The 15 Best Automatic Watches Under $1,000

Jul 20, 2021

Category: Style

Within some corners of the watch industry, there is a perception that you can’t get a quality automatic timepiece without spending luxury-level prices. But nothing could be further from the truth. Fifty years removed from the onset of the quartz crisis and smack dab in the middle of the current Apple Watch takeover, there are still loads of great automatic watches you can find for under $1,000 — as long as you know where to look. And that’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up our favorite microbrands, entry-level luxury Swiss watchmakers, and a reliable standby out of Japan to bring you the 15 best automatic watches under $1,000.

For this guide, we had but two requirements: All watches had to have an automatic movement, and they had to be priced at $1K or less. With those parameters in place, we got to work hunting down the best the industry has to offer and came up with more than a dozen gems. From divers and pilot’s watches to trendy integrated bracelet sports watches and classic everyday timepieces, from vintage-inspired to the ultra-modern, we left no stone unturned in our pursuit of the best affordable autos. Any one of these timepieces would make a great addition to your collection, and they’re all cheap enough that you could even pick up a couple without feeling guilty. So take a look below to discover our picks for the best automatic watches under $1,000.

Tissot PRX Powermatic 80

One of the most successful watch releases of 2021 was Tissot’s PRX, a well-finished integrated bracelet ‘70s throwback that brought Gerald Genta style to the masses. But because it was powered by a simple quartz movement, many watch enthusiasts held off on buying one. Now Tissot has released an automatic version of the PRX with the same stunning retro case and bracelet, a new premium (and Royal Oak-adjacent) waffle dial, and a Powermatic 80 movement with 80 hours of power reserve. And since it still costs under $700, you literally have no excuse for not buying one.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: ETA Powermatic 80.111

Purchase: $650+

Baltic Aquascaphe

Paris-based Baltic has quickly become one of the highest-regarded and best-known microbrands in the world, and they even contributed a watch to the illustrious Only Watch charity event in 2021 alongside uber-luxury brands like F.P. Journe and MB&F. And Baltic owes a good chunk of their success to the Aquascaphe. The diver is almost certainly the brand’s most popular model, with its sapphire bezel insert, original sandwich dial, and tropic rubber strap (or beads of rice bracelet) giving off pitch-perfect vintage-style vibes.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Miyota 9039

Purchase: $684+

Yema Flygraf Pilot

Like Baltic, Yema is an independent French watchmaker — but don’t call them a microbrand. Yema has been around for decades, and they were churning out icons like the Superman diver and Rallye racing chronograph back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. These days, they’re still debuting killer models, like this unique take on a pilot’s watch. With a brushed dial, generously-applied BGW9 Super-LumiNova, an impressive 300m water resistance, an in-house movement, and a stunning vertically-brushed steel bezel that recalls the Patek Aquanaut, this is a ton of watch for the money.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: YEMA2000 In-house Caliber

Purchase: $690+

Halios Fairwind

We now return to the realm of microbrands for what may be the most-lauded microbrand of them all. Vancouver-based Halios makes some of the hardest-to-obtain watches in the industry, and the Fairwind is their latest and greatest diver. Arguably the best dive watch one can buy for under a grand, the Fairwind is noteworthy not just for its attractive angular design and trademark quality construction, but for its incredible bracelet. The Fairwind’s bracelet is an impeccably finished, fully articulating, flat link number with an innovative quick-adjust mechanism that functions by pushing a button on the clasp.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Sellita SW200-1

Purchase: $775

Lorier Hyperion

By now, you shouldn’t be surprised to see so many microbrands on a list such as this. With small batch numbers, microbrands are able to dial into what their buyers want in a watch and are able to really maximize their value. Take New York-based Lorier’s Hyperion, for instance. Here we have a GMT watch powered by a Swiss automatic movement for well under $1,000. It has an original vintage-inspired design that can stop traffic, a plexiglass Pepsi bezel for serious retro cred, and Lorier’s signature design language and cult-favorite bracelet. If you’re on the hunt for a GMT watch under a grand, this is the one to get — if you can get ahold of one, that is.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Soprod C125 GMT

Purchase: $799

Victorinox I.N.O.X. Mechanical

Built by the same brand that makes the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife, the quartz Victorinox I.N.O.X. is one of the toughest watches in the world. This version classes things up a bit by trading in just a hair of that utility for a heightened sense of luxury. The Swiss-made Sellita SW200-1 movement is visible through the exhibition caseback, the chunky stainless steel case sports some excellent contrasting finishing, the guilloche patterned dial is meant to invoke the handle of a Swiss Army Knife, and the watch is available on a first-of-its-kind wooden strap.

Case Size: 43mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Sellita SW200-1

Purchase: $825+

Squale 1521

There are summer watches and there are summer watches. This is the latter. A maker of dive watch cases since the 1960s (including for Blancpain, once upon a time), Squale already has an illustrious horological history. But they aren’t resting on their laurels. The brand has churned out many fun new models in recent years, including the now-iconic 1521 with its ocean blue sunray dial. A modern classic, the watch is basically summer on your wrist, with a classic case that will never go out of style and 500m water resistance to sweeten the pot.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 500m
Movement: ETA 2824-2

Purchase: $859

Mido Multifort Patrimony

A member of the Swatch Group conglomerate, Swiss heritage brand Mido frequently gets lost in the shuffle with better-known stablemates Omega, Longines, Hamilton, Tissot, and Rado. But you shouldn’t sleep on Mido, as the 103-year-old brand makes some seriously high-quality pieces. The Multifort Patrimony is one of them. A modern take on pre-mid-century styles, this handsome watch offers up an interesting blend of styling cues with its syringe hands, pulsometer scale, box crystal, and beautifully curved lugs. It’s totally unique and would be at home in any collection.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Mido Caliber 80 (base ETA C07.621)

Purchase: $890

Farer Bradfield

If you know your watch brands, then you should be able to spot a Farer from across the room. In just a few short years, the British microbrand has established a consistent and highly recognizable design language built around fun and unexpected color combinations. And one of the best examples of that is this unorthodox pilot’s watch. The Bradfield’s white dial features a stepped inner minute ring infilled with sky blue Super-LumiNova, alpha hands in creamy yellow, and applied navy Arabic numerals outlined by that same sky blue lume.

Case Size: 39.5mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Sellita SW200-1

Purchase: $890+

Christopher Ward C60 Sapphire

Perhaps no brand is more synonymous with the term “bang for your buck” than Christopher Ward. The original direct-to-consumer online brand was founded with the intention of providing affordable Swiss-made luxury watches to the masses, and they have been more successful at that feat than anyone could have imagined. One of CW’s most popular watches is their C60 Sapphire, an innovative take on their flagship Trident dive watch that uses a colored sapphire dial for a touch of avant-garde style. Blue and black versions are available, but for an added dose of fun and originality, we recommend going for the just-released orange version.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 600m
Movement: Sellita SW200-1

Purchase: $950

Doxa Sub 200

Speaking of fun and colorful, say hello to Doxa. One of the most iconic dive watch brands ever (noted undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau was a big fan), Doxa returned to the U.S. market just this year after years away. So it’s time to get reacquainted, and the best way to do that is with their entry-level diver. The Sub 200 offers all of the robust reliability and pro-level diving specs you’d expect from Doxa, as well as the brand’s trademark retina-burning colorways. From orange to yellow to this gorgeous aqua blue, every option is a winner.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: ETA 2824-2

Purchase: $950+

Autodromo Group B Series II

Watches just don’t get any cooler than this. Retro-inspired design? Check. Trendy integrated bracelet looks? Check. Interesting backstory? This watch was inspired by Group B rally cars of the 1980s, which were known for their ridiculous power output and the dangerousness of their races… so that’s a big check. The Group B has just about everything going for it, from its bimetal stainless steel and titanium case to its dial that recalls Group B race car tachymeters to its outstanding color options. This is a watch that presses all the right buttons.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Miyota 9015

Purchase: $975

Certina DS PH200M

Like Doxa, Certina is a Swiss heritage brand that returned to U.S. shores this year after many years away. And boy, are we happy to see them. Another underrated Swatch Group member, Certina offers loads of killer watches at bargain prices, but none are better than this outstanding diver. A reissue of one of the brand’s divers from the ‘60s, the modern-day DS PH200M has been updated with a striking domed and engraved ceramic bezel that you won’t see anywhere else, along with an 80-hour Powermatic movement that’s visible through a sapphire caseback.

Case Size: 42.8mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: ETA Powermatic 80.611

Purchase: $990

Hamilton Khaki Field Murph

There have been loads of iconic movie watches over the years, from Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco in Le Mans to James Bond’s many Omega Seamasters. But none are quite like the Murph. Originally made by Hamilton specifically for the 2014 sci-fi film Interstellar, the movie prop plays a significant role in the film’s climax. Consistent badgering by fans led Hamilton to finally make a production recreation of the watch in 2019, and it’s been a brand mainstay ever since. The versatile vintage-inspired field watch even has a special Easter egg for fans of the film, with the word “Eureka” printed in morse code in lacquer on the seconds hand.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100
Movement: Hamilton Caliber H-10 (base ETA C07.111)

Purchase: $995

Seiko Presage Sharp Edged Date

Seiko’s luxury offshoot Grand Seiko certainly doesn’t have any watches under $1,000 — or under $2,000, for that matter. But Seiko offers a bit of Grand Seiko style with their premium Presage Sharp Edged series. This watch features a highly-intricate Japanese Asanoha patterned dial, sapphire crystals on the front and back, GS-style hands and indices with Lumibrite, a sharp-angled and expertly-finished case and bracelet, and the 6R35 caliber movement with its 70 hours of power reserve. The Sharp Edged Date makes for an excellent everyday watch that incorporates a touch of the Grand Seiko experience.

Case Size: 39.3mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Seiko Caliber 6R35

Purchase: $1,000

The 24 Best Affordable Alternatives To Iconic Luxury Watches

Is there a certain watch you’re pining after but just can’t justify the cost? Then you should have a look at our guide to the 24 best affordable alternatives to iconic luxury watches. In this guide, we take a look at 8 heavy hitters, including the Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, and Audemars Piguet, and offer three similar, affordably priced alternatives to each. Your wallet will thank you.

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