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The Best Budget Friendly Retro Watches

We’re huge fans of automatic watches here at Review Geek but even the most affordable ones aren’t that cheap. If you want something really affordable that still has heaps of watch cred, you need to go retro.

And if you’re going retro, you need to go Casio.

Since the 1980s, Casios digital watches have been a permanent fixture on peoples’ wrists. First they were high tech, then they were functional, then they were cheap, and now they’re retro and stylish. For almost 40 years people have had no trouble finding reasons to rock a Casio and I don’t think that’s going to change in a hurry.

While there are thousands of cheap quartz watches available from no name companies buying in bulk from Alibaba that try to appear high class and premium, a Casio digital watch makes no secret about what it is: a pure tool. By embracing their cheap plastic nature, Casios are way cooler than any of the try hards.

Let’s look at the best retro Casios available—and one epic non-Casio classic too.

Casio F91W-1 ($10)

The Casio F91W-1 ($10) is the classic digital watch. It hasn’t changed since it was first released in 1991. It has an LCD screen, three buttons, and a light so you can check the time at night. The watch is accurate to within 15 seconds a month, has a stopwatch, an alarm, and a calendar that’s pre-programmed until the middle of the century. Although it’s not waterproof, it can take a beating and the battery will last a decade.

The F91W been worn by everyone from Obama to Osama. There’s a good chance you’ve owned one of these in the past. And if you haven’t, someone you know has. It is the epitome of retro chic and yours for around ten bucks.

Casio makes models in steel and gold, but our pick is still the black plastic one. How can you beat the classic?

Casio CA53W-1 Databank Calculator Watch ($17)

If the F91W is the watch for everyone, the Casio CA53W-1 Databank ($17) is the watch for geeks and nerds.

The CA53W is a watch that should need no introduction. It’s blocky and ugly, big and bold, and it’s a fully functioning calculator. If you had one of these in maths class in the 90s, you were Jesus-reborn with better wrist accessories.

Let’s be honest, you’re never going to use the calculator to do more than type 8008135 and giggle, but the very uselessness of it is what makes it fun. You’re not wearing a watch because you need to know the time—your smartphone does that—you’re wearing a watch because you want to. And people will fall down at your feet if you go with the calculator.

Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1V ($42)

If a regular Casio digital watch seems too fragile for you and you want something that can withstand, well, everything, check out the Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1V ($42).

Casio’s G-Shock line started in the 80s after Kikuo Ibe, a Casio engineer, dropped and broke his mechanical watch. G-Shocks are made to be resistant to water, heat, cold, electricity, gravity, vibration, and anything else you can throw at them. Seriously, if you’re in a situation where your G-Shock breaks, the odds are you’re too dead to care.

The DW5600E-1V is a direct successor to the first G-Shock models. It’s been in continuous production since 1996. While it has the same basic features as every other Casio digital watch—accurate time, a calendar, an alarm, and a stopwatch—it’s water resistant to 200m water resistance; that’s enough for recreational scuba diving.

The G-Shock is much bigger than the F91W but, if you want a watch that’s indestructible and don’t mind making a statement, it’s the one to go for.

Disney Mickey Mouse Quartz Watch ($32)

Casio watches are only one kind of retro watch; if you want to go hard in the other direction and embrace your inner child, you can’t go wrong with a Disney Mickey Mouse watch ($32).

This little beauty is the ultimate novelty watch. This isn’t a kid’s model that I’m recommending you squeeze into; this is a full adult sized (the case diameter is 35mm) original Mickey Mouse watch. Disney has been making (or at least licensing) this style of watch since the 1930s. (The iconic look is even available as an Apple Watch face.) Wearing one of these takes retro to a whole new level.

While the mechanism is a generic quartz one, the appeal of a Mickey Mouse watch is, well, Mickey himself. Rather than regular hands, Mickey’s oversized mitts point out the hour and minutes.

Even if you wouldn’t wear a Mickey yourself, they make great gifts for the novelty-tie lover in your life. I reckon their sales spike around Father’s Day.

Retro is back, baby, and the uncool has never been so cool. If you’ve got any retro faves, let us know in the comments.

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like the New York Times and on a variety of other websites, including Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »