Full disclosure: I dreaded the moment I had to choose the best watches under €2,500. Why? Because what I think is under €2,500 isn’t anymore. Yeah, go ahead. Call me out of touch and old-fashioned; it’s okay. But you know what? My list of three watches came to me in a wave of clarity. And keeping within budget didn’t prove an issue at all. The Certina DS Action GMT Powermatic 80 and the King Seiko don’t even cross the €2K barrier. And the Oris Rectangular stays €350 under €2,500.

Me picking the Certina DS Action GMT Powermatic 80 might not be the biggest surprise for Fratello frequenters. The watch, with its classic, bordering-on-retro looks paired with modern dimensions, caught my eye earlier this year. I began singing its praises very soon after. With its steel 41 × 49.3 × 13.8mm case, it fits my wrist perfectly. Although I am usually a bit hesitant to embrace a smack-on, unapologetic retro design, in the case of this particular Certina, I was willing to push my reservations out of the way.

Best Watches under €2,500 Certina DS Action GMT Powermatic 80

The best watches under €2,500: Certina DS Action GMT Powermatic 80

I like it because there’s no big and bulky bracelet but, instead, a pre-aged leather strap. Its soft look pairs nicely with the bezel, which appears lush, warm, and classic. The bidirectional bezel is stainless steel with a gold-colored PVD coating and an insert made of sapphire crystal. That insert features a half-black, half-brown coating underneath and a 24-hour scale with gold markings so you can read the time of day/night in two locations. Over the dial, the gold-colored DS Action hands feature white Super-LumiNova that lights up blue in the dark, and they move together with the white GMT hand with a lume-filled triangular tip.

This is not only a handsome watch but also a practical one. It’s water resistant to 200 meters, and the star of the show, in my opinion, is the Powermatic 80.661 (ETA C07.661) movement inside. This is a flyer-style GMT version of the Powermatic 80 caliber, which operates at 21,600vph and boasts a healthy 80-hour power reserve. This is a Certina watch you can take flying through different time zones without hassle. The 12-hour hand moves in steps with the time zones you’re traveling through, and the date follows that hand — that’s why this watch is a so-called “flyer” GMT.

Certina DS Action GMT Powermatic 80

No, the steel case is not the pinnacle of refinement, but it’s not crude either. It is of a quality level that you can expect for the price — the Certina DS Action GMT Powermatic 80 C032.929.26.051.00 is a €1,170 watch.

Best Watches under €2,500 King Seiko SPB369

The King Seiko SPB369 with its crease-free linen dial

Yesterday, I talked about linen with some friends. We all agreed that linen is, in theory, the perfect fabric for summer shirts or suits. But that’s only if you can accept that after wearing those clothes for a couple of minutes, it looks like you went to bed in them after a long and wild night. The way linen creases just drives me up the wall! That’s too bad because I like the lightness of the fabric and the structure. How can you wear linen without having to deal with the agony of creasing? Buy a watch with a “linen” dial — a watch like the King Seiko SPB369. This is a 39 × 11.9mm steel watch with a 46.1mm lug-to-lug and a price of €1,950.

Best Watches under €2,500 King Seiko SPB369

The proportions are great. The shape of the case is crisp and modern with a sense of history, and the finishing is just plain nice. I think I’d prefer it on a high-quality leather strap over the bracelet it comes on, but that’s an easy fix. And now we get to the dial — that creamy, off-white, textured dial we call “linen.” It’s just sweet. The linen texture is impressive and intricate, and it breathes life into the watch. Because of the subtle structure and color, the SPB369 has a hint of vintage — do you remember the great King Seiko pieces with linen dials from the 1960s? — but it’s more timeless than anything. Just like linen itself, it will always be in fashion.

Best Watches under €2,500 Oris Rectangular

I bet you didn’t see this Oris Rectangular coming

For reasons I can’t disclose at this point, I have been looking at non-round watches lately. So when putting this trio of the best watches under €2,500 together, I wanted to include either a square or rectangular timepiece. Well, when it comes to decent, sub-€2.5K, non-round mechanical watches, it’s slim pickings. The watches you think about are in a different price category, and the ones that fall within are battery-powered quartz pieces. However, I managed to find a couple and narrow it down to two candidates — the 28.2 × 47mm Longines Dolcevita L5.767.4.73.9 for €2,000 and the Oris Rectangular 01 561 7783 4068-07 5 19 18 for €2,150. In the end, I picked the lively red Oris over the blue-strapped, silver-dialed Longines.

I didn’t pick this specific Oris because of the Sellita-based automatic caliber 561. I picked it because of its 25.5 × 38mm case. It’s quite a bit smaller than the Longines, and I know that in the case of a rectangular watch, my wrist and eye prefer a case on the smaller side. The stepped case sides are another nice touch with an architectural nod to Art Deco. To make up for its moderate size, the Oris Rectangular of choice is the deep Bordeaux red version. Its vibrant dial also shows inner and outer railroad tracks, with the inner one punctuated by lume plots for the hours. The sword hands are neat as well. Yes, this is an odd Oris, and it borrows from a range of more famous rectangular watches, but it does so very well. Plus, it’s well within budget, which also helped it to get onto my shortlist.

What do you make of my picks here? Do you have a favorite? If you do, or even if you dislike them all, let me know in the comments.