A few months ago, I decided that I would buy myself a new dress watch since I already own two Seiko dive watches, a Lorenz chronograph, and a Casio G-Shock. As is always the case whenever I venture down this path, the choices were many, but the dollars were few. If money were no object, I would have gone with something like the Oris Thelonious Monk Limited Edition or a Christopher Ward C9 5 Day Automatic, but since I wanted to keep the cost below $600, I had to narrow down my choices.
When it comes to budget dress watches, there are several that keep popping up on the multitude of horology blogs and forums. Here are the four watches that made my list:
All four of these watches were well within my price range, but there was a problem with two of them. The Seiko and the Christopher Ward can only be ordered online, therefore, I wouldn’t be able to actually try them on to see if I liked them. While I’m no stranger to buying a watch without seeing it in person (I bought both of my Seiko dive watches that way), it’s always better to see how they look and feel on your wrist.
For several weeks I kept going over the choices in my head (talk about your first world problems!), but then one day I decided to visit the Orient USA website and noticed that they recently released a new version of their Bambino, a vintage style dress watch that is highly regarded by true watch geeks and has a retail price of $260, which is considerably less than the watches on my wish list. Thanks to solid reviews, a super reasonable retail price that was made even more reasonable thanks to a 30% discount, and Bauhaus-like style, the latest version of the Orient Bambino won me over immediately, and within a day of seeing it on the web, I had one on order.
In just under a week, the watch arrived on my doorstep, and once I opened up the packaging, the watch did not disappoint. I absolutely love the way that this watch looks and feels on my wrist. The domed crystal, deep blue finish of the face, minimalist hour and minute markers, and light weight all combine to create a watch that is super comfortable for all-day wear. And if all that weren’t enough, its in-house automatic movement has been incredibly accurate over the past month, i.e. +/- 15 seconds per week.
While I am incredibly pleased with my purchase, I do have a quibble or two..
The strap that came with the watch wasn’t very good (stiff and kind of boring looking when compared to the quality of the watch itself), so I replaced it with a Vollmer mesh bracelet that I picked up at Long Island Watch for around $40. Adding the polished stainless steel bracelet was well worth the money because it makes the watch look much more expensive than it really is. The only issue with swapping out the watch band was due to the 21mm lug width on the Bambino which really limits your replacement strap options. The Vollmer mesh bracelet is 20mm which leaves a small gap on either end of the bracelet where it’s attached to the lugs.
A sapphire crystal would have been nice for better scratch resistance, but given the price of the watch, the crystal that came with the watch is perfectly adequate.
The movement can’t be hacked or hand wound. Again, given the price of the watch and it’s out of the box accuracy, this isn’t a big deal, but it is worth mentioning.
Quibbles aside, if you’re looking for an affordable dress watch with excellent build quality/accuracy, good looks, and supreme wearability, I highly recommend the Orient Bambino. I’ve had this watch for just over a month and find myself wearing it just about every day.