Jacob Strong, Author at Exquisite Timepieces
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Author: Jacob Strong

Seiko Samurai

With all of the bells and whistles watch enthusiasts have become accustomed to over the years, it’s easy to overlook the fact that some watches really were designed simply as tools. In reality, the beautifully finished cases and in-house movements we all drool over are as superfluous as any grand complication when it comes to actually telling the time.

Thankfully, we are spoiled for choice and free to choose our own adventure when it comes to watch collecting. There is one brand, though, that manages to offer many of these more luxurious features at a price that won’t make you think twice about actually using it as a tool. That brand is Seiko.

When it comes to a product range, you’d be hard-pressed not to find something in almost any category or price range from Seiko. Whether you are looking for an impeccably finished tourbillion in the form of the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force or an everyday beater suitable for any enthusiast in the 5kx line, Seiko has you covered. Despite the wide range of Seiko’s current offerings, their bread and butter is still value-packed dive watches.

There was a time, not that long ago when these affordable dive watches packed even more of a punch. One great example of exactly what Seiko was, and currently still is, capable of producing is the Seiko Samurai. Let’s take a deep dive into this watch and see what makes it so special and such a unique option in the Seiko product range.

History of the Seiko Samurai

The early 2000s represented the peak of value for money for many of Seiko’s dive watches. Their ability to produce high-quality watches at scale (and forget to account for inflation or relative comps) allowed Seiko to be the true king of value around this time.

In 2004, Seiko released a new watch design, one that would continue to provide exceptional value for money, with a unique case shape and robust 7S25 In-House movement. This watch was the SBDA001. A titanium watch featuring a brutalist design with sharp angles that helped to give this watch a unique aesthetic among the Seiko collection.

As you might have guessed, this watch would later become known as the Seiko Samurai. The nickname came to fruition from enthusiasts (we’re the best at naming timepieces) and was based on the shape of the first-generation hands. Their pointed shape shared a resemblance to the ancient swords used by Samurai, albeit straight, as opposed to the traditional curved shape of a Samurai sword.

Although modern examples of this watch feature an updated large arrow handset, the Samurai name continues to represent this model. Some will argue that the case shape still resembles the traditional armor of a Samurai, therefore justifying its nickname, but I am not fully sold on that comparison. Either way, it’s a great nickname and isn’t going anywhere.

About the Seiko Samurai

Given Seiko’s wide range of entry-level professional divers, you’d be excused for not knowing what separates the Samurai from other options in the line-up, such as the Turtle or the Monster. The Seiko Samurai shares many similar features with these models but also has some stark differences that help to differentiate it.

For starters, this watch has a very modern appearance. Gone are the soft curves of the Turtle and 5KX that were influenced by decades of previous models. The Samurai features sharp downward-sloping angles at the lugs and a trapezoidal profile. The watch is accented by a gnarled crown and bezel that help increase grip and add to the modern design aesthetic.

The Seiko Samurai is a big watch, given the larger case diameter of 42-44mm and 3 O’clock crown placement. Because of the unique case shape, the Samurai wears larger than even the 45mm Seiko Turtle. Depending on the model, these watches are made of titanium or stainless steel, feature Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex crystal or Sapphire crystal, and have either ceramic or aluminum bezel inserts.

Regardless of the many options available in the lineup, every Seiko Samurai will be an ISO 6425 certified Dive Watch rated to 200m of water resistance.

Is the Seiko Samurai Worth Buying?

Based on everything we know about the Seiko Samurai, the question of whether you should buy one or not will really come down to you. To be clear, I think that every watch enthusiast should own at least 1 Seiko dive watch. That is not exactly the question, however. Whether or not this is the model line worth buying for you will depend upon a few different criteria.

Wrist Size

First is your wrist size. As mentioned earlier, 44mm for the current model range is a huge watch by today’s standards. The distinct case shape does not allow Seiko to use their usual magic to make a watch wear 3 to 4 millimeters smaller either. You need to have a larger-than-average wrist circumference or really like how a large watch feels and looks to wear this watch regularly.

Budget

The second factor is budget. The standard model Seiko Samurai, SRPB51, retails for roughly $525. That puts this watch in a unique place. It’s more expensive than 5KX of dive-inspired watches but quite a bit lower than watches in the SPB line. If your budget falls right in that $500-$600 range, you can’t do much better.

On the other hand, if you could afford to stretch to the SPB line, there are some very compelling options within that lineup that offer more refinement for your money. If you like to collect watches, rare Limited-Editions, and pseudo-vintage models and don’t mind spending the SPB level $800-$1200, however, the Seiko Samurai can provide something the current SPB line cannot, history and rarity.

The Best Seiko Samurai References

Assuming that your wrist is up to the challenge and that the Seiko Samurai price range coincides with your budget, I feel this watch is worth your hard-earned money. There are many different options that you can look at. Pre-owned earlier generation models, Limited-Editions, standard product models, and even “King Samurai” options can help you narrow down to exactly which watch is right for you. Let’s take a look at 8 examples of Seiko Samurai watches that are absolutely worth your money!

Seiko SBDA001

Seiko SBDA001

It only makes sense to start this list at the very beginning. The SBDA0001 is the original Seiko Samurai. The watch featured a more compact 42mm case size housed in lightweight titanium. As mentioned earlier, the handset on these first-generation models was shaped like a Samurai sword, ultimately leading to their enthusiast-given namesake.

The dial features a charcoal gray color reminiscent of the original dive watch Seiko produced, known as the 62MAS. The gray and black aluminum bezel insert helps modernize the appearance of the otherwise classic dial. These first-generation models were powered by the 7s25 movement, which made hacking and hand-winning impossible for these original models.

The mechanical upgrades to the modern Seiko Samurais are certainly a welcomed addition, but there is so much that Seiko got right with these original models. The slightly smaller 42mm case housed in titanium would send shockwaves amongst the Seiko enthusiast community if reintroduced today.

Although bordering on vintage these days, you can still find these models pre-owned for roughly $800-$1000. There is a significant premium for this watch over its original MSRP, but being the first of an iconic model still in production will have that effect.

Seiko SNM021

Seiko SNM021

Another watch from the first generation, the SNM021, known as the Orange “Ninja” Samurai, gives a unique perspective on this already distinct watch. One main change from the standard production is that this case is constructed from stainless steel.

I am not in love with that decision, but it does help to differentiate it from the standard production model. In addition, the standard black and gray color combo is replaced by a vivid orange dial and gray bezel with red accents. With this watch being an international-only release, pre-owned examples are quite hard to come by. When they do pop up, you can expect to pay roughly $800-$1200, depending on the condition.

The following 4 examples come from the second generation of Seiko Samurai models introduced in 2017. These models benefit from an upgraded movement in the 4R35, allowing for hacking and hand-winding. In addition to this change, these models’ cases have been bumped up to 43.8mm and are all made of stainless steel. The Sword-style handset has also been “upgraded” to the large arrow-style hand many associate with the Seiko Monster.

Seiko Prospex SRPB51

Seiko Prospex SRPB51

The SRPB51 is the standard issue black waffle dial. This unique dial texture helps to give this watch additional visual interest while remaining very neutral. The gray and black aluminum bezel insert from the SBDA001 remains largely untouched and compliments this watch nicely.

The Seconds hand features a red tip, which helps break up the monochromatic color scheme on the dial and bezel. The SRPB51 is still readily available at many retailers at an MSRP of $525. Given that this watch has been around for a few years, there is an opportunity to save even more if you are willing to take a chance on the preowned market.

Seiko Prospex SRPB09

Seiko Prospex SRPB09

One of the most popular models to come out of the second generation of Seiko Samurais is that of the SRPB09, known as the Blue Lagoon. The deep blue sunray dial with accenting light and darker blue bezel are the highlights of this watch and share responsibility for the affectionate nickname of the Blue Lagoon.

The dial and handset also feature bright yellow pops, a color combination you don’t often see. This 6000-piece Limited Edition watch is no longer available at MSRP but can still be found on the grey market for $800-$1200.

Seiko Prospex SRPD13

The “Zimbe” edition of Seiko watches are often some of the most sought-after and collectible Limited Editions available. One of their more reserved variations comes in the form of the 1300-piece Limited Edition SRPD13. This watch features a very similar dial and handset to what can be found on the SPB143, with well-placed accents of red.

The seconds-hand is entirely red, while the bezel consists of both red and gray to compliment the aesthetic. The more subtle handset and pops of color make this watch my personal favorite on the entire list. With the smaller production size, this watch will be a little bit harder to source. If you are patient, however, pricing should be similar to the Blue Lagoon at $800-$1200.

Seiko Prospex SRPB99 PADI

Seiko Prospex SRPB99 PADI

Another common collaboration amongst Seiko dive watches is with PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. The SRPB99 PADI Special Edition draws inspiration from several other iconic watches while creating a truly unique Seiko Samurai.

The watch features a black wave dial reminiscent of the 90’s Omega Seamaster and a Pepsi bezel colorway. Combine these with the PADI logo on the dial, and it is very clear that this watch knows its audience. The PADI Special Edition watch represents a great value coming in at roughly $500 to $600.

The last two entries to this list are part of the third and latest generation of Seiko Samurai watches. These have become known as the “King Samurai” as they feature some elevated specifications across the board. These new models now feature ceramic bezel inserts as well as sapphire crystals with a “universally loved” date cyclops.

Seiko Prospex SRPE37

Seiko Prospex SRPE37

One of the most unique dial options available for a Seiko dive watch is a white dial. Combine this with a unique texture, like the waffle pattern, and you have something sure to stand out from the black and blue colorways crowd. The SRPE37 gives us exactly this colorway and is a call back to some of the most sought-after versions of their earliest models.

With this watch still being a standard version of a timepiece still in production, there are several avenues for acquiring this timepiece. Coming in at an MSRP of $595, this watch offers tremendous value considering the elevated specification that you see with this third generation. If you are willing to let someone else put the first few scratches on it, this watch it can be picked up for even less.

Seiko Prospex SRPH97

Seiko Prospex SRPH97

The final watch on our list today is a recently released 8000-piece Limited Edition SRPH97. This watch features a blackened stainless steel case and a black ceramic bezel. Complimenting this blacked-out aesthetic is a minty green-colored lume for the hands, indices, and bezel pip.

The color combination offers a unique look on a blacked-out watch and works very well together. There is a slight price premium for this edition with an MSRP of $675, but given the unique look of this timepiece, the price seems completely justified.

Final Thoughts

Given that the Seiko Samurai is one of Seiko’s newest iconic model lines, it’s surprising how many models exist and how much history there is. Admittedly, it’s not a model I have much experience with, given my slender chicken wrists. I really appreciate what Seiko did and has continued to do with this model.

With almost every watch manufacturer peering into the past when designing their dive watches, Seiko is creating this watch for the present. They have several other models that can help scratch the vintage-inspired itch, but this watch makes a choice to fit the modern aesthetic.

Where I would typically beg for a 38-40mm version of a watch I like but is too big for me, I am going to choose to withhold that request. This watch should continue to speak to people with modern tastes rather than try to please everyone.

The beauty of Seiko is that no matter what you like, there is a watch for you. It may not be the perfect watch, but it can be perfect for you. The Seiko Samurai isn’t the one for me, but it may be exactly what you’re looking for!

Happy watch hunting!

Vintage Seiko watches

There are many different attributes that hook people into our niche hobby of watch collecting. Some people are attracted to the design, others hold onto the status, while some are enamored by the history and stories these little machines can tell.

I find myself leaning most heavily into the history and stories aspect. Early in my watch-collecting journey, I found myself fascinated by the nicks and scratches of every pre-owned piece I acquired. Like so many in this hobby, my limited budget and historical fascination quickly led me into the rabbit hole, or better yet, minefield, of vintage watches.

What To Look Out For When Shopping For Vintage Watches

The world of vintage watch collecting is not for the faint of heart. There are more horror stories than there are success stories at this point. Despite this inherent risk, the rewards can be almost unmatched.

Before we dive right into vintage watch collecting, let’s look at a few simple guidelines I’ve unfortunately had to learn the hard way. There is no way to be 100% protected, but these guidelines will help keep you out of trouble for the most part.

Do Your Research

First, research is everything. I know it’s fun to look through hundreds of ads on our favorite internet auction site (especially after a couple of drinks), but this is not where you’re journey with vintage watches should begin. You need to start with a brand, a model, and a year range. From there, dive into the nuances of the model and what characteristics are period correct.

Depending on how widespread the model is, this research can take quite a long time. If you look at this research as just a barrier you must overcome before pulling the trigger on whatever “deal” you found online, you will probably get burned. The research IS the journey of vintage watch collecting; purchasing one is just the trophy.

Cheap Does Not Equal Good

The next guideline for me is to not be so damn cheap! Like many of you, I am inherently cheap and will spend months searching for the most reasonable prices. However, vintage watches are different. 99 out of 100 times, the lowest price is not the “best” price. There are so many factors that can impact the price of a vintage watch, and without fully understanding why a price is low, you are more likely than not going to regret this “great deal”.

Condition Is Key

Often closely tied to price, condition and originality are the most important things to look for in a vintage watch. Do not settle on a watch with a damaged dial! Do not purchase the watch replaced hands! Do not save a few dollars for the timepiece with an over-polished case!

These watches will usually save you money, but they are not worth the time and energy you put into the research. You should always buy the most pristine watch that fits your budget. If your budget only allows you to scrape the bottom of the barrel, you need to increase your budget or pick a new watch!

Buy The Seller, Not The Watch

The final guideline is to trust the seller of the timepiece. We hear about buying the seller, not the watch, over and over in this hobby. The importance of this message cannot be overlooked when looking at vintage timepieces. There are plenty of vintage watch sellers that have great reputations with whom you should stick.

Once you get very familiar with a particular model and have handled more than a handful, you might be ready to venture into the world of searching for “farm-fresh” examples. They are out there, but remember, even the most experienced experts get fooled from time to time. If you’re unwilling to do the research necessary to become an expert, you need to pay the extra money for someone that is.

The Present-Day Vintage Watch Market

For watch collectors just joining the hobby, vintage watches are less attainable than they previously were. Rolex and Omega are priced near the MSRP of current models, if not more, and other Swiss brands are close behind. It is no wonder, when looking at how to maximize your horological dollar in the world of vintage watches, many people turn to Japan. Few brands can match the history and number of iconic model lines as enthusiast favorite Seiko.

What About Seiko Vintage Watches?

Seiko is, and always has been, a brand for the people. They produce high quantities of well-built timepieces, focusing on practicality and functionality. Thankfully, for us aspiring vintage collectors, the philosophy of increased production and quality has been the brand’s mainstay, yielding two incredible benefits.

First, there is no shortage of vintage Seiko watches. With the exception of a few rare pieces, there are several examples of most vintage Seiko watches, many of which look and run great to this day. The second benefit is more a consequence of the first. Because of the large number of watches available, prices are very reasonable for what you get. There is no other brand that can provide the variety, quality, availability, and price of vintage watches that Seiko can.

There are beautiful vintage Seiko watches available at any price, and we will look at 20 great examples. These will be listed in ascending order, and because there is no MSRP for vintage watches, I will provide a range of prices that reflects the market as of December 2022. The vintage watch market changes rapidly, but if you are patient and follow the general guidelines, you can get a great Seiko watch that is sure to satisfy your vintage craving.

Vintage Seiko Watches Under $200

Seiko 5 7009 Series ($50-$150)

Seiko 5 7009 Series

There is no better place to start this list than the almighty Seiko 5. Known for 5 design principles: 4 O’clock crown, Diashock shock protection, Day/Date complication, automatic winding, and water resistance. If these were called Seiko 6, the sixth principle would certainly be affordability! To this day, the Seiko 5 represents a great entry point into the brand’s mechanical timepieces.

The 7009 series features modest case sizes and a multitude of dial options. This watch series has almost limitless combinations and can be found for between $50-$150. There are too many options to research thoroughly, but you could pick up a few, given the price.

Seiko 5 ACTUS 7019 Series($100-$300)

Seiko 5 ACTUS 7019 Series

Like many of the budget-friendly options on our list, our next option falls under the umbrella of the Seiko 5. The 7019 Seiko 5 ACTUS is a more stylized version of the standard Seiko 5. The more modernized case sizes result in a slightly higher value on the secondary market of roughly $100-$300. These watches will be another no-frills option, but if you are interested in a slightly more modern design, the 5 Actus might be for you.

Seiko Sportsmatic 7625 Series ($150-$400)

The 7625 Sportsmatic is a step up when compared to the Seiko 5 models I have previously mentioned. The sports aesthetic lends itself nicely to a go-anywhere-do-anything watch, and the increased case size of 38mm will be a welcomed addition to anyone looking for a more modernly sized vintage watch.

These watches do fetch a slight premium for certain dials, but a basic model can be found for $150-$400. If you have a preference for a larger watch or a sportier aesthetic, the Sportsmatic is the perfect budget-friendly option.

Vintage Seiko Watches Under $500

Seiko Seikomatic 6206 Series ($150-$400)

Seiko Seikomatic 6206 Series

The Seikomatic is another mid-range offering in the Seiko vintage market, offering a robust 6206 movement and 36mm case. What really helps this model line stick out is the unique day placement at 6 O’clock. It helps give this ordinary watch some personality.

Combine that with the fact that this watch features a Kanji-day disk, and this watch provides an entirely different feel from a comparable Tissot or Hamilton from the time. This case shape also features a seamless crown design, in which the crown pushes flush into the case. Coming in at roughly $150-$400, the style isn’t the only thing giving the Swiss a run for their money!

Seiko Diver 7002 Series ($250-$400)

Seiko Diver 7002 Series

The 7002 series diver is the predecessor to the famous SKX. The signature 42mm case shape is there with a slightly reduced 150 meters of water resistance which I wouldn’t recommend putting to the test, given its age.

This watch is often the victim of the mod community due to its lower price point, which has resulted in original examples increasing in price. A good condition and original 7002 diver will set you back roughly $250-$400, but for a vintage dive watch with real history, there are few examples, even at double or triple this price.

Seiko Bell-matic 4006 Series ($300-$500)

Seiko Bell-matic 4006 Series

One often overlooked complication in the world of vintage watches is that of the alarm. Though some Swiss examples can set you back thousands, the Seiko Bell-matic will run you about $300-$500. This model comes in various dial colors and case shapes, but the 27 jewel 4006 movement is the true star. If you’re looking for a unique complication that you’re not going to find on many wrists, the Seiko Bell-matic is a great option.

Seiko Lord Marvel 5740 Series ($300-$500)

Seiko Lord Marvel 5740 Series

If you are searching for a classically designed dress watch from Seiko that shares many design elements with the Swiss, look no further than the Lord Marvel. This watch features many quality movements seen in King Seiko models, but they are housed in a simpler case style.

These watches also feature 36000 BPH Hi-Beat movements allowing the Lord Marvel to not only look like a Swiss timepiece of the era but also outperform it mechanically. The Lord Marvel can be had for roughly $300-$500. If you are looking for something a little simpler but with some mechanical innovation, the Lord Marvel is a great place to start.

King Seiko 5625 Series ($400-600)

King Seiko 5625 Series

Grand Seiko is often attributed with much of the credit for establishing the Japanese, and Seiko, in particular, as a horological powerhouse. The lesser-known faction of Seiko, known as King Seiko, was pumping out equally-stunning watches and helping to motivate Grand Seiko to achieve the great results they were able to.

King Seiko watches are less highly sought after than Grand Seiko by the mainstream collector, but that is quickly changing. Despite this rise in popularity, these watches can still be found for roughly $400-$600. The 5625 King Seiko features a Hi-Beat movement, much like the Lord Marvel, but housed in a more distinct Seiko case shape. If you want a Grand Seiko, but your budget simply won’t allow it, these King Seikos really are the next best thing.

Vintage Seiko Watches Under $1000

Seiko Yachtsman UFO Chronograph 6138-0011 Series ($700-$1100)

Seiko Yachtsman UFO Chronograph 6138-0011 Series

The UFO Chronograph features a noticeably different vintage design. This watch comes with a distinct saucer shape case at 44mm, which spawned its affectionate nickname as the UFO. The 6138 Chronograph movement is often overlooked in the history of automatic chronographs.

Coming in at a price of roughly $700-$1100, depending on condition, this is a great entry point into the world of vintage chronographs. If you are looking for a complicated vintage watch that will stand out from the rest, only a few options will do so better than the UFO.

Seiko Rally Diver 6106 Series (700-$1100)

Seiko Rally Diver 6106 Series

There are few styles of watches that are as distinctly Seiko as a Rally Diver. The checkered bezel, even making a comeback with the current Rowing Blazers Limited Edition, is a trademark of Vintage Seiko.

Many of these examples fall underneath the budget-friendly Seiko 5 line, but given the uniqueness of this timepiece, there is an aesthetic premium added to this one. Coming in at roughly $700-$1100, the Rally Diver from Seiko gives you an opportunity to wear something a little different on your wrist at a price that allows it to still be fun!

King Seiko 44KS 4402-8000 Series ($700-$1200)

King Seiko 44KS 4402-8000 Series

As discussed earlier, few vintage watches can punch above their weight quite like a King Seiko. The 44KS is my favorite example of what this great sub-brand was able to create. The 36mm stainless steel case and manual wind movement allow this watch to maintain modern proportions for a classic vintage aesthetic.

The resurgence of the King Seiko brand has sparked these watches to increase in price. Coming in at roughly $700-$1200, the value you get from these watches is still second to none. If you are looking for the best value for a vintage watch, not just from Seiko, this is one of the best picks available.

Seiko SilverWave J12082 Series ($800-$1200)

The Seiko SilverWave is not like any other dive watch you will find from Seiko. This watch predated the more recognized models, debuting in 1961, and had a unique way of accounting for elapsed time on a dive. The inner rotating bezel, which was controlled by a single crown, gave this watch a very distinct look for the time and for vintage collectors today. Single crown inner rotating bezel watches were rare in the 1960s and remain rare today.

This unique look allows the SilverWave to go unrecognized as the dive watch pioneer that it clearly is. Coming in at roughly $800-$1200, this watch is an excellent piece of dive watch history at a price the average enthusiast can afford.

Vintage Seiko Watches Under $3000

Seiko Bullhead Chronograph 6138-0060 Series ($1200-$2000)

Seiko Bullhead Chronograph 6138-0060 Series

Seiko is at it again, with another very distinct chronograph within their 6138 series. The Bullhead chronograph, with its signature crown and pusher layout, is another oddball choice with a cult following of collectors. The aesthetic screams of the 1970s with its brown color scheme and unique case shape.

Coming in at roughly $1200-$2000, these watches have a slight premium over their UFO-shaped cousins. If you are a collector of oddities within the watch world or simply appreciate the design ethos of the 70s, the Bullhead Chronograph is a great option.

Seiko Pogue Chronograph 6139-6002 Series ($2000-$2500)

Seiko Pogue Chronograph 6139-6002 Series

Of all of the Seiko chronographs from this era, none have garnered as much mainstream popularity as the Pogue. The 6139 model with gold dial and Pepsi bezel famously accompanied Colonel William Pogue on the Skylab 4 Mission in 1973, despite never being authorized by NASA. This is exactly how legends are formed, and this watch is no exception. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most Frankenwatched vintage Seiko model, and prices vary greatly because of it.

A simple aftermarket dial can be the difference between a $400 watch and a $2400 watch. For a clean example, you should expect to pay between $2000-$2500. Any less than that, and red flags should come up! This watch has skyrocketed in popularity as of late, but if you are looking for a watch with the potential to still increase in value, this may be the best option on the list.

Seiko Baby Panda 6138-8000 Series ($2500-$3000)

Seiko Baby Panda 6138-8000 Series

The Seiko 6138 “Baby Panda” is the vintage Seiko chronograph for someone who would rather not be so daring with their wrist choice. The Pogue, Bullhead, and UFO are all great, but if you want something a little less bold, the Baby Panda is the watch to go with.

It features a white dial with distinct Panda sub-dials stacked vertically instead of horizontally. The case shape, while still having the wider case flanks Seiko is known for, has visible lugs and feels much more traditional in its design.

Despite being the most “boring” of the Seiko Chronographs listed, this one carries the highest premium, coming in at roughly $2500-$3000. If you are after a vintage Seiko chronograph that can go under the radar, this is the best option for you.

Vintage Seiko Watches Under $5000

Seiko Captain Willard 6105-8110 Series ($3000-$4000)

Seiko Captain Willard 6105-8110 Series

Now we’re getting to the truly iconic and historically significant vintage Seiko watches. Made famous by Martin Sheen in the movie Apocalypse Now, the 6105-8110 is a classic Seiko dive watch that has a cult following among collectors. Affectionately known as the Captain Willard among enthusiasts, this model has been reintroduced several times in the modern Seiko lineup.

There are several design cues across Seiko’s current lineup that are heavily inspired by the design of 6105, which was first introduced in 1968. Coming in at a price of $3000-$4000, depending on the condition, this watch is still a relative bargain. If you are looking for the dive watch that helped make Seiko what it is, this watch will be hard to beat.

Grand Seiko J14070 Series ($4000-$5000)

Grand Seiko J14070 Series

On this list, we have sung the praises of King Seiko, the lesser-known subset of Seiko, that famously competed with Grand Seiko for watchmaking supremacy out of Japan. It is now time to talk about Grand Seiko. Although a separate brand as of 2017, Grand Seiko and its vintage collection still fall within the umbrella of Seiko overall.

The J14070 is the watch that launched Grand Seiko into the stratosphere, proving once and for all that Japan can not only compete with the Swiss for timekeeping accuracy but lead the charge. This watch will set you back roughly $4000-$5000 depending on the condition and year of manufacture. If you are looking for a classically designed watch with a unique history, the J14070 is the watch for you.

Seiko 62MAS 6217-8000 Series ($4000-$5000)

Seiko 62MAS 6217-8000 Series

The 62MAS by Seiko is one of the most universally loved designs the brand has ever introduced. Being the first professional dive watch made by Seiko has helped this watch reach iconic status amongst collectors. Much like the Captain Willard, there have been several re-editions of this model, many of which have their own cult following. The signature 37mm size and skin diver case shape make this watch incredibly wearable on a wide range of wrists.

This watch will set you back roughly $4000-$5000, but given the rise in popularity of vintage dive watches (even those not named Rolex), this watch has plenty of potential to increase in value over the next few years. If you are looking for an iconic dive watch that has the potential to make you wish you purchased it when you had the chance, the 62MAS is an excellent option.

Vintage Seiko Watches Under $10000

Seiko Grandfather Tuna 6159-7010 Series ($5000-$6500)

Seiko Grandfather Tuna 6159-7010 Series

In this final tier of vintage watches, we will explore the most professional watches Seiko produced throughout the 1970s. The 6159-7010, known as the Grandfather Tuna, features a titanium case with an iconic shroud around it. This watch was rated to reach depths of 600 meters. In terms of Seiko’s current lineup of professional dive watches, the Grandfather Tuna is the ancestor that started it all.

They later ditched the automatic movement for a more reliable high-accuracy quartz one, but the technology, case shape, and overall design can all be traced to this model. Coming in at roughly $5000-$6500, this is another model that has the potential to increase in value over the next few years. If you are looking for a vintage professional dive watch that helped shape Seiko’s current lineup, the Grandfather Tuna is the watch for you.

Seiko Hi-Beat Diver 6159-7000 Series ($6000-$8000)

Seiko Hi-Beat Diver 6159-7000 Series

Much like the Grandfather Tuna, the Seiko Hi-Beat Diver is part of the 6159 series of watches and has helped to shape the modern lineup of Seiko professional divers. If you prefer the look of the Marine Master over the Tuna, you have the 6159-7000 Hi-Beat Diver to thank. Many of the design elements we see on Seiko’s current lineup are present here with this model and executed at a very high level.

The sharp edges and compact case design help this larger-sized watch fit even smaller wrist sizes. When looking throughout Seiko’s vintage dive watch catalog, this watch stands out as a premium offering. At roughly $6000-$8000, the 6159-7000 Hi-Beat Diver carries a premium fit and finish to match the premium price. If you are looking for the most luxurious vintage watch Seiko offers, the 6159-7000 Hi-Beat Diver is the watch you should go with.

The “Glory Days” Of Vintage Seiko Watch Collecting

There you have it! 20 of the best vintage Seiko watches at a variety of budgets. Over the last few years, vintage watches have become harder and harder to collect. Not just because of the increased risk but because the increase in value has made learning your lessons the hard way that much more painful.

In terms of prices going up, like always, Seiko has your back with this one. The Swiss vintage watch market has exploded in value over the last 5 years, while the Japanese market has been increasing more sustainably. This has resulted in many of the Seiko models listed here being undervalued compared to their equivalent Swiss counterparts. In other words, we are currently living in the “glory days” we are all going to look back on so fondly 10 years from now.

The vintage watch market is tricky, but if you are patient and do your research, there are still plenty of deals to be had! After researching this list, there are at least 2-3 watches that will one day make it into my collection. If I stick to these classic models and the guidelines listed above (even I have a hard time not clicking “Buy It Now” on everything after a few drinks), I should be able to end up with some gems for my collection.

Happy watch hunting!

Rolex Deepsea challenge review

Nothing will shake up the watch industry like a new release from Rolex! Every Facebook Group, watch blog site, and YouTube personality erupts with positive and negative opinions immediately following any release, regardless of how subtle the changes are.

The release of the new Rolex Deepsea Challenge was different. Sure, everyone was quick to react with an opinion, but the changes they discussed were far from minute; some may even say they were huge! To better understand this new release from Rolex, let’s explore the path Rolex has taken to lead to their latest bragging right.

Rolex has always had an affinity for pushing the limits of what is possible with a mechanical wristwatch. From accompanying Sir Edmund Hilary on his Everest expedition to the deep explorations of the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. It is the later explorations that helped cement Rolex as the premier tool watch of choice for any type of modern explorer.

Through the expertise and technology derived from the commercially available Submariner line, Rolex pushed the limits once again while accompanying the Trieste on a record-breaking dive to nearly 11,000 meters in Mariana’s Trench back in 1960 with a specifically designed watch.

Fast forward to 2008, and Rolex was at it again. After nearly perfecting their Submariner and Sea Dweller lines, Rolex was after something that could once again push the limits. This resulted in the Rolex Deepsea, a commercially available dive watch capable of withstanding pressure at 3900 meters.

Four years later, in 2012, Rolex developed a special Rolex Deepsea Challenge to accompany James Cameron to another exploration of Mariana’s Trench. Although never commercially available, this watch is the inspiration for what was released in 2022.

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge, reference 126067, is the culmination of the last 70 years of Rolex innovation and their pursuit of dive watch perfection. Let’s look at 10 facts about this new watch and what its release means for Rolex and the rest of the watch industry as a whole.

1. The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is Large and in Charge!

Rolex Deep Sea Challenge Sea Dweller

Before diving into this new release, we need to address the elephant in the room. The 50mm elephant! The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is a very large watch. Coming in at 50mm wide and 23mm thick, this watch would have difficulty sliding under even the loosest cuffs.

The Deepsea Challenge dwarfs the standard Deepsea model at 44mm, a timepiece openly criticized for its large dimensions. Despite this large size, the watch remains “relatively” wearable considering what it is capable of. Afterall, the Deepsea challenge is not meant to melt away on your wrist when paired with a suit; it’s a tool engineered for a purpose.

2. New Materials! At Least New to Rolex

Rolex is not a brand known for pushing the boundaries of exotic materials. Sure, they like to experiment with little brother Tudor, but Rolex doesn’t usually get in on the fun. The Deepsea Challenge utilizes Rolex’s new RLX titanium. This metal is grade 5 titanium, a material known for its corrosion resistance and lightweight properties compared to stainless steel. Why is this a big deal? This is the first time Rolex has constructed a watch entirely out of titanium.

It has been used for the case back on previous models but never for an entire piece. With a watch sized at 50mm, titanium allows this piece to be somewhat wearable at “just” 251 grams, as opposed to the 350+ that it would be had it been fashioned out of stainless steel. The rest of the industry has been much quicker to adopt titanium. But, by Rolex acknowledging its functionality, there is no doubt that many other brands will be lining up to do the same.

3. This Watch Can Go Deep!

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge has a water resistance of 11,000 meters. If you find yourself casually strolling the deepest depths of the ocean, you will be as dead as a person can be, but at least your watch will still be ticking away. There have been a few watches accompanying dives to this depth, so what makes this watch special?

If you wanted one of those other watches, you needed to be a museum curator, an eccentric billionaire collector, or James Cameron (who honestly might be all 3). The Rolex Deepsea Challenge, however, is a commercially available watch, meaning that this technology is finally available for the everyday consumer.

Will we ever need a watch rated to go down to this depth? Absolutely not! Is it fun to know that your wristwatch could reach the deepest depths of our planet? Hell yeah!

4. Bells and Whistles!

How does Rolex manage to achieve these great depths? There are a few very clever enhancements from the standard Submariner line that help differentiate this model. The first is the helium escape valve. This technology is fairly common today, but when first introduced in the 1960s was instrumental in allowing watches to reach great depths.

The condensed version is that, at great depths, compressed helium particles, which are smaller than water, can enter the watch and create a pressure difference during the decompression process. This would cause the crystal of a timepiece to pop off, effectively ruining your watch and your day. The Helium Escape Valve allows these helium particles to freely enter and escape your piece without the possibility of water ingress.

The other enhancement to the Deepsea Challenge comes in the form of the Ring Lock System. This system is a nitrogen-alloyed stainless steel compression ring that helps to absorb the pressure experienced through the caseback and crystal of the watch. With this compression ring, the water-tight seals maintain their shape and ensure a proper fit.

These innovations may not seem as groundbreaking as they did in 1967 and 2008 upon their introduction. But, combined with other refinements, they allow this watch to go deeper than any commercially available watch.

5. It’s Not a Cheap Watch! But Would It Be a Rolex if It Was?

Rolex sports models are not necessarily known for their bargain prices. This Deepsea Challenge is certainly no different, coming in at about $26,000. That’s a lot of money for a tool watch, but to Rolex’s credit, this watch is doing something that no other commercially available watch can do.

Considering that a standard Rolex Submariner can set you back more than $15000 on the preowned market, if you can acquire this watch at retail, you would be getting an absolute bargain. The most surprising part of this equation is that, in a world of complete scarcity regarding new Rolex models’ availability at retail, people are having some success with this model.

Although anecdotal, my timeline has been full of people trying this watch on for fun but ultimately turning it down due to its size or higher retail price. Given the history of Rolex sports models, could we be sleeping on the next auction house sweetheart?

6. Consistency in Design

If there is one thing that differentiates Rolex from its competitors, it is its ability to stay consistent. This glacial pace of refinement leads to some people getting bored with the design of many Rolex models. This iconic look has allowed a Rolex watch to create a distinct identity. This new Deepsea Challenge model is very distinctly a Rolex dive watch.

There are changes to the size and the rehaut, but the timepiece is still a refinement of the original design. If you compare this watch to a vintage Rolex Submariner, although the Submariner will look downright diminutive, you will be able to see the design characteristics that have carried through several new iterations and models. Consistency has always been one of the keys to Rolex’s success.

7. Rolex vs. Omega

Rolex and Omega are no strangers to doling out right hooks to each other. As soon as one company reaches a milestone, the other is there to one-up them. There is no greater example of this back and forth than when it comes to deep sea exploration. With the release of the Rolex Deepsea in 2008, Rolex set the standard for a commercially available dive watch by achieving a water resistance of 4000 meters.

In early 2022, Omega put the watch industry on notice by releasing the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep. This large titanium watch’s capability of reaching depths of 6000 meters not only gave them the title of deepest depth rating for a commercially available dive watch, but it did so in a convincing fashion, surpassing the Rolex by 150%.

Rolex was officially in second place, a position they did not take too fond of occupying. The “pressure” was on, and less than a year later, we received this new Deepsea Challenge. A watch that doubled the depth rating of the Ultra Deep and delivered what could only be described as the gut punch of a lifetime to Omega.

8. How Does This Watch Impact Tudor?

When it comes to the relationship between Rolex and Tudor, the lines have become very blurred over the last few years. Every time we think we have this relationship figured out, Tudor decides to introduce a solid gold watch, or Rolex refocuses on the tool watch market, completely confusing every watch enthusiast. The release of the Deepsea Challenge further complicates how we view these two intertwined brands.

For the last couple of years, the trajectory was heading toward a path of Rolex making high-end luxury watches, while Tudor filled in the hole in the market Rolex left behind for premium tool watches. Rolex focusing on new materials like titanium and creating a timepiece aiming to push the limits of a tool watch feels very “old Rolex” and something we thought Tudor would be concentrating on. Perhaps the relationship between these two brands isn’t as clear-cut as we all assumed.

9. What This Means for the Future of Rolex

The new Deepsea Challenge says more for the future of Rolex than almost any other modern release over the last few years. Rolex can now manufacture watches out of titanium. The possibilities there are endless. Can you imagine an RLX titanium Submariner? I am sure that would be an easy watch to get at retail!

Looking beyond just the possibilities with materials, Rolex can now do something they have rarely been able to do over the last several years. They’ve proven that they still have the ability to surprise us. Maybe their next release will push the limits again in terms of specification, or we may see another unique material, like a ceramic case. The only thing that’s certain is that we might have something a little more interesting than 1mm in case size to debate about next year.

10. A Call Back to the Past

The Deepsea Challenge represents a return to form for Rolex. Not just in their ability to surprise us or make a tool watch but their ability to push the limits of what is possible. For a company that earned its reputation through accompanying real-life explorers as they discovered the previously undiscovered, the modern luxury status of Rolex just never seemed to fit.

These watches have been on people’s wrists, pushing boundaries and setting records. They were meant to be a tool; and not just a tool to increase wealth by sitting in a bank safe and appreciating in value. I am sure this watch will one day be an investment, but it certainly wasn’t designed to be.

Let the call back of the beautifully chamfered lugs of the Deepsea Challenge transport you to a time when Rolex not only took the extra time for aesthetic detail but also prided themselves on creating watches that were meant to be used!

The Leviathan of the Past Rises Again

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is, in many ways, a misunderstood release from Rolex. It has quite a few detractors who see this release as nothing more than an oversized Submariner. When you view this watch through a narrow lens of their luxury prestige, I can see how one could come to this opinion.

It’s important to remember that although Rolex has undoubtedly played into that luxury image with some of its pieces, they still produce fully capable tool watches. In many ways, the second-hand market has elevated these pieces to an ultra-luxury status. The Deepsea Challenge is an evolution of Rolex’s prestigious tool watch history, not their luxury one.

When you view this watch through that lens, although still being very large, the Deepsea Challenge is the modern definition of a tool watch.

20 best watches for nato straps

There are few things that can change the vibe of a watch like the strap that you choose to fasten it to your wrist with. They can help you to swap between different styles, like throwing a crocodile strap on a vintage Rolex Datejust to help distinguish the look from the casual everyday feel of its stainless-steel bracelet. There can also be functional benefits to the strap that is paired to a watch.

Take for instance the classic expandable rubber strap paired with many of the entry level Seiko divers. Although many will argue that there is no perfect strap for a watch, I am here to poke holes in that nonsense. The perfect strap exists and it comes in the form of a NATO strap!

As much as this statement may seem hyperbolic, it’s actually true, for me anyway. If a watch doesn’t look good on a NATO strap, it doesn’t belong in my collection. That is not to say that I don’t mix it up from time to time or have watches that live predominantly on their bracelet, but they still need to work on a NATO strap to find a permanent (as permanent as a watch collectors collection ever is) spot in the watch box.

What exactly is a NATO strap? Dating back to the original G10 style, the NATO strap can date its history back to 1973 with the British Ministry of Defence. These straps were originally introduced by the military to help reduce the risk of losing your watch by having two contact points with the watch. This allows a watch to remain fastened to your wrist, albeit floppily, in case of a spring bar failure.

Another benefit to these original straps was the reduced movement of the watch on your wrist due to being secured by the additional loop placed under you’re watch. Given that these original straps were made of Nylon, they had inherent durability and were ready for any task the military could through at them and could be easily cleaned when necessary.

Today, NATO straps are no longer only reserved for Military timepieces nor are they exclusively produced from Nylon, but they still give the appearance of a durable watch capable of anything. In many ways, this look is what draws me in. Beyond the prevention of a catastrophic spring bar failure, which I’ve yet to experience, there are few features of a NATO strap that are unable to be matched by a variety of other straps available.

Despite this, the NATO strap remains my litmus test. If it looks good it can stay, if it looks out of place, then it has got to go. Now that we Know what we’re looking for, let’s take a look at 20 great watches for NATO straps. Understanding that this could quickly become just a list of my own collection or favorite watches, I am going to instill some guidelines.

Despite the fact that most watches look good on a NATO strap, I am going to rely on the opinion of the brands themselves and only include watches that are sold on a NATO strap or come with one as part of the accessories. In addition to this limitation, I am going to limit myself to only one watch per brand.

We are going to see 20 different brands and I am excited to see where this journey will take us! There will not be a price limitation in this list but given that NATO style straps tend to look best on a tool watch, I wouldn’t expect to see any Haute Horlogerie on this list. Before I give myself anymore outlandish rules, let’s dive into the 20 best watches for NATO Straps.

The Real Deal

1. Marathon Black Pilot Navigator 41mm

Marathon Black Pilot Navigator 41mm

When considering the military inspiration of the NATO strap, it seems a logical place to start this list with a couple of brands still producing these Mil-spec timepieces. The first of these watches is by Marathon, the Canadian based watchmaker that has produced simple watches for several branches of Military and can still be found on the wrist of those in service today. Their classic Navigator Pilot in black is some of the best roughly $420 you can spend in this hobby.

The watch features a black resin case, tritium tube dial, and an almost indestructible Swiss quartz movement.  The watch also features a 12-hour bezel that will allow you to simply track one additional time zone. It may not be a very luxurious watch, but if you are looking for a watch that looks at home on a NATO strap you need to start here.

2. CWC RN Auto MK2 RN300-MT AS120

CWC RN Auto MK2 RN300-MT AS120

If you cross over the pond, the Cabot Watch Company, commonly referred to as CWC, fills a very similar role to that of Marathon, producing Mil-spec watches designed for a purpose. The history of CWC even intertwines with luxury watch powerhouse Rolex, as they replaced the Rolex MilSub for the British Royal Navy in the 1980’s. The RN Auto MK2 features 41mm stainless-steel case, sapphire cystal, and an impressive 300m water resistance.

The RN comes in several variations and despite quartz being the most common option, this specific model is powered by a Sellita SW-200-1. The fixed spring bars make sure that this watch is worn the way that it was intended, on a NATO strap. Given that this design is based on a Mil-Spec and not a design team, this watch shares several similarities with the iconic MilSub. This CWC will set you back roughly $1500, but given the history and timeless military diver aesthetic, the price of the alternative MilSub makes this seem like an absolute steal.

Entry Level Luxury

1. Certina DS PH200M Blue Dial

Certina DS PH200M Blue Dial

In the world of entry level Swiss luxury watches, there are few brands that can deliver as much punch as those in the SWATCH group. Starting that off today is a watch from one of the brands that often gets overlooked in this group, Certina.

The DS PH200M is a vintage inspired dive watch with all of the updated specifications that we could hope to get from a watch at just under $1000. The 43mm stainless-steel case, ceramic bezel, and sapphire crystal help take this vintage aesthetic and put it in a package that you can feel very comfortable actually diving with.

Certina’s relationship to Swiss movement manufacture ETA, allows this watch to remain at a very competitive price point while also being powered by a modified ETA Powermatic 80.611 with 80-hour power reserve. This vintage aesthetic plays very nicely with the included NATO strap and allows this watch to cement itself as a true tool watch.

2. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical

Another SWATCH group powerhouse at the entry level is Hamilton. They are better known in the United States as a historical American brand but have recently gained notoriety as the Swiss made watchmaker of Hollywood. Despite its vintage look, the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical highlights the very best of modern-day Hamilton.

Although this model may not have any Hollywood accolades under its belt, it would certainly look right at home on any 1970s war story. The 36mm rounded cushion case design is a historical characteristic of the original watch that could have easily been modernized but thankfully was not. The H-50 hand-wind Swiss Made modified ETA movement, on the other hand, has been modernized and has the 80-hour power reserve to prove it.

This balance of new and old allows this watch to perform double duty as your vintage inspired timepiece and everyday wearer. The NATO strap on this watch helps to keep this balance, remaining historically accurate to the original while also providing you the performance an everyday wearer demands. At just under $850 this watch presents a tremendous value for money and perhaps the chance to check off 2 watches on your list in one.

3. Shinola Monster GMT

Shinola Monster GMT

One brand that doesn’t get a lot of love from watch enthusiasts is Shinola. They stormed onto the scene in 2013 promising to bring watch manufacturing back to the America, but after some questionable marketing slowed their progress, they never quite recovered.

Thankfully, that’s not where this story ends and since focusing on many pieces that appeal to fans of the brand and enthusiasts alike, they have had somewhat of a resurgence. One of their latest models, the Monster GMT, is a great example of this attention to detail.

The 40mm stainless-steel case, sapphire crystal, and Sellita SW330-2 Swiss Made movement are all hallmarks of a modern “caller style” GMT in the entry level luxury market. What helps this watch to stand out, is their attention to detail. Their newest olive dial is a stunning addition to the lineup and its pairing with a stainless-steel bezel helps to give a classic look to this otherwise modern execution.

Despite coming on a beautiful stainless-steel bracelet, this watch really shines on the included green NATO strap. The watch assumes a new identity on this strap and leans heavily into its tool watch aesthetic. For just under $2000 this watch offers a lot of versatility for a brand that still has something to prove.

4. Seiko Prospex SPB239

Seiko Prospex SPB239

It is impossible to make a list focused on tool watches and not include fan favorite Seiko. Of all their illustrious models that look at home on a NATO strap, there is one that stands above the rest. That watch is the 62 Mas recreation in their Prospex line known as the SPB239.

The watch features a 40.5mm stainless-steel case, In-House Seiko 6R35 movement with 70-hour power reserve, and sapphire crystal. Playing into the ruggedness of this watch is this specific color way that comes paired with a set of NATO straps.

The charcoal dial and gilt accents on the bezel help to give this watch a vintage aesthetic, but the included NATO straps make sure that you can do anything with this model. A classically designed dive watch from Seiko at a modest size is a real treat at any price, let alone something at the entry level luxury mark.

The In-House movement may have its detractors, but at roughly $1200, I would much rather have robustness and reliability over accuracy. There is a price point where that mindset starts to shift, but it certainly isn’t here. If you are after a modestly sized dive watch in the entry level luxury segment you are spoiled for choice, but there is no one that will work as hard for your money as Seiko.

5. Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Automatic Brown Leather

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Automatic Brown Leather

If you are searching for your next watch and the previously mentioned Seiko SPB239 came up, I can almost guarantee that this next watchmaker has as well. Zodiac is a brand that is steeped in dive watch history. They debatably even beat Rolex to the punch in 1953 to introduce a modern dive watch with their iconic Seawolf series.

As is often the case, however, the winners are the ones to write history and this iconic model failed to receive the notoriety of the other brands in this race. After a rocky couple of decades following the decline in popularity of mechanical watches, Zodiac seemed like another victim of the quartz crisis. That was until an unlikely hero in the Fossil Group resurrected the company and allowed them the freedom to create the iconic watches they were once known for.

The Super Sea Wolf is their new line of fully capable dive watches featuring a 40mm stainless steel case, STP 3-13 Swiss movement, and sapphire crystal. This particular model comes fitted with a steel bezel, charcoal dial with faux lume triangle indices and dauphine hands.

The watch comes paired with a nice NATO strap made of leather and I love the look! To all of the die-hard “no leather on dive watch” crowd, despite defying all logic, this leather NATO strap not only works, it elevates this watch. At roughly $1200, this watch is certainly a formidable opponent to Seiko, or any brand, at this price range.

6. Oris ChronOris Date 01 733 7737 4053-07 5 19 23

Oris ChronOris Date 01 733 7737 4053-07 5 19 23

Another brand that dominates the entry level luxury segment is that of Oris. The independent watchmaker is an enthusiast favorite for many reasons. Their dive watches earn much of the fanfare, but when you search outside of the normal suspects you can find some real gems. The ChronOris is a unique model.

It has dual crown case with an inner-rotating bezel, not for timing an elapsed dive, but for timing race laps. This watch no longer sports the chronograph of its predecessor, but the unique look and heavy-handed motorsports inspiration help differentiate this watch from the rest of the Oris collection. The watch features a 39mm stainless steel case, sapphire crystal, and inner rotating timing bezel.

The available gray NATO strap really helps to allow the watch to take center stage. There is no distraction from a rally strap or stainless-steel bracelet with this iteration which allows you to get a pure representation of this eccentric watch. Coming in at a price of right around $1750 this watch would make a great addition to any enthusiast, with or without a passion for motorsports.

7. MeisterSinger Metris ME903

MeisterSinger Metris ME903

There are a few things most people take for granted when it comes to the design of a analog watch. Two distinct hour and minute hands being one that many consider a necessity. One brand that has decided to challenge that design is MeisterSinger.

Their signature look of one handed watches may seem jarring at first, but once your brain gets used to it, is actually a pretty simple adjustment to make. The Metris ME903 carries on this distinct look, but offers this experience in a more casual package, thanks to the included NATO strap.

The watch features a 38mm stainless-steel case, modified ETA 2824-2 movement, and sapphire crystal. Thanks to the included NATO strap and impressive 200m of water resistance this watch can truly be a one and only watch. At the attractive price of roughly $1800, however, this fun one from MeisterSinger doesn’t have to be!

Mid-Tier Luxury

1. Nomos Glashutte Club Neomatic Siren White

Nomos Glashutte Club Neomatic Siren White

There are few brands that execute the Bauhaus watch design as effectively as Nomos. This relative newcomer to the watch industry stands out with their clean and minimalist designs that are as comfortable at a formal occasion as they are with jeans and a T-shirt.

The Club Neomatic is perhaps the clearest example of this versatility. The 37mm stainless steel case wears surprising large, while the white dial offers just the right amount of pop. The red accents and sub dial layout help to give this watch a more casual look than some of the other pieces in the collection. This watch is powered by the in house DUW 3001 automatic movement which is finished to a standard consistent with watches out of the Glashutte region.

When paired with the optional NATO strap the casualness of this watch really comes to light. If you’re after the versatility of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, but your budget maxes out at just under $3200, this is one of the first places you should be looking.

2. Rado Captain Cook Automatic Chronograph

Rado Captain Cook Automatic Chronograph

When looking at watches with a prestigious dive history, it is hard to ignore a brand like Rado. Often known for their more artistic designs and use of unique materials, the Captain Cook line is as inspired by the past as any watch in production today.

The Captain Cook Chronograph in bronze manages to placate to both of these sides of Rado. The vintage aesthetic is definitely present carrying over many of the design cues that have made both the original and recreation Captain Cook a hit. The concave rotating bezel, arrow shape hour hand and pivoting red anchor on the dial are all present.

The 43mm case made of bronze, however, takes this vintage aesthetic and gives it a modern twist. Sure, bronze is far from the most exotic material that Rado has been known to use, but the execution here is spot on. The watch is powered by the R801 movement featuring a Nivachron hairspring allowing this watch to be antimagnetic.

When paired with the accompanying blue and gold stripped NATO strap, you get the feeling that this watch is truly ready for anything. Thanks to its impressive 300m water resistance that tool watch look is more than just a design trait. At just over $4400, this watch offers the benefit of a chronograph function without compromising on durability or water resistance at all.

3. Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Military Green

Bell & Ross BR V2-92 Military Green

Known for their square instrument panel inspired deigns, Bell & Ross is the very definition of a marmite brand. Despite thinking that they are interesting, the overly “tooltastic” design never appealed to me. Thankfully, Bell & Ross offers watches for the more reserved.

The BR V2-92 meets many more of the traditional design characteristic we think of when we see a watch. The 41mm round stainless-steel case with crown guards, unidirectional rotating bezel, and sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating are not what most people imagine when the think of Bell & Ross. The matte green dial and matching green NATO strap help to give this watch a vintage military aesthetic.

The watch is powered by the BR-Cal 302 movement, which is a derivative of the tried-and-true Sellita SW-300. Coming in with a price tag of roughly $3300, this watch offers an entry point into the brand, while offering something different than just a watered-down experience of their iconic model.

4. Mont Blanc 1858 Automatic Limited edition

When you think of the brand Mont Blanc, many people conjure up the idea of their primary business in the form of a luxury writing utensil. With the use of their luxury brand name cache and strategic acquisitions in the form of prestigious Swiss movement manufacturer Minerva, Mont Blanc has been able to carve a place in the Swiss luxury watch space that feels as though they have always occupied.

The 1858 automatic Limited Edition plays on this heritage and creates a timepiece that feels very authentic. The 40mm Bronze case gives this watch a very rich look when paired with the army green of the dial and matching NATO strap. Despite the ownership of Minerva this watch is powered by the MB 24.15, which is a modified Sellita SW-200.

At just under $3250, this watch would have seen a substantial price increase to include one of the highly sought-after Minerva calibers and given the aesthetic on the excellent NATO strap, I would choose a more robust movement and lower price any day of the week.

5. Longines Spirit L3.811.1.53.2

Longines Spirit L3.811.1.53.2

There are few brands in the watch world with as much history and breadth of their range as Longines. They have pumped out some of the most elegant dress watches the 1950’s could provide you while simultaneously creating robust field watches that were ready for military action.

In many ways this wide range has stayed with the company with them in their modern position within the SWATCH group. The example for this list leans heavily into that history, while maintaining a look of modern luxury. The Spirit L3.811.1.53.2 features a 42mm titanium case, sapphire crystal and anthracite dial with crème colored lume. The watch has the appeal of a vintage watch while offering all the modern enhancements a watch enthusiast could ask for.

The watch is powered by the L888.4 automatic movement which will give you a 72-hour power reserve. When paired with the included NATO strap this watch leans heavily into their military heritage. Coming in at roughly $2750, this may not be the cheapest military inspired watch on this list, but thanks to the legendary build quality and durable construction, you are getting what you pay for.

6. Bremont S300 White on NATO Strap

Bremont S300 White on NATO Strap

If there is one watch brand responsible for sparking the flame that has reignited the mainstream interest in British watchmaking it’s Bremont. Founded in 2002, there are few watchmakers that have as dedicated of a fanbase as what Bremont has been able to foster.

The brand is not without its detractors, however, claiming that their marketing skills may out pace their skill in watchmaking, but to anyone who has held one in the hand, their watches are deserved of the hype! The S300 features a 40mm stainless-steel case, BE-92 movement, and sapphire crystal. The white dial, black bezel and black numerals help this watch stand out while on the wrist.

When accompanied with the matching stripped NATO strap, this Bremont S300 looks ready for anything you can throw at it. Coming in at just under $3800, the S300 will allow you to experience the prestige of British watchmaking, while being ready for anything else rest of the world can throw at you.

Luxury on a NATO-surprisingly not an oxymoron!

1. Tudor Black Bay 58 925

Tudor Black Bay 58 925

Rolex is undoubtedly the king when it comes to the luxury watch market. Not the best by any means, but they certainly have the most influence on the industry. It is no surprise then that their sister company Tudor has sky-rocketed in popularity since a refresh in 2012.

The popularity of the Black Bay line is largely responsible for this spike in public interest. It wasn’t until Tudor released the Black Bay 58 however, that many people yearning for a modern reintroduction of a vintage Submariner were truly satisfied (or as satisfied as a watch enthusiast could ever be). Since becoming one of the hottest watches in the market, the Black Bay 58 has turned out several iterations promising to expand the Hans Wilsdorf stranglehold to new corners of the watch market.

That’s where this watch comes along, the Black Bay 58 925 in silver. Not a very common material by todays standards, but the precious metal 925 silver case allows Tudor to introduce luxurious materials to a whole new audience. The 39mm case of the original Black Bay 58 remains, with a taupe dial and bezel to help compliment the slight warmer hue of the silver alloy.

This watch looks purpose built when paired with the accompanying NATO strap and the only person who will know you have a truly special watch on your wrist is you. Powered by the MT5400 movement, which is COSC certified, the only thing separating this watch from that of its more recognizable bigger brother is the modest price of roughly $4400.

2. IWC Pilot ‘s Watch Automatic Spitfire

IWC Pilot ‘s Watch Automatic Spitfire

When looking at aviation inspired watches there are few brands, if any, that carry as much brand cache as the International Watch Company, or IWC. They generally tend to lean heavily into the bigger-is-better sizing philosophy which can often alienate large subsets of the watch collecting community.

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic spitfire breaks away from that pattern and offers an aviation themed watch, but at a modest 39mm size. When paired with the excellent green NATO strap, this watch will please several wrist sizes. The faux patina and traditional numeral lay out help to give this watch a look of a vintage watch.

While the sapphire crystal and modern 32110 Caliber movement remind you that you are not. In terms of an IWC watch, the roughly $4900 is a great entryway into the brand. When you consider the history and capability that IWC possess, this watch is worth every penny they are asking for.

3. Omega Seamaster Diver 300m 007 James Bond Edition on NATO

Omega Seamaster Diver 300m 007 James Bond Edition on NATO

The partnership between Omega and the Bond franchises is well documented and often cited as the savior of the Omega brand as we know it today. The watch that many conjure up when recalling the “Bond watch” however, is the iconic big crown Rolex Submariner and not the Brosnan era Seamaster that saved the day. 

Not just the Rolex Submariner, but specifically the Submariner on an aptly named “Bond NATO”. Move forward several iterations of “Bond watch” and what do you have? An iconic go anywhere do anything watch that despite having an amazing bracelet, truly looks best on a NATO strap. The Seamaster Diver 300m James Bond edition features the same 42mm case, this time fashioned out of grade-2 titanium, 300m water resistance and Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8806 movement.

This watch fits the aesthetic of bond perfectly, while managing to provide some new features more akin to a watch enthusiast than an international spy. Coming in at roughly $8100, this watch will be ready for anything, whether it’s battling the evil international villains or simply watching them in the cinema.

4. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date 5050 12B30 NABA

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date 5050 12B30 NABA

When looking at the origins of dive watches, Blancpain is often cited as the original manufacturer of the watch as we know it today. The iconic time elapse rotating bezel and waterproof case design were all seen first on a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch.

Despite a rough patch after the quartz crisis, Blancpain can claim one of the most illustrious histories in all of watchmaking. With a history dating back to 1735 their tradition of prestigious watchmaking is second to none. This modern recreation of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date incorporates much of what has made this great brand what it is today.

This watch features a robust 45mm stainless steel case, sapphire crystal and bezel, as well as a durable and beautifully finished NATO strap. What differentiates this watch from others on the list, however, is that this watch is truly a premium hand finished luxury piece.

With a beautifully hand finished Caliber 6918 hand wind movement with 120-hour power reserve and big date function, this watch features complications more typically seen on a watch from the Holy-Trinity and not a simple dive watch. The price is certainly more in line with the Holy-Trinity at roughly $17500, but this is a premium watch that doesn’t require you to take it off anytime you so much as think of doing something adventurous.

5. Breguet Type XXI Limited Edition 3815TI/HM/3Z

Breguet is a brand that can stake claim to much of what we take for granted in the world of modern watchmaking.  They even have their own numeral style named after them, not even the almighty Rolex can make that claim. Despite many of their watches having a more traditional feel, there is one of their models that feels like it is still fit for active duty.

That watch is the Type XXI Limited Edition. Alright, I admit it, I am cheating with this one! Breguet doesn’t sell this model on a NATO strap. (Please hold your audible gasps and shocked faces) This one is on Breguet! I don’t know if I have ever seen a more perfect example of an ultra-luxury watch just begging to be put on a NATO strap.

This watch features a 42mm case made of titanium and a rotating bezel. The 584Q/A movement is everything you would expect from Breguet, albeit not is such a robust frame. What really sells me on this watch, however, is the greenish numerals and hands. Although seen in some other examples recreating watches from this era, this detail feels very fun with this watch.

Coming in at a price of just under $15000, this watch is not cheap, but manages to blend the worlds of vintage recreation, modern tool watch, and elegant mechanical marvel so well it forced me to break my own self-imposed rule!

Wow! There it is, 20 of the best watches for NATO straps. We have explored brands from all over the world and watch market as well. What surprised me the most is how well a luxury watch plays with the look of a NATO strap. It’s often seen as crime against horological humanity to fasten you’re watch with a NATO strap, but I think I may have opened up a whole can of worms for myself.

Thankfully, I’ll most likely never be in the position to have to place a NATO strap on a watch costing more than many used cars (phew….dodged a bullet there), but I like to know that if ever found myself in that “tragic” situation I could be brave enough to pull it off!

The NATO strap will always be a staple of the watches in my collection. Partly because I love the look and functionality but also because good leather straps are just so damn expensive and I am a cheapskate! Hopefully, this list was able to shed some light on some watches that you may not have thought of while searching for the best NATO strap watches.

If you find yourself still searching you can always do what I did with the Breguet and just say “Rules, what rules? I make my own rules!” and buy your own NATO! Either way, you are going to end up with a watch that will be ready to take on any task you can throw at it!

Happy watch hunting!

15 best pilot watches under 2000

There are few watch styles that mirror history as directly as the Pilot watch. Whether it was the first watch designed by Cartier in 1906 to accompany Alberto Santos-Dumont on his exploratory flight or the large monstrosities accompanying pilots on both sides of World War 2, the pilot watch was there playing a pivotal role.

It is this history and sense of adventure that help to make the pilot watch a favorite among collectors. Despite their popularity however, there is some debate as to what a pilot watch actually is.
Here’s a little-known secret that many watch collectors don’t know, you can technically wear any wristwatch that you want while piloting an aircraft.

There is no governing body making sure that your case is a certain size or your numerals are properly pronounced. Despite this fact, us enthusiasts have to place watches into categories. The more the marrier too! The more categories we create, the more boxes we have to check and I am certainly not complaining about that (My wife on the other hand might see things a little differently)!

How exactly do we define the category of a pilot watch. It turns out, there are quite a few criteria that we can look at to help us determine if a wristwatch is truly “Cock-Pit officially Certified” (trademark pending, come at me Rolex!). First criteria that most people look for in a pilot watch is legibility.

A watch needs to be able to be read quickly from a distance, while also actually operating an aircraft. Does this mean that a watch needs to be large and in charge? Despite that being the predominant theme from these watches, it is not a requirement.

Other than being legible there are some other features that help to distinguish a pilot watch from other categories. The ability to read multiple time zones is undoubtedly a feature that would prove to be beneficial for a pilot. Whether through use of a dual time or a more traditional GMT function, this feature helps to give a pilot watch its wings (see what I did there).

Another common feature seen among pilot watches is a chronograph watch. These functions are often dolled up with slide rule bezels and more sub dials than you can shake a stick at, but the chronograph itself could add several functions for a pilot, especially before the modern enhancements in aviation technology.

Know that we know what an actual pilot watch is, why don’t we take a look at some good ones. For this article we will be looking at a very fun part of the market, the entry level luxury segment from $1000-$2000. In many ways, I live in this segment, only breaking the surface when I decide that food, clothing, and shelter are only secondary necessities in my pursuit for Facebook likes and watch street cred! When you look at the value that $1000 to $2000 can offer our hard-earned horological dollars, it’s easy to see why many people, not just me, call this space home.

To make things even more fun, I will continue the streak of torturing myself and only selecting one watch per brand in the hopes that this will help shed some light on some of the pieces that are used to going under the radar. Let’s take a look at 15 of the best pilot watches under $2000!

Historical Examples

Laco Pilot Watch Original Replika 45

Laco Pilot Watch Original Replika 45

If we are exploring entry level pilot watches, it makes sense to start with Laco. Despite their rather unsavory history, their Flieger style watches are the watch that comes to mind when many watch enthusiasts envision a pilot watch.

The Laco Pilot Watch Original Replika 45 is an almost exact recreation of those models from the 1940’s. There have been enhancements made to the movement, in the form of the ETA 2804 and the crystal in the form of a scratch resistant sapphire. Without a doubt the greatest concession made with this watch is in the actual case size. Laco made the decision to scale this watch down to a “modest” 45mm.

This is still a very large timepiece on the wrist, but compared to the 55mm the watch was originally released in, this one can at least fit some of the general population and not just prime Hulk Hogan and his 24” pythons. If you are after the historically accurate aesthetic of a fleiger watch and can put your blinders up to their origin, Laco provides as good of an example as you can find at any price. Lucky for us, this one sneaks just below our $2000 budget.

Stowa Fleiger Classic 36

Stowa Fleiger Classic 36

Let’s stay on track with examples of fleiger watches with World War 2 history. Stowa is another brand, very similar to Laco, that creates some beautiful examples of flierger style pilot watches. They both feature the timeless dial design, but where the Laco we looked at was very accurate to the original, the Stowa Flieger Classic 36 really mixes things up. How exactly do they do this? They gave us a 36mm fleiger watch!

That’s right, Stowa gave us, the itty bitty wristee committee, a pilot watch! This watch also features a Sellita SW200-1 and a sapphire crystal. These great features don’t just come in a diminutive case, as the price for what you’re getting is equally compact at just over $1300. If 45mm time only watches just aren’t your jam, you can still get the timeless fleiger style in a watch that will have an easier time slipping under any cuff.

Glycine Airman Contemporary Men Ref. GL0141

Glycine Airman Contemporary Men Ref. GL0141

In the world of aviation, there are few watch brands that can claim as much accolades as that of Glycine. Despite their recent buyout from the Invicta Group, this brand has a history that few brands can match. The Glycine Airman Contemporary is modern interpretation of their classic Airman series.

The case has been beefed up from the original 36mm to a more modern 42mm. The lack of a functional GMT hand, will limit you to two time zones with this example, but is historically accurate to their earliest examples. This watch is powered by a Swiss GL293 Swiss Automatic movement and features a bi-directional rotating bezel.

The example listed here is the cream colored dial variant, which plays up the vintage aesthetic nicely. As anyone who has ever watched an infomercial knows, pricing for watches from the Invicta family can be hard to pin-point, but the MSRP on this watch falls just shy of our $2000 budget, while I am sure if you stay up late enough you could score a significantly better price broken into 5 simple payments.

SWATCH Group Powerhouses

Tissot Heritage Navigator Automatic 160th Anniversary COSC

Tissot Heritage Navigator Automatic 160th Anniversary COSC

Any list focused on the entry level luxury segment would be hard pressed to look past the SWATCH group. With so many brands competing for this same position within the group there is no shortage of great examples. The first we will look at comes from Tissot.

The Heritage Navigator Automatic 160th Anniversary COSC is a historically accurate timepiece with a design that will make you stop and do a double take. Their unique display of popular locations around the world are a fun way to help track the time for your favorite destination, or just somewhere with the same time zone.

The 43mm case, COSC Certified ETA 2893-3, and sapphire crystal all feel familiar, but the execution helps this watch stand out from other watches with similar capabilities. With this watch being a limited-edition it may be one of the harder watches to locate, but at just under the $2000 budget, you’re hard work will be rewarded.

Hamilton Aviation X Wind Auto Chronograph

Hamilton Aviation X Wind Auto Chronograph

If you’re a fan of the classic Breitling Navitimer, but can’t stomach the idea of dropping the $6-$8k necessary to make one yours, Hamilton may have a solution for you. This solution comes in the form of their Aviation X Wind Auto Chronograph.

The watch features an automatic chronograph thanks to the ETA Built H-21 movement with an extended 60-hour power reserve and even features a bezel with a drift angle calculator (just don’t ask me how to use it). I am sure there are more effective ways to calculate this while actually flying, but damn if that won’t be fun to show off to anyone unlucky enough to strike up a conversation with you.

The watch is an absolute monster at 44mm with crowns on both sides, but given the complications provided, the size is justified. At the roughly $1600 price mark that this watch occupies you are lucky to find a Swiss chronograph at all, let alone one with this many features and bezel party tricks.

Under the Radar Modern Tool Watches

Fortis Flieger F-41 Automatic on Aviator Strap

Fortis Flieger F-41 Automatic on Aviator Strap

With this great example from Fortis, we are again carrying on with the flieger trend, but getting a very different example of the aesthetic. Where Laco and Stowa, both present options steeped in historical design, the Fortis Flieger F-41 came to the party decked out in all the latest fashions.

The hallmarks of a flieger are there, but there is a modern look that helps to separate this watch from the pack. This watch didn’t just show up to the party dressed to impress, he also has a fun party trick to show off, and that is the bi-directional rotating 12-hour bezel, allowing you to measure another time zone. The watch comes in a 41mm stainless steel case and is powered by UW-30 based on the Sellita SW-200.

The addition of an impressive 200m of water resistance, help make this pilot watch capable of almost any task you throw at it, whether you are in the air or the sea. The Fleiger F-41 by Fortis is going to burn through almost all of you $2k budget, but with versatility like this, it might be the only watch that you’ll ever need.

Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic AL-525NN4S4

Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic AL-525NN4S4

When reviewing Swiss entry level luxury brands, there are few brands that get left out of the conversation as much as Alpina. Another history dating back to the late 1800’s with as much hype for their brand over the last nearly 140 years as Rolex receives in a day, I just don’t get it.

They may just get lost in the shuffle of the Swiss entry level luxury segment, but they have the ability to produce some really eye-catching pieces. The Startimer Pilot Automatic is a great example of this ability. It has a typical pilot watch case shape at 44mm, comes powered by a AL-525 automatic movement and is protected by a sapphire crystal.

Although sounding rather typical for this list, what helps to give this watch some personality is their use of a rose gold case. Sure at roughly $1500, the case is not solid gold, but the watch still has a very commanding presence. If your heart is set on a IWC Big Pilot, but your bank account isn’t having having it, this Alpina might be exactly what you need.

Muhle Glashutte Terrasport II M1-37-47-MB

Muhle Glashutte Terrasport II M1-37-47-MB

There are very few brands with histories that date back to the 1800’s, that manage to sneak up on us watch enthusiasts. Muhle Glashutte may be the best example of this occurring over the last several years. Despite seeming to pop out of nowhere, they have a unique aesthetic and history dating back to 1868.

The Terrasport II M1-37-47 is a fleiger watch through and through, sharing much of its identity with the history laden examples from Stowa and Laco. What helps to separate this watch for me is their use of a cream dial. It’s a feature you don’t often find on flieger style watches and their execution of this dial is absolutely flawless.

Coming in with a 40mm stainless steel case, Sellita SW-200-1 movement, and sapphire crystal and you have an excellent everyday option that offers a different look to the original design. The 5-link stainless steel bracelet also helps in giving this watch more of an everyday feel, while the roughly $1800 price allows you the budget to squeeze in a nice leather strap to compliment the look.

The German Twins

Damasko DS30 Green

Damasko DS30 Green

Much like Muhle Glashutte, Damasko is a watch brand that often slips under the radar. Most commonly compared to Sinn, a brand we will get to shortly, Damasko is a German watch brand that’s no nonsense tool watch designs have a cult following.

The entry level DS30 may miss out on some of the over engineered technology that goes into their higher end models, but the design is spot on. While this watch toes the line between field watch and pilot watch, I am going to use my creative control to label this exclusively as a pilot’s watch. It’s a perfect size at 39mm and the dial is as legible as a dial can be.

This watch comes paired with the ETA 2824 and sapphire crystal, but what really does it for me is the pop of color. You have your choice with this model, but the green is my favorite. This is a very fun design for a brand that doesn’t usually play in that space. If you’re looking for a fun everyday watch that won’t break the bank at around $1300, you’d be hard pressed to beat this model from Damasko, regardless of which category you get to check off your watch list.

Sinn 104 St Sa I W

Sinn 104 St Sa I W

If aviation inspired watches are your thing, Sinn is your brand. Like Damasko, Sinn watches are often over engineered and lean heavily into the tool side of the watch market. The Sinn 104 is one of their most popular models in their lineup despite not utilizing many of the technologies that have helped to separate them from other tool watch manufacturers.

When I was first introduced to this watch my novice brain fully recognized this design as a dive watch. And a damn good one at that! This watch is a little bit different though, the countdown bezel helps to differentiate this watch from your typical dive style bezel, while still maintaining a universally loved aesthetic.

The Sinn 104 features a 41mm case and is powered by a modified Sellita SW220-1 movement. What really makes this watch stand out to me is the crisp white dial. When paired with the precise syringe hands, this dial is almost perfection. At roughly $1500 almost perfection is not a phrase I get to throw around too often.

Independent Pilot Watches

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date 41mm

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date 41mm

When researching value packed entry level luxury watches, it’s impossible to not come across the independently owned powerhouse known as Oris. In many ways, they are the SWATCH group brand watch that broke free, and because of that and their attention to the enthusiast market, they are universally loved.

One collection of theirs that is overshadowed a bit by their dive watch collections is that of the ProPilot. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot 41mm delivers a lot of what makes Oris such a favorite among enthusiasts. The timeless design, 41mm stainless steel case, and Sellita SW220-1 movement help to make this watch an excellent selection as an everyday watch.

It is the vivid blue sun burst dial and slanted knurling on the bezel that allow this watch to stand out from the competition. If a modern interpretation of a classic design is what you’re looking for, Oris will provide as much bang for buck as any watch brand at right around $1900.

Christopher Ward C65 Cranwell Series 2

Christopher Ward C65 Cranwell Series 2

Another brand synonymous with packing a lot of horological punch per dollar is that of Christopher Ward. Many of their designs are heavily inspired by classic examples, but there are not many brands that can execute at the level they do for the price they are asking. The C65 Cranwell Series 2 is a great example of this ethos.

They have been heavily inspired by many of the examples already on this list such as the Stowa and the Laco, but their execution appears to be a more modern take. The watch features a compact 38mm size, COSC certified SW200-1, and sapphire crystal. The large crown and cream colored luminova help to give this piece the appearance of a watch that has already stood the test of time.

Of all of the watches listed today, this is the first example of a watch that looks at home on the stainless steel bracelet as opposed to a leather strap, as pilot watches are often accompanied. Coming in at around $1300, you could afford to purchase several straps and really put that opinion to the test.

GMT Options

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT Z09403

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT Z09403

One of the classic complications associated with aviation is that of the GMT. Although our budget would be absolutely decimated by the most famous example of this in the Rolex GMT, there are still several value packed options delivering this great feature. First of these brands is Zodiac, the fun small batch microbrand operating under free creative control but owned by the Fossil Group.

This financial stability afforded by Fossil allows Zodiac to take a lot of fun risks and create watches with enthusiasts in mind. One great example of this is their recreation of their historical Super Sea Wolf GMT line. The watch itself stays faithful to the original with a 40mm case, bi-directional rotating bezel and classic dive watch aesthetic.

The sapphire crystal, modern ETA 2893-2, and choice of colors help modernize this watch in a really fun way. Modern day Zodiac is all about fun color options and allowing the owner to find a watch as unique as their own personal style. Coming in at just under $1800 it is easy to see why these watches fly off the shelf whenever a new color way is released.

Yema Flygraf French Air & Space Force GMT Steel Limited Edition

Yema Flygraf French Air & Space Force GMT Steel Limited Edition

Over the last few years the micro-brand watch scene has been flooded by “zombie” brands. These once defunct brands have found new ownership and a new lease on life while being able to leverage their heritage and historical archives.

The verdict is still out on how enthusiasts feel about this trend overall, but when done well, the finished products have impressed even them most cynical of collectors. Take for example, Yema, this victim of the quartz-crisis has stormed back and been able to leverage their relationship with the French Military to strengthen their legitimacy as a watchmaker. The Flygraf French Air & Space Force GMT is a great example of this leverage yielding excellent results.

The watch features a 39mm stainless steel case, in-house Yema3000 GMT movement, and sapphire crystal. The details on this watch are heavily influenced by the French Air and Space Force collaboration, including the unique crown inlay. The watch carries with it a lot of the features we would expect to see on an entry level luxury watch, but the modest price of roughly $1200 reminds us that this watch is very much a micro-brand.

Monta Atlas GMT

Monta Atlas GMT

There are few micro brands that have been able to cross into mainstream watchmaking quite like Monta. Their focus on quality and design have helped elevate them above their competition and their Atlas GMT is no exception to this.

The watch comes in at a great size of 38.5mm and features a modified Sellita 330 GMT movement. What really separates this watch however, is their attention to detail and overall finishing. When you feel this watch in your hand the just under $2000 price not only seems justified but feels like an absolute bargain. The beautiful blue dial and stainless steel bracelet with flawless on-the-fly micro-adjust help to take this watch to the next level.

Monta is able to offer an everyday watch with practical complications and features at a price that the luxury Swiss watchmakers simply can’t compete at. It is no wonder to see why they have been able to draw some mainstream collectors over to the micro brand dark side (or away from the dark side depending on how you look at it).

Conclusion

So, there you have it! We have journeyed through 15 different watchmakers and watches to help give you 15 of the best pilot watches under $2000. This is in no way a definitive list as several of these manufacturers could have their own list, but I hope it introduced you to some options you may not have thought of before.

Admittedly, pilot watches were never a genre that spoke to me directly, but after seeing some of the options out there I might be a full-on believer, a changed man so it seems. Perhaps that’s the fun, or the danger, in reading lists like this. At the end of the day knowledge is power, but with great power comes great responsibility. For me, that great responsibility usually ends in me sleeping on the couch, but maybe it will be with a new pilot watch adorning my wrist!

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