01/25/2021
 6 minutes

5 Categories, 1 Budget: How to Find the Perfect Watch Under $4,000

By Adrian Barker
5 Categories, 1 Budget: How to Find the Perfect Watch Under $4,000

5 Categories, 1 Budget: How to Find the Perfect Watch Under $4,000

While $4,000 is, no doubt, a sizeable chunk of change to spend on a watch, it’s also a very popular price point within the market. My name is Adrian, and I run a watch-focused blog and YouTube channel called Bark & Jack. Today, we’re exploring the best watches that you can get for less than $4,000.

This is a no-brainer for me. The best watch under $4,000 is the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight. On paper (or specification-wise), it really is difficult to beat at this price. Even stylistically, it’s a nice, inoffensive, vintage-inspired diving watch. But what if you don’t like divers or watches with faux rivets? Maybe you just don’t want to waste your time with the waitlists required to access the watch at its retail price. I’m going to try to help you out. For this write-up and the video that goes with it over on my channel, I’ve teamed up with Chrono24 – using their marketplace’s extensive selection, their helpful search tool, and their consumer trends – to find the best watches for under $4,000. One thing to mention before I begin my search: I didn’t look over the top-10 list that Chrono24 sent me before compiling my own assortment, as I didn’t want to be swayed by public opinion, but I will run through them once I’ve covered my picks.

In terms of what I’d call my “watch style,” I tend to go for sporty-looking tool watches. But for this list, I’m not limiting myself to that; I’m going to find the watch in each category that I would personally buy if I had a budget of $4,000. So I’ll be looking for what, I think, is the best diving watch, field watch, dress watch, and chronograph for the money. To spice things up, I’m also going to be looking for a “wildcard” option. This watch can be any style but has to be interesting, beautiful, or just an exciting piece in general – one to stand out at the watch meets.

Diving Watch

First, I’m going to be looking at a diving watch. Dialing in my preferences on the Chrono24 filter, I’d like my money to go as far as possible, so it’s OK for the watch to be pre-owned and for it not to come with its box and papers. Since diving watches tend to make great everyday watches, I’m going to stick with fairly modern pieces. I narrowed my search down to timepieces from 1990 onwards in this case. Size-wise, I’m looking for something 40mm or larger. Also, when it comes to browsing or looking for a watch I want to buy, I always toggle the price filter to around $300 more than my budget. I do this because I always haggle when buying my watches, especially when they’re pre-owned. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you ask a seller to go a bit lower on price? They’ll say no, and that’s it, so never be afraid to ask.

After I had entered all my preferences, I was amazed to see the choice that’s out there. I think this is such a sweet spot for diving watches in terms of price point. You’ve got Breitling SuperOceans, larger Tudor Black Bays, and lots more. The watch that I end up choosing is this 2014 Omega Seamaster 300. This is a proper diving watch with a solid bracelet, a stunning ceramic bezel, and a kick-ass Co-Axial movement. As it’s a fairly modern SMP (or Seamaster Professional), it also features a helium escape valve – not that I’m ever gonna need it, but I still think it looks really cool. This example is in really decent condition, and, as I mentioned, I’m not too bothered about its lack of box and papers. We’re getting a lot of watch for the money here with some change left over to spend on NATO straps.

An example: Omega Seamaster 300M
An example: Omega Seamaster 300M

Omega Seamaster 300

Ref: 212.30.41.20.01.003

Year: 2014

Case: 41 mm

Material: Steel

Movement: Automatic

Box: No

Papers: No

Price: $3,400

Dress Watch

For my dress watches, I want something a little smaller with a nice dial and, preferably, a yellow gold case. I don’t need my dedicated dress piece to be too tough or even water-resistant, so I’m happy to open the search up to feature vintage pieces, too. In addition, I’m a big fan of old yellow gold. There’s a real charm to vintage watches covered in micro-scratches and small, characterful dings that give the yellow gold that old-gold luster. Among some serious competition, I found this gorgeous little 34-mm Omega Constellation. With a yellow gold case, a classic Omega pie pan crosshair dial, and characterful 1960s lugs, this is, again, so much watch for the asking price of around $3,500.

An example: Omega Constellation 34 mm, ca. 1963
An example: Omega Constellation 34 mm, ca. 1963

Omega Constellation

Year: 1963

Material: Yellow gold plated

Movement: Automatic

Box: Yes

Papers: No

Price: approx. $3,500

Field Watch

I’m not a massive field-watch kind of guy. Sure, I’m a big fan of the Khaki series from Hamilton, but most of those go for well under $1,000. So, when searching for a watch that maximizes a $4,000 budget, I’m looking for something fairly simple with a highly legible dial, smooth bezel, well-performing movement, and decent level of water resistance. After entering these preferences, I was immediately drawn to this Omega Aqua Terra from 2010. If you want a solid, simple watch, I think the Aqua Terra is a fantastic option. Plus, if you like the Rolex Explorer (which demands silly money right now; I paid only a bit more than today’s budget for mine a while ago) but want to stay within our price range, this Omega offers great value for money. You’re getting (arguably) just as much brand heritage, a great case size, and a movement that’s technically better than that of the Explorer. I love the Aqua Terra, and if I was going to get one, this would be it.

An example: Omega Aqua Terra Ref: 2503.30.00
An example: Omega Aqua Terra Ref: 2503.30.00

Omega Aqua Terra

Ref: 2503.30.00

Year: 2010

Case: 39 mm

Material: Steel

Water resistance: 150 m (492 ft)

Movement: Automatic

Box: Yes

Papers: No

Price: approx. $3,100

Chronograph

It’s not an Omega; it’s a Breitling! Again, I’m not much of a chronograph guy. I rarely find myself needing a stopwatch function, and when I do, I’m perfectly happy with a diving bezel. However, what I do love about a lot of chronographs is the way they look. Take this 1972 Breitling Sprint, for instance. I don’t know much about this watch other than the fact I think it looks awesome. For me, half of the reason we buy watches comes down to the way they look. I love its tropical sector subdials and red accents. The second hand gives this vintage timepiece a really nice, sporty look, as well.

An example: Breitling Sprint ref. 2010
An example: Breitling Sprint ref. 2010

Breitling Sprint

Ref: 2010

Year: 1972

Case: 40 mm

Material: Steel

Movement: Automatic

Box: No

Papers: No

Price: $3,300

Wildcard

Finally, my wildcard is a Breitling Aerospace. This is a really nice example of the dial variant designed for the Royal Air Force. Only people serving in the RAF could buy this watch. This makes it fairly limited and, as a result, a great conversation starter, as you’re likely to be the only one in the room wearing one – unless you’re at an RAF base, that is. This Aerospace is solid titanium, which, for me, isn’t great since I like my watches to have a bit of weight to them. However, with this piece, it’s all about the look and functionality – which are superb. It’s powered by an incredibly accurate and practical ETA Superquartz movement that matches this watch’s capable nature perfectly. I also really like the dial, from the different textures of black to those really sporty numerals and the awesome RAF badge at 3 o’clock. I’m not too fond of the overly complicated bracelet, but I think this special Aerospace would look great on a NATO strap.

An example: Breitling Sprint ref. 2010
An example: Breitling Sprint ref. 2010

Breitling Aerospace RAF Edition

Year: 2002

Case: 40 mm

Material: Titanium

Water resistance: 150 m (492 ft)

Movement: Quartz

Box: Yes

Papers: Yes

Price: approx. $1,800

So, those were my choices of what I would actually buy from each category if I had $4,000 to spend. I think this would make an absolutely killer collection. As part of this little project, I asked Chrono24 to give me some data on what actually are the most popular watches for $4,000 and under. These are the top 10.

When I stop and think about it, this really is an accurate snapshot of the community and their general preferences.

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About the Author

Adrian Barker

Adrian runs the watch blog Bark & Jack which started as a watch focused instagram account in 2012 and a YouTube channel in 2017. Bark & Jack has now grown …

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