presence. I know a lot of enthusiasts who are afraid to go any smaller than 40 millimeters, but because this is half a millimeter down, I say give it a shot, and you’d be surprised how well it wears.

The great thing about About Vintage is that they give you a second strap or bracelet option. If it already comes on this great jubilee-style bracelet, but if you don’t find it fitting on this oyster-style bracelet, just opt for their NATO wave strap, which also feels great on the wrist. Now, looking at the hand sweeping on the dial, it may surprise you to know that it’s actually a quartz caliber that beats at four times a second. I’ve never come across a watch with this kind of movement, and I have to say, it’s pretty cool. It’s not trying to fool anyone into thinking it’s an automatic watch, but to be honest, it fooled me.

And unlike some watches out there, the 1926 AT’SEA as a whole doesn’t just look good; it’s actually a capable dive watch. Now, I’m mostly a professional desk diver, but in case you’re taking this watch in the water, you can take it down to 200 meters and track your elapsed time in relation to the luminous pip on the bezel. What more could you ask for in a classic diver?

Seiko 5 GMT
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Pros

  • Affordable GMT functionality
  • Updated jubilee bracelet
  • Reliable Seiko quality
Cons

  • Not a “true” GMT
  • The friction-fitted bezel may move around during activities

A watch release that got me really excited this year has to be the Seiko 5 GMT. For a lot of us, Seiko is what introduced us to the world of watches, and to have GMT functionality in a classic case-shaped design is an added bonus. I know there are a lot of enthusiasts out there who aren’t really into this piece, mostly because it is just a 5KX with the GMT hand, but to me, it’s a great watch for those who have been on the fence about owning a GMT watch.

Now, this isn’t a true GMT, but for the price and reliability of a Seiko, this is a great watch altogether. I have the orange dial variant, which I think is the most exciting out of the bunch, but other variants might suit you better in a more subdued color. After owning several SKXs and 5KXs, I really appreciate the updated jubilee bracelet. I was always a fan of their original jangly jubilee bracelets from the original SKX, but the quality of construction on this updated version makes it feel much more substantial on the wrist.

As this is a GMT watch, the bezel features a 24-hour bezel insert that is friction-fitted to the case with a nice and smooth action. Unlike the friction-fitted bezels on a Vostok, this one is a lot more refined. Now, it’s probably going to move around depending on what activity you’re doing, but for the most part, it’s been staying in place for me.

When I first got into watches, I’ve always been curious about GMT functionality and potentially owning one. Back then, there wasn’t really much in the way of affordable mechanical options from major brands out there, let alone micro-brands. The fact that Seiko is able to produce a new and affordable in-house GMT caliber, which is basically a modified version of their existing movements, is a game-changer for the watch community. As you can probably see, a lot of other watch brands out there are using this movement as a base for their own affordable GMTs.

Keep Reading: Seiko 5 GMT Review: Your Affordable Mechanical GMT in 2024?

Vostok Amphibia
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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Entirely mechanical and made in-house
  • Variety of case and dial designs
  • Durable
Cons

  • Quirky design elements (friction-fitted bezel, wobbly crown)
  • The included bracelet is subpar

I didn’t own a Vostok until pretty late into my collecting journey. I mean, I always knew about them and saw them all over my feed, as well as Amazon’s suggestions for a watch making it an easy but interesting pick for the best watches under 1000. I always thought maybe the quality would be brittle and a bit toy-like. However, it wasn’t until I held one in hand from a good friend of mine that I decided to pull the trigger on one…okay, maybe a few of them.

These Vostoks are kind of like Swatches – they’re relatively inexpensive, so it’s really easy for your collecting to get out of hand. But unlike most Swatches, these Vostoks are entirely mechanical and made in-house in Russia. The one I have is probably my favorite case design for Vostok, the 090. It features a tonneau case design with Panerai Luminor-esque dial markings. The watch did originally come with a bracelet, but honestly, you’re better off just tossing it away and getting a different strap for it.

Also, I took the liberty of modding the bezel myself by giving it a circular brushing using the back of a sponge, and I have to say, just by doing that, it makes the watch look way more expensive. I noticed whenever I wear my Vostoks out in the wild, I always tend to get compliments on them, and they’re mostly coming from non-watch enthusiasts, which is pretty interesting.

Now, if you’ve never operated a Vostok before, you might be in for a little surprise, as it’s a little bit quirky. The bezel is friction-fitted, so it doesn’t quite stay in place. The crown, when pulled out, is wiggly, and when operating the crown, you may think your watch is broken. However, all of this is part of its Russian industrial design and, believe it or not, lends to the durability factor regarding water resistance and toughness. The best part about these Vostok Amphibias is that they come in various case and dial designs, so there’s surely a Vostok that fits anyone’s style and preference.

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Conclusion

To be honest, compiling this watch list was a lot harder than I thought it would be, as the list could be 1000 options long when really looking at all the best watches under 1000. Also, I wanted to keep my choices less obvious and include brands you might have never even heard of. I know there are a lot more watches I could have chosen, but hopefully, this list provides you with some different and special options to jump-start or add to your collection.

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