Just like the United States is associated with mouth-watering burgers, Switzerland has always been considered the hub of the most refined timepieces.
Unfortunately, a lion’s share comes with hefty price tags – putting off most enthusiasts long before they even had a good look at their most desired model.
The fact that Swiss-made watches are some of the most accurate and brilliantly crafted out there is naturally contributing to the high price. However, that’s not to say that all watchmakers residing in the Swiss Alps are out of the price range of the everyday shopper.
Putting aside brands from the very top shelf, such as Rolex, Omega, or Breitling, we’re still left with many quality choices that won’t break the bank.
In this article, we will have a look at the 11 best affordable Swiss watch brands for 2021. And by affordable, we mean those who offer high-quality models for anywhere between $100 and $500.
Without further ado, let’s go!
Tissot is one of the oldest and most respected Swiss watchmakers – yet many of its collections are available at price points affordable for most.
The brand has been around since 1853, founded by Charles-Felicien Tissot and his son, Charles-Emile Tissot. In the first phase of its history, Tissot was hugely dependent on local craftsmen who delivered individual parts of watches only for Charles and his son to assemble them. At that time, Tissot was creating pocket and pendant watches.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Tissot set up its own manufactory and hasn’t looked back since. To this day, the brand is seen as one of the best emerging from the Swiss Alps, oftentimes referred to as Entry-Level luxury.
Since 1998, Tissot belongs to the prestigious Swatch Group, also known as SMH. The Swiss group consists of many renowned names such as Omega, Longines, and Harry Winston. After joining, the quality of Tissot watches further improved.
The great thing about Tissot is that it caters to contrasting budgets. For the savvy shopper community, there are models available for as little as $100. For those who value the highest level of craftsmanship and superbly accurate Swiss movements, there are some pieces approaching the $2,000 mark. However, on a whole, the vast majority of Tissot watches are available in the $200-$500 region.
Nowadays, Tissot has plenty of sports connections. The brand is the official sponsor (and the timekeeper) of the NBA and MotoGP. The sporty influence can be seen in some of the newly-released models, such as the NBA-inspired line or racing-themed chronographs.
Tissot’s diving watch line, the Seastar, is another one increasingly growing in popularity.
As similar as it sounds, Mathey-Tissot is a completely different brand than Tissot. It’s totally forgivable to think otherwise, though!
Despite not being as popular as Tissot nowadays, Mathey-Tissot is also a long-standing name. The brand was set up in 1886 in one of the villages occupying the Swiss Jura Mountains, Less Ponts de Martel. It was founded by a local watchmaker, Edmond Mathey-Tissot.
At first, wristwatches weren’t the bread and butter of the company. Instead, it was specializing in the so-called “repeater” watches and pocket timepieces. Mathey-Tissot’s rise to fame was fuelled by the release of one of the first chronograph timepieces.
During its finest years, Mathey-Tissot was one of the favorite watchmakers in the United States. Names such as Elvis Pressley were big admirers of the quality offered by the Swiss brand.
Because Mathey-Tissot watches aren’t that marketed nowadays (hence, not as popular anymore), many folks miss out on what is one of the most affordable Swiss watch brands. One that to this day provides excellent value at very little expense. Some of the cheapest Mathey-Tissot models are available for less than $100, whilst the most expensive picks are unlikely to set you back more than $300.
In the watch community, the brand is mostly recognized for its line of Greenwich Mean Time watches that can track up to three different time zones at once. One of these timepieces was listed in our ranking of Top 10 GMT Watches Under $1,000. The diving collection, full of Rolex Submariner homages like this one, is another one worth checking out.
Akin to Mathey-Tissot, Glycine is a brand that once was on the lips of many but nowadays stays in the shadow of the more aggressively marketed competitors.
Like the previous two watchmakers, Glycine is another of the low-to-mid budget Swiss watch brands that have been around for over 100 years. It was founded in 1914 by Eugene Meylan, who at that time was an up-and-coming watch engineer. Initially, the brand made a name for itself with superbly accurate (at that time) and tiny movements for ladies’ watches.
From the day of foundation to present times, all Glycine watches have been manufactured at the factory in the Swiss city of Bienne. Naturally, all pass the Swiss Quality Control tests.
From the 1950s, Glycine started focusing heavily on pilot watches. Particularly the Airman line – to this day one of the trademarks of the brand – was a massive success globally. That was down to the fact of the growing class of frequent travelers and pilots.
The brand was enjoying decades of success until the Quartz Revolution of the 1970s struck. Although Glycine managed to survive, it never fully recovered. In 2016, after rumors of the financial crisis came to the surface, the brand was acquired by the American Invicta Group, mostly known for Invicta watches.
Since the takeover, the pricing of Glycine watches has become even more tempting. Despite that, the core style of the brand has been preserved. Glycine’s pilot-style watches are enjoying a bit of a renaissance and the current success of the Airman and Combat collections proves that.
The vast majority of Glycine watches are available in the $300-$500 region. You can learn more about the brand by reading our Glycine watch review.
Fair to say, Victorinox is a completely different animal than any of the above-discussed budget Swiss watches.
Whilst the above trio oscillates in the dressy spectrum of the design, Victorinox watches boast a much stronger, masculine vibe. The Swiss brand focuses strictly on the so-called tool watches which are some of the toughest-to-break timepieces currently on the market.
This isn’t a coincidence.
Even though Victorinox as a company exists for more than 130 years now, they’re a relatively fresh addition to the watchmaking industry. For the most part of their history, the brand was a manufacturer of Swiss Army knives. It was only in 2005 when Victorinox acquired Wenger (another knives-turn-watches company which we will discuss later), a move that kick-started many new lines of products – including timepieces.
Next to Luminox, Victorinox watches are seen as one of the most rugged and reliable out there. They’re favorites amongst folks working in physically demanding professions, such as military personnel, firefighters, or EMTs. Quite literally, they can take a beating.
Victorinox likes to boast about the unbreakable quality of these watches and often puts them through some rigorous tests. For example, they’ve proved that timepieces from the I.N.O.X collection can handle a pressure of 8 tonnes.
Compared to other affordable Swiss watch brands on this list, Victorinox also offers considerably bigger water-resistance capabilities. Many watches come with a 200m WR rating, making them suitable for diving.
Price-wise, the brand can be considered low-to-mid budget. The cheapest models can be found online for less than $100 whilst the top-end quality releases can cost you up to $1,000.
Learn more about the watchmaker in this Victorinox brand review.
We’ve already touched on the subject of Wenger when discussing Victorinox a moment ago.
Up until 2005, Wenger was competing with Victorinox in the field of Swiss Army knives. It was only after the acquisition of the former that the brands decided to embark on the horological journey. Despite the close connection, Wenger watches couldn’t be more different in terms of style.
Some refer to Wenger as the budget version of Victorinox although the design offered by Wenger is definitely more casual. There’s a vast selection of watch models with leather straps, which contributes to the more elegant feel of these timepieces.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing to choose from for those who prefer the sporty type. Wenger too has its own collection of diving watches. There’s also something in store for the fans of chronograph watches.
When it comes to prices, the cheapest Wenger timepieces can be snatched for ~$50 whereas the most expensive models are unlikely to break the $300 mark.
After the two Swiss watchmaking newbies above, it’s time to discuss another of the old hands – Alpina.
Alpina was launched in 1883 by Gottlieb Hauser but began its journey under the name Alpina Swiss Watchmakers Corporation which united the Swiss independent watchmakers, known as the Alpinists.
In the beginning, the company was merely optimizing the manufacturing process of movements and watches. However, it didn’t take long for Alpina to start designing its own in-house complications and chronometers.
Since the brand embarked on that independent journey, its focus has always been to deliver robust and reliable watches for those in love with outdoor activities. Durability-wise, they’re probably closest to Victorinox than any other brand offering inexpensive Swiss watches on this list.
Alpina timepieces are heavily built, anti-magnetic, shock-resistant, and usually offer a solid level of water resistance.
Despite the massive focus on ruggedness, there’s a wide arrange of styles to pick from. The Swiss watchmaker has plenty in store for those who like pilot watches, divers, or chronographs. There’s also a good number of dress watch models – something we can’t say about Victorinox.
On the money front, Alpina is one of the most expensive brands on the list. The price points start at $250 and can reach $3,000.
7. Raymond Weil
Raymond Weil is another name that belongs to the group of relatively new Swiss watch brands.
Compared to most watchmakers listed in the article, the 1976 foundation does seem not so distant indeed. Funnily enough, Raymond Weil began his journey in the watchmaking industry by selling watches on a foldout bridge table in a tiny stand in the city of Geneva.
As you probably know by now, the 1970s were a crucial period in horological history. The Quartz Crisis killed many well-performing brands and the Weil family entered the game right in the middle of the storm.
Despite the risk of quickly having to close the shop, Raymond Weil decided to continue with the rich tradition of Swiss watchmaking and concentrate on models with mechanical movements. The trend remains the same nowadays and Raymond Weil continues to be a 100% family business. Currently, the 3rd generation is at the steer.
Without a doubt, Raymond Weil timepieces are some of the easiest on the eye in the group of affordable Swiss watch brands. The watchmaker offers an aesthetically pleasing design, paying attention to the smallest details. If we were to describe the style offered by Raymond Weil watches, for the most part, it oscillates in the dressy spectrum.
The pricing of Raymond Weil starts at $300 and caps at $2,500.
When discussing the first position on the list of affordable Swiss watches, Tissot, we touched on the subject of The Swatch Group.
The prestigious organization amasses many refined Swiss watchmakers, oftentimes listed at 5+ figures. However, the group has its own line of timepieces, Swatch, and these are some of the most affordable Swiss watches currently available.
Swatch as a watch company is the third youngest on today’s list. It was founded in 1983 by a successful Swiss businessman, Nicolas Hayek. From the 1980s to 2010, he served as the CEO and the chairman of the board of the Swatch Group.
The line of Swatch watches was created in response to the growing crisis of the Swiss horological industry caused by the Quartz Revolution. The brand was one of few at that time that followed the Asia-originating trend and focused on delivering ultra-affordable quartz models. To this day, a lion’s share of Swatch watches is battery-powered, hugely contributing to the low price margins.
The least elaborate models can be snatched even for $50 whilst those with more premium specs barely hit the $250 mark, anyway. If you’ve been wondering what is the cheapest Swiss watch brand, Swatch is your best bet.
Hamilton doesn’t sound too Swiss, does it? And there’s a good reason for it.
The now-Swiss watchmaker was originally an American brand that started in Pennsylvania. With roots dating back to 1892, it’s another name on the list that has been around during the last 3 centuries.
Because of such long history, Hamilton began its journey by manufacturing pocket watches. It was only after World War that Hamilton joined the worldwide trend and shifted its focus to wristwatches.
Because of the huge success Hamilton was enjoying in the United States and abroad, in 1974 the brand became another acquisition of The Swatch Group. After the move, Hamilton started putting more focus on the classic watch design. It was a noticeable departure from the futuristic styles offered before the takeover. This strategy is still in place these days.
The classic look inspired by the first half of the 20th century is well-appreciated by watch aficionados globally. That’s not to say Hamilton is exclusively limited to the old-school dressy style. Recently, the brand started releasing more designs up to date with modern trends, including GMT models and chronographs.
Hamilton is the very definition of a mid-budget Swiss watchmaker. The price points start at $300 and end at $2,000.
Although not enjoying as much coverage as in its glory days, Movado is still one of the go-to names when it comes to making Swiss-made watches affordable for most.
Originally called LAI Ditescheim & Freres SA and founded in 1881 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the brand is one of the oldest hands on today’s list. After decades of relatively huge success, the watchmaker – already under the name Movado – was purchased in 1983 by an American conglomerate, the North American Watch Corporation.
Sure, we could argue whether Movado is still a Swiss brand, considering its American takeover. However, the fact that all timepieces still come with the Swiss-made label and are manufactured in facilities in Switzerland would suggest so. That said, Movado headquarters are now in New Jersey.
Nowadays, Movado influences the design and quality of watches sold under such names as Coach, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, or Scuderia Ferrari.
We could say that design-wise, the brand opts for a classic look with some modern touches. For example, many of the best-selling models come with extremely minimalistic dials deprived of indices or numerals. One of these is the Movado Museum model. First released in 1947, it’s still racking up a huge number of sales every year.
Closing the list of the best affordable Swiss watch brand is Certina. Don’t let this fact fool you – by no means is it any less appealing than one of the names discussed above.
Certina shares a place on the prestigious list of Swiss watchmakers that were formed in the 19th century. The brand was founded by brothers Adolf and Alfred Kurth in 1888. At the start, the company focused on producing movements for other watchmakers. However, it didn’t take them long to start their own watch line.
Certina is a brand that’s definitely more known in Europe than in the United States. That’s mostly down to its marketing strategy – or the lack of it. However, the brand is seen as one of the more valuable yet affordable assets of The Swatch Group. If you’re into motor racing, you should recognize the Certina logo from many tournaments as it’s a partner of the renowned motorsport promoter, SRO Motorsports Group.
Because of its connection to the sports world, it’s not surprising that the design of these watches leans towards the sporty spectrum. The brand is known for its motorsport-inspired chronographs. That said, it also offers plenty for those who value a more simplistic design.
Certina operates in the $100-$500 price basket.