The world of watches in recent years has been defined by a few headline trends. Since 2020 or so, we’ve seen the rise to ubiquity of the integrated sports watch, for example, as well as things like green dials, and new watches in titanium cases.

Another thing that’s permeated the watchmaking landscape is brands positioned in the more affordable section of the market – the type this column was created to celebrate – releasing models that have redefined their public perception and, occasionally, crossed over into vaunted ‘hype watch’ territory.

My latest Gateway Watch concerns the latter two points. Firstly, titanium: this most rugged of metals – prized for its lightness, durability, and an ethereal colour and tone that’s slightly darker than steel – has been a fixture of watchmaking at the medium and high end, but has been making its way into popular affordable collections, like Hamilton’s Khaki Field.

Meanwhile, the reputation of a brand like Tissot is higher than ever thanks to crossover watches like the PRX Powermatic 80.

Titanium has been a fixture of watchmaking at the high end, but has been making its way into affordable collections

American watchmaker Timex, it’s probably fair to say, has been overdue a glow-up. Like Tissot, it’s been known for delivering reliable and very affordable watches at scale and across a range of styles, but has been waiting to release a ‘serious’ mechanical model that unites the watch community in acclaim.

On early evidence, the Expedition North Titanium Automatic might just be that watch. The collection isn’t a new one: the brand’s been releasing watches in the Expedition range for professional and amateur explorers since the 1980s, inspired by the great outdoors, coming in quartz and automatic variations and even including functionality like a solar-powered movement or an in-built compass – but the Titanium Automatic feels a little different.

Timex Expedition North Titanium Automatic
Timex Expedition North Titanium Automatic
Timex Expedition North Titanium Automatic
Timex Expedition North Titanium Automatic

Like its predecessors, it’s a field watch in look and feel, prioritising legibility with its numerals, and integrating a simple date window alongside a de rigueur grained black dial. The Expedition collection’s mountain logo is emblazoned both at 12 o’clock and on its screw-down crown, which is kept secure by a shapely Submariner-style crown guard. A modded, wallet-friendy Miyota movement keeps things ticking over underneath that titanium shell.

It’s the case, though, that’s probably the most compelling thing about this model. While there are a few other great options in sub-£1,000 territory, titanium isn’t known for being a cheap metal for watchmaking, and although the price is helped by the absence of a bracelet (the quick-release strap supplied is made with Ecco­ DriTan leather), it’s still an incredibly affordable option for those after the ultra-hard-wearing qualities of titanium.

Perhaps as importantly, it’s all packaged up in a 41mm proposition with a design tat looks and feels assured and straightforward. Taking cues from a limited-edition model made as a collaboration with The James Brand last year, it could represent a new era of ‘serious’ watchmaking for Timex. Either way, it’s a watch that’s confident in its own identity, built for inspirational journeys between rocks and hard places, and at a price point that feels like an absolute steal. What’s not to like?