Like it or hate it, the bulk of the attention in the watch world is focused on timepieces that come with big, hefty price tags. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of great, more affordable timepieces out there.
In fact, some of our hands-down favorite watches on the market right now land on the more affordable end of the spectrum. Yeah, sure, they may not be some of the most coveted wristwatches out there, but they’re unique, they have character, and they tell time well. What more could you really ask for from a watch, anyway? Whether you are just beginning to build out your own watch collection or are looking for another piece to add to the quiver – our list of the best watches under $500 should provide you with some ideas.
Braun BN003 Analog Watch
For those who have a particular fondness for minimalist design, this watch from Braun is a solid choice. It doesn’t feature any fancy movements (just a precise 3-hand Quartz with a date function), but it more than makeup for it with its striking high contrast black and white design. And thanks to its 165 foot water resistance and mesh bracelet, it is ideal for those who swim laps for exercise.
Form Function Horween Leather Timex Weekender
The Timex Weekender Chrono is just about as classic as they come. If you didn’t have one as a kid, chances are that one of your friends did. It has a lot of functionality (three hands, three sub-dials, Indiglo for easy legibility, and a date window powered by a Quartz movement) in a simple, conservative package. What makes this particular model all the more special is the fact that it has been fitted with a custom built Horween Leather strap sourced from America’s oldest tannery in Chicago, Illinois.
Todd Snyder Timex Military Watch
While some may cite Timex’s ubiquity as a drawback – in our eyes it is one of their greatest strengths. The company has produced so many watches for such an extended period of time that they’ve kind of become a part of American history – like Coca Cola or Ford. Just take this military watch for instance. While this model is a new one – a collaboration with Todd Snyder – it draws its inspiration from Timex’s mil-spec watches from the 1960s.
Techne 245 Merlin
This watch from Techne is really distinct. It boasts a sizable 39.5mm case made from brushed 316L stainless steel and has a double-curved mineral crystal for easy legibility. The face features a pair of uniquely shaped hour and minute hands, while a sub-dial located at six tracks seconds. All together the watch has a rugged but refined look to it that can go just as well in a more formal situation as it can out around town.
Vincero Chrono S
Usually, chronographs end up looking a bit crowded. With so much going on in such a small space – it is kind of hard to avoid. Vincero, somehow, manages to skirt that pitfall with their chrono watch. This is due in part to the large 43mm case, the lack of numerals on the watch’s face, and the thin hands on both the main face and the sub-dials. And to top it all off, this watch comes with a top-grain Italian leather strap.
Jack Mason A101 Aviator Watch
Some watch designers borrow inspiration from race-car dials, others look to vintage dive watches, and then some look to pilot’s instruments. This watch from Jack Mason falls into the latter category. The sharp A101 watch from the Houston, Texas-based company features three Super Luminova hands driven around its black face by a Japanese Quartz movement. A solid pick from a great American company.
Seiko Diver’s Automatic Watch
Seiko is one of the very few watch makers that produces a series of solid automatic dive watches for under $500. This particular model boasts large luminescent indices on the watch’s big face, a day date window, and three hands – hour, minute, and second – that are powered by a Japanese automatic movement. And to top off its smart looks, this tough watch has the ability to dive as far down as 660 feet below the surface.
Miansai may make watches, but what they’re best known for are their men’s bracelets. The Miami-based studio turns out simple, stark, and handsome pieces that truly manage to stand out without being gaudy. The same could be said of their M24 watch. The minimalist watch features a gold case, a simple face sans numerals, and an hour and minute hand driven by a Japanese Quartz movement.
Daniel Wellington Classic Durham 40mm
Few, if any, have a corner on the minimalist watch market in the same way that Daniel Wellington does. Their Classic Durham, for instance, boasts a barely-there design that features indices without numerals, two incredibly thin hands, and a low-profile 40mm stainless steel case. The watch’s hands are propelled by a Japanese Quartz movement that can keep on ticking through unexpected showers.
Citizen Nighthawk Eco-Drive Watch
One of the most impressive parts of this watch is just how much stuff Citizen managed to stuff into it. It boasts a dual GMT function, a date window, and a pilots inner rotating slide rule bezel, along with the standard luminescent hands and indices. And of course, because it is a Citizen, the Nighthawk’s Japanese Quartz movement is powered by Eco-Drive, a proprietary technology that draws its power from both artificial and natural light.
Armogan Spirit of St. Louis
An homage to the plane piloted by Charles Lindbergh on the first transatlantic flight, this watch features some touches of 1920s-inspired styling along with its utilitarian build. The case measures in at 44mm in diameter and boasts a suede leather strap that compliments the watch’s off-white face. That face features three sub-dials, a day date window, and three slim hands that are powered by a Miyota Chronographic 0S00 movement.
Aulta Acuatico Automatic
If you’re on the hunt for a dive watch, this is a solid one to consider. It features a blue face with large luminescent dots, a date window located at five, and prominent hands with luminescent markers driven by a Japanese Miyota automatic movement. The case itself measures in at 41mm in diameter and remains water resistant for up to 200 meters.
Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X. Watch
This Swiss timepiece from Victorinox boasts a tough build that can take serious use and abuse without skipping a beat. It features a hefty 43mm case that is capable of being run over by a tank, diving as deep as 200 meters, and being knocked and tossed about without breaking. And yet, despite the superhuman toughness of this watch, it has a kind of elegance to it. The anti-reflective sapphire crystal encases a striking blue dial with luminescent indices, a date window, and attractive hands that are powered by a Swiss Quartz movement.
Jack Mason Aviator Chronograph
This watch from Jack Mason has a lot more going on with it than the one previously noted on this list. First and foremost, it has three sub-dials located on the face, along with luminescent markers around each number and painted prominently on the hour and minute hand. Those hands are driven around the watch’s 42mm stainless steel case by a Japanese Quartz movement that can operate up to 100 meters underwater.
Void Watches V01 Mark II
You won’t find too many digital watches on our lists – but this one from VOID is hard to pass up. It boasts a big, square case with a smaller LCD screen under a sapphire crystal on the bottom half that clearly displays the time. As a kind of finishing touch, the watch features an Italian leather strap with a stainless steel buckle. Depending on your preference, you can pick up the watch in one of 10 colors.
Uniform Wares M37
Another ideal pick for the minimalist at heart. This watch features a lug-less round case measuring in at 37mm in diameter and boasts a black face with grey indices and off-white hour and minute hands. The Swiss made watch can be fitted with either a rubber strap, leather strap, or metal bracelet.
MAEN Manhattan 40 Moonphase
It is not often that you’ll come across a moon phase complication on a watch that retails for under $500. This is one of the few exceptions. The 40mm case holds a circular brushed dial with polished indices, an angular hour and minute hand, and an attractive moon phase complication located just above six. In addition to the striking and paired-down dial, the watch features a high quality Italian leather strap with a butterfly clasp.
Tsovet SVT-RM40 Watch
Looking for a solid blacked-out watch? This one from Tsovet is a supremely fun pick. It measures in at 40mm in width, boasts a high quality Swiss Quartz Ronda 505 movement, and has three slim hands that point towards the watch’s dual sets of Arabic numerals.
Eone Bradley Black Tactile Watch
Originally designed for the blind, this watch is unlike really any other we’ve come across. Rather than featuring a traditional hour and minute hand set underneath a sapphire crystal glass – this one has two metallic balls set in the center and on the exterior of a titanium case. As the hours and minutes pass, the magnetized balls move around the face. A great pick for the visually impaired, or those who are fans of innovative design.
Seagul 1963 Hand Wind Mechanical Chronograph
The appeal of this watch doesn’t necessarily lay in its movement or the design of its face. More than anything else, what makes this such a standout wristwatch is the fact that it is a replica of those worn by the Chinese Airforce during the early 1960s. It features a hand-winding movement, a 45 hour power reserve, and a simple but striking face.
Melbourne Watch Company
This gold watch from Melbourne watch company features a sharp formal look at a totally affordable price. The 34mm case holds a sun ray dial with rose gold plated indices, a moon phase calendar, and an attractive hour and minute hand powered by a Miyota Cal. 6P80 movement.
Another great minimalist piece of EDC for under $500. This one features a monochromatic steel face and 40mm case that are only differentiated from one another thanks to a slightly altered finish. The watch has three hands – hour, minute, and second – that are powered by a Ronda 763 Swiss movement.
TRIWA Blue Steel Nevil
A solid Swedish-designed chronometer with an attractive look. It boasts a big face with two green sub-dials and a green outer ring that contrasts well with the stainless steel face and case. The watch comes with an organic leather band made by hand in Sweden and is powered by a Japanese movement.
Hamilton Khaki Field Officer Mechanical Watch
Compared to others on this list, Hamilton’s Khaki Field Officer watch is not complicated or necessarily fancy – but it is incredibly well made. It features a hand-winding ETA 2804-2 movement that drives three hands around the dial. More than just looking rugged, this 38mm stainless steel case with canvas strap is built to withstand daily were and tear like a champ.
Nixon Mission 48mm
Watches do a lot more now than they ever used to. More than just keeping time they have the ability to track your sleep, your fitness and – in the case of the Nixon Mission watch – even the surf conditions. Designed for hard wearing, this smart watch features a hefty 48mm polycarbonate case with Gorilla Glass crystal, and a ‘roll cage’ bezel. Powered by Android Wear, the watch can read out time, snow and surf conditions, and voice search with Google.
Farer Stark Watch
For as long as time-telling instruments have been around, those brave enough to venture out into the unknown have relied on them to guide their voyages out into the world. This watch is named for one of those explorers, travel writer Dame Freya Stark. It boasts a clean, attractive look with Arabic numerals, and a trio of bright hands located at the center of the face and in the sub-dial located just above six.
More than just being named after the ubiquitous Swiss typeface, this watch from Mondaine takes all of its design cues from it. Intended to be modest, quiet, and beautiful – it is an ideal pick for those looking for a minimalist wristwatch for daily wear.
Tissot Tradition Chronograph
Inspired in part by classic mid-century design, this watch from Tissot boasts a kind of clean minimalism to it despite its prominent sub-dials. The watch is powered by a Swiss Quartz movement, measures in at just under 30mm in diameter, and comes with a leather strap with a butterfly clasp.
Lum-Tec Combat B39 Phantom
Few people do combat watches better than Lum-Tec. The American company has a knack for putting together unique references that are both capable and stylish. This one features a completely blacked out stainless 43mm steel case with a black face and Arabic numerals. For readability at night, the watch features MDV luminous-coated indices and hands that are powered by a Swiss Ronda 515 12-hour movement.
Uniform Wares C35
This elegant and simple dress watch from Uniform Wares is a solid pick for the guy looking for a sound but understated timepiece. Featuring an off-white face, a pair of clean hands powered by a Swiss Quartz movement, and a Milanese leather strap – it is about as solid as they come.
20 Best Men's Watches Under $200
Interested in some watches that are maybe a bit more affordable than this bunch? Take a look at the 20 best men’s watches under $200.
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