There is no doubt that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is an industry icon. Launched during the quartz crisis as a last-ditch effort to save the dying brand, it did exactly what it was meant to do, and then some. It was a bold and angular design that was like nothing of its time, back when watches were meant to be subtle and refined. The Royal Oak was loud and industrial, some could even call it vulgar. Back during its release, and even now, it was a big stainless-steel sports watch that costs more than a solid gold watch. What the Royal Oak did, was cement the position of the mechanical wrist watch, as a luxury. In a time when quartz was about to pave a new future for watchmaking, leaving mechanical behind.
With such an illustrious history behind it, small wonder that the Royal Oak is one of the most desirable and recognizable watches now. With prices and demand growing ever higher, and grey market premiums skyrocketing to insane peaks. The prospect of being able to own such an important and iconic watch is beginning to look more like a dream than a reality for most collectors out there.
While many of us still dream of seeing that iconic octagonal bezel with 8 hexagonal screws and integrated bracelet rest on our wrists one day. There have been many watchmakers and brands around that have heard our discontent and created alternatives of their own. Some, rather nice, and some, not so nice. Today, we’ve gathered 8 of the best alternatives that might scratch that itch that the ever-elusive Royal Oak has started.
TISSOT T1374071105100 POWERMATIC STAINLESS STEEL MEN'S WATCH
The Tissot PRX 40 205 Powermatic 80. Unarguably one of the most anticipated and much more desirable release from the brand since the release of the quartz powered PRX40 205 earlier this year. Purists have been waiting for a mechanical version to be released and here it is. Oozing 1970s charm with its integrated bracelet design, harking back to the angular and industrial sports watches of the era popularized by watches like the Royal Oak and Nautilus.
With only 3 hands and the date, packed in a nicely svelte 40mm tonneau shaped case, paired with a neatly designed angular integrated bracelet, it is an iconic and timeless design that looked ahead of its time in the 70s and still is timeless today even after half a century.
It may look and sound the part of a luxury Swiss-made sports watch but it certainly isn’t priced like one. At under $1000 ($950 in-fact), yes let that sink in, it’s possibly the best affordable Royal Oak alternative around.
With a stunning waffle patterned dial, paying homage to the Royal Oak, the PRX offers would-be owners a stunning and affordable take on what owning a luxurious Swiss-made sports watch with an integrated bracelet would be like. Neatly brushed surfaces on the case, accentuated by sharp angles and bevelled edges, all linked to a very pretty and well executed integrated bracelet. The PRX Powermatic 80 is as good as it gets for the price.
Powered by an ETA based Powermatic 80 automatic caliber, it offers a neat 80 hours of power reserve, a respectable 3Hz frequency and that good old fashioned Swiss dependability as well. So, a reliable and nicely finished movement, iconic yet somewhat different design, Swiss-made and a sub $1000 price tag, the Tissot PRX 40 205 Powermatic 80 is easily one of the best affordable Royal Oak alternatives you can find around.
CITIZEN AUTOMATIC NJ0150-81A BLUE DIAL STAINLESS STEEL MEN'S WATCH
The Citizen NJ0150-81A Automatic is the brand’s take on the integrated bracelet stainless-steel sports watch design, but without the luxury price-tag of course.
It is a simple, elegant three hander with slim markers applied batons lining the periphery of the dial and slim matching baton hands as well. So far so simple, but the it is in the details where this watch truly shines. The dial is in a stark white, and is fitted with a date magnifier (controversial I know) that actually works rather well with the watch too. Powering it is an ever-reliable Miyota automatic movement as well, so you’ll never have to worry about performance and reliability too.
All this is fitted in an elegant and angled brushed and polished stainless-steel case linked to a rather nicely integrated 3-link president style brushed bracelet with contrasting polished center-links. Thanks to the rather minimalistic theme of the overall design, legibility is perfect thanks to the contrasting silvered markers and hands too. If an elegant and well-built stainless-steel every day dressy Royal Oak alternative is what you’re looking for, then the Citizen NJ0150-81A Automatic makes for a rather brilliant choice.
Ingersoll The Catalina Automatic I11801 Silver Stainless Strap Men's Watch
The next watch on the list is a rather bold take on the integrated bracelet design, and it’s certainly one of the ‘biggest’ watches on the list. Featuring a curvy yet angular case, paired with a gorgeous honeycomb textured dial, with blocky applied indexes. It’s a proper modern take on what a vintage styled watch could be. The bracelet is another highlight of this bold watch too. Made of a two-piece construction that features brushed main links and contrastingly polished center-links, it’s a perfect fitting for a watch this bold. But with details such as the matching rose-gold frame on the date window and the different case finishing, the Catalina is a no-nonsense dressy sports watch that elevates the design and adds more to the mix too.
The dial is really where the beauty of this watch truly shines, with the bold honeycombing taking center stage and the blocky applied indexes too, offering an added layer of depth. And all of this is attached to that bold rose-gold bracelet for that last touch of dressy refinement. Powering the watch is the ever-reliable Seiko NH35A Automatic movement, which means that you’ll get all the performance and reliability you could ever need in this watch too.
All of these little details when put together truly creates a beautifully bold dressy sports watch that subtly exudes that bold style of American elegance we love so much. Making it a rather compelling option as an affordable Royal Oak Alternative
ORIENT AUTOMATIC 22 JEWEL SILVER STAINLESS STEEL BRACELET MEN’S WATCH RA-AA0B01G19B
The SK Automatic diver’s reissue is undoubtedly one of Orient’s most polarizing designs to date, looking unlike any dive watch out there. A bold asymmetrical stainless-steel case, with an unconventional polished silver finishing and a stunning dark champagne gradient dial with golden applied markers, hands and an internal rotating bezel too. The watch features an integrated bracelet too, perfectly matching the vintage theme that the brand was going for as well. Powering the watch is Orient’s own F6922 with 22 jewels, 40 hours of power reserve and an improved accuracy of -15/+25 seconds a day.
The design of the SK Automatic diver’s reissue is certainly one of the most polarizing things about it, but that’s something’s that’s rather more subjective. What you really might want to take note of before buying this watch is that it is in fact, not a diver like its name suggests. With only 50m of water resistance and no threaded crown, its more suited for a splash in the pool rather than a proper dive out in the sea.
But, functionality aside, I think this watch is a rather daring and brilliant release from Orient. It shows that they’re not just going to rest on what already works for them, like the modern and timeless Kamasu/Mako designs when it comes to their sports watches. They’re willing to make daring moves that may cause controversy and potential uproar within the community and that’s exactly why I like this SK diver so much.
If you’re around looking for a sports watch with an integrated bracelet that doesn’t seem like every other Royal Oak homage out there, then this Orient SK Diver is a rather compelling choice.
SEIKO PRESAGE SPB165J1 MEN'S WATCH
While all the offerings that we’ve seen from the Seiko Presage line have been subtle, classic dress watches (albeit some with a bit of a flamboyant flair), we haven’t really touched on something a bit more casual, and perhaps more suited for daily wear. Enter the SPB167J1, Seiko’s answer to our calls for a classic Japanese made potential Royal Oak alternative.
Now, Seiko does make proper dress watches, their Cocktail time and the rest of the Presage range can attest to that. But this SPB165J1 is a very different type of sports watch, coming in a relatively slim polished and brushed angular, stainless-steel case. 39mm in diameter and with an integrated bracelet design, it’s a modern approach on a stainless-steel sports watch but with a Seiko twist. If you couldn’t already tell by the name, the watch’s case and bracelet incorporates many flat surfaces with modern sharpness that allows the watch to catch and reflect light at many different angles.
The dial is stunning too, in a deep gradient blue with Seiko’s own Asanoha (Hemp leaf) pattern. Seiko has come a long way, making stunning dials, from their entry level cocktail time, to their immaculately stunning and expensive Grand Seiko Snowflake. I believe that the Presage sharp edge, with its gorgeous Asanoha patterned dial, robust yet elegantly finished case is the perfect middle ground between the entry level Presage timepieces and the properly high-end Grand Seiko timepieces.
The SPB167J1 is powered by Seiko’s own 6r35 automatic movement, offering a hefty 70 hours of power-reserve, hacking and hand-winding. Its neatly finished as you’d expect and for a watch that costs as much as this does, and it really doesn’t get any better than that.
What we’ve ended up with in the SPB167J1 is a stunning daily wearer with classic Japanese design proportions and practicality, with an immensely beautiful and idiosyncratically Japanese artsy dial design. It offers an interesting and much more traditional (design-wise) alternative to the mountain of Royal Oak alternatives around.
CASIO EDIFICE EFR-S108D-7AVUDF SILVER STAINLESS STEEL STRAP MEN'S WATCH
No list talking about the best Royal Oak alternatives you can get will be complete without including one of the most prolific and affordable one, would it? And coming in at just under $200, measuring at a svelte 38.9mm in diameter with a properly slim case, the Edifice EFR-S180D-1AVUDF looks and feels like a proper old-school simple dressy sports watch.
If it wasn’t for the otherwise modern design and the second hand ticking away on the dial, it will be easy to ‘mistake’ this for a traditional vintage stainless-steel sports watch. With an opaline silver brushed dial, slim applied silvered indexes matching the case and hands, and a simple minute ring along the chapter ring, makes for a clean, contemporary and almost modern vintage design with a date window at 3 blending in nicely with the dial. Which really makes the watch a versatile everyday dressy sports watch. The reliable no-nonsense quartz caliber powering it will also ensure that it’ll run practically without fault or a need for servicing for a very long time.
Everyone should have an affordable quartz watch in their collection and if you haven’t already or are looking for something a bit more classic and versatile to add into yours, then the EFR-S180D-1AVUDF is certainly a worthy contender.
CASIO G-SHOCK GA-2100SU-1ADR SPECIAL COLOR MEN'S WATCH
The GA-2110 line, fondly known as the Casioak (A not so subtle abbreviation of its design resembling the ever-iconic and unattainable Royal Oak.) The public generally accepted these affordable and functional Royal Oak homages and the rest is history.
The GA2100 and GA2110 series have been selling like hot cakes since their release, and its small wonder why. For one thing, they’re still pure blue-blooded G-shocks, despite their much slimmer and svelte appearances make lead you to believe. Functionally, they’re identical as well with the usual, world timer, stopwatch, alarm and timer. But it’s the looks that we always go back to for this piece. Whether you’re a fan of G-Shocks or not, there’s no denying that the GA-2110 is a staggeringly good-looking watch that will undeniably appeal to a great many of us. And this one, in an olive-green resin case and strap with a matching black dial and bezel, is certainly one of our favourites of the bunch.
Whether you’re looking for a stunning and practical daily watch, or a serious tool watch, or just really like the Royal Oak’s aesthetics and are looking for a decent affordable yet different homage, the GA-2110SU-3ADR is certainly hard to beat.
ARMAND NICOLET J09-3 GMT A663AAA-NR-MA4660AA MEN'S WATCH
The last watch on our list today is certainly one of the most intriguing, and my personal favourite: The Armand Nicolet J09-3 GMT. Now, the J09-3 series is the brand’s take on a modern stainless-steel sports watch. Much like what the Royal Oak was intended to be, but the J09-3 isn’t exactly a blatant copy or homage, it’s a unique watch with its own individual style and characteristics, while sticking with the similar design philosophy. With 3 different variants to choose from, a classic 3-hander with a date, a chronograph, and a GMT. The GMT in our opinion, feels the most mature and dressy out of the lot.
Despite its dressy nature, it’s really an all-purpose watch, coming on either a stainless-steel bracelet or a leather strap, the watch gives off plenty Genta-esque design vibes the more you look at it. With a bold squarish angular case, integrated bracelet and of course, the unmistakable angled yet rounded bezel, it’s a properly serious looking watch. The dial is lovely too, a deep sunburst blue featuring 2 layers of finishes; wide striping along the center and brushed along the periphery, with a 2-tone grey and blue 24-hour GMT ring as well. The hands are rather special too, almost sword-shaped but with short prongs at the end, I’ve never seen anything quite like them before. While the GMT hand has a simple broad arrow head painted in red, and the second’s hand has a typical needle shape to keep things from looking too fussy. The overall finishing of the case is pretty solid too, it’s mostly brushed on the surface with some polished edges giving off a nice jewellery like shine to it. Coming in at 41mm, it sits a bit larger than its size would suggest due to the extended lugs, but it’s still a nicely elegant and distinct piece to look at.
If you’re looking for an entry-level luxury Swiss-made sports watch with an integrated that doesn’t look too much like a Royal Oak, then the Armand Nicolet J09-3 GMT is certainly the watch for you.