If your watch is equipped with one, your moonphase indicator has already completed 11 full cycles this year. Only one to go with the last full moon of the year – the Cold Moon – happening on December 18th. It’s really hard to believe we’re in the home stretch of 2021 already and that the holidays are here. Chanukah starts on Sunday, November 28th to kick things off early and by the time it ends on December 6th, Christmas will be less than 20 days away. That means it’s time to get serious about holiday gifts. I wanted to share a few picks for mid-priced watches that would make any watch lover happy. The focus here is on the $750 to $2,000 range and despite the supply chain turmoil, King Jewelers has lots of options in stock.
Divers remain one of the most popular watch categories. They’re versatile, rugged and whether or not you actually take them in the water, it’s nice to know that you could. Seiko makes some of the most affordable mechanical dive watches. The automatic Prospex SRPH57 is priced at $750. It’s big – 45mm – and colorful with a turtle shell pattern dial reminiscent of clear Caribbean waters. The watch is one of Seiko’s “King Turtle” collection, which were designed to support the Oceanic Society’s efforts to save endangered sea turtles. It’s actually the first time the brand has officially embraced the turtle nickname for the iconic case design even though Seiko enthusiasts have referred to the bubbly cushion case as a turtle since it was introduced in the seventies.
Longines went for the classic dive silhouette on its HydroConquest. The 43mm brushed steel case has polished highlights on the crown and inner links of the matching bracelet. Hefty guards protect the oversize crown and underscore that this is a capable tool watch that can handle depths of 300 meters below the surface. The HydroConquest has applied Arabic numbers at 12, 6 and 9, and lume dots marking the other hours. Longines was generous with Super-Luminova on the dial, hands and bezel so this watch has great legibility in all light conditions. I’m a sucker for a blue dial/blue ceramic bezel combo and this watch delivers beautifully for $1,600.
For divers that are a little different, check out the Mido Ocean Star Tribute and Oris Divers Sixty-Five. The 40.5mm Mido has all the usual dive watch features – unidirectional rotating dive bezel, high legibility dial, screw down crown and water resistance to 200 meters – but the khaki green dial, bezel and strap give it a field watch look that’s really appealing. It looks rugged and outdoorsy, like it was designed as much for a walk in the woods as exploring a coral reef.
The Oris Divers Sixty-Five blends land and sea nicely, too. This automatic has a bronze case and a brown sunray dial that reminds me of fall leaves. Oris definitely went full vintage, all the way down to the old radium SuperLuminova lume on the hands and indices. Like the Mido, it’s a capable diver but with the natural brown leather strap and its subtle stitching near the lugs, it feels like a watch you’d be wearing when the sun rises over your campsite on a crisp fall morning.
Old radium also shows up on Norqain’s 42mm Freedom 60 three-hander, another vintage inspired timepiece with a field watch feel. The simple design pairs a polished steel case with a black vintage dial and a choice of straps or a steel bracelet. The raw leather straps have stitched mountain peaks near each lug; it’s a subtle tie in with the company’s mountains-inspired logo. Like all Norqain watches, the plate on the 9 o’clock side can be engraved for a truly personalized gift.
The Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military watch is another good option if you like the field/military style. It has classic dimensions including a 38.5mm brushed steel case with a svelte crown. Instead of hour increments, B&R matched arabic numbers in 5-minute increments to the straight hour indices. I especially like the symmetry created by using the military “05” instead of simply 5. Vintage lume and a red circle containing “M T” for Military Type that’s styled to look like markings on the dials of vintage German military watches complete the throwback look.
Hamilton is the brand that usually comes to mind first when I think of field watches. The Khaki Field watch remains one of the best values in mechanical watches built for the outdoors. I also recently discovered the Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer, a hand-wound 43mm steel vintage-inspired watch that pays homage to Hamilton’s Model 23 pocket watch. The watch has a bi-directional rotating 60-minute bezel with a mineral glass insert that protects against scratches, a black dial, Arabic number hour markers, cathedral hands and a small seconds dial at 6 o’clock. Like some of the other watches mentioned, the Hamilton also has a leather strap with a few well-placed stitches, but this one already looks like it has some age to it that will only get better over time.
And now for something completely different….the Gorilla Galaxy Blue Fastback. It’s inspired by classic American muscle cars, so this watch is bold and masculine with sharp lines and industrial details. The case is forged carbon topped by a polished ceramic bezel. The dial sits deep beneath a sapphire crystal much like a dashboard dial on a vintage Chevrolet Camaro. The black and blue color palette is present throughout the watch – from the dial to the case to the rubber/Cordura strap. There’s nothing subtle about Gorilla watches. They’re fun, big, bold and unapologetic. Gorilla is also King’s newest line so look for a profile on the brand sometime over the month ahead.
On the other end of the spectrum are two watches with classic styling and dimensions. For dressier occasions, check out Raymond Weil’s Toccata, a rectangular tank-style watch with art deco details. Roman numerals line the dial’s perimeter except at 3:00 where there is a small date aperture. Graceful crown guards extend a quarter of the way up the case to soften the watch’s sharp lines. With a quartz movement inside, the Toccata is an extremely thin 6.4mm thick that fits effortlessly under a shirt sleeve.
The polished steel Tudor 1926 is a 41mm round three hand automatic on a leather strap. The gold hands and gold numbers & markers on the textured silver dial give this watch a little extra visual intrigue. Still, it is a simple, archetypal timepiece that would make an ideal everyday watch.
I hope your holiday season is filed with joy, happiness and watches. Lots of watches.
Bobby Frank is a freelance writer and musician based in Nashville. He’s been an avid watch collector since discovering a sample case full of early digital watches at his father’s office in the late 1970s. Current favorites include the Rolex Batman, Zenith Chronomatster and Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar. A timekeeper to his core, Bobby plays the drums in several bands that perform across the Southeast including Tennessee Dead, a Grateful Dead tribute band.
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