Can A $100 Watch Be Taken Seriously?

By Carl Scutt

We live for the most part, in a world where Branding is king and a high price suggests superior quality, I can think of many examples where people show off, boasting about how much money they have and how much they spend on their items of importance.

We’ve all been to the party and had to listen to the bore banging on about the cost of their luxury goods while looking down their snooty noses at everyone around them.

Preferring to consider everyone around them as jealous rather than just repelled by their base personalities, they live their lives in a perpetual malaise of delusion and a sense of emptiness they can’t explain.

But what’s this got to do with $100 Watches? Well, can you imagine the conversation with the party bore who spent $8,000 on his Rolex and can’t stop telling anyone and everyone in ear shot?

“Yeah, I have a lovely watch that cost me $70 from Wal-Mart and it works perfectly”  How’s that going to go down?  Best not to think about it, right?

So, can $100 watches ever be taken seriously? There are a plethora of watches out there that you can pick up for $100 or less and pretty much all of them are well made and fully functional, but where the cheaper watches fall down is in the fakes market.

Replica Rolex Submariner

I had a friend who once bought a Rolex Watch from a street vendor for 20 Euros which he happily paraded around the local marina, showing friends how the second hand ran smoothly just like the real thing. This was, of course, a bit of fun but it does bring me to my first point, and that’s no fakes, copies, or replicas are worth buying, not if YOU want to be taken seriously. Certainly not if you want to be able to tell the time more than twice a day using your terminally broken fake after only two weeks wear. 

Best Value Brands

The most obvious brands that spring to mind offering great quality and low prices are the Japanese names, Casio, Citizen, and Seiko. These names consistently offer high quality, feature rich products that are frankly, impossible to beat when it comes to a cost to quality ratio.

I’m not going to look at these because it’s too easy to understand the value of these pieces so the question of a $100 being taken seriously is a given under these circumstances. Better to investigate some non-Japanese brands to really put the sub $100 watches to the test.


My first choice in the list of respectable sub $100 watches is the US watchmaker Stührling, named after master watchmaker Max Stührling of Switzerland, who’ve been making what they call Swiss quality watches since 1999.

The Stührling Tuskegee is a beautifully appointed pilot-style 44mm Quartz powered movement in stainless steel with matte finish, the matte black dial features oversized white Arabic numerals and baton indices with sword-style hands. Features include hours, minutes, and seconds, crown protector and brown leather strap and a remarkable 100m water resistance.

Stührling Original Men’s Quartz Tuskegee

Nobody can tell me this piece doesn’t look the part. The simple classy design suggests a higher price point, and although the movement may be Chinese that’s not enough to turn me away from this clean fresh design for less than $100.


My second choice is the Ray-Winton Men’s WI0203 Analog to move away from casual wear to a Dress Watch from this fashion house. What you get with this piece is an uncommon simplicity that’s often difficult to track down with today’s designs leaning more towards small complications, like date windows being added to Dress Watches.

Ray-Winton Men’s WI0203 Analog

This piece hits the mark dead on target with its 42mm stainless steel case featuring white dial with white raised hour markers, black minute markers, together with black hour and minute hands. The bezel, crown, and lugs are subtle, as is the delicate mesh design metal bracelet. The heart of the piece is a reliable Japanese Quartz protected by mineral glass with a water resistance rated at 30 meters, so feel free to spill your Champagne without fear of ruining this party piece.


My third and final example of a perfect sub $100 Watch is the Akribos which although largely assembled in Hong Kong isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Customer feed back is mixed with many customers having nothing but good things to say about the brand, while others believe the quality of the materials could be better, but at $57 it’s going to be difficult to find the best of the best.

Akribos XXIV

The Akribos men’s watch has the classic simple look of a more expensive watch, the 44mm alloy case is a good masculine size housing a Japanese Quartz topped by the mineral glass with sapphire coating. The dial is in Sunburst blue with silver effect hour markers, leaf style silver-tone hands with a seconds sub dial at 3 o’clock. This is all secured with a genuine leather strap.

This is another perfect example of simple styling informing good taste and sophistication where ‘less’ is most definitely ‘more’.

The Take-Away

While I was gathering data to write this piece it quickly became clear just how many sub $100 watches are out there and that’s not including the Japanese brands that excel is building top quality cheap watches. It’s true $100 will get you a good looking watch you can be proud of provided you stick to one rule.

Never buy fakes, copies, or replicas because everyone knows a fake when they see it and it will break almost immediately. If you have a small budget stick to that budget and know you’ll buy the best genuine watch you can afford.

It’s a state of mind. Don’t try to fool anyone, be honest and respectful to yourself and buy the best you can afford right now. Look to brands like Seiko, Citizen, Timex, or fashion labels like Akribos and Ray Winton for example, but the most important thing to acknowledge is the sheer number and variety of $100 Watches for you to choose from.

In conclusion, I have to say yes, $100 Watches can and should be taken seriously and anyone looking down on them and sneering is missing the point, or too wrapped up in their own Watch snobbery.

Today’s lesson: There’s a watch for everyone at every price point, just don’t buy any rubbish because it looks like something you can’t afford.