Most of you probably have one in your collection, and I haven’t heard a good argument against having one; it’s the “go anywhere, do anything” watch — let’s call it a GADA watch. For me, it’s a Rolex Submariner reference 16800. I can wear it in the water, on a hike, with jeans and a t-shirt, or even with a suit (thanks, James Bond!). It’s a veritable workhorse that also satisfies my vintage appetite. If I were being a purist, however, I’d have to look at sleeker designs for a true GADA watch.
So, with that being said, what makes a perfect GADA watch? Well, I really think it needs to be steel or titanium – something durable. Next, water resistance should also be a factor; after all, the Earth’s surface is over 70% water. Of course, versatility is extremely important. The design should look good in almost any outfit and situation, as well as have the ability to handle various straps. Pulling it all together, a GADA watch should be understated with a certain amount of class, with a spec sheet allowing you to rest easy no matter what you throw at it. Now, let’s take a look at some of my favorite GADA watches under $2,000.

Sinn 556i

I love the Sinn 556i. Along with the 103 and maybe the 142, I think it’s one of the best references in Sinn’s lineup. At 38.5mm, with a legible dial, and incredibly solid build, it’s the total package. It truly carries the essence of Helmut Sinn’s intentions with his watchmaking, especially with a $1,200 price tag on the steel bracelet. In the last 10 years or so, Sinn has been pushing hard with new technologies and innovations, but the 556i sits in the lineup as the entry level tool watch. With 200 meters of water resistance and a reliable ETA 2824-2 inside, you can count on it to keep time anywhere you take it. For the most versatility, always opt for a steel bracelet if available.

Ball Engineer II Marvelight

We’ve talked about Ball a number of times here. A lot of their pieces are right up our alley. In fact, I had a hell of a time choosing just one for this article. I ended up settling on the Engineer II Marvelight with the blue dial. The Marvelight definitely has a Rolex Milgauss look to it, which not only might be why it’s in their Engineer II lineup, but also why I leaned its way for a GADA watch (the Milgauss is a great pick in a higher price range). With 100m of water resistance, anti-magnetic properties, and a perfect 40mm case size, I can’t think of a situation where the Marvelight would be out of place. For me, the blue dial just caps things off. It’s not too blue, but just enough to work with different kinds of attire – as well as look damn good with a brown cordovan strap. At $1,899, I think it’s a great value, especially since a lot of authorized Ball dealers are willing to discount.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date

Each year, again and again, Oris reminds me of how awesome they are. This year, they blew our mindholes with the Diver Sixty Five. While I do think it’s a great everyday beater, for me, the Big Crown ProPilot Date more easily falls into the GADA category. Pilot watches assuredly used to be more of a casual or sporty watch, but by today’s liberal standards, they’re almost dressy (business casual, at least). The Big Crown ProPilot Date is an exercise in classic pilot watch design, executed with simplicity and subtle detailing. I love the diagonal knurl on the bezel, as well as the nicely finished crown. What’s more, Oris complemented the textbook pilot watch dial with their own unique handset design. The stainless steel bracelet looks great on the 41mm case, and their fabric strap options show off how great it looks when not on the bracelet. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date has a retail of $1,800 on steel, and it’s watch that should be easy to find at a discount.

Picking a GADA watch in this price range isn’t very easy. It seems that the options are driven towards a more specific type of watch, like a dive or dress watch. As you look at higher price ranges, it starts to open up a bit with great options like the NOMOS Ahoi, IWC Mark XVII, Omega Aqua Terra, and Oyster Perpetual 39mm. But, if you look hard enough, you can find true GADA watches like the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date, Ball Engineer II Marvelight, and Sinn 556i.
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