The $2K Watch?

A very common question that I receive in my Instagram ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions is around watches.  Some very common questions:

  • What’s a good watch under $1000/$2000/$3000?
  • What do you think about (brand) watches?  …specifically – a brand that is selling watching is that $1000-$3000 price point that *isn’t* a Rolex/Omega
  • When will watch prices come down again?

You get it.  A lot of you are ready to make the jump to a luxury watch, but the traditional Rolex/Omegas/Etc have all seen a massive price hike that hurts their attainability.  There are a lot of factors that are driving those prices higher, most of which we’ve talked about here quite a bit.

The current economy has created a bit of a conundrum, and I’m working to make sense of it.  One of my best friends wears a Rolex GMT Master that he bought ~12 years ago for $4500.  Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find one for under $15K.  He wears it every day and is the kind of guy that could care less what it’s worth.

We aren’t in that world anymore.  At this point, I doubt that we’ll ever go back.  I do believe that we’ll either head towards or into a recession relatively soon and coupled with rising interest rates, I believe we’ll see the brakes pumped on ‘value’.  I think you’ll see higher unemployment as companies look to right-size, which *should* flood the market with luxury/want items (watches, boats, second homes, etc.).  All those things folks bought when money was cheap.

However, I don’t believe this will cause any sort of dramatic drop in prices – especially in the watch market.  I think you’ll see a 10-20% dip, but it’ll plateau there for quite some time.  This is one man’s opinion, but using it as a baseline, let’s talk about answering those questions at the top of the article.

As of today, the least expensive used Rolex you’ll find is a Datejust.  The floor on those watches is roughly $7K, so double or triple the budget of the folks asking the questions above.  By no means am I smarter than the product folks at Rolex, but I’ve got to believe they are aware of the gap in their product portfolio.  I absolutely believe that Rolex should produce a watch at the $2750-$3500 level that is a great entry-level watch for younger professionals.  The Rolex name wouldn’t suffer, and my guess is that they’d move quite a few of them.

Otherwise, there are some great options at that price point.  From my perspective, for guys looking for an everyday wearer that works in 80% of situations, here is where I’d turn my attention:

Bell and Ross BR123 GMT:  A fantastic daily driver for the guy who’s not really into the big metal diver watches, or is setting up to buy the Rolex later on down the road.  The ~$2200 price tag is very digestible.

Omega Seamaster:  This would be my absolute go-to as an 80% watch.  It’s a FANTASTIC-looking diver that wears well in almost every situation.  A good used one of these will run ~$2500, which is 100% worth it.

Tag Heuer Monaco:  A dressy watch, but a really cool dressy watch.  Probably not an 80% wearer, but if you are a guy that wears a tie a lot, or spends time on the formal circuit, this is a good move.  The $2K price tag is a good value for this piece.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra:  A very suitable alternative to the Datejust, the Aqua Terra will run you $2500.  It will become an heirloom piece that you’ll pass on.

Breitling SuperOcean:  Breitling doesn’t get a ton of love, as a lot of their designs are what I’d refer to as ‘busy’.  However, the SuperOcean is a very handsome diver that is built like a tank.  Roughly the same size and weight as the Seamaster, this one is a good choice for an 80% wearer.

What did I miss?

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19 Comments

  1. SMB
    05/24/2022 / 3:16 PM

    An interesting take and thank you for sharing. Regarding a Rolex at less than $3500 I do not think this will ever happen. That is what Tudor is for and you can find some great Tudors used at that price point. The older Seamaster 300Ms and Aqua Terras are fantastic watches as well. I would also suggest NOMOS and the Seiko SPB143 or an Alpinist.

    For me though it was all about getting the watch that I wanted and I set the budget aside. I knew I wanted an Explorer and found one at a reasonable price right as the market was heating up. For me it was a buy once, cry once moment and over a year later I still love it.

    • EMS
      05/24/2022 / 4:10 PM

      Came here to say this. Spot on.

  2. WLQ
    05/24/2022 / 3:24 PM

    Rolex already makes watches for the sub $5000 market, they’re sold as Tudor. Tudor was created specifically to fill this place in the market. Rolex has no interest in how many units they can move, they never have. Rolex is far more concerned with brand identity, prestige and perception, thus the reason for selling a cheaper watch without sacrificing your brand capital. Tudor only in the last decade has truly emerged as their own luxury brand with a unique identity. In fact, until the release of the black bay series Tudor’s most influential models weren’t really marketed as unique time pieces, rather, a lower cost high quality alternative to Rolex.

    I think the issue now is Tudor has had so much success that they’re slowly losing touch with their roots as Rolex’s entry level time piece with black bays seeing strong secondary market value.

  3. TSH
    05/24/2022 / 4:11 PM

    Sinn is a fantastic option at this price point as well. I wear my 104 every day

  4. B
    05/24/2022 / 5:47 PM

    I have worn an Alpina Seastrong 300 for several years and could not be happier. Excellent Swiss automatic sport watches in the $1k-$3k range from an old and independent brand. It’s different, without being strange or offbeat.

  5. RYL
    05/24/2022 / 6:26 PM

    Farer is a relatively new brand, but they have some fantastic options in the sub $2k category. The Lander IV GMT has a blue/green dial that looks awesome!

  6. HL
    05/25/2022 / 5:58 AM

    Rolex and only a Rolex will check that box for people who have their eyes set on one, so save until you find the one you want. Older Datejust, OPs, Explorer I 36&39mm and Older Explorer II are the only ones that are right at or under 10K. Depends on the person but a luxury watch doesn’t just mean Rolex, AP, Patek, Panerai, Cartier, Jacob & Co, etc. Someone wanted to argue on a watch blog that Tudor is not a luxury brand. A Luxury is defined as : the state of great comfort and extravagant living. So if a $25 dollar watch gives someone a feeling of luxury then that’s great and should be accepted. The only thing I would also advise to someone who does want to spend about $1000-$3000 is to do some research if they do NOT plan to keep that watch forever. A few of the models listed above will always trade/sell for less than they will pay and if they want to move towards a Rolex – get complete sets of models that will retain value

  7. GMD
    05/25/2022 / 9:58 AM

    The 10-20% dip in Rolex prices in the secondary market is already happening, but only on prices above $10k. Anything below that and there’s been little change. New subs on the secondary market have come down about $1k from 2 months ago. Higher priced models have come down 20% and when you get into the precious metal models or jeweled faces those have come down even 30%. Expect little to no change on OPs and Datejusts unless we hit a really bad recession, then deals may be found. Pricing on new Rolexs from ADs isn’t going down ever. If that’s your desire, get on a wait list from an established AD.

    As far as “entry level” Rolex, as SMB stated above, that’s exactly why there’s Tudo – still decent watches. New Omegas can be had at discounted pricing. The new Seamaster 300 Professional and Aqua Terras are actually horologically superior now to Rolex (Subs and OPs) and can be easily had, assuming it’s in your budget.

  8. Trip
    05/25/2022 / 10:07 AM

    My suggestions would be Tudor Black Bay 36, Omega Aqua Terra, Doxa if you want a dive watch. The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver re-issue is awesome, too, if you’re OK with a lesser-known brand. I think you can also get a Cartier Solo Tank in that price range as well, though I’m not sure I’d want that to be my first/only watch.

  9. Wheels
    05/25/2022 / 11:38 AM

    Although I don’t cheer for a recession, I would love to see the OPs come down in the secondary market. Such a beautiful, understated watch.

    Does anyone have thoughts or experience with ORIS timepieces? I rarely see them mentioned and their watches land around the $2k mark or just above depending on model.

    • ABW
      05/25/2022 / 11:47 AM

      I used to pay attention to the watch world a bunch and /r/watches on reddit talked highly over Oris overall.

    • HL
      05/25/2022 / 12:00 PM

      I have an Oris Heritage 65 Deauville – I like the colorway and wear it on the beach. The Heritage 65’s run from like 800-1200 for a regular one and a special edition/bronze will run you 1500-2500 (about)

      • Wheels
        05/25/2022 / 1:39 PM

        That’s a really interesting timepiece. It’s a nice departure from the usual water sport collections and I imagine it looks great on a lot of different straps.

        • Trip
          05/25/2022 / 5:26 PM

          The best Divers 65 was the Hodinkee limited edition with the gray dial and “ghost” bezel https://limited.hodinkee.com/oris/ Pretty expensive now on the secondary market.

          • HL
            05/26/2022 / 5:16 AM

            Only think issue I personally didn’t like with both of the 65’s Hodinkee did was make them hand wound and take away the Auto movement. Oris X Topper made a more exclusive 65 with only 165 produced but it was 42mm and I prefer the 40mm like the Hodinkee and Heritage models. Almost need to give and take what you can. Lots of models and colorways to choose from though.

  10. Wesson
    05/26/2022 / 1:27 PM

    At 2k you can get a new Longines Spirit – a chronometer with 100m water resistance. A piece from a storied watchmaker that’s perfect for everyday wear. Shocked no one’s mentioned them yet.

  11. Jackstraw
    05/27/2022 / 6:50 PM

    Capetown Diamond is a great site for pre-owned watches and located in Roswell, GA, https://www.capetownstore.com/

    Btw, I’m a customer, not in any way affiliated with this business,

  12. AlabamaSAE
    06/01/2022 / 1:52 AM

    rolex pepsi gmt….sOoOo fratt, lol

    Phi Alpha!

  13. Christian Mier
    06/03/2022 / 7:47 PM

    I’ll definitely have to check those watches out! The starting point for a Rolex is definitely too high for a daily user! At least for me anyway!

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