Alright, I'll play. Keeping in mind that these are sport watches, a lot of my choices are more on the functional side. They're also widely variant in price, because there aren't many standout great values just under the $1000 mark. No particular order to my choices.
1. Luminox Colormark. If all you want is to tell the time, this is one of the most utilitarian watches out there. There are a lot of models under $1000, but for pure utilitarian appeal I'd go with the base model resin case with a NATO strap. Here's why. The fiberglass reinforced nylon body is light as a feather, but more durable than something like Swatch's ABS plastic. It's about as comfortable to wear as you can get. It also doesn't show scratches easily. The dial is laid out legibly without a lot of confusing stylistic choices. It's water resistant to 200 meters, enough to serve most people's purposes, but you don't have to fiddle with a screw down crown due to the double gasket. The bezel clicks securely, and overall the watch has the quality that you would expect from a Swiss-made product. The movement is a standard no-frills unit, but it's proven and does its job competently. If it ever fails, replacements are widely available and cost about $10. The NATO strap is also very comfortable, won't be damaged by water, and will retain the watch even if one of the lugs bends or breaks. And of course the most distinctive feature is its use of tritium tubes to light the hands and markers, so that they can always be read in all brightness levels, whether they've been exposed to the light recently or not.
2. Bulova Precisionist Wilton. At a time when high accuracy quartz watches are becoming rarer, Citizen has released a new offering through Bulova that offers a feature set suggesting a much more expensive watch. With the discontinuation of Seiko's cheaper high frequency quartz watches, this might be the only option readily available under $1000. Some people say that quartz watches are all the same, but watches like these that are built to be accurate within 10 seconds a year as opposed to the typical +/-30 seconds a month that works fine for most people show that horology is not dead in the world of quartz watches. The sweep second hand is also a really cool feature (no fretting over the second hand hitting the marks accurately) reminiscent of high quality mechanicals and uncommon with quartz watches. Even some of the finest quartzes in the world like the Grand Seiko 9F series or Citizen Chronomaster do not have sweep second hands. Construction of these watches is also above average, with features like solid end links on the bracelet models.
3. Casio G-Shock Rangeman. The G-Shock and Pathfinder lines have been staples for function first watch collectors, and now there's a watch that has the best features of both. The Rangeman has every feature you would expect from a multifunction watch, as well as quite a few that you wouldn't. It adjusts its time automatically with atomic radio reception, needs no batteries since it's solar powered, and has the barometer/altimeter/thermometer/compass triple sensor the Pathfinders are known for. It also has Casio-specific features like the backlight that can be set to turn on whenever an accelerometer detects that you've turned your wrist, and has the famous G-Shock toughness and 200m water resistance. It's a watch that does as much as possible with as little maintenance and care as possible.
4. Seiko Sumo. This watch has become an icon of the budget sport watches. It may seem nondescript, but it endures because it does everything well. It's a well-made dive watch with a good bracelet and good lume. The movement is proven and reliable, and has the handwinding and hacking features that many cheaper mechanicals lack. It's also common enough that it's not difficult to find watchmakers with the ability to service it or replacement parts. It's hard to fault a full-featured mechanical diver that's offered at a reasonable price and doesn't have a lot of glaring issues. But what really makes the Sumo stand out is the aftermarket that has developed behind it. Customization options abound to alter the watch to suit any user's preferences. What Seiko offers is a solid base on which to build whatever sport watch you really want. And if you get bored of it, you can always change it again.
5. Vostok Amphibia. This one is significantly cheaper than the other watches I've listed, but it really is exceptional what they deliver for the price. The Amphibia was first made in the 60's, and hasn't changed significantly since then. It's offered in a wide range of cases and dials, and really epitomizes the utilitarian sports watch. The in-house movement has a higher jewel count than most others in its price range, and features springs behind some of the jewels to offer shock protection. It also has a bidirectional winding rotor and a slower than average beat rate that helps to minimize the rate of wear in the components. It's an excellent movement all around, and has proven its durability and reliability over decades of service. What really impresses me about the Amphibia is how well it is designed to be high functioning for a low price. For an example, to achieve the 200m water resistance without making the tolerances so fine that the cost would be greatly increased, the engineers chose to use a non-rotating caseback secured with a rotating ring. This allowed them to press the back against a much thicker o-ring that seals water better. For the crystal, they used acrylic, which doesn't break as easily as glass and can be polished to remove scratches. Under water pressure, the acrylic flexes and flattens, pressing itself harder against the case and making a tighter seal. The Amphibia is kind of like the AK-47 of watches. Born of Soviet utilitarian necessity, designed efficiently to be as effective as possible for the price, and proven to work well over a large number of units and many years of service. The one caveat is that the stock bands and bracelets are terrible, but you can switch out a much better one and still come out with a watch that offers function, design, and history unparalleled by others in its price range.
Edited by Tsujigiri - 4/25/14 at 2:47pm