Affordable watches for car guys
Whoa, Christmas is less than two weeks away. If you’re still struggling to find a gift, know that people who like cars also tend to like watches. Instead of the usual spendy Rolex Daytonas and Omega Speedmasters, we’ve limited this lineup to watches costing less than $1,000 — some a lot less. Most are chronographs, and all of them are pretty good-looking. And though these are men's watches, some come in women’s versions.
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Tissot PRS 516
This is a contemporary take on a racing-inspired Tissot from the 1960s. Tissot Swiss chronographs come in a wide variety of styles, some with automatic movements and a clear caseback to show them off, some with quartz. 44mm, starting at $625 and up, or get this one pre-owned for $225.
Tag Heuer Formula 1
Tag Heuer is closely associated with racing, but most of its watches cost a lot more than our budget. This timepiece-only version of the Formula 1 series comes in just under the wire. (If you can afford more watch, Tag offers everything from the flashier Formula 1 Gulf Edition Chronograph at $1,600 to some major budget-busters like the Monza or Autavia.) This white dial Swiss Quartz timepiece is available for $799.95 right now.
It looks like a speedometer, with a strap that evokes a classic Ferrari’s seats. Cream dial and brown strap as shown here, or white dial with black strap. (And if you can afford to spend more, check out the rest of the Autodromo line, such as the Monoposto with its redline crystal at $1,800.) Automatic movement, 40 mm, $875. You can pick up the pre-owned classic here for just $925.
Autodromo Ford GT Endurance Chronograph
Another Autodromo. It comes in several variations; this Le Mans Blue model is one of the more restrained faces. If you can’t get on the Ford GT’s rarified buyers' list, maybe you could settle for this Ford-licensed watch. Seiko Hybrid Meca-Quartz movement with 1/5-second sweep hand, 40 mm, $695.
Seiko X Giugiaro Chronograph
Italdesign Giugiaro designed some futuristic watches for Seiko decades ago (futuristic enough that Sigourney Weaver wears one in “Aliens.”) In this variation, the display is canted 15 degrees for a motorcycle rider to view it without taking his hand from the handlebars. But when you think about it, that tilt is useful for anyone who wears a watch. Limited edition, no longer on the Seiko site. You might have to look around for it. For instance, you can grab this pre-owned version right here for $263.
In addition to the previous Seiko, Giorgetto Giugiaro is famous for designing the DeLorean DMC-12. We can probably all agree that the car looked good, or at least distinctive, as does this tribute watch. The stem looks like a tire, and there’s an engraving of a DMC-12 with its gullwing doors open on the back. Quartz, 44 mm, $140. You can pick up a variation here for $150.
Zodiac Grandrally Chronograph
The Zodiac brand might not be as recognizable as Tag Heuer, but the Swiss watchmaker dates to the 1880s and has been doing racing chronographs since the 1970s. Comes in various styles and color combinations, including this bright version with blue and orange highlights. Quartz, 41.5 mm, $399.
Citizen Brycen Chronograph
If you can’t afford the likes of a Tag Heuer Carrera, here’s a Citizen that looks an awful lot like it at a fraction of the price, and you won’t be nearly as sad if you scratch it while wrenching a car. Solar-powered, never needs a battery. You can check out this variation here for just $115.
Geckota C-01 Chronograph
The startup Geckota has been making watches for just a few years. But this model has a nice 1960s automotive look and a Seiko Meca-quartz movement. 42 mm, $315. Check it out here in military green for just $189.
Last year around this time, we told you about REC, which builds watches from recycled cars and planes. We wrote about its watches made from old Ford Mustangs, but REC also sources material from wrecked Porsche 911s. Two lines of watches made from Mini Coopers are the most affordable at around $225, so technically speaking REC makes our list. But we much prefer the look of the RJM model shown here, crafted from a crashed Spitfire plane. Miyota manual wind movement, 41 mm, $1,295.
Torgoen T16 Meteorite
Speaking of planes, Torgoen is a Swiss maker of great-looking pilot watches, most notably favored by Sir Richard Branson, a billionaire who apparently still appreciates a bargain. And speaking of salvaged material, Torgoen is offering a watch face made from a crystallized slice of a meteorite that fell on Sweden 1 million years ago. It’s twice the price of most Torgoens, but nothing you own has ever traveled faster or farther. Quartz, 44 mm, $623.
Bulova Lunar Pilot
Also from space: Omega wasn’t the only watch to land on the moon. Bulova made the trip with Apollo 15 mission commander Dave Scott, who strapped his own personal watch onto his spacesuit after his NASA-issued Omega's crystal popped off during 18 1/2 hours of EVAs on the lunar surface. Scott's watch, still coated in moondust, sold at auction a couple of years ago for $1.6 million. Bulova’s reissued Lunar Pilot costs much less. Quartz, 45 mm, $339.