Someone asked me recently what the best watch they could buy was for less than £500 and I was taken aback. Firstly, I know a bit about watches, but realise that buying a watch is a very personal decision and one that should never be taken lightly when you are spending more than £200.
When it comes to it, however, there is one brand that stands out above the rest in almost all price points from £60 up to £6,000, and that is Seiko. In a world of watch variety that is never ending and strangely non-existent at the same time, Seiko delivers almost every time. The low-end quartz watches are well build, well finished and will work for decades with the occasional battery change. The Kinetic movements take a while to charge, but once there you will be looking at deadly accuracy from movements in the £300 – £500 range, and the mechanicals are as solid as can be with a heritage that is hard to beat.
Seiko’s history tends to be measured in decades and many of the recent hits are recreations of classics from the 1970’s and beyond. My SRPA21K1, above, has a retail price of £349, but that is starting to creep up quickly in the pre-owned market. It is an homage to the classic Seiko 6309, but comes with a more refined movement and finishing that most manufacturers set aside for watches above £1,000. You could buy one of these watches today, get accuracy to within 10 seconds a week and still be enjoying it in 2036. Seriously, it is that good and is a very good example of why Seiko is appreciated by the man on the street and watch collectors alike.
Seiko is Japanese and this offers a huge number of advantages over the competition. A watch does not need to be Swiss to be great and Seiko throws a ton of innovation, care and patience into each timepiece that would not be possible from any other country. Casio is similar in this respect, but concentrates more on the G-Shock look and modernism which many do not feel drawn to.
So, if you asked me what the best watch was for under £500 I would say Seiko. Under £1,000? Seiko. Under £2,000? Maybe Oris. Above £5,000? I cannot recommend Seiko because although the Grand Seikos are wonderfully finished, are nearly perfectly created from a mechanical perspective and are actually ‘better’ than Rolexes and the like, they do not hold their value at all. Then again, if you want a refined watch that will last you for decades and are not concerned about reputation, it is arguable that Seiko is best above £5,000 as well.