The Value(?) Watch Play

When it comes to watches, there is generally an insatiable desire to own a Rolex.  I get it – for the vast majority, Rolex is seen as the top of the pyramid.  The tip of the spear.  It’s an iconic brand that not only makes incredible watches, but is also VERY good at marketing and controlling supply.

Over the past couple of years, the cost of Rolexes has gone up dramatically, as money has been cheap, and demand for luxury purchases has soared.  Given the market conditions, it’s doubtful that Rolexes will ever come back down to pre-2019 prices.  They may plateau for a while, but this is the reality.  $5K Subs or GMTs don’t exist anymore.

Ask Me Anything sessions on RCS’s Instagram are fantastic.  I love hearing from all of you and hope I can impart some wisdom (or humor).  It’s also a good gauge of what’s going on.  I get a lot of questions about watches.  What to get in the $1-2K range.  The $3K range, the $5K range.  Also a lot of questions around obtaining a Rolex at some sort of discount.  As much as I wish I knew the answer, discount Rolexes aren’t a thing anymore.

If a Rolex is what you want, then save up and get one. I’m serious. Put that $4K into an online account, and make a 3-year plan to get to $10K. That will most likely land you and GMT, and the element of time will force you to commit to it. 

However, for some, that’s not in the cards, which is totally fine. There are SO MANY great, affordable options outside of a Rolex that isn’t necessarily a sacrifice. You have to change your perspective. You need to study watch brands and find one that really sparks your interest. Become an expert. I did that with Panerai back in 2012, and am now pretty obsessed with tank watches.

I know guys that are obsessed with vintage gold Omega Seamasters. They buy them for ~$400-500 used and send them off to be restored. Guys that are obsessed with numberless Swatches. It’s a more artsy approach, but they are really cool.  There is a big market for vintage military field watches. 

Here are a few watches that I’d recommend for the guys where a Rolex isn’t in the cards, or if it’s not the direction you’d like to go:

Tudor Black Bay Heritage: I have the red bezel’ed version of this, and absolutely love it.  I wear it all the time.  I recommended this watch to a number of my friends, and those that have bought it feel the same way.  The cost is ~$3900 new, so it’s an incredible value.

Omega Seamaster Railmaster: A really cool, and unique version of the iconic Seamaster.  This is a great watch to add a bunch of bands – leather, silicone, nylon, etc.  It’s a fantastic everyday watch, and attainable for about $3500.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf: A great dive watch that has a unique colorway.  Zodiac makes an incredible product, and their Super Sea Wolf watches have a ton of character.  I really like the colorful details.  You can grab this bad boy for $1500.

Bell & Ross 123 Heritage PVD: I don’t know why Bell & Ross don’t get more ‘love’ in the watch world, especially the 123 Heritage PVD.  This watch looks like a Porsche.  The blackout feel of the watch itself and the brown leather band have such a cool vibe.  It’s a fantastic everyday watch, and the $2K price tag is very digestible.

Swatch Sistem51 Hodinkee Stoplight Neon Remix: Let’s be honest, it’s a super cool watch.  It’s only $175, and will get a lot more wear than you think.  This is also a good placeholder to quench your appetite until you pull the trigger on something above.

What is your take?  Any other non-Rolex suggestions?

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20 Comments

  1. Jackstraw
    02/22/2022 / 10:47 PM

    Hamilton Khaki Field Watch and Casio G Shock Frogman come to mind as pretty good values on a couple cool watches for less than $1,000.

  2. Stephen
    02/22/2022 / 10:53 PM

    Rolex does exist on the grey market which many would argue is the real price of the watch. Most can forget about MSRP from an authorized dealer and wait lists into years, unless you agree to buy crap you don’t want to boost your status.

    Grand Seiko and Omega offer fine alternatives and Longines has been hitting it out of the park with their Spirit line lately, Tudor is also a great value. I own a Rolex DJ and it’s a fine piece but not worth what it is demanding on market today.. I also have Tudor, Longines, and even couple of watches from microband, Monta, that are great pieces,

    But none will scratch that Rolex itch if you just have to have it.

    • DCD
      02/23/2022 / 11:50 AM

      How do you like your Monta watches? I have been checking out the Ocenking and Skyquest?

      • HL
        02/23/2022 / 1:49 PM

        I had a Gen1 OceanKing and moved on from it. They are made well, Gen 1 has a 65 hr power reserve and no crown guard or bezel lume. Gen 2 has 42 hr reserve, lumed bezel, crown guards and slightly thinner. Find one used and its a great piece – new I think they are a tad overpriced for the changes they made to the Gen2.

      • Stephen
        02/23/2022 / 6:52 PM

        I like Monta a lot. I bought a now discontinued green dial Monta Triumph, kind of a dressy field watch. Monta does a good job on the details with the dial and the bracelet is great but the clasp is a bit long if you have small wrists. The do calibrate their ETA and Selitta movements very nicely so no accuracy issues even when compared with COSC watches I own. They Skyquest I own also but would have held out for traveler Gmt watch with jumping hour hand in retrospect, Those are coming out now in more affordable options with Mido, Certina. For a diver, I would seriously consider other options over the Ocean King.

    • ABW
      02/23/2022 / 11:52 AM

      I love the watch world, but the whole grey market has to be one of the most annoying things about it. With that being said, i’m thankful for it lol.

  3. Nacho
    02/23/2022 / 6:38 AM

    Doxa Sub300 is a great tool watch, lots of options and for watch geeks, you’d get that “in the know” nod. Serica makes a great everyday field watch with the 4512. I’m partial to the California dial but any of them are great. A nice nato strap for the weekend and an toffee alligator strap for the office and it’ll do you well for under $1k.

    Best GMT out there in my opinion is the Grand Seiko. Grand Seiko makes phenomenal watches and the 9R movement is incredible

  4. PowSLayer
    02/23/2022 / 7:03 AM

    Squale, Steinhart

  5. SMB
    02/23/2022 / 7:23 AM

    I have been in the hobby for more years than I care to admit. I have owned many watches from all the key brands. About a year ago I made a decision to buy my exit watch. With prices, hype, and the toxicity of the community I wanted out. I sold my Tudor and Grand Seiko and bought an Explorer. I could not be happier. I now have one watch that is extremely versatile and will last many lifetimes.

  6. NEM
    02/23/2022 / 8:32 AM

    This installment shares a good approach to the luxury watch world. All good suggestions, good variety of options. “Value” is subjective, and depends on the buyer as much as the watch. Like SMB, I’ve been in the WIS world as a collector and trusted seller on the major watch forums for nearly 20 years. I don’t think any list of watches is complete without including the Omega Speedmaster Professional. The manual wind Moon Watch, with hesalite crystal and cal.1861 movement, is an engineering marvel. Its variations can be found at decent prices if you stay within the manual Professional line. Another option to consider is the IWC Mark line. The Mk XII from 1990-93 is unassuming and features a JLC movement for around $3-3500 last I checked.

  7. HL
    02/23/2022 / 8:43 AM

    Lots of watches/brands, lots of different tastes and unknown budgets for those who are in search. I think its too hard to put a generalized list together. Someone’s grail and budget may be $500 and someone else may have $200,000 to spend. But as the watch world is aware – supply is down and demand is up for a Rolex and I would say a black Submariner is the go-to GADA when it comes to all watches. Its a rich man watch to some and a poors mans watch to others – but I would bet it would be recognized the most by those with little watch knowledge.

  8. 02/23/2022 / 11:51 AM

    Seiko, timex, G shock. Go to for college/just starting career guys.

  9. Trip
    02/23/2022 / 2:27 PM

    The Black Bay 36 is the most underrated of the Black Bays. Get one for $2K (possibly less) to scratch the Exlorer itch. I think it’s actually cooler than the current Explorers (though nowhere as good as a 1016).

    • NEM
      02/24/2022 / 8:16 AM

      I agree Trip. I bought my BB36 at Brown & Co on Peachtree in their first batch back in 2015 or whenever it came out and I still like it as much or more today. Wears a tad bigger than my 14270, but I don’t worry about it nearly as much so it gets a ton of miles.

  10. SMB
    02/23/2022 / 2:42 PM

    To add I think we need to speak abut value. Did I spend a bit more than list on my Explorer; yes. However, the value to me is that I am not chasing other watches and the value will increase over the years as I wear and enjoy it. I have rarely paid over $1000 for a watch but over the years my purchases could have bought me at least a few Rolexes. I simply decided to stop the cycle and actually by a Rolex. 🙂

  11. Poor+Man
    02/24/2022 / 9:47 AM

    Better to save and get what you actually want at a high price than to spend your money on something you didnt want at a bargain price.

  12. Matthew P.
    03/02/2022 / 2:51 PM

    Yema watches are a fantastic value buy.
    The rallygraf with panda face is a personal favorite of mine.

  13. AlabamaSAE
    03/03/2022 / 11:53 AM

    Sack up and get tha pepsi gmt bruh

    currently sitting at my desk with my 16710 on (and nothing else, brooks brothers camel hair coat slung across the back of my chair) doing lines of toot, melted macallan in my hand!

    phi alpha!

  14. Mark
    03/15/2022 / 7:18 PM

    Sinn would be my choice.

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