If you could only bring one: The 6 best watches to take on holiday for every budgetZach Blass
Let’s clarify this at the outset. Best is obviously subjective, and if you read my story on how the DOXA SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers Limited Edition was the perfect vacation watch for my recent trip to Aruba you may already be familiar with my personal criteria. To recap, I try to only take one watch with me when I travel, which means that it has to tick multiple boxes. The watch needs to offer versatile looks, robustness, water resistance as well as being sufficiently under-the-radar that I don’t have to worry about being targeted. Here, I’ve assembled a list of six watches from least to most expensive (under $100 – $7000 USD) that I believe fit the bill as ideal options to take on your next holiday.
Under $100 USD: G-Shock ref. GMAS2100-7A
I challenge anyone reading this to pick a better watch under $100 USD. At this price tier it is hard to top G-Shock, and in particular the incredibly hot and in-demand line of “Casioaks”. These inexpensive robust watches earned their nickname due to their octagonal, Royal Oak-like profile. The GMAS2100-7A is a great option for all to consider not just because it is currently in stock (at the time of writing), but also because it boasts a smaller profile than the initial models to make it incredibly wearable for a wide spectrum of wrists. At 42mm in diameter and 46mm lug-to-lug, compared to the previous 45mm diameter and 48.5mm lug-to-lug, it shaves off a few precious millimetres that make it all the more manageable. It’s all-white aesthetic is not controversial and will pair well with various holiday get-ups. In addition, it’s water resistant to 200 metres and offers plenty of digital features such as an alarm that will definitely prove useful on your trip.
Under $500 USD: Lorier Falcon
Taking things up a notch, we enter the territory of mechanical watchmaking with the Lorier Falcon. For those who want a watch that wears like a Rolex Explorer, but at a fraction of the price, the Falcon is a great alternative that delivers a ton of value. The primarily brushed stainless-steel watch is 36mm in diameter, just 9mm thick and 44mm lug-to-lug – Goldilocks proportions that will suit any wrist that appreciates classic dimensions. The svelte built may gives it an air of elegance, but this is also a robust watch that’s water-resistant to 100m with a screw-down crown, enabling it to transition effortlessly from a day at the beach to an evening dinner at a nice restaurant. Various dial configurations are available to choose from, and you can’t go wrong with any of them, but there is something to be said about this crisp white dial variant with a texture that evokes definite golf vibes.
Under $1,000 USD: Seiko Prospex ref. SPB155
Raising our gaze, we pivot to one of the few vertically integrated manufacturers in the world. Believe it or not, you can get fully in-house manufactured timepieces at affordable prices thanks to Seiko. While there are plenty of fabulous offerings from the Japanese manufacturer under $1,000 USD, my pick is the Seiko Prospex ref. SPB155. Its green tone is certainly in fashion this year, but this is not your ordinary dial colour here. The gradated green dial takes on a grassy tone and texture, its pebbled surface transitioning from green to black as you reach the outboard of the dial. The case incorporates mixed finishes for added elegance, but is also water-resistant to a robust 200 metres as well. In terms of its size, you have classic meets modern dimensions – 38mm in diameter, 12.9mm thick, and 46mm lug-to-lug. Beneath its exhibition caseback, you will see the in-house automatic caliber 6R35 ticking away.
Under $3000 USD: DOXA SUB 300 (pick your favorite colour, they are all fabulous)
Take it from my own personal experience, the DOXA SUB 300 is a fantastic choice as a one watch pick for a vacation. What stands out about this collection from DOXA is the playful range of options to choose from. With a colour for everyone’s taste, this model presents a value-driven opportunity to add some fun to your wrist on vacation. These stainless-steel, 300 metre water-resistant divers (with screw-down crowns) are 42mm in diameter, 13.4mm thick, and 45mm lug to lug – again super-wearable proportions for all. While the bracelet is nice, nor much pricier than the rubber configuration, the rubber straps that Doxa provides are really top-notch. Once cut and tailored to your wrist size they are super comfortable to wear, and if your wrist size fluctuates during the day based on temperature you can always fine tune the fit through the incremental dive extensions built into the clasp. Inside is a tried and true COSC caliber ETA 2824, which marks the first Swiss movement on the list so far.
Price: stainless steel models are $2,450 USD on rubber, $2,490 USD on bracelet.
Under $5,000 USD: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Back when I owned the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, it actually served as the watch I would primarily take on vacation when I didn’t want to risk bringing my Rolex Submariner. The Tudor shield logo quite literally has roots in protecting the crown Rolex, and it often served that purpose in my collection. The only real compromise in quality, if any, is the jump down from 904L steel to 316L steel and 300 metres of water resistance to 200 metres. Besides that, unless you are really attached to ceramic bezels it really wears and performs to pretty much the same standard as the Rolex Submariner. In fact, when people ask me about how it wears and performs I always reply that it basically is a pre-maxi case era Submariner with a more modern movement. Until the release of the next generation of Submariner watches, the manufacture caliber inside, with a silicon hairspring, had a much longer power reserve than my previous generation ref. 114060 (70 hours versus 48 hours). So what am I getting at here? This 39mm diver, 11.9mm thick and 47mm lug-to-lug, is the perfect watch to wear abroad if you want the Rolex experience without the attention of wearing an actual Rolex watch. Also, if you want to trade off compact size for a slightly larger watch with a GMT complication, the Black Bay GMT is another viable option under $5,000 USD. Price: $3,375 – $4,525 USD depending on the configuration in steel, silver, or bronze.
Under $7,000 USD: Grand Seiko ref. SBGE255
Now many of you might be wondering why more GMTs have not graced my list. The way I see it you are on vacation, so try to enjoy the present moment and live in the work-free now. The original Grand Seiko Sport GMT was a tad too large for my taste, but the collection was recently introduced in more compact dimensions: a much more manageable 40.5mm in diameter, 14.5mm thick, and 48.5mm lug-to-lug. The stainless-steel case is highly robust and incredibly well finished with Grand Seiko’s signature Zaratsu polishing and a highly scratch-resistant blue ceramic bezel . Grand Seiko is well known for their dials and, as expected, this sunburst blue dial is very attractive. The blue aesthetic may be bundled in any sporty case format, but the interplay of light and shadow created by the Zaratsu polish makes this watch walk a fine line between sporty and elegant.
The hands, as well as every third hour index, are coated in LumiBrite to ensure visibility in darker settings. You also have a date complication at 4′ along with a power reserve indicator between 8′ and 9′. Inside is the in-house caliber 9R66, a spring drive movement with 72 hours of power reserve and a highly useful calendar-linked time function that self corrects the date as you venture across time zones. This 200 metre water-resistant watch, with a screw-down crown at 4′, truly is a more compact and accurate alternative to the Rolex Explorer II. Price: $6,200 USD.