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The 8 Best Affordable Bronze Watches (A Buyers Guide)

Posted on February 05 2021

Bronze Watches

Let’s be clear. There is no reason for you to buy a bronze watch.

Bronze isn’t a rare or precious metal. It’s not even hypoallergenic. It can irritate you.

Bronze use was at its peak 3000 years ago when its competitors were stone and wood. It was an improvement on existing materials if you needed to stab someone. For timekeeping - water clocks were the norm.

For some big-name brands, bronze is a no-go. Neither Rolex nor Omega have ever made a bronze watch.

Despite this, I like bronze watches and I want to tell you why.

Why Make Bronze Watches?


A better way to ask that question would be to change it to 'why do you wear a watch?'

There’s no real reason to wear a wristwatch when we carry our phones everywhere. With the exact time available to us in an instant - on our phones, computers and even microwaves - an analogue watch has to fulfil a different role.

You might love the brand and its story, or the engineering knowledge and workmanship that went into the piece. You may even think that your purchase was an investment. But at its most basic level, you bought that watch for one reason.

You’re wearing your watch because you like how it looks.

And that’s good. You should be wearing a watch that you like and you’d be right for thinking that bronze watches can look great.

First, I want to deal with the objections.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Bronze Watch


None of the following points are dealbreakers for me, but they’re still worth noting.

  • Bronze isn’t hypoallergenic - if like 6% of the population you’re allergic to nickel, the bronze case could irritate your skin.
  • Contact with Bronze can turn your skin green.
  • We’ve passed peak bronze watch.
  • You love Rolex and they won’t use bronze cases.

Let’s quickly put these objections to bed.

It’s correct to say that bronze can irritate the skin of people with allergies. Most watch companies deal with this by ensuring that their bronze models have a titanium or stainless steel case back.

The same solution also minimizes the harmless green marks that you can get on your skin from its reaction to the copper element of bronze. You’ll notice most bronze watches don’t have a matching bronze bracelet precisely to deal with this issue.

As for passing peak bronze watch? That’s probably true. Bronze watches were only really introduced in the early 1990s and whilst not a passing fad, they’re not at the forefront of mosts brands collections.

And Rolex and Omega not producing bronze models? Panerai and Breitling do. You may even have turned up here because Tudor’s beautiful bronze edition of the Black Bay caught your eye.

I’m writing this post - and you’re reading it - because we love affordable watches. It’s because you’re shopping at the affordable end of the market that you can pick up watches on a whim and experiment with unusual and quirky models.

The Case for Buying a Bronze Watch


The most important part of a watch is the case.

It’s the first feature that we see and it holds everything together. Every single component is attached to the case in some way. And if we accept that the number one reason for wearing a watch is its appearance, then the case material and design are crucial.

This is where bronze watches win.

Bronze is unusual looking. It’s also harder than stainless steel. Because of its ancient history, anything fashioned from bronze also has an antiquated appearance. Bronze items look like tools rather than jewellery.

It’s why bronze works for a rugged Panerai military dive watch but wouldn’t suit a Rolex Day-Date. It’s why bronze makes you think of Steampunk rather than whether your watch complements your tie.

Finally, I want to mention the best feature of bronze watches. Patina.

Bronze cases naturally age. They acquire an oxidized layer that protects the metal from corrosion. It’s the reason that bronze is used for ships propellors. This greenish pigment occurs with age but can be forced if you’d like to speed up the process.

Importantly, it makes each bronze watch unique and reminds the wearer that this is mans oldest alloy - built to last.

There are some impressive watches that use this case material, and I’d like to present the best affordable examples.

Orient Triton Watch

The Triton is a popular affordable dive watch. It has two main selling points. It looks great and for the specs that you get - an automatic with 200M of water resistance - it’s a steal.

Japanese brand Orient is often featured on my blog, so we’ll skip the history. Suffice to say, that along with Seiko they are one of the giants of Japanese watchmaking.

I mention Seiko because the Triton has similar features to an iconic Seiko model - the case shape is almost identical to the Seiko SKX007. The spot hour markers are close too.

But other than that, it’s a little unusual. The substantial bronze case is matched with a green, almost militaristic, colour scheme. By repositioning the crown at 4 o’clock, and equipping the watch with a canvas NATO strap, Orient has reinforced that aesthetic.

Despite the colour palette featuring the bold use of green, orange and bronze, the impression is still of a functional tool watch.

In terms of specifications, it also ticks the boxes of a rugged tool watch. It has a reliable Orient automatic movement and water resistance of 200M. The crown has been moved to avoid knocks and the dial is protected by a sapphire crystal.

It’s a very well made piece with great colouring. Although there is a slight military vibe, I’d be wearing this as a sports watch. The strap is also very easy to swap out so this is a good place to start for your first bronze watch.

Orient Triton RA-AC0K04E10B

  • 43.5mm Diameter
  • 12.8mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance



Ingersoll Scovill Watch

The Scovill is a modern dive watch that harks back to a golden age - built by a company that has manufactured watches since the 1880s. It’s an inexpensive way to wear a watch that looks authentically vintage.

Remember, as the case Patina’s it will naturally give the appearance of age too.

I’ve been wearing an Ingersoll Reliance recently and I’m impressed with the watch. The build quality isn’t outstanding - but it’s at the level that I’d expect at this price point. The same holds true for the Scovill.

The straight cut bronze case has a stainless steel back with an exhibition window - so no green wrist. The decorated Japanese Miyota movement can be seen through this glass. It’s nice to see the mechanical movement in a watch that is vintage-inspired.

Where the Orient aimed for a playful ruggedness, the Ingersoll is more pared down and refined. There’s none of the Orient’s flamboyant confidence, instead, the Scovill looks like a bona fide vintage piece.

It does this through the small details.

Aside from the bronze case that doesn’t make use of crown guards, there is also a slim bezel and a distressed leather strap. The dial works well and sticks with a very simple layout and bronze accents.

The domed crystal adds a final vintage touch.

If you want your bronze watch to look like a genuine period piece, start here.

Ingersoll The Scovill I05001

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 15mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Bronze
  • Japanese Miyota Automatic Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance



Glycine Combat Sub Watch

The Combat Sub is the Swiss take on a bronze dive watch. It’s an entry-level Swiss-made automatic. Ideal if you want the kudos of wearing a respected Swiss brand without the price-tag or waiting list of a Rolex Submariner.

The first dive watch from Glycine’s Combat range was released in 1967 - so there is some genuine history behind the watch. There’s not the innovation of their more famous Airman model with the Combat Sub having a recognisable Submariner design.

But it’s not a homage. It has plenty of its own style.

For example, at just over 10mm, this is very slim for a legitimate divers watch. With the curved lugs hugging the wrist there’s been a real attempt to get this 42mm watch to wear smaller. With most divers never making it into the sea, it’s refreshing to see a sports watch styled to slip under a shirt cuff.

It has the functionality of a divers watch, with the profile of a dress model.

Although the dial and bezel are busy, the Combat Sub still manages to look functional. This is helped in part by the colour scheme. The bronze case and bezel are complemented by the deep blue of the dial and leather strap.

Stylistically, it’s somewhere between the Orient and the Ingersoll. There’s some of the toughness of the Orient - after all this is a Swiss-made automatic with 200M water resistance - but with a little of the Scovill’s vintage charm.

On a good day, you can get this watch for less than the Ingersoll and not much more than the Orient.

Glycine Combat Sub GL0242

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 10.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Bronze
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Undone Basecamp Cali Bronze Watch

The Basecamp model has a unique style that is hard to pin down. It’s a real eyecatcher and has a major selling point - Undone encourage you to customise your watch.

I’ve featured Undone a few times on the blog now because I enjoyed making my own watch.

Undone sent me a complimentary code that I used to make a vintage styled chronograph - check out my review of the process is here.

As I noted in that piece, Undone believe that customisation is a sign of luxury. Not price or brand name. Luxury can be the process of having a product personalised.

As a watch fan, I found the process enthralling. I spent an afternoon with a friend designing watches, then had my favourite made and shipped to me. I chose the main parts of my watch - case, dial, hands and strap. And then they put it together for me.

The Basecamp Cali Bronze is one of their standard models. I’d caution messing too much with this watch design. Look at it closely. What needs to be improved?

The bronze case already looks to have some patina. The addition of the full bronze bezel reinforces this weathered appearance. It’s a mid-sized 40mm case with an angular crown and exhibition case back.

Through that clear back, you can see Seiko’s reliable NH35A automatic movement - the same as I use in my Northwind watches

Where this watch excels is in the dial. It’s a textured black background with a California style layout. It means that the top half of the dial uses Roman numerals and the lower half Arabic numbers.

It’s quirky, uncommon and a brilliant addition to the Basecamp.

If a bronze case still feels too conventional, the California dial pattern may be the answer.

Undone Basecamp Cali Bronze

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 15mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Bronze
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Lexan Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Corgeut Tudor Homage Watch

If you’re familiar with Corgeut watches it’s likely because you’ve already seen their Tudor Black Bay homages. They’re central to the Corgeut line. If Tudor does a particular Black Bay variation, then you can bet that Corgeut does a version too.

The bronze variation no exception.

The Heritage Black Bay is the most popular watch in Tudor’s stable and features a popular bronze edition. A vintage-style diver that has been a success story for the brand.

There have been a few well-made homages and the Corgeut is the best of these.

The colouring is similar to the Ingersoll - it also blends the bronze case with browns and simple white numerals. The result is similar too. A distinctly vintage vibe.

Of course, the credit for this great design should really go to Tudor rather than Corguet.

The watch has a Japanese automatic movement and sapphire crystal, so there’s no doubt about the quality. If you’re comfortable with a homage model, then this could be your chance to get the Tudor aesthetic at a bargain price.

Corgeut 2010C-SRB

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 12.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Bronze
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Elliot Brown Holton Watch

The Holton was developed with the input of a specialist branch of the British armed forces and named after Holton Heath in Dorset - location of a wartime cordite factory. One variant from this line was given a NATO stock number and is issued to the British Army.

This is the real deal.

Elliot Brown is a young British watch brand based in Dorset, England. It is the brainchild of Ian Elliot and Alex Brown and has a simple mission - to make extraordinarily capable watches.

To do this, the brand equips its watches with a series of design features that ensure real robustness. As I mentioned with the Orient, a crown can be moved to a 4 o’clock position to minimise the bumps it would get in the traditional position.

All Elliot Brown watches have the crown at 4.

Additionally, the case back is bolted down, the crown is knurled for easier handling and it has an ultra high grip bezel with a hardened insert. The movement is the ever-popular Seiko NH35A.

If you want a bronze watch that can perform, then the Holton could be the candidate. Yes, it’s stylish and mixes military and vintage themes, but Elliot Brown are keen to stress the watches exceptional build quality.

To do this they’ve put their watches through a series of stunts - each designed to show the durability of their watches. These have included hitting the watches with hammers, freezing them and leaving one at the bottom of Poole Harbour for six months.

They even mounted a watch on a yacht and let the sea do its worst during a year-long around the world trip. The watch was still ticking at the end.

It’s an awful cliche, but this watch really does marry form with function.

Elliot Brown Holton 101-A12-V10

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel with Bronze PVD
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Christopher Ward Trident Watch

I’m proud to highlight another new and successful British brand.

Christopher Ward suggests that the Trident is the watch that epitomises the company. It has a massive 600M of water resistance, a Swiss automatic movement and still manages an affordable price tag.

It’s mid-sized and features a 40mm bronze case that has already been distressed by hand, creating a unique textured surface. It’s also one of the Mk 3 editions, meaning that the specs are among the highest that they do.

I could get bogged down discussing the specs.

The hands, for example, are sandblasted and are filled with the highest grade Superluminova. And each part of the watch includes similar attention to detail - that, and it is coupled with a Swiss-made Sellita SW200-1 movement.

Taken as a whole, this is an ambitious watch. The bronze case, with its ornate stainless steel back, is paired with a matte finish dial that they have termed ‘Ombre’. In keeping with the rest of their range, the company name is placed at 9 and balances the date window at 3.

At first glance, you may not appreciate this watch. Keep looking. The more you do, the more you will appreciate this one.

Christopher Ward Trident Pro C60-40ADA3-B00B0-VT

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Bronze
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 600M Water Resistance

 



Shinola Bronze Monster Watch

Despite this watch pushing the definition of the term affordable, I really wanted to include it on my list. The brand story behind this handsome piece is inspiring, and The Bronze Monster is such a cool name.

The brand has been described as controversial, but that’s not how I view the company’s story. Instead, I find their business model encouraging and worth a brief mention.

The founder of Fossil decided that he wanted to create a high-end American watch company. Told that he didn’t know 'shit from Shinola', he bought the name and revived the iconic brand. From the company’s creation in 2011, it has now grown to over 500 employees.

This is the important bit - they set up in Detroit and took on a local workforce. In a partnership with the Swiss, they had the workers trained up in the art of watchmaking.

This newly skilled workforce now produce between 500 and 700 watches a day.

And they produce some cracking watches - a number given slightly edgy, monster-themed names.

The Bronze Monster is among the best of these and the brand boasts this would be the “Kingpin of your watch collection”. They’re also clear about the watches inspiration - the prohibition era and the stealthy rumrunners of the Michigan waterways.

Despite the 1920s backstory, this is a very modern watch. Like the Trident it is powered by the Swiss-made SW200-1 automatic movement. A sapphire crystal protects the dial and the strap is aged leather and can be quickly swapped for a canvas one that is also supplied.

But the big selling point, and the bit that has attracted criticism, is that it’s American made. Not just that, but made in a city famous for manufacturing.
If you’re willing to pay a bit extra for the American made label, then the Bronze Monster is your first choice.

Shinola Bronze Monster

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Bronze
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance


Conclusion


Bronze watches aren’t for everyone.

They certainly aren’t most companies first choice for case material. But Bronze does have some great properties - it’s strong and has a distinctive appearance.

For most fans of bronze watches, it’s the aesthetics that appeal to them. Historically, bronze was a metal used for tools - particularly those that you didn’t want to rust.

And here lies the real attraction of bronze watches.

The cases naturally age. A patina develops and your watch changes. It no longer looks like a stock model. With brands like Christoper Ward, they kickstart that process for you.

The watch is already one of a kind when you buy it.

My list includes some very inexpensive watches and at the pricier end highlights the American made and Swiss-powered Shinola.

There’s a watch on this for everyone.


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