So, I’m asked this a lot:
“If you had $400 to spend on a watch, what would you buy?”
My initial thought for a new watch guy is always buy Seiko. In fact, if I had $400 and no watches I’d probably buy something like a Seiko Padi Turtle reissue. It’s an automatic, it’s built well, and it keeps time better or as well as any mechanical watch in the world. And if the thought of spending just less than $400 on a watch offends you, you could always just get a venerable Seiko SKX007/009 for under $200 and then add a StrapCode bracelet for another $100 to end up with a cheap watch that feels pretty damned high-end and works just as well as a $7000 Rolex.
All that being said, typically when I tell my pals to buy a Seiko they don’t get too excited. So, I always have a “less Japanese” option in my back pocket. In my mind, the best Swiss option is something like a 38mm Hamilton field watch. You can get one on a strap for under $400, but I’d spend a few dollars more to get one on a bracelet so that you have options. Then, I’d spend $12 on a good Nato strap.
With the Hamilton, you end up with a classic watch using a Swiss made movement that will last a lifetime. Plus, the Hamilton is a little more subtle in appearance than the Seiko. And because of that, it can dress up or down.
The most important thing to remember in all of this, however, is don’t buy a quartz. No matter how nicely a quartz is built, they never feel as good or (obviously) as mechanical and your experience will suffer as a result.