Watch prices are rising, and these are economically uncertain times. Perhaps we should consider looking for horological fun a little further afield. If that sounds like a good idea to you, read on.

I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a shift in my area over the last six months or so. People are being hit hard by the rising costs of basic goods, including groceries and petrol. In my home country of Australia, inflation has been up around 3.5%. This is according to figures from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook.

But that only tells a limited story. In Australia, inflation has seen the cost of critical basic goods rise more than 7% this year (and 7.8% the previous year). The country’s economy is shaky amid rising costs. Furthermore, this is happening in many other places across the globe, including Europe and the United States.

Rising watch prices and global turbulence

Simply put, many of us will probably have less money at the end of the month to put toward luxury goods. Just like seemingly everything else, new watches have, on the whole, seen significant price increases. Quite often, though, these are far above the rate of inflation. This factor made me ask earlier this year if rising watch prices are changing the playing field for watch enthusiasts. My previous article explored how rising prices for new watches might cause enthusiasts to turn their eyes toward vintage and neo-vintage opportunities.

Rising watch prices and the ever-increasing costs of modern living don’t have to prevent us from having a lot of fun perusing watches (and maybe even buying one or two). With that spirit in mind, I wanted to highlight a few very fun watches for less than €300, both new and vintage. These are options that I would consider buying, and I would love to read your suggestions in the comments. Now, without further ado, let’s get stuck in.

affordable watches Seiko 5 SNZG11

The Seiko 5 SNZG11

I’ll start with a watch that has a lot of sentimental value for me. This is the now-discontinued Seiko 5 SNZG11. The SNZG series came in a few colors, including black and cream/white. This one is blue. I wore this very watch when I was based in Myanmar as a journalist, and it served me well.

The Seiko 5 SNZG11 is a field watch with a 42mm case and a see-through case back revealing a 7S26 automatic caliber. The watch has a date and day complication, plenty of lume, and a decent 100m water resistance rating. Models like this are reminders of what Seiko once was, a brand that offered bulletproof and value-driven timepieces. With Seiko moving upmarket, these older watches look like better and better bargains by the day. You can find these SNZG watches for around €80–150.

affordable watches vintage Certina

Image: Onwatches

Vintage Certina 

Certina (once known as Grana) is a fantastic watch brand today. Now part of the Swatch Group, the Swiss brand has a wonderful heritage, including putting a DS-2 Chronograph on the wrist of the first person to ski down Mt. Everest. Certina produced many solid and robust everyday watches under the DS line from the 1950s right up to today.

But today’s recommendation is for a women’s watch, a beautiful bulls-eye-dial Certina. The dial is what drew me to this timepiece. At the time of writing, the seller is asking €180 for this watch, which seems fair. There are also DS options for less than €300. With a DS-1 or DS-2, you’ll be getting a well-made watch from the golden age of Certina (the 1950s–1970s). You’ll also get one of the coolest case-back engravings of that age, a turtle! You can find a decent vintage Certina for around €180–300.

A new Casio G-Shock

I don’t own a Casio G-Shock. I have a Seiko Turtle, which fills too similar a role in my collection for me to justify owning both. But if I were to get one, it would probably be a G-Shock 5600 or similar. Nevertheless, there are a dizzying array of G-Shock models out there. Some have a particularly glitzy vibe to them, while others look downright tactical.

There are also technical differences with G-Shocks depending on the model, which could include how the watch is powered (solar or a standard battery), materials, colors, etc. But one thing will be consistent: the watch will be tough enough to share any adventure and probably come out in better condition than you. If it’s good enough for a world-record-holding deep-sea diver like Nuno Gomes, it’s good enough for me! You can find any number of great G-Shock options for €100 and up.

affordable watches Perseo

Image: Murph’s Minutes

Perseo Ferrovie Dello Stato “FS”

Like Universal Genève with its Ferrovie Dello Stato “FS,” Perseo was also tasked to make watches for Italian railroad workers. Usually, these are known as the Perseo “FS.” Perseo has been making watches and pocket watches for the Italian State Railways since the late 1920s (the brand says 1927 on its website). One of the more common ones is a cushion-cased wristwatch that is quite similar in aesthetic to the Universal Genève FS. You can read more about the Perseo FS in this nice feature article.

The watch can be found in all sorts of different states of condition. It’s worth being picky. For less than a few hundred euros, though, you get a very cool dial design with a beautiful numeral font and something with the “FS” stamped on the case back! I think it’s rather cool to have a piece of this heritage strapped to your wrist for not much money. Granted, these are not high-end watches, and they use very basic 17-jewel mechanical movements. But they do look very cool! You can find them for about €50–300.

affordable watches vintage Eterna

Image: Chrono24

Vintage Eterna

Vintage Eterna is a bit of a rabbit hole. One of the great watchmaking brands of the 20th century, Eterna helped found movement maker ETA. It also suffered greatly during the Quartz Crisis and changed hands many times. Today, however, the brand exists and offers watches that riff on some of its iconic heritage models, including the Kontiki.

Today’s watch, though, is a more humble Eterna-Matic. It’s a simple time-only watch in a ~35mm case with beautiful, applied 12, 3, 6, and 9 numerals on the dial. The watch in the image above was available at the time of writing but sold for less than a few hundred euros before this article went live. If you look at vintage Eterna more broadly, though, there are multiple options beneath our €300 ceiling. Happy hunting.

Closing thoughts 

Well, there you have it. These are just a few options for you to consider in your hunt for some (relatively) affordable enjoyment. We are living in a time when every euro/dollar/pound counts, so I find a degree of pleasure in admiring these humbler watches. One of my favorite timepieces happens to be a Seiko Turtle that I bought on sale. It’s just a shame my wrist isn’t quite large enough to pull it off properly!

What would you get? I am looking forward to reading your suggestions in the comments.