How to Pick an Affordable Alternative to a Luxury Watch  - Under £500 | Watch Guru

How to Pick an Affordable Alternative to a Luxury Watch - Under £500 | Watch Guru

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I love it when I stumble across a watch that looks like it’s thousands of pounds, but only costs a fraction of that. I’ve handled thousands of watches, and have condensed my thoughts on what makes a watch look expensive, into this guide.

Rest assured it is possible to get a luxury looking watch on a budget - in fact - every watch featured in this video is under £500!

Reflective or Sunray Dial

The first couple of points are around reflective surfaces. The inner magpie within me loves a glossy finish on a watch, and it sure does make them look luxurious.

It’s quite simple really. Glossy or reflective dials look the bees knees. They’re eye-catching, attractive, and make viewing a watch so much more enjoyable. The alternative of a glossy dial is a sunray effect, such as on this Tissot Seastar. The way the light spins around the dial depending on the angle is a joy to behold.

A fine example of a glossy dial is this Depth Charge. A serious luxurious look for such a bargain price. But that’s not all that’s great about this watch. It takes us to our next point...

Ceramic Bezel Inserts

Again, more shiny things. I love them. A ceramic bezel insert looks so much better than a standard printed steel or aluminium insert. They’re reflective, but also all the markings have to be engraved rather than printed. This provides the look and feel of a much higher level of craftsmanship - and that’s because it is.

One thing that shouldn’t be reflective is the crystal - the glass protecting the dial. Higher quality watches (maybe such as this Bulova) have a very effective “anti-reflective coating”. The better this is, and the more reflections it removes, the more expensive the watch looks.

Watch Finishings

A watch that has a beautiful array of finishing, alternating between polished and brushed, with laser-sharp edges and chamfering makes a case stand out from the rest.

A brand that is outstanding in this department is Seiko. This Presage SRPG05J1 has a slender, sleek case with exacting angles, edges and corners. You can tell this is a high quality watch just from feeling the case. Another example, this insane Prospex SUT403P1 is on the other end of the spectrum - beefy, rugged, could be used as a weapon if needed - but again it’s incredibly well machined.

Applied Dials

I’ve seen the most amazing watch, let down by a really disappointing thin and fragile-looking stuck-on logo. Same goes for the applied hour markers, if a watch has them.

Thick, chunky, detailed applied elements on a dial scream high quality. Check out this Victorinox - what a beauty of an applied logo this watch has. It’s thick, detailed, impeccably crafted, and sets the whole watch off so well. This Roamer has delicate but high quality pitched hour markers, as well as a border around the date window. These reflect the light and give a dial that wow-factor you’re looking for.

Pitched Watch Hands

Also notice the pitched hands.

That’s our next point. Depending on the design of the watch, pitched hands may not look right. But I tend to find that watches, like this Locksley London Multifunction Quartz Watch, with them look more expensive due to the way they play with the light and stand out against the dial.

We all love watching a watch's movement tick away, so those with exposed hands windows really stand out.

Exposed Movements

Exposed movements, even if they’re on the cheap side, always make a watch look expensive from afar. This Festina has a brilliant open front and back, allowing an obstruction-free view of the movement. The balance wheel is what it’s all about, located at 7 here. If you can see that ticking away then you’re on to a winner.

Next, a couple of things to avoid.

Folded or Flimsy Bracelets

This can be slightly more difficult to spot, and you may have to handle the watch to determine if the bracelet is good quality. But a cheap and nasty one can ruin an otherwise great watch - especially if they rattle, which can just sound cheap.

This Citizen Endeavour is a great example of a sturdy, high quality bracelet. Each link is exquisite, with chamfered edges and angles. They’re also super thick. It’s also got a sturdy buckle - nothing here is thin and feeble, it’s all built to last and to stay on your wrist.

Cheap Alloy

Our final thing to look out for is cheap alloy.

Believe it or not, not all watches are made of stainless steel. Some are made of an alloy that may look the same in photographs, but trust me - they are clearly noticeable in the hands. Always go for stainless steel - which means going for a metal-looking watch £50 and up.


That’s all of my years of handling watches condensed into a number of key points. You’re now super knowledgeable about what to look out for on a luxury looking budget watch! My recommendation? Just buy the Depth Charge - you won’t regret it!

blog author
blog author

Joshua Clare-Flagg

Watch It All About

As an avid consumer of affordable watches with amazing quality, our Watch Guru Joshua Clare-Flagg from the popular watch blog Watch It All About is giving an insight into his thoughts on the watch world.

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