For those of you who are unfamiliar, there are several methods by which an analog watch can tick. Quartz battery-powered movements, while common, are a fairly simple and inexpensive means of operation. It’s also possible to find watches that function by solar power or need to be hand-wound daily. The cream of the crop and most highly respected in the watch world, however, is the automatic movement.
Kinetically powered by the motion of the wearer, these watches self-wind whenever they’re attached to a wrist. Which makes them both marvels of machinery and incredibly easy to maintain. Unfortunately, for any wristwatch enthusiasts who aren’t loaded, automatic watches also tend to skew toward the expensive side of the spectrum. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasonable options out there. For anyone that doesn’t want to or can’t spend an arm and a leg on a quality watch, we’ve rounded up the 12 best automatic watches on the market that won’t cost you more than five Benjamins.
Seiko 5 SNK809 Automatic Watch
Seiko isn’t just one of the best watchmaking brands from Japan, they’re one of the best in the world. Period. And they can almost always be counted on to offer quality timepieces for less than their Swiss brethren. The Seiko 5 SNK809 is proof of that. This 37mm stainless steel watch features a 21-jewel automatic movement, a day/date window, a sturdy nylon band, and an exhibition case back. You know, in case you want to marvel at its inner workings.
Invicta 8926OB Pro Diver Automatic Watch
The diver’s watch is a timeless classic and this is a handsome example, indeed. The 40mm stainless steel case is affixed with a mineral glass and a corrugated unidirectional bezel – which can be used to measure dive time. It also features a 3 o’clock date window, an exhibition back, and the whole thing is powered by a reliable Japanese-made movement. And if you are, in fact, going to use this watch when diving, it’s water resistant up to 660 feet.
Orient FER24001B0 Bambino Automatic Watch
Seiko’s one-time competitor and now subsidiary company, Orient’s origins date back to Tokyo, Japan in 1901. And they’re still making exceptional watches today. This, their Bambino Automatic Watch, is a prime example of the brand’s quality craftsmanship and style but with the added benefit of being reasonably priced. Although this watch sports a rose gold tone, the 40.5mm case is actually made from corrosion-resistant stainless steel. The leather calfskin band and buckle closure complete the dressed-up look. The Japanese-built movement powers the analog display, as well as a 3 o’clock date window. And the whole package is water resistant up to 99 feet.
Tissot Tradition T-Classic Automatic Watch
A pared-down minimalist watch, this offering from Tissot features a large silver dial in a stainless steel case that contrasts beautifully with its dark leather band. The swiss-movement-powered hands can be read through a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal window and the watch face features a date window at the 3 o’clock position. And, although this is certainly more of a formal option, this dress watch is still water resistant up to 100 feet.
Stuhrling Original 657.02 Delphi Automatic Watch
If you like the idea of owning a watch with an exhibition case back, but you wish that the inner workings were on display all of the time, you might like Stuhrling’s Delphi automatic watch. This skeleton-dialed chronograph features dual time capabilities, an AM/PM indicator, and has a GMT function. And it’s all housed in a 42mm stainless steel case with a shatter-resistant Krysterna crystal dial window.
Seiko SKX007K Diver’s Automatic Watch
Balancing so well on that line between fashion and function, Seiko’s SKX007K Diver’s Watch is one of their all-time most popular for a reason. The cleanly styled, Japanese made dial is fitted with a day/date window and can be viewed through the brand’s Hardlex synthetic mineral crystal. It also features a corrugated unidirectional bezel and is water resistant up to 660 feet. And the black rubber strap can stand up to any amount of punishment you might throw its way.
Victorinox Swiss Army 241373 Officer’s Mecha Automatic Watch
Though you may know them for their folding knives, Victorinox has a large catalog of noteworthy non-knife items. Take their Officer’s Mecha watch, for example. Built from sturdy stainless steel, this excellently styled timepiece manages to look both unique and classic at the same time. And the 40mm case is water resistant up to 330 feet. If you want a watch that is rugged and functional, while still classy enough for a formal affair, look no further.
Laco Type A Dial Miyota Automatic Pilot Watch
While it may not be loaded with a bunch of bells and whistles, this offering from Laco is nonetheless a superb example of quality craftsmanship and style. Between its scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, 42mm stainless steel case, Super Luminova dial markings, and riveted brown leather strap, this is the type of watch your grandad would be proud to wear. And it’s tough enough that, once you’re a grandad, you can pass it on to a new generation.
Certina DS Caimano Automatic Watch
If you want a clean and concise style addition to your everyday carry, you might want to look into the Certina DS Caimano automatic watch. The leather strap and black dial both complement and contrast with its silver-tone hands, markers, and stainless steel case. And it features an exhibition window and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. This Swiss made watch is also water resistant up to 330 feet, should you take a dip.
Hamilton H39515154 Timeless Class Automatic Watch
Like the name might suggest, this watch features styling that will never fall out of favor. The 40mm stainless steel case and bracelet pair perfectly with the silver dial and the Roman numeral markings. And the reliable Swiss movement within can be depended upon for decades. This watch also features a date window and a water resistance up to 165 feet. For an heirloom style watch that will always look good, go no further.
Jack Mason A101 Aviator Automatic Watch
Inspired by the instrument gauges of an aircraft, the Jack Mason Aviator watch is equal parts functional mastery and classic styling. The brown Italian leather band is durable and will only look better with time, or it can easily be swapped for an alternative. The 42mm brushed stainless steel case is paired with a superb sapphire crystal and a handsome black dial. And it features an exhibition case back, Super Luminova markings, and – like all Jack Mason watches – the red, white, and blue American flag markings on the second hand.
Rossling & Co. Classic Automatic Watch
Possibly the best minimalist watch we’ve ever seen, the Rossling & Co. Classic Automatic is the ultimate in purpose-driven styling. The 40mm diameter case is only an astounding 9mm thick, thanks to the ultra-slim Japanese Miyota movement within. There’s even a date window at the 3 o’clock position. This Bauhaus-inspired wristwatch is an excellent option for any occasion.