Spend a few minutes on cheap time

The problem is always the same. Whether the purchase at-hand is a new car (Corvette or Cavalier?), a vacation (Cancun or Cleveland?) or replacing a wristwatch (Cartier or Cardinal?), how do you find something that mixes quality, style and individualism, but leaves the line-of-credit intact?

At least with watches you’d think the search would be a snap. Browse through a department orjewelry store and you’ll see enough watches to dress up a nation of wrists. The trouble is if the watch isn’t expensive, chances are it looks more suited to the school yard than the workplace.

Don’t despair. Here are three of the many good watches that look good and will demonstrate to your colleagues that you want value for money spent – a hallmark of the thrifty nineties.

If you were in elementary school in the late 1950s or early 1960s, your first watch was probably a Timex. Priced low and advertised heavily, a Timex was how young people told time before the Swatch. Today there are 225 different Timex watches, all of them priced under $100.

While some Timexes look like cheap watches trying to masquerade as expensive models, that’s not the case with Model No. 41711.

This is a no-frills watch priced right at $39.95. Its simplicity makes it surprisingly stylish and popular. The watch has been on the market for five years, almost twice as long as the average Timex. The case is plastic, the band is nylon, the colour of the band and the face is khaki. The watch has a sweep second hand but no date window.

Inside there is a quartz movement and it’s water resistant to 30 metres. Its numbers glow in the dark, but that’s the end of its features. This is not an heirloom in the making, but it is guaranteed for a year. Timex watches are available virtually everywhere.

If a Timex doesn’t fit your dressed-for-success look, consider an upgrade to the Eddie Bauer field watch, available for both men or women. Strapping one of these around your wrist will set you back $100, but it will also suggest a relatively healthy financial situation.

According to research from Eddie Bauer, the sports outfitter, its typical catalogue customers are in their 40s, married and with a household income of more than $50,000 (U.S.). (In-store customers tend to be several years younger.) The Field Watch has a French-made quartz movement. The face comes in black or silver and both the hands and dial are luminous. The case is hardened stainless steel, there’s a second hand, a scratch-resistant crystal and a date display.

Water resistant to 45 metres, the watch comes with a choice of three interchangeable nylon bands (olive, black and chestnut), or a single leather band. The company even replaces the battery and crystal, free and forever. The watch is available at any of the 19 Eddie Bauer stores in Canada or through its catalogue operation at 1-800-426-8020.

If only a Swiss-made watch will do, consider the Swiss Army Brands Original Series 2000 watch, which sells for $175. Introduced in 1989, this watch has bold analog hour markings in black, with the 24-hour clock in smaller numbers in red.

There is a date window and a sweep second hand and the tips of the hands and hour markers are luminous. These watches also have a hardened mineral crystal, stainless steel snap back and are water resistant to 100 metres.

There are 10 variations of this basic design. There are both men’s and women’s versions (large or small face). The bezel (the ring around the watch face) can be either stainless steel or enamel and comes in silver, black or red. There is a choice of two water-resistant leather straps or a nylon mesh strap. All bands have a stainless steel buckle.

Swiss Army Brands watches are sold at Birk’s, Eddie Bauer stores and other jewelry and department stores.

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