I’m glad to realize that choosing these three watches was difficult for me. For less than €1,000, there’s a boatload of options. Even though I’m the last one to contribute to this sub-€1K series — there were seven colleagues and their lists before me — I didn’t pick any of the watches that had already been chosen. My preferences might be a bit out of the ordinary, and one is even controversial. But investigating how I would spend the given imaginary budget was great fun.

best watches under €1,000 Yema Flygraf Flieger and Ligure Tartaruga

Finding the best watches under €1,000

Defining “best” is subjective, of course. Best for what? Well, in this case, best for me. It’s even more challenging, if not impossible, to find a watch that is the best for all occasions. But even with that in mind, watches tend to crowd each other, specifically if you want to spend that €1,000 only once. So buying one watch doesn’t mean you don’t like or want any of the others, but it might not be possible budget-wise. Watches that are not competitors at first glance become competitors in this way because you can only spend your budget once. That’s what I kept in mind when choosing; I could see myself spending money on any of the following three watches regardless of their differences.

best watches under €1,000 Yema Flygraf Flieger AAE

First pick: Yema Flygraf Flieger French Air Force

I like an uncluttered watch with a straightforward design for daily wear. Most pilot’s watches tick those boxes, so the Yema Flygraf Flieger French Air Force is also an excellent choice. If I didn’t have the first-generation Christopher Ward C65 Sandhurst in my collection, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend €990 on this Yema to fulfill the GADA role.

best watches under €1,000 Yema Flygraf Flieger AAE

The strong points for the Yema are the brand’s in-house 2000 automatic caliber and the Grade 2 titanium case and case back. We shouldn’t take a 2mm-thick double-domed sapphire crystal for granted either. The Flygraf Flieger’s specifications are sufficient and pretty basic for the rest. The case is 40mm in diameter and 100m water resistant. The Yema caliber runs for 42 hours without winding and does so adjusted to an accuracy of ±10 seconds per day.

Yema back

I love the little Armée de l’Air & de l’Espace logo on the dial, which is also hydraulically pressed in the case back. The canvas strap, specially designed for the Flygraph Flieger and manufactured in the Franche-Comté region, also features the AAE logo. A leather-coated underside enhances wearing comfort. The strap also comes with a titanium logo-signed pin buckle.

The ultra-readable pilot-type dial sports Arabic numerals. They’re beautifully printed in slight relief with a tiny steel edge. The well-known triangular marker at 12 is sandwich style and in a cream color to match the lume on the sword-shaped hands. The handset is the only thing I would have changed, perhaps for baton hands. For more information on the Flygraf Flieger French Air Force, visit the official Yema website.

Ligure Tartaruga

Second pick: Ligure Tartaruga

I expressed my appreciation for the Ligure Tartaruga last year, and I was happy to see it’s still under €1,000 in 2024. Even fitted with a stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet, its price of €950 is comfortably within our sub-€1k budget. Meanwhile, Ligure made its mark in the watch world. The brand increased its number of offerings, expanded its points of sale to 12, and worked on its online presence.


Ligure’s lineup consists of 12 watches, ranging from €795 to €1,295. There are choices of rubber straps or stainless steel bracelets, bare steel or black DLC-coated cases (and bracelets), regular three-hand Sellita movements, and an ETA-powered GMT version. I expect we’ll see some excellent additions to Ligure’s catalog in 2024.


Attentive readers may notice that the model pictured in this article isn’t an official Ligure release yet. Rather, it’s a release candidate, a one-off, or a prototype assembled per my suggestion. I don’t know precisely what Ligure will do with it, but I’m a fan of this design and wouldn’t be surprised if we found it in the brand’s catalog later. To see the watches in the current catalog, have a look at Ligure’s official website.


Third pick: Apple Watch Series 9

And here we are, at a watch that isn’t even a watch in my book and is often considered “the one that shouldn’t be mentioned.” But Apple named this device a watch, and with that, it became the best-selling wristwatch in the world by far. Because the Apple Watch is worn on the wrist and priced within our budget of €1,000, I’m afraid it’s a fierce competitor in this league.

We can’t deny that the Apple Watch takes the wrist space of many people who would otherwise have worn a genuine wristwatch or no watch at all. Since the Apple Watch debuted in 2015, only a few people (like me) have worn an Apple Watch in addition to a regular watch. And to put it bluntly, why should we avoid the Apple Watch when any G-Shock is widely accepted? I don’t want to compare the Apple Watch directly with a G-Shock, but they’re both electronic devices and have little to do with traditional watchmaking.

Apple Watch 9

Also, I won’t deny that the Apple Watch sets a high standard product-wise. It’s made well and feels like a quality product. The finishing tolerances are second to none. Specifically, when it comes to straps and bracelets, many European watch manufacturers can learn something from Apple. Of course, in terms of functionality, it’s bound to Apple’s hemisphere, making the Apple Watch unsuitable for everybody. An Apple Watch doesn’t need an iPhone to be functional, but an iPhone is necessary for initial setup. This is, in my opinion, why the Apple Watch doesn’t qualify as an actual watch. It’s a device that is part of the Apple ecosystem.



I hope you’re not too shocked to see an Apple Watch here on Fratello. It wouldn’t be my choice if I had to spend €1,000 on my single watch. Depending on the season and climate, I would choose the Yema Flygraph Flieger AAE or the Ligure Tartaruga. The Yema, on its canvas-leather strap, is a perfect daily companion. The Ligure is somewhat more substantial with its stainless steel bracelet and rotating bezel. But with its reasonable 41mm diameter, 42.5mm length, and 13mm thickness, it’s a perfect “gentleman diver” for daily and sporty activities. I would only use the Apple Watch as an additional device to keep my iPhone silent and receive messages unnoticed.

Which of these watches would you spend €1,000 on? As usual, please let us know in the comments below.