Last weekend, researching this story was my way of returning to normality after being bombarded by sapphires, platinum, and composite bracelets with embedded diamonds. Yes, Watches and Wonders was a horological whirlwind romance, but afterward, I needed to get down from its gold-lined cloud. It’s easy to become enthusiastic about €100K grail watches, I’ll admit it. A single Laurent Ferrier hour hand takes 10, even 50 times as long to produce as a single digital Casio, but I still find joy in bargain cool. This story was a bigger challenge than I thought, and I was seriously considering upping the budget to €200. Asking myself the question “Is it still possible to start a watch collection with €100?” I pushed my creativity to its limits, and my findings will surprise you.

Even if I love a bargain, I’m vain enough to stay clear of dime-a-dozen mall watches. Not that there’s anything wrong with simply throwing on a €49 watch… Well, unless it has a bracelet with “gold” plating that rubs off two days while the indices fall off. No, seriously, that’s a true story involving a birthday gift from an unmentioned family member. Anyhoo, a cheap but cool watch with street cred in collector’s circles for €100 — that’s pretty impossible, right? Well, here are some great alternatives from Timex, Swatch, and, of course, Casio to get you started. The latter is obviously the default choice, offering watches for under €30 that are fun, cool, and never stop working. But Swatch has always been a great value brand and still is, while Timex has had a massive resurgence this decade. All for good reasons, both analog and digital.

Is It Still Possible To Start A Watch Collection With €100?

Timex Standard 40mm

What a great, unpretentious name. Bravo, Timex. And it’s a pretty cool vintage-inspired watch too. From a big brand like Timex, analog quartz watches for less than €100 are plentiful. Most are very decent, even if they take monochrome basics of legibility to the extremes. This, however, has a tasty-fresh apple-green dial and a great vintage vibe. Sure, it takes design cues from the beloved Omega Seamaster 300, but the green version has a distinct personality. At €89, the Standard represents nothing but big, cheerful value in a marketplace where €1,000 might be considered affordable. Yes, it may have a chrome-plated case might and a basic quartz ticker for a heart, but that onion crown is pretty neat. The 50m water resistance rating doesn’t make it dive-proof, but it is plenty tough enough for an everyday start to a collection.

Is It Still Possible To Start A Watch Collection With €100?

Swatch Rouge & Noir

I’m wearing some big-wide fit chinos today, nowhere near the skinny fit I was sporting last year. Yes, the ’80s are back with a vengeance, and this new version of a 1984 Swatch model aces it for style. The Rouge & Noir has a popping red strap and a matte black case made from the brand’s Bioceramic material. And just like when I was a little kid, the Bauhaus ’80s style and prime colors are achingly cool. At a mere €95, this could be your best summer watch. Sure, Swatch might be a ubiquitous brand, but everything about this cheap thrill of a watch makes you understand why. From the two-tone dial to the sliver-thin bright yellow seconds hand, less than €100 still buys you a piece of Swiss wrist cool.

Is It Still Possible To Start A Watch Collection With €100?

Casio MDV-series diver

What can I say? Bill Gates is a brilliant man, and at the top of his game, he wore a Casio Duro-series diver. Nope, not a perpetual calendar in rose gold from Patek Philippe or an iced-out Hublot, but an analog Casio diver’s watch for less than €100. This 200m-rated MDV-107-1A1V is the equivalent model today and the first sports watch for thousands. Its quartz movement might not be the most accurate out there, but +20 seconds per month still beats a mechanical chronometer-rated watch. At 44.2mm wide with a longish 49.5mm lug-to-lug, it’s certainly no dress watch, but it is a tough, resin-strapped everyday piece you can’t argue with, especially when considering a price of €79.90. Go for the monochrome look or pick a cheeky “Pepsi” or “Batman GMT” look for a dab of color.

Casio G-Shock”CasiOak” GMA series

I was torn when I first saw the G-Shock “CasiOak” in 2019. It says something about how intensely indoctrinated we are to accept Gérald Genta as the god of all grails. I’m not going to lie, I’d happily swap most of my collection if someone offered me a Patek Philippe Nautilus, and when I saw the first octagonal-bezel G, I was shocked (get it?). But I still chuckled, and Casio is still smiling, with a range that now includes resin models like this new trio in the GMA series. Last year, Casio released the all-steel bracelet model that everyone wanted, cheekily similar to a Royal Oak Offshore in size. Now in its fourth year, the CasiOak is an alternative to the original G-Shock “Square” and is sleeker than most Gs. It’s still confusingly multifunctional with a pretty useless stopwatch function on the tiny screen. But get the blue GMA-S2100GA-3A, and for €99.90, you’ll have a colorful sports watch so light that you’ll forget about it. Small it is not, but it packs bucketloads of presence for the price.

Timex T80 × Peanuts Dream In Color

You might think of Casio as the Daddy of digital watches, but Timex has some pretty sweet 34mm models, like the T80 × Peanuts Dream In Color. The screen on this ’80s-feeling watch has the classic greenish LCD tinge, with FUN in capital letters for the rest of the sky-blue surround. I challenge you not to have an instant smiley mood swing when looking at this nugget of digital cool. Even the grayest day becomes sunnier with Charles M. Schulz’s beagle Snoopy resting on the roof of a cartoon rainbow. Only €95 buys you this eminently readable tool, not for telling you the time of day (it does that too!) but for enhancing your mood whenever you may need it. And who knows? It might incite you to become a collector of Peanuts collab watches. You’ll have plenty to choose from!

I usually address this final comment to our regular readers, but this time, I am hoping that newbies read this story. For those of you that have never had an actual watch strap on your wrist, I encourage you to take my advice. Put away the radiating iPhone and embrace the special feeling of time on the wrist. And not the kind you need to recharge every day…

Find me and follow me: @thorsvaboe