8 Best Watches for College Students in 2020 – for every student’s budget

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Last Updated: 4/11/2020

Best Choice: Orient Ray II
Best Value: Seiko SNK803
Premium Pick: Hamilton Khaki Field

As a college student, you’re running back and forth between classes, forgetting your locker combination, and waking up in strangers’ homes. You need a reliable timepiece to get you through the day – even if you’re stuck taking online classes at home during a pandemic.

There’s an option for every budget, and your trusty companion will help you relieve stress, manage your schedule, and give you something interesting to look at during a boring lecture. If you have a significant other in a different time zone, consider a GMT watch so you can track their time too.

The Best College Student Watches

1. BEST CHOICE – Orient Ray II

Without a doubt the best value automatic watch on any list – the Orient Ray II is as versatile as it is durable and reliable. Improving on prior versions, it’s an affordable automatic with all the bells and whistles a college student could want: a sweeping seconds hand, hacking and hand-winding, 200m water resistance, and a day-date window.

Wear it on a bracelet, or a black nylon strap – it would even look good on leather.

Key Features

  • Automatic movement
  • 200m Water Resistance
  • Hacking and Hand-Winding
  • Eye-Catching Dial design
  • Versatile on many strap options and with many outfits

Model Specs

  • Movement: Automatic Caliber F6922
  • Diameter: 41.5 mm
  • Thickness: 13mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $115-$130

2. BEST DRESS WATCH – Orient Bambino

Looking for something a little more classic and recognizable? The Orient Bambino has you covered. Frequently cited as one of the best value automatic watches you can find, it’s certainly not an exaggeration.

Orient is owned by Seiko – one of the best watchmakers in the business. With the Bambino, you’ll be dressed up for any party, club, or career fair college throws at you.

The Bambino can be has for under $150 depending on the model. Check out their full selection, they have over 5 generations, and they’re all as good as the last (just the designs are new and different). For an automatic that’s both versatile and fashionable, it’s hard to beat the Orient Bambino.

Key Features

  • Automatic movement
  • Leather strap
  • Tons of model variations
  • Classic dress watch aesthetics

Model Specs

  • Movement: Automatic Orient Cal 48743
  • Diameter: 40.5mm
  • Thickness: 12mm
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Price” $100-$200

3. PREMIUM PICK – Hamilton Khaki Field

Your first real Swiss automatic watch. You can’t tell from the product photo, but the craftsmanship and attention to detail is incredible on the Hamilton Khaki. If you can afford to invest a little more in the timepiece that will get you through college, this is a smart move.

There’s a certain level of pride that comes with owning a real Swiss watch. While your friends are rocking mass market China-made Apple watches and $5 Wal-Mart fashion watches, your college experience is suddenly much more elegant and refined.

The Hamilton Khaki is Swiss Made, and is made by an old watch brand that was originally American. It’s a field watch that can go with tons of different straps and look beautiful and different on them all.

Best of all, Swiss watches hold their value extremely well, so if you need to sell it in a pinch, you’ll get most of your money back.

Key Features

  • 80 hour power reserve
  • Versatile with many straps
  • Classic field watch design
  • Reputable Swiss watchmaker with American heritage

Model Specs

  • Movement: Automatic Orient Cal 48743
  • Diameter: 38mm (or 42mm)
  • Thickness: 11mm
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Price” $300-$400

4. BUDGET OPTION – Casio F-91W

When you’re looking for the cheapest reliable digital watch, you can’t go wrong with the Casio F-91W. It’s filled with useful digital watch features, and with a 200m Water Resistance, you never have to worry about getting it wet.

The Casio F-91W is so cheap that if it ever gets run over, you can get a replacement with zero worries.It’s got a timeless retro style that’s both old and classic enough to be fashionable in 2020.

Key Features

  • Daily Alarm
  • Backlight
  • 12 / 24 Hour Formats
  • Chronograph (stopwatch)
  • Disposable

Model Specs

  • Material: Resin
  • Thickness: 8 mm
  • Diameter: 30 mm
  • Water Resistance: 100ft
  • Price: under $15

5. BEST VALUE – Seiko SNK803

The Seiko SNK803 is one of the most popular entry-level automatic watches, and with great reason: it’s made by one of the most reputable Japanese watchmakers in the world, and with that comes the quality, reliability, and design style to back it up.

As an ultra-affordable automatic, the Seiko SNK range has tons of color options, and is an ideal choice for a college kid looking to be captivated by the smooth sweep of a red-tipped second hand; additionally it comes with a see-through caseback you can admire during a boring lecture.

Key Features

  • Reliable Automatic
  • See-through caseback
  • Versatile with many straps
  • Day-Date windows

Model Specs

  • Movement: Automatic Caliber 7S26
  • Diameter: 37 mm
  • Thickness: 11mm
  • Water Resistance: 100ft
  • Price: $70-$90

6. THE RUSSIAN KID – Vostok Amphibia

An old-school favorite among many watch lovers is the Vostok Amphibia – a Russian automatic dive watch. In true Russian style, it doesn’t follow the norms set by its Western (and Eastern) neighbors, and reinvents the wheel in a quirky and endearing way.

Commissioned by the USSR, you can get a real Russian automatic 200m dive watch for under $100 – not a claim that too many other brands can make. Like a real Russian, you’ll have to scour eBay for the best prices, or pay a premium for the convinience of adding it to your Amazon cart.

The Amphibia is made by the old and respected watchmaker Vostok (Russian for “East”). It also comes in a land-faring model line: Vostok Komandiorskie for Russian commanders.

Key Features

  • Water Resistant to 200m
  • Rugged and Durable
  • Russian design
  • Versatile and Unique

Model Specs

  • Movement: Automatic Caliber 2416B
  • Diameter: 41 mm
  • Thickness: 15 mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $40-$80

7. DURABLE AND AFFORDABLE – Casio MDV106-1A

Looking for something a little more robust than a cheap digital watch? I hope you know how to tell analog time – it’s the latest thing Gen Z can’t do.

The Casio MDV106-1A has a cult following as one of the best budget dive watches you can buy, and with good reason. It’s durable, accurate, and will withstand just about anything you can throw at it while still having three hands, a timing bezel, and a date window.

Key Features

  • Water Resistant to 200m
  • Rugged and Durable
  • Easy to read (high contrast)
  • Date Window

Model Specs

  • Movement: Japanese Quartz
  • Diameter: 44mm
  • Thickness: 12mm
  • Price: $40-$50

College Students’ Watch Buying Guide

You want something other than a stupid smartwatch. An analog (or even better an Automatic) watch is a good way to separate yourself from the herd, who’s cry is “Think Different.” You need to be able to track how long you’ve been studying, how soon the bars close, and how close it is to Friday.

What factors to consider for the college level

Something waterproof enough to withstand a pool slide, and also versatile enough to work with many outfits. That would include having many strap options. You also shouldn’t have to replace it every 2 years like an Apple watch – something that’s durable for all four years and more. Add it to your student loans under $500.

Affordable

You’re a college kid – you barely have money for Ramen this week. You think you can’t afford anything, and you’re right. But debt is a beautiful thing and stretches your dollar a beautiful way.

Durable

You want it to last all four years, don’t you?

Versatile

This is your one watch college collection, you want it to look good in a blazer, in a t-shirt, and especially shirtless.

Many strap options

You’re going to save a lot of money by converting your everyday watch into a dress watch by adding even a cheap leather strap.

Accurate

The last thing you want is to be late to class. If you want a watch that keeps going when you stop wearing it, you’ll want a Quartz watch.

If you don’t mind having to wind the automatic movement if it stops after two days, I urge you to go on the wild side and try your first Automatic Watch.

Be Unique

Now is the time in your life to experiment and think free. You and I both know smartwatches and smartphones don’t do anyone good. Free your mind from their incessant grasp and root yourself in a timeless engineering marvel.


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