The ‘Everyday’ watch — spend any time around watch enthusiasts and you will hear the phrase thrown around often. “What is an everyday watch?” “What makes a good option for everyday wear?” “What are the best options for my budget?” Today we’ll answer each of these questions and more.
It should be noted that an everyday watch will likely look very different from person to person: If you work in an office daily, a dress watch may be a perfectly suitable everyday watch. Conversely, a mountaineer may gravitate to a capable sports piece. In our definition, when we refer to an everyday watch, we are referring to a piece that is well suited for every occasion. (Or most of them.) Capable of dressing up or down, these watches typically work well with a variety of strap combinations, are neither excessively sporty nor excessively dressy, and could easily function as a one-watch collection to cover all bases.
With regards to strap combinations: Paired with a suede strap the optimal everyday watch is casual, yet when paired with alligator or saffiano, the watch takes on a fancier vibe. Investing in a quality everyday watch and a few straps can be an excellent way to increase the versatility of a collection without breaking the bank.
Speaking of which, everyday watches are available at nearly every price point. As you scroll through our suggestions, you’ll likely notice a few commonalities across them: Most of these watches are simple in design. Similarly, they’re never overly sensitive or delicate — which are common attributes of dress watches — as these pieces would be ill-suited for a more active lifestyle.
If you’re searching for a piece that you can throw on your wrist and never worry about, any of these options should work well.
NOTE: The price ranges we quote are accurate as of publish, but markets are of course subject to change. Check our listings frequently for examples of current pricing.
Seiko 5 Sport x Rowing Blazers (~$600)
Whoever says a great timepiece can't be had for under $1,000 hasn't seen this fantastic collaboration between Seiko and Rowing Blazers, purveyors of collegiate-inspired apparel. A special Seiko 5 Sports — which was relaunched to much acclaim in 2019 — it's available in several bright dial colors and makes for the perfect summer watch.
Measuring 40mm in diameter and housed in a stainless steel case, this affordable tool watch features a day-date display in Kanji and English, an automatic movement, a matching steel bracelet, and the collection's signature 4 o'clock crown placement. Robust, colorful, and utilitarian, the Seiko 5 Sports is the ideal entry-level watch, and a great option that comes in well under $1K.
In the 1960s, Hamilton produced several field watches for American forces that have since formed the basis for contemporary collections within the brand's catalog. But between the 1960s and the 2010s, the brand decided to take advantage of surplus stock and sell its mil-spec product to various American retailers, who in turn branded them with their own names and sold them in stores around the United States and through catalogs.
These watches are still relatively affordable, and because they're largely military designs, they make for excellent everyday watches that can take abuse and keep on ticking. (Plus, with so many dial variants, they're highly collectible!) This particular example is from classic American retailer Brookstone. Measuring 34mm in diameter and dating to the 1980s, it's perfect for both men and women.
Sometimes it pays to look to the B-sides rather than the greatest hits. This chronograph from Clebar isn't a particular well-known reference, for example, but boy is it cool: Measuring a highly wearable 37mm in stainless steel, it features one of the most colorful dials we've ever seen on a chrono, vintage or modern. Additionally, it's hand-wound and features a rotating dive bezel, plus a matching, stainless steel bracelet.
But back to that dial for a moment. Where else are you going to find such a beautiful example of industrial design for just a couple-thousand bucks? With its incredible 'surfboard' motif, contrasting 30-minute totalizer, and multi-colored 1/5th-seconds scale, this watch is simple too cool for school. (And did we mention that it comes with its factory goodies, including sales receipt from a military post exchange?)
Longines Heritage Classic For HODINKEE (~$4,000)
The Longines Heritage Classic balances the aesthetic qualities of vintage Longines and the proportions of modern stylistic trends. The sector dial allows this otherwise simple watch to take on an entirely different character. Paired with its ‘beads of rice’ bracelet, the piece is casual — yet if worn on a strap, it would take on a distinctly dressy appearance.
At under $5,000 — and one of only 500 pieces — the Heritage Classic is one of the best-value limited editions on the market. And at 38.5mm, it should be comfortable for almost any wrist size. Additional details such as blued steel hands enhance the visuals of the watch and serve as a reminder of the fact that Longines is no newcomer to the luxury watch space: They’ve been around since 1832!
Cartier Santos De Cartier (~$6,000)
It’s crazy to think that one can get a contemporary, automatic-winding Cartier for well under $10,000 — yet here it is, the Santos de Cartier in steel! Difficult to classify as either a dress or sport watch, the Santos certainly has some flash to it, yet the full steel bracelet and large bezel give it a sporty quality at the same time.
Lovers of Cartier will note the blued steel hands, sapphire cabochon crown, and unique, screwed bracelet design that are the hallmarks of the Santos model line. First introduced in the early 1900s alongside the Tank, the Santos is one of the most recognizable and well loved collections within the Cartier archive and remains a cornerstone of the brand’s offerings to this day. One of its interesting elements is the slightly scooped caseback that allows it to conform to the contours of the wrist. Easily a “one-and-done” timepiece, the Santos is also surprisingly comfortable, so you probably won’t want to take it off.
Movado Super Sub Sea Chronograph (~ $7,950)
We would argue that what we have here is one of the coolest watches ever made, full stop, let alone for under $10,000. The Super Sub Sea Chronograph is a far cry from Movado's modern fashion-watch offerings: Dating to the 1960s and housed in a 40mm stainless steel case, it's a 12-hour chronograph meant for underwater use, featuring a rotating dive bezel and a highly legible tritium dial.
Powered by the manual winding Calibre 146HP developed by the Swiss ébauche manufacturer Martel, the Super Sub Sea Chronograph is an example of midcentury industrial design at its finest. Indeed, coming across one in such great condition is rare indeed — which is why we're so proud to offer this example.
Our next option brings us away from Switzerland to Asia for Grand Seiko’s brilliant Kira-Zuri. This timepiece combines many of the elements that define Grand Seiko watches: Zaratsu hand polishing across the complex, faceted case; a beautiful textured dial; and the signature Spring Drive movement.
This watch is 40mm in stainless steel, finished like a dress watch, yet sized and constructed with the robustness of a sports piece. It also comes with a steel bracelet as well as an alligator strap, since Grand Seiko wants this to be your everyday piece! To top it off, this is one of only 558 examples of the Kira-Zuri produced for the US market. In short, it perfectly exemplifies the most foundational elements of the Grand Seiko design language and epitomizes the brand’s philosophy to watchmaking.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Rose Gold (~$16,000)
Omega is one of the masters of the everyday watch; indeed, the brand’s selection of models, dial colors, and individual iterations is unparalleled within the market segment. We’ve chosen to highlight the beloved Aqua Terra collection, which has produced steel offerings under $10k — or, for those seeking a little more bling, the rose gold reference linked above.
Omega’s everyday philosophy extends to the movement, which flaunts a co-axial escapement, Master Chronometer accuracy, and automatic winding. (It seems Omega has packed as much utility into this spec as possible to ensure a high-performance caliber that is accurate, robust, and resistant to magnetism.) It’s easy to forget how much effort Omega puts into their movement technology and development, but when searching for everyday characteristics, these attributes are incredibly valuable.
Taken as a whole, the design of the Aqua Terra is casual, generally speaking — yet when executed in precious metal, it takes on an entirely new identity capable of blending into a variety of environments easily. And for the price, you can’t go wrong.
Rolex Explorer Reference 1016 Frog Foot (~$30,000)
A Rolex Explorer can certainly be had for under $40k, but let’s be honest — this is probably one of the coolest Explorers we have ever seen, and that costs money. What we have here is an example of the famed Reference 1016 with beautifully patinated tritium lume, a matching bracelet, and the rare ‘Frog’s Foot’ Rolex coronet. This dial variant is prized by collectors who obsess over fine details on Rolex watches.
The overarching design language of the Explorer lends itself well to everyday wear: With a sportier dial but no rotating bezel to push the design too far into the sport realm, it — particularly the slightly flashier modern versions — has a refined quality that most steel watches lack. The Explorer also affords a generous amount of water resistance with its Oyster case, which makes it a bit more versatile than most in this market segment and provides peace of mind when working in wet environments.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (~$50,000)
Probably the most sporty watch we’ve featured on this list so far, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak — the embodiment of the ‘luxury sports watch’ — would not be out of place in a modern casual-dress environment. AP is particularly known for the finishing of its bracelet and cases, with perfectly hand-polished facets that catch the light and help the watch straddle the line between formal and everyday worlds.
The Royal Oak was designed following a request from an AP distributor that would hopefully help the brand face down the Quartz Crisis. (TL;DR — it did.) Conceived of by the brilliant Gérald Genta (designer of the Polerouter and, later, the Nautilus), this instantly recognizable steel sports piece with its octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet slowly became a cultural sensation. The Royal Oak has since captivated a global audience, providing a fantastic option not only for active lifestyles, but for everyday wear in general. At the same time, it changed the notion that a steel watch cannot be luxurious, and set in motion the trend that led to the explosion of steel integrated-bracelet sports pieces.