Luxury watches have an undeniable appeal. They represent wealth and exclusivity, as well as precision and high levels of craftsmanship. Many people dream of owning a timepiece from the likes of Rolex, Omega, or Breitling, but not everyone takes the plunge. Often, watch admirers assume that luxury watches from brands like these are prohibitively expensive. This article is proof that this is not always the case. Read on to discover some affordable entry-level models from ten top manufacturers.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the most affordable watch you can buy if you are on the lookout for a new Rolex. This timepiece is characterized by the same classic Rolex aesthetics that you can find in other Rolex models, such as the Datejust and Milgauss. However, the biggest difference between these models is the affordability of the Oyster Perpetual.
The most popular men’s versions of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual measure in at 36 or 41 mm. The larger version is our pick for the ideal entry point into the world of Rolex. While the official list price is $5,900, the model is currently available on Chrono24 for upwards of $6,800. You can save money by opting for a smaller model. The 26, 31, and 34 mm versions are generally available for less than $3,500. That being said, for anything sized 36 mm and up, expect to find prices upwards of $6,800.
Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial Chronometer 39.5 mm
The second luxury watch powerhouse on this list is Omega. The most affordable option in their collection is not what most people think of when they hear Omega, i.e., it is not a Speedmaster or Seamaster. Although there are budget-friendly models in both of these collections, the Omega De Ville collection has the most affordable options.
The 39.5-mm Omega De Ville Prestige Co-Axial Chronometer is a beautiful classic men’s watch that is available with many different dial colors and leather straps, and it can be yours for an official list price of $3,750. However, you can often find this model on Chrono24 for significantly less. Expect to see prices starting around $2,300.
Breitling Colt 41 Automatic
The third of the big three luxury brands is Breitling. This manufacturer has many iconic watches separated into five distinct collections. The good thing is that Breitling has at least one timepiece priced under $4,500 in three of those collections.
One of these is the Breitling Aviator 8 Automatic 41 with an official list price of $4,350. However, you will find significantly cheaper listings on Chrono24, with prices from around $2,300. The Superocean Automatic 42 from the Superocean collection is also a more affordable option with a list price of $4,200. You can find these much cheaper on the secondary market, with prices closer to $1,500. The most affordable of the three is the Breitling Colt 41 Automatic on a leather strap for $3,240. The same watch costs $3,620 on a stainless steel bracelet. Both models sell for around 30% less on Chrono24.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII
IWC Schaffhausen has built a strong reputation for producing beautifully designed industry classics, including the Portugieser, Ingenieur, and Aquatimer. One of the most famous lines is their Pilot’s Watches collection, the Big Pilot being the most well-known of the series.
The Pilot’s Watches collection is also home to one of the brand’s most affordable models. The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII is the latest watch in the Mark series and is available for a list price of $4,250. However, on Chrono24, you can call one of the most famous IWC watches of all time your own for as little as $2,300. It measures 40 mm in diameter and is available in various steel configurations. The most well-known version has a black dial, white numerals, and a black leather strap, but one of the most interesting editions is the Heritage version with a black dial, cream-colored numerals, and a brown leather strap.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding
The name Audemars Piguet rarely appears in the same sentence as “affordable.” The brand is synonymous with high-end luxury watches and has been embraced by many celebrities from the worlds of sports, music, and the arts.
Their most famous model is undoubtedly the Royal Oak. In this collection, you can also find an entry-level Audemars Piguet. With a list price of around $26,500, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41 mm is one of the brand’s most affordable watches. It is, without a doubt, an expensive timepiece, but it is more than just a luxury item: It’s a statement piece designed by the late Gérald Genta. This watch designer revolutionized the market with his luxury sports watches. Prices for this model on Chrono24 are well above the official list price, but you can find better deals on smaller or two-tone Royal Oak references. Both can be purchased on Chrono24 starting at roughly $13,500.
Patek Phillippe Aquanaut
Patek Philippe is yet another brand that epitomizes luxury. Buying a Patek is a serious investment, but you are getting a unique watch that meets the highest quality standards. One of the most affordable Patek models is the Aquanaut, a timepiece designed for an active lifestyle. The watch, introduced initially in 1997, perfectly bridges the gap between traditional watchmaking and contemporary design. Its aesthetics are inspired by the famous Patek Philippe Nautilus –another Gérald Genta design.
Patek was smart to base the design of the Aquanaut on the brand’s biggest icon because it provides an entry-level option that appeals to a wider audience. That being said, it is still a relatively exclusive timepiece. A three-hand stainless steel Aquanaut on a rubber strap has an official list price of $21,650, but don’t expect to find a watch for that price on the open market unless you opt for a women’s model. In the classic size, you are looking at prices closer to $40,000, which is admittedly steep for an entry-level watch.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5
TAG Heuer has strong links to the world of racing. In fact, several of the brand’s collections take their inspiration from current motorsport events or racing history. The TAG Heuer Monaco and Carrera models are the most well-known, but these could hardly be called entry-level watches. The most affordable mechanical model is the Formula 1 Calibre 5.
The Formula 1 collection is a series of contemporary sports watches that serve as a great entry point to the brand and the luxury watch industry in general. They are quite affordable compared to the other big players on this list. Plus, TAG Heuer timepieces appeal to a wide range of people. You can purchase a stainless steel Formula 1 Calibre 5 on a metal bracelet for as little as $2,000.
Hublot Classic Fusion 42 mm
Hublot is best known for their Big Bang collection, initially introduced in 2005. This series has made the brand a steady fixture on lists of luxury brands to keep an eye on. Bold designs and a sharp eye for marketing and sponsorships have made the company increasingly popular over the last decade. Five years after the release of the Big Bang, the manufacturer introduced an entry-level model: the Hublot Classic Fusion.
In essence, the Hublot Classic Fusion is a more understated version of the Big Bang. It has a thinner profile and less crowded dial but retains the legendary porthole case design and wide hour markers and hands. You can choose from various versions with a blue, black, white, green, or gray dial. The standard titanium version of the Classic Fusion measures 42 mm in diameter and is available for a list price of $7,300. If you are lucky, you may be able to find an example on the secondary market for less than half that price.
Panerai Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Acciaio
Panerai is famous for their large, retro Italian diving watches. Though the manufacturer made watches for official military use for decades, they didn’t introduce models to the public until 1993. Since then, two timepieces have made the brand famous: the Radiomir and Luminor.
Both model ranges feature a wide variety of configurations, but the entry-level Panerai is the Luminor Base Logo 3 Days. The beauty of this watch lies in the legendary, striking Luminor design. If you purchase this Panerai, you are getting a timepiece that embodies the brand’s true essence. This Luminor is available for between $4,500 and $5,500.
Cartier Tank Solo XL
Cartier has been making watches for royalty and world leaders for over a century. They count some of the most iconic models ever made to their name. The Cartier Tank was first introduced in 1917 when Louis Cartier designed the watch for General John Pershing of the American Expeditionary Force. When creating the timepiece, Cartier drew inspiration from the Renault tanks that he saw on the Western Front.
Today, there are multiple Tank collections available covering a wide range of prices. The entry-level Cartier Tank comes from the Must collection, namely the Cartier Tank Must XL. The Solo collection has other affordable options, but their power comes from quartz movements. The Tank Must XL gets its power from an automatic movement and is an incredibly iconic statement piece that still resembles its predecessors introduced a century ago. You can buy this piece of watchmaking history for $3,700.
There you have it: Ten entry-level watches from ten of the biggest brands in the luxury watch industry. Each does its brand justice despite being an entry-level model. There is good reason why these watches are part of each brand’s line-up – what better way to get familiar with a brand than an entry-level timepiece? Good luck choosing from among these models – it won’t be easy!