I Found a Cheap Watch That Doesn’t Look Cheap

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It’s less expensive than you think. Photo: Courtesy of the vendor, Getty Images

The annoying thing about watches is that the more you pay, the less you get; a handsomely minimalist Patek Philippe doesn’t reveal its provenance unless you know what you’re looking for, whereas the point of a Casio G-Shock seems to be that it can be spotted from the moon. Nearly every affordable watch is over-branded — Swatch, Fossil, and so on — which seems counterintuitive: Who wants low-priced jewelry that announces itself?

The aesthetically pure Swedish (of course) have solved this problem. Well, one Swede, at least: a guy named Filip Tysander, who runs a watch concern called Daniel Wellington. You’ve maybe seen his Chinese-made products on Instagram. When Tysander launched in the mid-2000s, his company had a habit of handing out the watch to any stylish young man who wanted to take a selfie with it. (I wasn’t one of those men, but I was working at a men’s magazine at the time.)

Even if you scrolled past one of these portraits, you might not have noticed the watches because they lack details that would make them stand out. The hands and tickers are neat, brass- or silver-colored, and placed against a clean white face that says little more than the company’s name in a small, Swedish-seeming font. That name — generic, vaguely patrician — can’t be identified the way a Michael Kors or Kenneth Cole can, which is, of course, the point. The watches look expensive (i.e. they look like nothing) even though they’re actually not. Starting at $70 and topping out at $299 (depending on materials and size), DW has options small enough for women’s wrists, too.

I wear my Bristol when I want something that tells time and no more, whether in a meeting where looking at my phone might get me fired, or because I’m dressing for a wedding and want to jazz up my suit. At one point, during a particularly nuptial summer, I became bored with my perfect watch. But that’s probably why Daniel Wellington also sells a ton of interchangeable straps.

Note: This is no longer available from Amazon, but it’s available from Bloomingdale’s here.

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I Found a Cheap Watch That Doesn’t Look Cheap