You’ve wandered about on forums, joined multiple Facebook groups and even window-shopped at outlets in malls. Now, you’re at a point where you feel you’re ready to give this whole watch hobby thing a try. Unfortunately, you also understand that watches can be quite an expensive hobby. Even the price of an “entry-level” Rolex or Omega scares you. I get it, I totally relate. I’m certainly not at a point in my life that I can feel comfortable throwing down five-figure sums of cash for a watch.
If you are, good on you. With that said, I know that many budding watch collectors live in the real world and we all have other financial commitments. As a result, I’ve decided to put together a list of what I think are one of the best watches to get under RM5,000.
In my opinion, these watches pack not only fantastic value for money but also tons of heritage and credibility. All without breaking the bank. Just put aside a decent amount every month and I guarantee you, you’ll be able to afford these selections in no time. To be fair, I’m going to include only mechanical watches in this list. Going down the quartz route will require another list as that opens up a whole new world of prospects.
So, without further ado, here are my top five mechanical watches for budding (and also experienced) collectors under RM5,000. If you have other choices or feel that I’ve missed out a crucial few, please do let me know in the comments. The more options, the better.
Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC Reference T1084081605700
What’s not to like about the (deep breath) Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC reference T1084081605700? For starters, it looks like brilliant enough to work in almost any situation. Not only is this a good watch to start a collection with, it can also be the only watch you’ll ever need. The latter mindset is even more appealing to those on a budget. So, what do you get for less than RM5k?
Well, you get a 41 mm 316L stainless steel case with a textured bezel and an exhibition caseback for an added dose of character. The watch also has a sapphire crystal to protect the simple black dial with 12 and 6 Arabic hour markers. The strap is a black faux alligator affair with a butterfly clasp with push-button release. Water resistance is rated at 50 m which is acceptable, really. The star of the show, however, is the movement.
Developed in conjunction with ETA, the Powermatic 80 automatic calibre promises, you guessed it, a whopping 80 hours of power reserve. Aside from that, it’ll be a real challenge for you to find a watch with a silicon balance spring in the movement at this price range. To top it all of, the movement is also COSC-certified. Once again, for the price of RM3,800, you’ll be getting a Swiss made watch with all the mentioned features and a 3-year warranty.
Tissot Everytime Swissmatic Reference T1094071703200
Another Tissot, yes. However, you can’t exactly blame me when the brand is well known for churning out affordable, high-quality timepieces, can you? Which brings me to this, the Everytime Swissmatic, in particular, reference T1094071703200. A Tissot it may still be but this is a markedly different option compared to the one above. For starters, it’s got a cleaner, more casual vibe that should suit younger (or young at heart) collectors.
Heck, it’ll even look appropriate on the wrist of a college student. The simple white dial with black Arabic numerals, thin, baton hands and a date window all serve a practical purposes with more than decent legibility. Overall, what really gives it that minimalist outlook is the Bauhaus presentation.
While it is a fantastic casual watch, it is most definitely not an overly sporty one with water resistance capped at just 30 m. The 316L stainless steel case has a diameter of 40 m and you also get an exhibition caseback. Aside from that, you also get a sapphire crystal and an automatic movement with 72 hours of power reserve.
The strap is a blue, all-fabric affair. While it suits the easy-going nature of the watch perfectly in my eyes, those wanting to swap out the stock strap should be wary of one thing. The lug width is a relatively odd 21 mm. With a 2-year warranty, the Tissot Everytime Swissmatic T1094071703200 goes for a wallet-friendly RM1,690.
Longines HydroConquest Reference L3.7126.96.36.199
Not everything on this list has to be a casual or dressy/executive option. For those who lean on the sportier side of life, a dive watch is one of the most recognizable choices in the tool watch segment. Which brings us to this, the Longines HydroConquest reference L3.7188.8.131.52. With a recommended retail price of RM4,790, the HydroConquest is the most expensive option on this list but as with many things, you get what you paid for.
Let’s begin with the case. It measures 41 mm in diameter so it’s a tiny bit on the smaller side for dive watches but just about right for everyday use. You get a stainless steel case with a unidirectional rotating bezel. Also to be found are a sapphire crystal and “several layers” of AR (anti-reflective) coating on the underside of it. Now while I have a soft spot for watches with exhibition casebacks, I can accept a screw-down unit here as it fits the purpose of the watch.
Water resistance, as expected on a watch of this nature, is rated at 30 bar (300 m). Legibility is also at the forefront here with a combination of a sunray black dial and polished silver hands with a generous helping of lume. You get applied Arabic 12, 6 and 9 hour markers while a date window is to be found at 3 o’clock.
Inside the Longines HydroConquest beats the automatic L619/888 movement. Power reserve is quoted at 64 hours. Moving on, the bracelet is also made from stainless steel and features a “double security” folding clasp. Additionally, the bracelet possesses an integrated diving extension feature that should come in handy on those wetsuit days.
Mido Ocean Star Reference M026.430.11.051.00
The next watch in my list is a vastly underrated one, in my opinion. Yes, it’s another dive watch but it has a price tag that’s easier to stomach compared to the Longines. The Mido Ocean Star reference M026.430.11.051.00 has a suggested retail price of RM3,750. Fantastic value for a Swiss made watch, I would say.
So, what are the key details here? Well, you get a stainless steel case that measures 42.5 mm in diameter. On a dive watch, the bezel is, of course, a unidirectional unit. Aside from that, you get a sapphire crystal with AR treatment on both sides. Water resistance is capped at 20 bar (200 m) and a screw-down crown is featured. As for the dial, it’s an all-black affair with a day-date window at 3 o’clock.
No Arabic numerals here, though. The dial of the Mido Ocean Star features baton hour markers and plongeur-style hands. Obviously, the hands and hour markers have been subjected to plenty of lume to improve low-light visibility. As for the movement, inside the Ocean Star beats the Caliber 80 which has a power reserve of, yes, 80 hours. The automatic movement beats at a rate of 3 Hz.
Finally, if you’re not interested in the attached stainless steel bracelet, you can also go for other strap options. These include a black or orange rubber strap. However attractive these are, if it were my money, I’d opt for the titanium-cased versions. Don’t worry, they still fall below the RM5k mark.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Reference H69429931
Last but not least, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical reference H69429931. I would dare say that this is a dangerous watch for those new to the hobby. Why? While the rest are automatic, this watch requires you to wind it up manually. That means you have to spend more time with it. That means more chances for you to appreciate this simple, charming field watch. Consequently, you could fall hard and fast for watches as a whole and well, I won’t take responsibility for any of your future impulse purchases. Hah!
Of all the watches in this list, the Khaki Field Mechanical is arguably the most basic of the lot – and in no bad way. Aside from the manual-wound ETA 2801-2 movement inside, the 38 mm stainless steel case means it’ll probably go unnoticed to all but those who are paying attention. Water resistance is rated at 5 bar (50 m) while power reserve is 42 hours.
The dial, I must say, is a great example of simplicity and functionality. A black matte dial with big Arabic numerals and a double-hour scale (a field watch trademark) just screams – or rather mentions – legibility. Also to be found are small, luminous triangles at the base of each hour. While the lack of a date window may be a minus for some, I think it helps with maintaining the symmetry of the dial.
As for the strap, the Khaki Field Mechanical comes with a rather pleasant olive-green Nato unit with leather inserts – lug width is 20 mm. Oh, and I should also mention that you get a sapphire crystal on the dial. No exhibition caseback here, though. To top it all of, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical reference H69429931 goes for a recommended retail price of RM1,950.