Opinion: It’s Time to Cut “Poor Man’s” from our Vocabulary

This is low-hanging fruit, I must admit, but I’ve always found the expression “poor man’s” to be at best obnoxious, at worse, completely elitist. Though likely used facetiously most of the time (for example, there used to be a Poor Man’s Watch Forum, which was a great place that focused on affordable watches, using the expression in a self-deprecating manner), there is always someone out there who will look at a watch they own, who worked hard to get that watch and likely is quite proud of it, who will hear it described as “poor man’s” and feel put down or out. Watch collecting should always be a good time for all, so it’s about time we cut “poor man’s” from our collective vocabulary.

I think the concept speaks for itself. Why diminish the achievements of others? Why are we so quick to designate, particularly when discussing something as ultimately frivolous as watches, by economic status? Watches at any price are a luxury, and always an achievement to acquire. Yet, this expression gets thrown around fairly freely, typically when used to describe timepieces where any comparison can be made and a price gap exists. The recent Tudor Black Bay Pro, is one such example, as are the Omega x Swatch MoonSwatches. These represent two interesting situations.

This is not meant to be a 1655

The Black Bay Pro is a luxury watch by a luxury brand. It’s not just a name on a dial, internally it features an impressive movement, externally it is finished to a fine degree, and it has brand provenance that few can match. It costs between $3,600 and $4,000. That’s a substantial amount of money and a high bar for entry. Yet, a resemblance to a watch that despite being out of production for nearly 40 years has earned it a “poor man’s” designator. That watch, of course, is the ref 1655, which regularly sells for over $30k. The resemblance between the two watches is there and most likely intentional, but they are far from identical. It’s an aesthetic nod, not a replacement, and regardless, only one is currently in production.


When the expression is used, it’s not to say “finally, a version of the 1655 that more people (if still not that many) can afford” rather it’s “oh, you got this because you’re too poor to get the 1655.” Perhaps “wise man’s” 1655 is more accurate, as $30k for a sports watch that you’d likely not want to wear in water or doing anything else active is not exactly a great value, but I digress. It’s an attempt to belittle would-be owners of a new watch that due to the current hype climate was met with an undue amount of salt. It’s elitist, and it adds nothing to the conversation. Like the watch or don’t, but to write it off as a cheap (and let’s be clear, that’s part of the implication too) version of another watch undermines all of its genuine qualities, and suggests that those that genuinely like it are somehow wrong.

Like it or not (we do), they are all Speedmasters

The recently launched Omega x Swatch BioCeramic MoonSwatch Speedmaster is perhaps a more curious example as the pricing difference is more radical in terms of markets, and the more expensive version is still very much in production. You’re likely all familiar with the MoonSwatch, but just in case, tl;dr – Omega and Swatch teamed up to launch a $260 Speedmaster. It was unexpected, and my mind is still kind of blown by the whole thing. It’s exactly what you don’t expect from a luxury brand, particularly a conservative Swiss one. And it puts into focus what’s directly at the heart of the “poor man’s” dismissal: accessibility.

They took their most iconic watch, their crown jewel, one of the few watches that are both revered by collectors and appreciated by the masses, a watch with a starting MSRP (in 2022) of $6,000, and made a version that is affordable. Not half, nor a quarter, nor even a tenth, but rather about 4.33% the price. Less than the tax one would pay on the 3861 version in NYC. Sure, $260 is still a luxury to a lot of people in this world, but in the scheme of watches, it’s very inexpensive. The best part of it is, this isn’t just a Swatch that looks like a Speedmaster, it’s got both Omega and the Speedmaster on the dial. It’s not fan fiction, it’s canon.

Accessibility at its finest

To some people out there, it might also be the very definition of a “poor man’s” watch. It’s an affordable version of something expensive. It took something that was previously a status symbol with a high barrier for entry and straight-up removed it. And, despite the – ummmm – rough start, will eventually put a Speedmaster on the wrists of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of new people who wouldn’t have worn one before. Does it take anything away from the steel, gold, ceramic (non-bio), platinum, or whatever models? Of course not. They are every bit as fine and luxurious as they were before, but it does allow for a much larger group of people to own an “Omega Speedmaster,” making that aspect of the watch no longer behind a paywall. If that’s an issue for someone, then they are not into appreciating watches, they’re into owning them and the vanity that comes with having things others can’t.

These are just two currently relevant examples of situations where I’ve seen “poor man’s” thrown around in public, but they are far from the only ones. From the Seiko SKX007 being called a “poor man’s Submariner” to the recent uptick in more affordable integrated bracelet steel sports watches, like the Tissot PRX, getting lumped together as “poor man’s Gentas,” – it’s an expression that gets used freely, undermining the successes of those watches, and the passions of those that like them. And, of course, it’s not always used with malice intended, yet the expression itself just implies all the wrong things. Things that we current collectors and enthusiasts need to be aware of as this little ridiculous hobby of ours grows in popularity.

Two very distinct watch designs

Now, you might be thinking, “why is this jerk telling us what to say?” And, I’d get that. We’ve never been ones to tell you what to think, so much as just give you our opinions on things (hence why we rarely say this or that is the “best” or “worst”), so consider this a heartfelt suggestion. It’s easy to use an expression without thinking about its literal meaning when it is thrown around colloquially. And to be clear, I’m not just saying this as a part and observer of watch enthusiast culture, I’ve also been on the other end of this and similar expressions.

For example, I was once in a situation where an acquaintance referred to a watch I had recently purchased, a watch I had spent more on than any watch before, a watch I was really, truly proud to own, as “a good starter” version of that watch, immediately contextualizing not as the achievement I saw it as, but as a stepping stone to something better. They didn’t say it to be mean, and I’m sure they’d be embarrassed to know I found it somewhat hurtful. They were just caught up in the unfortunate elitist attitudes that prevail in collecting, holding price higher in regard than meaning (and often other things, like taste…). It didn’t feel good, as evidenced by the sheer fact that out of the thousands of watch-related interactions I’ve had I still remember this one clearly.

Gratuitous Speedmasters

So, next time, before you reflexively or intentionally use the term “poor man’s” consider what it implies, and think twice about saying it. Perhaps replace it with “accessibly-minded”, or “everyman’s/woman’s/person’s,” or don’t qualify it at all. Any watch can hold meaning far beyond what you can tell at a glance. With that out of the way, perhaps we need to turn to “entry-level” and “beater,” both expressions I’ve been guilty of using. One implies, like “starter,” that you have to continue on an ever-expensive path to collect real watches, the other that some watches deserve to get used and abused, while others don’t. So long as something implies a level of inferiority or lower status, we should probably cut it altogether.

Topics like this are best as conversations, so please let us know, civilly, your thoughts in the comments below.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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