I remember buying my first watch. I was in my late teens and can recall being somewhat overwhelmed by the different types on offer. There were diving watches, chronographs, and the kind you wear with a suit. Not forgetting the digital designs that all my friends were raving about.
If only someone had written a guide on the best starter watches, I could have spent another three hours on Rock Band 2. Luckily for you, I’ve done exactly that (made the guide, not played video games).
Taking that first step can be difficult, and I’m here to help you find a killer timepiece. Whether you’re looking for something fancy or simply one that’s not going to break the bank, you’re only a few scrolls away from becoming an honorary member of the wristwear club.
From Citizen’s classic quartz to the trusty Casio, there are plenty of awesome options for getting into watches. To help you narrow down your choices, I’ve scoured the internet high and low, checked out dozens of sites and countless reviews. Finally, I’ve handpicked a selection of the best starter watches to consider, touching upon the trends you need to know and when you should be wearing them.
Our Top Picks
Why it’s great: When I first started to write this article on the best entry level watches for men, Citizen instantly popped into my mind. They’ve been my go-to for affordable, stylish timepieces for years and this classic design would make the perfect first watch. It’s cheap, easy on the eye, and surprisingly tough. The 40mm case will suit most wrist sizes and the day/date window gives it a luxury edge.
When to wear it: Watches like this one can be worn anywhere, from graduation ceremonies to weddings and nights at the bar.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Get it slightly wet and it’ll survive. Submerge it into water for long periods and you’ll be on the lookout for a new watch.
Case Size: 40mm | Movement: Quartz | Thickness: 9mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Why it’s great: Ideal for fans of minimalist style, this fuss-free design will complement a range of outfits, whether you’re rocking a suit or a sweater. The ultra-thin 7mm case fits perfectly under a shirt cuff, while the leather strap gives it a touch of elegance.
When to wear it: Offering excellent value for money, you can wear it pretty much anywhere. It’s smart enough for days in the office yet stylish enough for your weekend fits.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: If you’re a big fella with bulging biceps and wrists the size of hulk, this delicate design might end up feeling a little underwhelming. But I’m certainly not going to tell you it doesn’t look good. I like my face the way it is, thank you.
Case Size: 38mm | Movement: Quartz | Thickness: 7mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Why it’s great: This classic from Casio has been around for years; it was actually my second foray into the world of watches and still sits working inside my bedside table over a decade later. Simple yet seriously cool, it has a luminous rectangular dial complete with an alarm and stopwatch. The 33mm case is small enough for wrists of all sizes, while it can cope with brief immersion in water.
When to wear it: It’s a must-have for your casual fits, making it perfect for festivals, day dates, and working out. The fashion police won’t turn up if you wear it with slightly smarter gear, but it’s not really suitable for dressy occasions.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: As I’ve just touched on, it’s not the best choice for wearing with suits or smart shirts. You’ll probably need another option if you’re looking for greater versatility.
Case Size: 33mm | Movement: Quartz | Thickness: 8mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Why it’s great: Baltic’s Bicompax 003 proves that in order to buy a luxury timepiece you don’t need to start selling your sneaker collection. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s far more affordable than many of the other high-end options out there. Inspired by the 1940s, it features a modest 36.5mm case, powered by a hand-wound mechanical movement (a hallmark of a fancy watch) that offers a 42-hour power reserve and can time up to 30 minutes.
When to wear it: You can save this one for special occasions or show it off at parties, work events, and weddings. It looks just as good with a suit as it does with a shirt and jeans.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: You’ll need to stump up a bit of cash, but it’ll be well worth the investment.
Case Size: 36.5mm | Movement: Mechanical | Thickness: 13mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Why it’s great: If you’re buying a watch for the first time but want to look like you’ve been in the game for years, an automatic ticker is a great place to start. Wound as you move throughout the day, this version from Seiko isn’t going to break the bank but looks like you have. It’s housed in a durable stainless steel case and finished with a day/date window, unidirectional rotating bezel, and markers and hands that glow in the dark.
When to wear it: The sporty style is as versatile as they come, working well in formal and casual settings alike. It looks great with tailoring but feels equally at home if you’re wearing sweatpants and an oversized tee.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The 43mm case may feel slightly big on skinny wrists and the automatic movement requires you to wear it regularly to keep it ticking.
Case Size: 43mm | Movement: Automatic | Thickness: 13mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Why it’s great: Every guy should invest in a G-shock watch at some point in their life. So why not get it done early and make it your first? Super tough and ready for your outdoor adventures, the digital design comes with an auto-calendar, stopwatch, and a backlight for nighttime viewing. It’ll accompany you to depths of 200 meters and will survive all sorts of impact and vibration.
When to wear it: Great for the active guy, it’s going to be your best friend for sports and weekend hikes. You’ll also want to take it swimming and for the annual camping trip with the boys.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: It feels a little clunky to wear it with anything smarter than jeans and a T-shirt. And it’s probably going to take some getting used to if you have particularly small wrists.
Case Size: 46.4mm | Movement: Quartz | Thickness: 14mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Resin
Why it’s great: A dress watch should be smart, elegant, and perfectly suited to anything formal, which is why I’m giving Citizen’s wallet-friendly option a full house. Looking particularly good with a suit, it comes with a croc-embossed leather strap and a 39mm stainless steel case. Bonus points are awarded for the glow in the dark hands and a classy date window.
When to wear it: Dress watches are usually saved for formal events such as awards evenings, date nights, business meetings, and weddings. But there’s no reason you can’t show this off at the weekend with an Oxford shirt and khakis.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: It doesn’t feel quite as classy as some of the more expensive alternatives, but you can start thinking about those once you’ve been on your watch-wearing journey a little longer.
Case Size: 39mm | Movement: Quartz | Thickness: 8.5mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Why it’s great: When it comes to finding the best entry level watches, you can either opt for something cheap that’ll serve you well for a few years, or stretch your budget and invest in one that you’ll wear for the next decade (at least). For the latter option, Baltic’s Aquascaphe is the perfect choice. Designed for the water but just as suitable for land, it’s scratch-resistant, shockproof, and capable of diving to depths of up to 200m. The 120-clicks rotating bezel is a nifty feature that allows you to control your dive time and keep track of decompression stops.
When to wear it: When you’re not wearing it with your swimming gear, it’ll look great in the office with a shirt and slacks. For the weekend, pop it on for dinner dates and drinks at your favorite late-night spot.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The price could prove a bit of a stumbling block if you’re working on a tight budget. But if you can pull together the funds, it’s going to prove a real steal when you’re still wearing it in years to come.
Case Size: 39mm | Movement: Automatic | Thickness: 13mm | Water Resistant: Yes | Material: Stainless steel
Buying Considerations for The Best Starter Watches
Choose a watch that resonates with your personal style and complements your wardrobe. Whether you prefer a vintage, sporty, or contemporary look, your watch should reflect your unique taste.
Understand the different types of watch movements: mechanical, automatic, and quartz. Mechanical watches are hand-wound, automatics are self-winding, and quartz watches are battery-powered. Each varies in price and offers its own advantages in terms of precision and maintenance.
Determine your budget and explore reputable watch brands and styles within that range. If you can, stretch your budget a little further and invest in something that’ll last. That way, you’ll actually save money in the long run.
Why You Should Trust Us
If you’re reading this and looking for your first watch, I’ve been in your shoes. I know how difficult it can be to make your way through the endless options out there, especially when you’ve never had to do it before. On top of personal experience, I’m a writer of all things man, so I’m particularly well suited to this task.
Which is why I’ve done the hard work and only handpicked the very best starter watches on the market. Using my own experiences and heaps of customer reviews, I have managed to narrow down a lengthy list to just eight unmissable designs.
Finding the best starter watches for men can be an equally fun and stressful experience. But not anymore, my friend. It’s all about fun from here on out.
With this list of eight exciting options, you no longer have to spend countless hours scrolling and visiting jewelers. You can simply pick your favorite and embark on your new horological adventure. And if you’re still not sure where to start, you can’t go wrong with my pick from Citizen. Affordable, stylish, and versatile, it has everything you need from a trusty timepiece.
The best starter watches are those that offer a balance between affordability and quality. The perfect first watch will look different for every guy as you’ll need to take into consideration your budget and personal style.
For those looking to start their watch collection with a touch of luxury, entry-level timepieces from well-respected brands like Baltic, Void Watches, and Oris are excellent choices. These brands provide a stepping stone into the world of luxury watches without the super steep price tags associated with higher-end luxury brands—making them ideal for newcomers to the luxury watch market.