Gold watches are making a bit of a comeback. They were always a thing at high class events but now you’ll see more and more people rocking gold as their everyday watch. Let’s look at some affordable models to get you started.
But first, we need to address a couple of things.
There are actually two kinds of gold watches: gold plated watches and solid gold watches. Gold plated watches are stainless steel watches that, through various different processes, have been coated with a thin layer of gold. Attack them hard with a steel scrubbing brush and you’ll get to the stainless beneath. Actual gold watches on the other hand, are gold all the way through. This obviously takes a lot more gold than just plating the outside of a watch so they cost a hell of a lot more. Although, even decent gold plated watches don’t come for much less than a few hundred dollars.
There are also different kinds of watch movements—the bit inside that actually makes them keep time. Almost all expensive, luxury watches are entirely mechanical with either a manual or automatic movement. Quartz movements use a battery.
Like the last time we looked at watches, we’re only interested in automatic watches. As long as you’re wearing them, they won’t stop running which gives them the edge up on mechanical watches. And if you’re prepared to fork out a few hundred dollars for a gold watch, you might as well get one that comes with the cachet of being a mechanical masterpiece which certainly outclasses quartz watches.
Best Low Price Gold Watch: Seiko SNKN48 ($295)
Low price is obviously on a scale here, but at just under $300 the Seiko SNKN48 is pretty damn affordable for an automatic gold watch.
The Seiko comes with everything else we’re looking for, and more. The hands, dial markings, case, and even the link bracelet are all gold plated—Seiko clearly hasn’t been skimping—and offset nicely by the black dial. It’s got a see through case back so you can see the automatic movement in action, a day/date display, and a power reserve of approximately 41 hours so, if you take it off for a day or two, it won’t stop.
Seiko is also a reputable brand and famous in watch circles for almost bringing the Swiss manufacturing industry to it’s knees in the 70s and 80s. No watch snob is going to criticise you for your choice.
The only real downside to the Seiko is its case size. At 44.5mm it’s definitely at the larger end of watches. On the flip side, if you’re going for a gold watch you probably want people to notice it.
Best Affordable Swiss Gold Watch: Tissot Le Locle Automatic ($595)
The Tissot Le Locle—at $595—is an absolute steal. Tissot is a Swiss brand that have been around for more than 150 years. They’ve been the official timekeepers for major sports like the Tour de France. The top watches in their line up go for thousands of dollars.
Basically, for less than $600 you get all the bragging rights of a mechanical watch from an ancient Swiss brand. It’s a bonus that the Le Locle is also a stunning watch.
The Le Locle has a gold plated 38m case with a champagne dial on a leather band. The gold Roman numerals and subtle date indicator all whisper “elegance”. It’s also got a see through case back so you can the movement in action and a 38 hour power reserve.
If you’re looking for a gold watch to give as a present or need something for an important event, you can do far far worse.
Best Women’s Watch: Tissot Couturier Automatic ($775)
More and more watches are unisex. The Tissot Le Locle above, for example, would be a little more ostentatious on a thinner wrist, but it would still suit most women. If you’re looking for something a bit more elegant and traditional however, you should check out the Tissot Couturier Automatic.
The Couturier has a 32mm rose gold case on a brown leather strap. That’s about as small as a watch comes. The gold hands on the champagne dial look just as good as they do on the Le Locle. It’s got Tissot’s Powermatic 80 automatic movement which has a power reserve of 80 hours and a see through case back so you can see it do its thing. It’s a similar watch and has all the same things going for it, it’s just sized for a smaller wrist.
Tissot Women's Couturier 316L Stainless Steel case with Rose Gold PVD Coating Swiss Automatic Watch with Leather Strap, Brown, 18 (Model: T0352073603100)
Best In Your Face Gold Watch: Invicta Men’s Pro Diver ($170)
Gold watches aren’t just associated with elegance; they’re also associated with brash, in your face, conspicuous displays of wealth. If you want to do the in your face thing without having the record deal to back it up, the Invicta Men’s Pro Diver is what you’re looking for.
Look, I’m going to be honest. This watch doesn’t have a whole lot going for it other than it’s big, gold, automatic, and, at $170, very affordable. It’s clearly influenced by—and by influenced I mean a shameless copy of—the Rolex Submariner in gold with the Cerachrom bezel. It’s just that you can buy 200 Diver Pros for the price of one Rolex and still have change left over.
Don’t get me wrong, Invicta make decent watches. It’s just that the only talking points you get with this one are it’s in your face and it doesn’t go tick-tock (the second hand sweeps to show it’s automatic).
Crack Open the Check Book for Real Gold
If you’re in the market for a real gold watch, you’re probably not reading this article. From luxury brands like Rolex or Omega, you’re looking at a minimum starting price of about $15,000. There is almost no price you can’t go up to. Apple’s $10,000 Edition might have been comically high priced for a tech product, but it was cheap for a luxury gold watch.
You can get some good deals on second hand watches for less than $5,000, but that is well beyond the scope of this article. If the idea of spending more on a watch than you’d spend on used car is giving you a cold sweat, window shopping or not, you can scroll back up and pick a great watch for a fraction of the price.