this thing's incredible

I Wore This Expensive-Looking, Under-$40 Watch on Job Interviews

The one piece of advice every adult in my life gave me as I prepared to graduate from college was, “Wear a watch, especially to job interviews.” That way, my potential employer could see I was a serious person, worthy of a paycheck. The cruel irony is, you need a nice paycheck to afford a fancy watch, and, as I quickly learned at my first postgrad internship with a business-formal dress code, a plastic digital watch is not often considered “nice,” even though it was all I could afford on my then-non-salary. That’s around the time I started looking for an affordable watch that looks expensive, a metal watch that costs negligibly more than a plastic one, but still looks like a thousand bucks (or at least a couple hundred). Eventually, I came across the Timex Easy Reader, which I still consider to be the best watch under $50.

The Timex Easy Reader tricks people into thinking it costs more than it does because it’s simply designed, yet still has all the features of a pricier timepiece. The watch face has minimal branding; large serif numbers that are easy to read, even in the dark, with the help of a pleasant turquoise backlight; and a built-in date dial. I prefer the version of this watch with the expansion band because it fits more like a bracelet, but doesn’t slip down my arm; the oversize fit is reliably stylish with both menswear-inspired looks and more feminine blouses.

These days, I’m gainfully employed with a salary, but I still prefer wearing this inexpensive watch because I don’t have to be precious with it. This watch is blissfully hard to scratch. In fact, back in the 1960s, Timex ran a series of so-called “torture tests” on an early version of the Easy Reader to prove it was able to withstand hard-core situations like cliff-diving in Acapulco, Mexico. (Spoiler: It did.)

Though I haven’t engaged in extreme sports with this watch, I have put it through the ringer. And despite high drops and semi-regular water exposure, the Timex Easy Reader still keeps time as well as when I first got it, without looking like I’ve owned it for years, which seems as solid of an investment to me as any fancy watch could be.

Timex Easy Reader Watch
Photo: Courtesy of the vendor, Getty Images

For something with a leather strap, the Daniel Wellington watch is a handsome option, as suggested by Kurt Soller: “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.”

This item is no longer available, but this option is nearly identical.

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I Wore This Under-$40 Watch on Job Interviews