We rarely find ourselves using the words “Swiss watch” and “affordable” in the same sentence. After all, Swiss watches are known around the world for their high-end craftsmanship, their style, and of course, their cost.
And the high cost of luxury Swiss watches is definitely part of the allure – I mean think about it, nothing says you’ve “made it” quite like getting your first Rolex.
Fortunately, there’s good news for the rest of us who aren’t quite ready to drop 5-figures on a timepiece… there are some great affordable Swiss brands out there.
You just have to know where to look.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss the best affordable Swiss watch brands out there. After reading, you’ll be ready to find a great timepiece that matches your budget and style.
Why Are Swiss Watches So Expensive Anyway?
Switzerland’s history with clocks and timepieces goes way back, we’re talking centuries here. Over the years, Swiss watchmakers gained a reputation for designing and building the most advanced timekeepers around.
It started back in the 1500’s when a lot of skilled French watchmakers migrated to Switzerland to escape the violence of the French Wars of Religion.
Switzerland has always had a reputation for staying neutral during times of war, so it made for a nice safe place for these skilled workers to retreat to.
Turns out a lot of these watchmakers found their way to Geneva, which continues to be the capital of the horological world today.
Over the years, Swiss watchmakers continued to lead the world when it came to watch design and technology (as they continue to do today).
Which I guess, is the long way of saying that Swiss watches are so expensive today because, well, they’re the best. That, and they have the history to back it up.
History aside though, what objectively makes a Swiss watch more valuable?
Well, that boils down to a few factors:
A watch’s movement is the motor that powers it. The movement is also one of the biggest factors that contributes to a watch’s cost.
Right off the bat, mechanical watches are usually more expensive than quartz watches because it takes more internal components to make a mechanical movement operate.
Keep in mind there aren’t any batteries in mechanical watches, all complications are powered by winding a spring and slowly releasing that stored power through the use of gears and many many other tiny parts.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot longer to design and build all of these moving parts.
And the more man hours a company invests into a product, the more expensive that product is going to be.
Most luxury watch brands design and build their own movements in house, meaning they don’t outsource to a cheaper manufacturer that mass produces movements.
These in house designed movements are usually more technically advanced, more accurate, and more expensive.
Mechanical watches with advanced movements are going to cost more due to their movements alone, but the materials that are used to build the watch also play a big role in the overall cost/value of a watch.
Higher-end Swiss watches often use precious metals in their design- gold, platinum, and titanium are often found in the cases and dials of luxury timepieces.
It’s not uncommon to find jewels (like diamonds or emeralds) on luxury watches as well, which is obviously gonna drive up cost.
Even the type of crystal used will affect price. High-end watches usually come with crystals made out of sapphire, which is the second most scratch resistant material on the planet (behind diamond).
Now, we’re also seeing watches made out of ceramic (which are lighter and more scratch resistant than steel), which will also increase overall price.
It makes sense that using more expensive materials would increase the asking price of a Swiss watch. But brand recognition alone will also play a big part.
Certain brands have become more sought after than others for their history, their reputation, and their notoriety.
After all, a watch is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. And when people are willing to pay boatloads of cash for a Rolex or a Patek Philippe, it turns these brands into signs of luxury and wealth.
Which makes them even more sought after, as the vicious cycle of supply and demand continues to roll on.
Brand name plays a big part in a watch’s worth, but to be fair, most of these brands have earned their reputations through years of fine craftsmanship.
The 6 Best Affordable Swiss Watch Brands For Men
Longines is a great Swiss brand that’s been around since 1832. This brand has a great selection of dress watches and chronographs, as well as some classic diving watches.
This is a smart brand to consider if you’re looking for the look of luxury without the actual cost.
Most Longines timepieces will cost ya under $2000, although they do have a few that break the $3000 mark. That said, they still have plenty of options that are under $1000 as well.
For the price, you should expect automatic mechanical movements, sapphire crystals, and stainless steel cases.
My personal favorite of Longines lineup currently, is their Master Collection Moonphase 42 mm Silver Chronograph– I love the silver dial and brown crocodile leather band combo.
This chronograph also comes with an automatic movement and a sapphire crystal. The case is 42 mm and stainless steel, with a transparent back so you can see the movement in action.
I also like the touch of color from the moon phase indicator.
If you’re looking for a watch that looks like it should cost a lot more than it does, Longines is a good brand to explore. They have some very elegant timepieces in their lineup.
Tissot is another Swiss watch brand that can trace its roots all the way back to the 1850’s. This is one of the most affordable Swiss brands in, uh, Switzerland.
I was first introduced to this brand a few years ago when I was looking for a Christmas present for my brother. I came upon one of their blue dial watches that was like $300 and my brother loved it (and still wears it to this day).
Tissot is one of the rare brands that offers automatic movements and sapphire crystals for well under $500. They even have titanium watches (like the T-Classic pictured above) that are priced well under $1000.
And they come with a huge lineup of watches in all styles.
I like their dress watches and chronographs the best- they come in a variety of styles, most of which are very elegant and dapper. I also like that they offer a nice selection of red and blue dialed watches.
Tissot has become one of the most popular brands in its price range and for good reason- they look great and cost less than most other brands of this quality.
If you’re looking for a Swiss watch in the $200-$300 range, Tissot is the best place to start.
The Swiss brand Alpina has been around since 1883, when a group of Swiss watchmakers came together with a single goal in mind- to more efficiently create superior movements and watches.
The idea of watchmakers working together as a union to reduce costs makes a lot of sense. This group, known as the “Alpinists”, soon started developing their own in-house movements and the Alpina name began to earn its own reputation for high standards.
Alpina continues to be a popular brand because they offer great looking watches that are a lot more affordable than most Swiss brands.
Their current lineup consists of several collections: Comtesse (dressier look), Seastrong (diving watches), Startime (pilot’s watches), Alpiner (my personal favorite, sportier watches).
I’ve never seen an Alpina watch that breaks the $2k mark, with most of their products falling between $500-$1500.
I’m especially fond of their Alpiner 4 (image above) which comes with an automatic movement, a scratch resistance sapphire crystal, and a dark brown leather band.
I really like Alpina’a triangle logo too, which is supposed to be the Matterhorn, by the way.
If you’re looking for a classic Swiss timepiece that won’t break your budget, Alpina is a good place to start.
Unlike all the other brands on this list so far, Hamilton actually started as an American watch company. They started putting out their first watches back in 1893.
Hamilton was an American company all the way until the late 1960’s, at which time they were sold a few times and ended up as a Swiss brand.
Now, they’ve part of the largest watch group in the world- the Swatch Group.
Hamilton’s watch’s played an important role during WWII, when the company only provided watches for the military. This history is still seen today, with many of their most popular models being military based.
Their Khaki Aviation pilot’s watches and Khaki Field military watches are amongst their most well-known. Both are designed after the pilots and field watches that where used during the war.
Hamilton’s military watches work well for people looking for those, but personally I prefer their Jazzmasters collection, which consists of more formal looking timepieces, as well as several chronographs.
With Hamilton, you can get automatic movements and sapphire crystals for well under $1000.
I think this is one of those brands that provide watches that look like they cost a lot more than they do. If you do end up going with a Hamilton, your friends and family may be asking how you could afford your new watch…your secret is safe with me.
Like most Swiss watch brands, Oris can also trace its history back well over 100 years. This brand, named after a small Swiss brook, started back in 1903 and has been going strong ever since.
Oris offers a handful of collections, including their Culture, Aviation, and Motor Sports lineups. Personally, I think it’s their Diving collection that stands out the most though.
Not only does Oris offer a ton of great looking diving watches to choose from, but they come in a lot of color and band combinations, making it easy for everyone to find one that fits their style.
Oris specializes in mechanical watches, with most of their timepieces coming with automatic movements and sapphire crystals.
Their diving watches, like the one pictured above, come well equipped with everything a true diver needs. We’re talking uni-directional bezels, stainless steel cases, and water resistance of 500 m.
Price wise, most Oris watches will cost you between $1000-$2000, although you can find some that are a little cheaper.
If you’re looking for a great looking mechanical diving watch, Oris is a good brand to consider.
Finishing our list off is a Swiss brand you may’ve heard of before, although you might now them for something other than watches.
Victorinox is the same company that developed the Swiss Army Knife, which as the name implies, was really used by the Swiss armed forces starting back in the late 1800’s.
Even though their Swiss Army Knife is still the most famous product in their lineup, their watches are gaining fame in their own right.
Victorinox offers some of the most affordable Swiss watches around, with most costing only a few hundred bucks.
They offer plenty of options with both quartz and mechanical movements. Their lineup consists of chronographs, pilot’s watches, diving watches, and dress watches alike.
I like their all black I.N.O.X. Carbon Black Dial watch that comes with a carbon fiber case, an automatic movement, and a sapphire crystal.
The carbon fiber case makes for a lightweight durable watch that’s a little different than most, especially in this price range (sale price just under $700 on Watchmaxx).
If you’re looking for a very affordable Swiss watch, Victorinox is a brand worth investigating. An added bonus: you get a small pocket knife with most purchases.
Well, there ya have it. I think the 6 watches listed above are great proof that there are plenty of affordable Swiss watch brands out there.
Swiss watches have become so sought after over the years because of their combination of history and expertise. When it comes to mechanical timepieces there’s really no denying that Swiss is the way to go.
And you know what they say- you get what you pay for.
That old saying usually rings true, but if you know where to look, you can get some great deals when it comes to Swiss watches.
I think the brands mentioned in this article are the best places to start. When comparing watches, keep in mind the movements and the materials used- both of which should influence the price.
In the end though, it’s all about finding a watch that looks great and makes ya happy.