Affordable alternatives to expensive iconic watches

People say that diamonds are forever, but so are watches with some models that have stood the test of times with iconic designs remaining barely unchanged for decades. Think about the Rolex Submariner or GMT, the Patek Philippe Nautilus or Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Those watches, still produced today haven’t changed much over the years.

You may think that watch collecting is something only the rich can afford, but it’s actually not! Non-millionaires who fancy classic timepieces are left to observe along the sidelines just because they think collecting watches is a luxury. The truth is, you still can get a hold of these classic and beautiful timepieces if you know where to look.

Sometimes, money isn’t even the issue. Because of the huge demand, there are waiting lists of multiple years that will discourage even the most patient watch collector.

So what can you really buy that wouldn’t break the bank? Good news! There are many affordable alternatives in the market that watch collectors can tolerate and say yes to; you just have to know which ones are worth it.

Two watch outs however. First, these substitutes watches are not for everyone as some collectors might not appreciate the idea of having an alternative to a well known piece. Second, you might end up buying A LOT of watches, so read along at your own risks!

Instead Of The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner ($7,975)

Comprendre la Rolex Submariner en 60 secondes - Magazine Chrono24

There is a reason why this particular Rolex design is an icon, time and time again. Introduced back in 1953, the Rolex Submariner keeps its aesthetic unchanged despite the increasing number of innovative and modern designs emerging in the market today. This explains its timeless, classic beauty that can pass on from generation to generation. Crafted in robust 904L steel and ceramic bezel with a platinum coating on its numbers and markers, the Sub is a serious toolwatch. Don’t even get started with the insides, as the interior is just as impressive as the exterior. The mere fact that Rolex Submarines hold their value is all the more reason you should get it, if you can afford it… or can make it to the waiting list!

Why Not Try The Invicta 8926OB Pro Diver Automatic ($85)

Let’s face it: there are quite a handful of Rolex knockoffs available out there and the Invicta 8926OB Pro Diver is the most affordable alternative to consider. The 660-feet water-resistant diver comprises full stainless steel, with a 44mm diameter and a fully automatic movement. Even its screw crown resists water from perpetrating the interior, and its mineral crystal face can mean you can go on a hike and drop the watch without worrying about scratches. The fact that it can be compated to Rolex’s Submariner for less than a hundred dollars only means it’s a keeper. Every watch collector might just be screaming “SOLD!” now.

Other alternatives worth mentioning : Seiko SNR029J1 and SPB101J1.

Instead Of The Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711 ($30,620)

Nautilus? Waiting lists. Nautilus? Crazy price on the second hand market. Nautilus? Flippers. Nautilus? Impossible to get. Nautilus? Maybe in ten years. Nautilus? Bitcoin.


What is there else to add? The watch has become the symbol of how frustrating the hobby can be for regular watch collectors.

Why Not Try The Seiko 5 – SNKK47 ($200)

The Seiko SNKK4X Review (SNKK41/43/45/47) - Romeo's watches

A couple of years ago, Seiko proposed the SNKK47 with a gorgeous blue dial and this Nautilus vibe we all love. The good thing about it : well it’s a Seiko, it’s affordable, it works well and looks good. The bad thing? They were discontinued and their prices have kept rising with most of them available for around $800 on eBay.

How about another alternative?

And What About The Magma Technic ($1,500)?


Now we also got an interesting alternative: the Magma Technic. What makes this piece interesting outside of its obvious Nautilus inspired design is the incredible story behind it.

Famous watch designer Yvan Arpa decided to pay tribute to iconic timepieces by producing an alloy obtained by the simultaneous fusion of five distinguished top-of-the-line Swiss watches. One of which being… the Nautilus (along a Royal Oak, Daytona, Speedmaster and Santos) ! This alloy was used to create a special screwed-on sidebar placed on each watch!

For those wondering if that’s even true, let us mention that the whole process was legally notarized under witness and a certificate is issued with each watch.

We were able to get out hands on a handful of Magma Technic in New Old Stock condition. Those watches retail for $6,000 and we are able to offer them in the Toolwatch shop for a quarter of the price at just $1,500.

You won’t often see for a watch that is COSC certified and in a numbered limited edition not to mention each of them went through the extensive quality check of our partner, ensuring years of fun on the wrist, without any trouble.

Grab your numbered Magma Technic now!

Instead Of The Rolex GMT Master II ($9,700)


Unveiled in 1982, the Rolex GMT Master II is heir to the iconic GMT Master, developed initially as a navigation instrument to professionals crisscrossing the globe.

According to Rolex, when abroad, travelers can easily tell the time in two timezones simultaneously. That’s what makes the GMT Master II popular. But more than that, the exterior is also a hot topic because of the Calibre 3285, which is a new-generation movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. This technology promotes a self-winding mechanical movement that delivers utmost precision, convenience, reliability, and resistance to shocks and magnetic fields. Any watch collector will fall head over heels with the GMT Master II, no doubt.

But then… you’ll still have to wait years and years for your authorized dealer to call you.

Why Not Try The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT ($2,500)

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT – Hands-on Review

TAG Heuer is known for having its own famous designs but it can sometimes take a little inspiration from outside. The brand does not deny this and, is in fact, not ashamed of mimicking the renowned design of the GMT Master without compromising the quality and going over the budget. With the known tradition of Tag Heuer quality, the brand probably feels they’ve improved a lot in the field over the last couple of years.

And sure they did! The TAG Heuher Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT dive watch looks and functions much like a Rolex GMT Master II. The bezel, luminous hands, and case shape are all impeccably similar to the GMT Master II. But here’s the thing: TAG Heuer does it for a third of the price!

Other alternatives worth mentioning : Steinhart GMT Pepsi Ceramic

Instead Of The Rolex Hulk ($8,900)

The Rolex Submariner In 2020: What's Actually Changed? | Watchonista

The Rolex Hulk is a recent favorite of the watch collecting community. You take an icon, the Submariner, and you at just a little twist with that green “Hulk” color and you get exactly what is needed to get watch collectors crazy. As a result, the prices for this model have kept growing up to a point where it gets really complicated to own one.

Why Not Try The Seiko Sumo SPB103J1 ($900)

Hands-on – The New Sumo, the 2019 Seiko Prospex Diver 200m SPB103J1 -  WATCHLOUNGE

The Seiko Sumo SPB103J1 is exactly why we all love Seiko. You get a classic look, here a similar one to the Hulk, with all the quality that you would expect from a brand like a Seiko at a very reasonable price tag. Launched in 2019, the watch is powered by Seiko’s calibre 6R35 with a whooping 70 hours power reserve.

Wrapping Up

So you see, you can skip breaking the bank if you know which timepiece alternatives are worth the penny. You don’t have to have deep pockets to rock an iconic design. All you need is a little research, and you’re good to go!

If you haven’t checked it already, we encourage you to discover the Magma Technic.