5 Best Entry Level Luxury Watches: Balling on a Budget

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Luxury watches are one of the few fashion pieces that appreciate in value, but getting started isn’t easy. You want to get your foot in the door, but where do you start?

We put together a list of the best entry level luxury watches so you can jumpstart your collection.

Best Entry Level Rolex
  • Rolex is the brand people think of for luxury watches
  • Accurate to no fewer than 2 seconds per day
  • 32, 34, 36 and 41mm versions widely available
Best Swiss Pre-Owned
  • Incredible Hesalite crystal is unique, handsome, and easy to care for
  • Excellent value at pre-owned prices and an easy entry-point for true luxury
  • Rich history as the first watch on the moon
Best Entry Level Dress Watch
  • Distinctive, iconic style
  • Tons of pre-owned versions at varying price levels
  • Quartz and automatic versions available
Best Luxury Minimalist
  • Hand wound and automatic versions
  • Classic German Bauhaus design
  • Nomos has investment potential and great resale value
Best Chronograph
  • Swiss automatic chronograph movement
  • Classic racing watch aesthetics
  • Excellent sporty band with bold colors

There’s something special about the glossy luster of a beautifully made timepiece. 

Luxury watches are a sum greater than their parts. And they do double duty: both functional and a symbol of status. 

The downside is they cost a lot of money. 

But if you’ve been around the game long enough, you already know that having 10 different $200 watches isn’t the same as having one beautiful Rolex. 

So to help you get your collection rolling, we put together the best entry level luxury watches you can find. 

What Counts as an Entry Level Luxury Watch?

Let’s start by identifying what isn’t an entry level luxury watch:

Raphael Nadal’s sporty little Richard Mille he wears when he’s gearing up for a casual match. 

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Yeah, it costs over a million. So we’re not going to count that as “entry level.”

For us, “entry level” really depends on the brand: an entry level Rolex might cost more than another Swiss automatic. 

All our featured watches are well under $5,000, with several in the $1-2,000 range. Luxury is tough to define, and brand name becomes a significant driver of value. A Rolex isn’t necessarily better than a Nomos, but it’s a Rolex and it holds its resale price better.

Buying Pre-Owned Luxury Watches

One of the best ways to break into the luxury watch space and get a stellar looking timepiece for yourself is through pre-owned watches. Buying pre-owned has a few benefits: one is that you can save few thousand dollars—I don’t need to explain why that’s great. 

But you also get a good sense of your watch’s resale value. 

Now, you might be thinking you want a nice watch to wear and you’re not even considering reselling it again. I hear you, but trading and saving is the way to go if you have that dream watch but the $20,000 price tag seems out of reach. Sure, it may be out of reach today, but if you start with a $2,000 watch, save up, make a few trades—in a few years, that high price tag isn’t out of the question. 

One of the best places to buy a pre-owned luxury watch is eBay. They offer an Authenticity Guarantee so you can be sure you’re getting the quality you pay for. 

eBay | New and Pre-Owned Luxury Watches

With eBay's new Authenticity Guarantee, luxury watch lovers have another trusty outlet to shop for one of a kind timepieces. For every $2,000+ watch, eBay authenticates and sends along a certificate along with your new wrist candy.

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When you buy any luxury watch at $2,000 or higher, the seller first ships to one of eBay’s authenticators. They verify the brand and construction and safely package your new watch and ship it to you. 

You get peace of mind, and you also get an authenticity report card, which is an important asset for reselling. 

Buying pre-owned opens up the world of luxury watches. And for some of these iconic brands, knocking a few G’s off the tag put them well within range.

5 Best Entry Level Luxury Watches

Best Entry Level Rolex: Rolex Oyster Perpetual

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When most people hear the word luxury watch, they immediately think of Rolex. You can find a Rolex at any price range you want, but if you’re looking to pick up your first, take a look at the Oyster Perpetual.

The Oyster Perpetual may be the low-end Rolex, but it’s still a Rolex. New, these puppies start around $5,000, but there are plenty of pre-owned versions available at 60% of the cost. 

Decked out with the iconic fluted bezel and Oyster bracelet, anyone who knows their timepieces can spot an Oyster Perpetual Datejust from a 100 yards away. 

As a bonus, Rolex watches hold their value very well compared to other brands, so even if you’ve got a bit of sticker shock, it’s a nice place to start a luxury watch collection.

What I Like

  • Rolex is a revered name in the luxury watch space, and the value of the Oyster Perpetual holds strong, even after 20 or 30 years.

  • It boasts incredible Swiss engineering—the movement won’t lose anything more than a minute per month.

  • It’s easy to find 34mm, 36mm, and 41mm models so you can get the perfect fit for your wrist.

What I Don’t Like

  • Servicing a Rolex can be costly.

The Verdict

If you want to dive into the world of Rolex watches, but you’re not sure where to start, take a look at the Oyster Perpetual. It might take some shopping around to find the exact model you like best, but there are plenty of authenticated vintage choices available from resellers. 

That means you can snag one well under the usual $5,000+ price tag and own a piece of horological history.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

The Oyster Perpetual might be the least expensive Rolex, but a Rolex is still a Rolex. This timepiece is a boardroom staple and an excellent entry way into the world of fine watchmaking.

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Best Swiss Pre-Owned: Omega Speedmaster

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Omega and Rolex are both in the running for best automatic Swiss timepieces, but for whatever reason, Omega doesn’t have the same world-wide renown for luxury. I mean, they’re incredibly popular, but even 7-year-olds know what a Rolex is. 

The Omega Speedmaster is an excellent piece to pick up pre-owned. They’re generally easy to service, they keep their value well, but the pre-owned price is often several thousand dollars less expensive. 

You can find an Omega Speedmaster pre-owned in good condition for around $2,500, which is excellent value for a timepiece of this caliber. 

The Hesalite crystal in the Speedmaster is beautiful and sophisticated, and the watch has a lot of history behind it, including being the first watch on the moon. 

What I Like

  • The Hesalite crystal is perfectly clear and doesn’t reflect light like sapphire or mineral glass. It also has an elegant dome to it, which is unique and handsome.

  • The pre-owned prices of an Omega Speedmaster put it in range for many people.

  • This Omega model has a rich history, which for some (me included) adds value. 

What I Don’t Like

  • The Hesalite crystal picks up scratches, but it’s easy to buff them out, and the crystal isn’t costly to replace.

The Verdict

If you’re eager to get into the luxury watch market and you’re looking for incredible value, check out some pre-owned Omega Speedmaster models. You can often find one of these stellar timepieces for under $3,000.

They hold their value well and are respected for their quality and precision. And beyond that, they’re a handsome and unique looking watch with an excellent balance of classic and modern aesthetics.

Omega Speedmaster

This watch went to the moon. What else do you need to know? Follow this link to check out pre-owned models so you can get to the creme de la creme of the watch world.

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Best Entry Level Dress Watch: Cartier Tank

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The Cartier Tank is a true dress watch classic. It was a status symbol even back in the 1920s, but even today, it stands out as a lasting style that’s unique, distinctive, and handsome. 

Because the watch goes back over 100 years, there are so many pre-owned editions available, which makes this an excellent entry level luxury dress watch. 

Unlike the other watches on this list, the Cartier Tank is rectangular, with a much smaller surface area than other round-face timepieces. It fits perfectly under a shirt and suit sleeve and looks stunning paired with a nice leather strap.

What I Like

  • The rectangular design is one of a kind and looks incredible in dressy situations (it’s arguably the best watch to pair with a tuxedo you’ll find).

  • Because the design is over 100 years old, there are many pre-owned options available to keep costs lower. 

  • There are quartz and automatic versions, so you can get the type of movement you prefer. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Outside of the office or formal events, the style isn’t as versatile as other watches on this list.

The Verdict

The Cartier Tank is a classic luxury dress watch and an excellent entry point. The distinctive rectangular case isn’t as versatile as some of the other timepieces on this list, but you can’t beat the Tank as a wedding watch or if you don formal wear often.

New Cartier Tanks are under $5,000, though it’s worth spending a bit of time checking out the pre-owned market, too. Some vintage models are truly excellent and you can find some vintage pieces that look as good as new.

Cartier Tank

Here's a fun little nugget for you: the Cartier Tank was originally designed after the first tanks built in WWI. But this version is a little more subtle, and a lot more classy.

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Best Luxury Minimalist: Nomos Glashutte Tangente

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Nomos is the youngest brand on this list, born in 1990, but they’ve still taken the horology world by storm and have won over enthusiasts and luxury watch-lovers alike. 

The Tangente is one of their original models and part of the reason why the brand grew so quickly. For such a modern brand, it’s unusual that few of their models exceed 35mm in diameter. They have classic taste. 

Beyond aesthetics, Nomos makes in-house hand-wound movements, which is becoming more and more rare. If you want a minimalist luxury watch, Nomos is an excellent blend of value, re-sale potential, and style.

What I Like

  • The Bauhaus minimalist style is elegant and works as a casual and dress watch.

  • The smaller 33mm diameter is unusual—it makes this a very distinctive piece.

  • Because the Tangente uses an in-house hand-wind movement, there’s a lot of re-sale and investment potential. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Some guys may not like the small diameter of the watch. 

The Verdict

This minimalist timepiece is a true expression of German Bauhaus design. Nomos is well-known amongst watch enthusiasts, but they’re still not ubiquitous like Rolex or Omega. 

Many watch-collectors (myself included) consider Nomos to be one of those brands that will become renowned worldwide for their quality, so now’s a good time to pick up a timepiece while they’re still relatively inexpensive.


Best Chronograph: Frederique Constant Rally Healey

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Luxury watches aren’t all about tuxedos and suits. Sometimes you want to live on the edge a little. That’s where the Frederique Constant Rally Healey comes in. 

This watch embodies the spirit of Italian motorsports, and it’s an excellent entry level luxury timepiece. 

Made with an in-house Swiss automatic chronograph movement, the Rally Healey is the sportiest watch on this list.

What I Like

  • The design looks fantastic—it has all the sexiness you’d expect from an Italian-inspired race watch.

  • The leather band is top quality, unique, and adds to the aesthetics.

  • With its domed sapphire crystal and an in-house Swiss automatic chronograph movements—the materials are best in class. 

What I Don’t Like

  • I’d like it to have 100m of water resistance rather than 50m as it’s a sports watch. 

The Verdict

The Frederique Constant Rally Healey is killer value and an excellent find if you’re ok with your first luxury watch being a bit more specialized (i.e. a racing watch). 

The Rally Healey has earned its reputation as one of the best entry-level luxury watches on the market today.

Frederique Constant Rally Healey

Consider this an introduction to the world of fine Swiss watches. Frederique Constant is a beloved watchmaking and their Rally Healey is a true beauty.

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You’re in the Deep End, Now

Stepping up to a luxury level watch is a bold move, but most people who’ve done it will tell you it’s well worth it. 

Like I said, it’s better to have one great watch rather than five mediocre ones. After all, you only wear one watch at a time. 

When picking up an entry-level watch, you have a few routes: buy from a lesser-known brand like Nomos or Frederique Constant, or buy pre-owned from a legend like Rolex, Omega, or Cartier. 

eBay | New and Pre-Owned Luxury Watches

With eBay's new Authenticity Guarantee, luxury watch lovers have another trusty outlet to shop for one of a kind timepieces. For every $2,000+ watch, eBay authenticates and sends along a certificate along with your new wrist candy.

Shop Watches on eBay
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

So which will it be? 

FAQs

How do I buy my first luxury watch?

When buying a luxury watch online, make sure the seller has an authentication program. eBay is a great place to buy pre-owned luxury watches because of their authenticity guarantee.

Is Seiko a luxury brand?

Seiko isn’t regarded as a luxury brand, but the Japanese company does have a brand, Grand Seiko, which is considered luxury.

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