Watches can be very expensive items. We talk about the Tudor Black Bay 58 watches and others as “value-driven offerings” but that is really proportional to the larger industry. Personally, I stand by the term when I discuss brands like Tudor, Oris, and Baume & Mercier. But at the end of the day, these watches, while they truly deliver value, are still not inexpensive by any means. In a world where we all carry the most accurate pocket watches ever made (smartphones), there is no urgency to spend thousands of dollars on a timepiece. So to the broader marketplace, we hear you. But we also want you to be able to join in on the fun, so I have compiled yet another list of watches under $1000 USD that I believe will also get the nod from watch snobs.
Waldan Heritage “Professional” ref. 0196D – Racing Green
Waldan is a privately owned American watch company founded by Oscar Waldan in 1979. Oscar, a Polish watchmaker, actually learned about the art of watchmaking while imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and later in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic. As the Waldan website explains, “Waldan developed a special rapport with a watchmaker there by the name of ‘Manek’. This man was a favourite of the Nazi guards due to his ability to repair their luxury timepieces, and by apprenticing Oscar, the soldiers allowed him better treatment as well, which was one of the factors that aided in his survival from the horrors inflicted upon him on a daily basis.”
After surviving the Holocaust, Oscar would go on to further train in Switzerland and eventually start a brand under his own name – his timepieces sold through esteemed vendors such as Tiffany & Co, Tourneau, Neiman Marcus, Asprey, Wempe for over 40 years.
Today the brand is run by his son Andrew, and the range consists of two collections: Heritage and Classics. While I encourage you to check out the Classics creations, the Heritage line is where you have the opportunity to get a killer wristwatch for under $1000. Considering 2021 seems to be the year of green, I wanted to showcase the Waldan Heritage “Professional” ref. 0196D – Racing Green. The matte green dial exudes classic vintage vibes with its seconds sub-dial and a white outer minutes ring to create playful contrast. The Arabic hour numerals each have corresponding applied luminous plots of SuperLuminova® for increased visibility in darkness.
The stainless-steel watch is 40mm in diameter, 8.6mm thick, and 50 metres water-resistant thanks to a multi-gasket system. The case design is timeless, blending finishing styles with a polished mid case and brushed lugs. The faceted teardrop-esque lug profiles give off an aesthetic far beyond its $299.99 price point. As the US Editor for Time+Tide, what I also love about the watch is that it carries an “Ameriquartz” movement built and assembled here in the United States. They are fully serviceable and come with a five-year warranty to back their performance.
Baltic Aquascaphe Dual-Crown Blue
Anytime we compile a list such as this Baltic is always a top-of-mind brand. The Aquascaphe Dual-Crown is their new take on a compressor diver that features an inner rotating bezel operated by a second crown. The idea is that with the bezel being beneath the domed sapphire crystal it is less likely the wearer can accidentally move the bezel during wear or shock while diving. The 200 metre water-resistant, stainless-steel diver is 39mm in diameter, 11.9mm thick (including the crystal), and 47mm lug-to-lug across the wrist – making it the perfect size for a wide spectrum of wrists. To keep costs down while retaining performance, the watch utilizes a robust Miyota 9039 automatic movement with 42 hours of power reserve. My personal pick would be the blue configuration, the rich dark sunburst blue both sporty and chic. Whether or not you opt for the beads-of-rice bracelet or tropic rubber strap I leave to you, but either way you go you can’t go wrong.
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If you needed any further proof the watch will secure the nod of approval from watch snobs, industry legend Jean-Claude Biver posted a photo of him wearing his son Pierre’s Baltic Aquascaphe Dual Crown – lauding both his son’s taste and the brand’s creation. JCB is by no means a watch snob, but those who are would never question the judgment of this horological titan.
Seiko Presage Style 60’s
We’ve seen a fair amount of ’60s-inspired divers take centre stage in the marketplace and Seiko’s new Presage Style 60’s divers represent one of the most price approachable entries into the trend. The sharp faceted case and thin timing bezel actually takes inspiration from a coveted Seiko chronograph from 1964, but has been reinterpreted into a more simple sporty yet elegant design. It walks the line between robust and elegant, resulting in a casual diver aesthetic. The stainless-steel case with brushed and bevelled lugs and a polished caseband, is 40.8mm in diameter, 12.8mm thick, and rated to depths up to 50 metres.
Contrasting the case is a rather dressy dial, with elegant luminous Dauphine style hands and faceted hour markers you would typically find on a dress watch. It is outfitted on a brushed stainless-steel bracelet to tie together the sporty feel, but the dial makes it clear that the watch goes every bit as much with a suit as it would a wetsuit aesthetically. Inside the watch is the in-house Seiko caliber 4R39 with a classic 21,600 vph beat rate and 41 hours of power reserve.
Many of us have become familiar with the smash-hit “Casioak” (named as such due to the integrated form and octagonal bezel geometry) that has proven collectability comes in all price ranges. Believe it or not these watches cannot always keep up with demand, but fortunately new configurations have come into fold – both in new shades and sizes. The G-Shock GMAS2100-4A in particular has really caught my eye, and of all the “Casioak” models introduced I feel it is the most attractive. The salmon-beige pink tone gives off fun summer vibes, and the rose-gold toned hands and markers create a very fashion-forward aesthetic. Also the more compact case would flatter my wrist that much more, with new dimensions coming in at 42.9 in diameter, 11.2mm thick, and 46.2mm lug-to-lug (versus the original dimensions of 45.4mm × 11.8mm x 48.5mm). The robust carbon resin case is one of the most shock-resistant you can find and the 200 metre depth rating ensures you can have fun with this watch pretty much everywhere.
G-Shock lists this watch on their site as a limited edition, as well as labels it as a women’s watch. But let’s be clear – it will definitely look great on anyone. As Nick Nolte’s character Kuiil in The Mandalorian would say: “I have spoken”.
Vostok Amphibian Automatic Military “Steve Zissou” Diver Amphibia
It all comes together now. Some of you may have been wondering why Bill Murray is the lead image of this story, and others in the know will have immediately guessed that Vostok was making an appearance in this list. The Russian military dive watch brand has supplied the Russian government with timepieces since 1947 and have found their way onto the wrists of submarine personnel, military divers, and even on the wrists of cosmonauts in 1975 on the spaceship Souz-17.
But the watch also found its way onto the wrist of Bill Murray in the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The watch has a quirky aesthetic, which matches both the quirky personality of Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. Thus the watch was named by Vostok the Amphibian Automatic Military “Steve Zissou” Diver Amphibia. Watchspotters debate whether the reference worn was the blue or black dial variant, but on the Vostok website three configurations can be found. I am leaning towards black being the true Zissou diver, but unfortunately it is sold out on their website. That being said you can find them from third party vendors or even pre-owned for low prices.
To be clear, this stainless-steel diver – 41mm in diameter, 15mm thick, and 48mm lug-to-lug across the wrist – is an already incredibly affordable watch. If you are a fan of interesting watches, or better yet one of the cult fans of the film, this is an approachable wristwatch that has graced the silver screen on one of the top comedic talents of his generation. Considering its usage in a great film, and robust history, watch snobs will see the fun and lovable eccentricity the watch brings to the wrist.