Rarely is the term “affordable” used so subjectively as in discussions of watches. Timepieces costing several thousand dollars are usually classified into the affordable category, while others may consider the term “affordable” to mean something costing hundreds rather than thousands of dollars. However, if you tell the average person on the street that a $900 timepiece on your wrist is affordable, most will adamantly disagree and tell you it’s too expensive, especially considering its high price tag. That’s twice as much as Apple’s current series of watches. For my new column Affordability indeedI’d like to bring things back to reality a bit and discuss some standout watches that die-hard enthusiasts can appreciate, yet can be achieved by virtually everyone.
While the GMT complication is often said to be one of the most useful features a watch can have, although the price of entry for this travel-ready functionality is still surprisingly high, quartz technology has made other types of watches such as chronographs and complete. Calendars are available for less than a few rounds of drinks at a local dive bar. Quartz GMT watches often cost at least a couple of hundred bucks, and the Seiko 5 Sports GMT 2022 made huge headlines earlier this year, finally making it possible to get a mechanical GMT watch with an independently adjustable hour hand for under $500. Considering that most quartz GMT watches will cost you at least a couple hundred dollars anyway, the Seiko 5 GMT has instantly become the go-to choice for traditional watch enthusiasts who want GMT functionality at a bottom-dollar price.
However, if we leave the topic there, we run the risk of deterring people from this hobby, because one has to go out and spend at least $500 on a watch, which for many people is a significant amount of money for an unnecessary item. At the same time, there aren’t many options for good analog GMT watches at rock-bottom prices, and even those powered by quartz movements sometimes cost more than some want to spend. If you’re already going to spend a few hundred dollars, there’s an argument to be made that you can stretch your budget a little and get the Seiko 5 GMT (unless you specifically want a quartz watch). However, if your primary concern is simply getting your hands on multiple time zones, Olive Garden has a precision travel watch that costs less than dinner for two — never mind the semantics of having a world timer. Instead of a traditional GMT watch.
When it comes to getting access to the maximum number of timezones for a minimal monetary investment, it’s virtually impossible to beat the Digital World Time Watch from Casio. Categorically speaking, these travel-ready timepieces are not technically GMT watches, but they are much better suited to monitoring and moving between multiple timezones than any traditional GMT model. Some variation of digital world time functionality can be found in many different Casio models, but one of the flat-out best implementations of this highly practical feature is in the least expensive option currently available: the classic Casio World Time AE1200WH-1A.
Largely constructed of plastic with a digital LCD display, the Casio AE1200WH-1A is the antithesis of traditional horology, though it’s clearly not a smartwatch. Many of Casio’s other budget-friendly world time models have the look of traditional plastic digital sports watches, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with this aesthetic, it’s ubiquitous in everyday life and doesn’t feel all that special. Rather than looking like a watch fit for running a marathon, the Casio World Time AE1200WH-1A presents a unique look that can best be described as a retro-looking spy gadget, with a whimsical digital representation of the analog dial and a small map of the world next to it. While the map may seem like pure gimmick at first, it saves you from having to remember 48 different three-letter city codes, and it makes the World Time feature easy to use as it shows up when the selected timezone is highlighted. A digital map of the watch.
Reference AE1200WH-1A is the classic black version of this exclusive Casio World Time model, paired with a simple black rubber strap. Although many different colors and configurations have been produced over the years, including some versions with silver-painted cases fitted with stainless steel bracelets, the AE1200WH-1A is a rare choice, and it also represents a cost-effective variation. With an official retail price of $24.99 USD. It is important to maintain perspective and remember that we are talking about a plastic digital watch. From a strictly functional standpoint, however, the Casio World Time AE1200WH-1A is an undeniable bargain in the world of horology, and undeniably “affordable” by all definitions of the term, offering users 100 meters of water resistance, 10 years of battery life, and 31 different time zones — All under $25.
Simply put, the Casio World Time can’t be beat when it comes to flat-out practicality. It’s durable, high-capacity, and its extremely affordable price means you’re guaranteed not to be targeted by local pickpockets and muggers during your travels. Although the included strap and its plastic buckle leave a bit to be desired, the watch also has standard 18mm lugs, meaning third-party strap options are readily available. Plus, given its 10-year battery life, you can toss the Casio World Time on an inexpensive NATO strap and keep it packed in your travel bag as a grab-and-go backup watch. Realistically, the only problem with the Casio World Time AE1200WH-1A is that it doesn’t offer the same horological intrigue as a traditional analog GMT watch powered by a mechanical movement. For those itching for a GMT watch that only a balance spring can scratch, we must look to the Seiko 5 GMT mentioned earlier at the beginning of this article.
When it comes to the most famous Seiko case designs of all time, the one featured in the Seiko 5 GMT is easily on the shortlist of top options due to its prominent use in the current Seiko 5 as well as the discontinued SKX dive watches. Sports lineup. Simply put, there’s a reason this particular case design holds such a special place in collectors’ hearts: it just works. The variation fitted to the GMT model does not have a screw-down crown and therefore has 100 meters of water resistance (instead of 200 meters), providing the presence of a display caseback, drilled lugs and an entire wrist. Seiko has discontinued its fan-favorite diver’s watch. At its official retail price of $475 USD, you still don’t get the sapphire crystal above the dial, but the bezel now has an insert made of Hardlex mineral glass rather than aluminum, and the Jubilee-style bracelet now offers a solid- Link construction, which provides a more substantial presence on the wrist.
While the aesthetic finish level on the Seiko 5 Sports GMT definitely exceeds its budget-friendly price point, many people are interested in this particular model because it’s an affordable way to get your hands on a mechanical GMT watch with independently adjustable hour hands. (from at least one major brand). The Caliber 4R34 movement that powers the Seiko 5 GMT allows for an independently adjustable 24-hour hand rather than a jumping local hour hand like you’ll find in GMT watches from brands like Rolex and Tudor, though the same statement applies to most. Mechanical GMT movements currently available in the market. Additionally, while Seiko produces its own calibers in-house, the company supplies movements to countless other watch brands, and things will get really interesting in the affordable mechanical GMT watch segment once the generic version of the Seiko 4R34 debuts. Getting into the hands of various microbrands.
Still, with an official retail price of $475 and the potential for additional savings on the open market, competing with Seiko in the lower-dollar mechanical GMT segment may become more difficult for smaller independent brands. Considering that no independent brand comes close to enjoying similar economies of scale with their product sizes, the Seiko 5 Sports GMT represents a bottom-dollar price point for a mechanical GMT watch from a big-name manufacturer. With this in mind, while mechanical GMT watches may not cost much less than they currently do, there is an excellent option for a truly budget-friendly travel watch in the form of the Casio World Time Series. , and unlike the entry-level Seiko, which costs more than the latest generation of smartwatches, the Casio AE1200WH-1A is a timepiece that’s actually affordable.