Looking back: some of the best budget watches of 2023

Looking back: some of the best budget watches of 2023

Many high-end watch brands produce some truly mind-bending timepieces every year, which is well and good, as these represent the high bar that all brands aspire to.  But the real bread and butter of the watch industry are not those high-end offerings with stratospheric, nosebleed prices but everything else in the middle and below with watches that are affectionately known as the budget watch.

Now, watch brands introduce attractive and affordable watches every year, and 2023 was no different.  In fact, there seemed to be more of them with many offering something for watch lovers of every taste and budget.  This made choosing just a few quite the challenge.

Our solution?  Limit our selections to above $100.00 but with a cap at $1,500.00.  We also kept our selections to watches that specifically set our hearts aflutter.  So without further ado, here our list of SOME of the best budget watches of 2023.


Ocean Timer Olive

This year, the cult-loved Parisian micro-label debuted the Hermétique Tourer, a triumph of pared-down, elegant design despite it being a tool watch.  That’s right, this downright fashionable and very in-the-now timepiece is its own kind of Rolex Explorer… without the baggage of directly aping the Rolex Explorer despite its 3-6-9-12 dial layout.  Instead, the Tourer succeeds on the strength of its perfectly balanced supporting elements like a double-dome sapphire crystal, a classically sized 37mm steel case, and four dial colors to choose from that are just perfect for everyday “exploring.”


Matterhorn Blue Swiss Made Automatic Bracelet

Just like the “telephone timers” from the 1930s, the Brew Metric Chronograph has specific chronograph markers to time the perfect espresso shot.  It also has a very '80s motorsport-inspired case, massive retro vibes, a very in-the-now integrated bracelet design, and a meca-quartz movement making it a very practical chronograph.  And even if you already have every type of watch in your collection (pilot’s, diver’s, field, etc.), wouldn’t it be refreshing to have something that is its very own kind?


Aquadiver Automatic

Taking the format of their own well-loved “Devil Diver” and running with it, Bulova gives us another value-packed travel watch, one that marries the dive and GMT aesthetic in a manner not unlike the Black Bay GMT but costing less than $1,500.  Best of all, Bulova has delivered a full "flyer" GMT with local jumping functionality. This, including the attention to detail in the 70s-inspired design, makes this a real no-brainer of a choice.



Talk about fashion-forward, Bulova’s latest homage to Frank Sinatra and his “pack” of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin is not only one stylish and elegant looking watch but is also a limited edition.  The Bulova Rat Pack hits the bullseye with a subtle vinyl-textured dial, a gold chapter ring, a timelessly styled silver-toned stainless-steel case, and a Miyota self-winding movement.  And to make an actual connection between watchmaker and legendary crooner, Sinatra had a television program called the Frank Sinatra Show in the late 1950s, and it was sponsored by… surprise, surprise, Bulova.



The Lunar Pilot is the only watch in the world that isn’t the Omega Speedmaster that has the bona fide pedigree of having been officially worn on the moon.   That was in 1971, and last year, Bulova downsized the critically bulky and oversized 45mm behemoth back to its original 43.5mm size.  Most significantly, Bulova retained its very-real provenance and very cool NASA-inspired tool-watch design.  This made the Bulova Lunar Pilot even more desirable than ever.

CERTINA DS-7 POWERMATIC 80 ($740.00 - $860.00 depending on model)


An alternative to Tissot’s almighty PRX, the DS-7 from sister brand Certina also jumps onto the 1970’s integrated-bracelet bandwagon that has been all the rage these past few years.  Inspired by an actual piece from its back catalog, the DS-7 sports a middle-ground 39mm steel case in a number of variants with small differences not limited to just dial color that are both modern and traditional.  And did we mention those dials?  Check out the turquoise and green variants with sunray finish, they’re both to die for.



Declared “in-vogue and summer ready,” the Citizen Tsuyosa (Japanese for strength) features a variety of colorful dial configurations (including robin’s egg blue, and turquoise) within a 40mm steel case, a four o’clock crown, an integrated steel bracelet, and an in-house mechanical movement.  What more could you possibly want from an in-style watch that you can use anywhere and anytime?  A sub $500 price tag that’s what.



One of the most important pieces of equipment for any field expedition is a reliable compass, to which Hamilton dutifully complies with in their latest field watch.  Beautifully utilitarian, the new Khaki Field Expedition is the brand’s most robust field watch yet and is offered in 37mm or 41mm both with the addition of a compass bezel.  Simpler, yet more distinctive, the Expedition features a clean but easy-to-read dial with bold and highly contrasting Arabic numerals and an outer seconds track, which it combines this with rugged good looks, all wrapped up in a timeless execution.


Matternhorn black dial black leather

This simple, time-only field watch was inspired by the same Nivada’s mid-century timepiece that accompanied Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1955/56 expedition to the South Pole.  Striking for its classic 3-6-9 explorer-style dial similar to that “other” famous exploration watch, the Super Antarctic never-the-less sets itself apart with its highly-wearable and highly polished 38mm steel case, the refined vintage-styled font for the Arabic numerals, its matte black dial with fauxtina lume, and its wonderfully domed sapphire crystal, all of which lead to a home run for the Super Antarctic.

Of particular note is the gold medallion commemorating the Geophysical Year of 1957 on the Super Atlantic’s caseback.  It signifies the watch’s role as the official timekeeper of the American Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 Task Force (a truly superb name for a task force) which helped establish a permanent research base in Antarctica as part of that year’s events.  


Venice multiphase brown leather

True, this version of the Bambino has been around for a while, but there’s no denying that it long been one of the best propositions in affordable automatic watches, and in 2023 it got an update no one knew they actually needed with a new crop of colorful dials (including salmon, this year’s tastiest flavor).  This made the Orient Bambino even more irresistible.  



The German name synonymous with small kitchen appliances and electric razors, once again collaborates with British fashion and home ware designer Paul Smith to create 2 limited-edition masterpieces that push the boundaries of minimalism and sophistication.  And in a first for the German product designer both are driven by Swiss ETA movements.

The first watch is a two hander with a small seconds and date within a matte silver case, while watch number 2 is striking in a matte gunmetal case.  And even if the differences between the two are subtle with each featuring the same profile, the same design language, and the same minimalist aesthetic that the German brand is known for the resulting watches are just… well, exceptional.  


Retro drive chrono

With its 1950s looks, this aviator’s watch looks like it had just come straight from a cockpit flown in the Korean War…, which is exactly what inspired its creation.  The A-2 was designed with USAF triple-Ace pilot Bud Anderson having a hand in its creation.  Built on the A-17 Mil Spec (the successor to the WW2 A-11 Spec), the A-2 was upgraded to 21st century standards for better timekeeping and “increased readiness,” and is perfect for everyday use in the… well, field.

SEIKO 5 SPORTS SRPK31K1 ($244.00)


Yes, yes, the Seiko 5 Sports has been around for some years now but last year, the Japanese watchmaker tweaked its case size from 42mm down to an even more manageable 38mm, a real big deal in watch terms, making it even more accessible to more people.  This means, the Seiko 5 continues to be a great, versatile sports watch and a true all-rounder with 100m of water resistance, but now in a very wearable size.