Budget men’s vintage watches can still look stunning. For the price of a top end Fossil, you can have a Swiss legend on your wrist and that will make a difference to your overall style.
I wrote a piece on $500 vintage watches a while back and it’s still one of the most popular on the site. So, I wanted to do a budget vintage watches follow-up and settled on $200 as the price limit.
At this price point you’re probably going to have to accept a little patina. It’s just signs of wear and tear on a watch that has been worn for decades. The watch tells its own story and you might have to embrace the knocks and scuffs that make up its character.
But you’ll be amazed what a full service, clean and, occasionally, a new glass and strap, can do to breathe life into an old watch.
Here are a few of the watches you can get for $200 that look the absolute business and will instantly boost your image.
1. Tissot Chronograph
You can get a full-bore diver’s watch from Tissot. Now it’s a subsidiary of Swatch, but back in the day it was responsible for the first mass-produced pocket watch in 1853.
Even now, the company retains an image with official timekeeping duties in motorcycling and other leading sports. That means sports watches are an integral part of the brand and you can get a recent Chronograph or a chunky 80s diving special for less than $200.
I kept this search broad, because there are so many different styles of vintage watches within the budget that it would be a shame to choose just one Tissot watch. Look for yourself, there’s a style for everyone.
Personally, I love the clean look of the 1940s watches, but even the 1980s options have their own unique charms. Tissot is a solid brand and the Swiss firm’s vintage watches have developed their own global following.
2. 1940s Hamilton Grover
This is an all-American classic, from the company behind any number of watches that could feature on Mad Men. This is a conservative, classic square design, so you can wear it anywhere and match it to pretty much any leather strap you want.
It’s a great budget vintage watch to get started with and the American heritage turns it into a style statement.
The numbers and hands are solid gold, albeit the 14-karat variety, as is the crown. The dial on this budget vintage watch is Sterling Silver, with black enamel detail.
It’s a stunning piece of engineering and one of the cheapest Hamilton watches you can buy online. You might have to take one that needs a little TLC at this money, but if you nurse it back to health with a service and some cosmetic work then you could have a real investment on your hands.
Hamilton watches are on the upsurge, value wise. So, if you’re interested in investing in vintage watches long-term, Hamilton could be a great brand to start with.
3. Vostok Amphibian
This heavy Russian watch was officially supplied to the Ministry of Defence and you can get them in various flavors, from the 1950s service watches to 80s dress watches inspired by the company’s rugged military roots.
You can pick one up for relative pennies and it will certainly give you a different look. It’s not for everybody, but a Vostok Amphibian will certainly stand out and it’s a conversation starter on its own. Anyone with a vintage watch collection has some vintage Russian metal in there. The watches really are that good and yet they’re rarely worth reselling.
Vostok has an arsenal of watches and you can pick some of them up for next to nothing. So, have a look here for a massive selection of budget, vintage Russian watches online at eBay here.
4. Gruen Curvex
This is another formerly great America watchmaker that fell on hard times. From 1908 to 1954, though, Cincinnati-based Gruen produced stellar watches with a Swiss flavor.
A subsidiary company based in Biel, Switzerland, made the movements for German born Dietrich Gruen’s American watches.
The Curvex baguette design is its most famous and that means there are a lot of them around. You can spend as little as $50, but $200 will get you a nice example of a Gruen Curvex.
The best examples of a Gruen Curvex cost upwards of $1000, but go for a popular model and get the nicest watch you can. Then wear it, and don’t worry about the resale value.
Gruen has a vast number of vintage watches out there in circulation. So, check out the latest collection of budget, vintage Gruen watches online at eBay here and pick up a Gruen for as little as $50:
5. 1960s Rado Green Horse
Examples of the Rado Green Horse, Purple Horse and Gold Horse can cost thousands. But you can also pick up a clean example of this Swiss made, conservative and elegant timepiece for $50 if you’re prepared to compromise.
$200 will buy you a really clean example of a silver on silver Rado Green Horse from the 1960s with a standard circular face, which is the one we’d go for. But you can spend a lot more on some of the more eccentric Rado watches that have found a following in the collector’s community.
Rado is a subsidiary of The Swatch Group and its USP is using high-end materials like Tungsten, Titanium, ceramics and more in their watches.
You’re buying an old one, so it won’t be quite so cutting edge by today’s standards. You are buying a stellar example of Swiss vintage watch engineering, though, before Rado moved to the mass market.
A new Rado will still set you back more than $800 for a decent one, whereas you can get older ones on eBay for $50.
Most of them are $300 and up, even on the auction site. But you can find a worn example of a Rado Companion, Rado Starliner or the Rado military watches, which you can use as search terms on their own. They are all great starter watches.
6. Poljot Aviator 24 Hours Military Watch
The best examples of this watch come with a 24-hour layout that takes some getting used to, but it’s also a pretty brave style statement that will capture fellow watch nut’s attention. It shows you paid attention to the details and came up with something unique.
It’s another men’s vintage Russian watch, which means a solid mechanical look, a heavyweight feel and left-field aesthetics.
The first Russian cosmonaut in space had a Poljot on his wrist and they’ve acquired a reputation for reliability and rugged engineering. It tells its own story and it’s a distinctive watch that will subtly grab the attention.
There are seriously cheap Poljot watches out there, including dress watches, and one of them might be perfect for you.
7. 1970s Seiko Automatic Chronograph Pepsi
If you want the full 1970s psychedelic effect then try and find a yellow-faced watch with the blue and red bezel.
Most of them will be out of your price range and some of them get crazy expensive, but they do pop up at less than $200 once in a blue moon. You might just have to factor in a service, a clean-up and a watch with its own unique patina, though.
Alternatively, there are plenty of other options with a black or white dial that you should be able to snag for $150. They’re more versatile, to be honest, and a little more stylish.
Seiko has produced some great chronograph watches, which tend to be the bigger and bulkier options with the sports functions. The Japanese company also produced the iconic Grand Seiko and King Seiko watches that vintage watch collectors fight over to this day.
8. 1920s Bulova Banker
This is a truly unique piece of history. It’s a baguette shape, the artwork on the dial has to be seen to be believed and you can find examples with dramatic, Gothic hands.
It’s totally different to everything else here and it shows just what you can find if you’re prepared to dig around the bowels of eBay looking for a gem. That’s what turns a lot of casual buyers into determined collectors as eBay is an addictive experience on its own. There’s a stellar vintage watch at a bargain price every single minute of the day on eBay and it’s easy to get lose in the matrix.
Bulova made some of the best dive watches of the post-war era and this American manufacturer has something for everyone.
9. Alpina WWII Pilot’s Watch
You will struggle to find one bang on budget, but you can always negotiate and there are always one or two of these that really do look like they’ve led a hard life.
That’s what you want. This watch is a simple thing, but it can come with a pre-loaded story and a character that isn’t quite there with a pristine watch.
This one will have long since sold by the time you read this, but this is a fantastic example of an aged Alpina that still looks great.
It’s OK that the face looks like parchment paper. It’s fine that it’s discolored and it isn’t even. These things just don’t matter with certain vintage watches, especially at this price. The patina and the story can be enough to make the battle scars part of the pitch.
10. Movado Museum
You can spend thousands on the most collectible Movado Museum, but you can also pick up a lesser example for just $100.
There’s a variety of styles, but it’s based around the same minimalist concept. There aren’t any dial markings, apart from a single stone or metal stud at 12 o’clock. It comes with a thick steel bezel, which is sometimes gold-plated, but the gold watches look a bit much.
Keep it simple, go for the steel and check out the difference that a metal strap makes to the look. It was always meant to go with a leather strap, but the metal watches look the business.
Most of Movado’s vintage watches are well beyond the budget, but if you want to see what an American luxury watch manufacturer was really capable of at the peak of their powers, then check out their other wares.
Now you have seen what $200 gets you, take a step upmarket and see what budget vintage watches you can get for $500 or less.