The 12 Best Automatic Watches Under $500 in 2022

Photo: Laco Augsburg

Watch collecting can be one of the most expensive hobbies there is. Some luxury watch brands’ catalogs consist entirely of watches that cost five or even six figures, and watches that retail for over a million dollars are by no means unheard of. But even if you stay a little closer to Earth, it’s still very easy to drop several thousand on a watch — especially if you’re shopping for automatic watches. But collecting watches, even automatics, doesn’t have to be so pricey. We’ve come up with a guide to the best automatic men’s watches under $500 to prove that you don’t need to spend a lot of cash to put together a quality stable of mechanical watches.

The dozen watches that make up our list of the best automatic men’s watches under $500 are a diverse bunch. There are dress watches, dive watches, field watches, and pilot’s watches. Their countries of origin vary from Switzerland and Japan to Singapore, Italy, France, and the U.S. of A. Some come from heritage brands that have been around forever, while others are from upstart microbrands. But they all have three things in common: They all have automatic movements, they all retail for less than $500, and they’re all worthy of holding a spot in your collection. So take a look below at the 12 best automatic watches under $500.

Orient Sun & Moon

For 70 years, Japanese watchmaker Orient has been known as a serious value proposition. That’s more true than ever today, as most of the brand’s watches offer in-house automatic movements for under $500. The Sun & Moon is one of their more unique offerings in the space, and it’s built a cult following over the years. A fairly complicated dress watch for the price, the Sun & Moon features day, date, and day/night complications arranged in a fun and classy layout underneath a sapphire crystal.

Case Size: 42.5mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Water Resistance: 50m

Purchase: $225+

Timex M79 Automatic

Like their old slogan, Timex as a brand has kept a lickin’ but keeps on tickin.’ After decades of ups and downs, the American heritage watchmaker is now hotter than it’s been in years, and it’s all thanks to their string of well-designed vintage-themed releases. The M79 is one such watch, as it takes the brand’s blockbuster Q Timex Reissue quartz watch and transforms it into a highly attractive automatic, with bi-color bezels available in some truly classic colorways like “Batman” and “Coke.”

Case Size: 40mm
Crystal: Acrylic
Water Resistance: 50m

Purchase: $279

Dan Henry 1970

Brazilian watch collector Dan Henry has one of the world’s most impressive vintage watch collections at over 1,500 pieces, and his favorite possessions serve as the inspiration for the designs in his vintage-styled namesake microbrand. For the 1970, Henry went for the dual-crown super compressor style case and funky colors that came into vogue in the Me Decade, and ended up creating one of the best divers under $500. The 1970 boasts true diver specs with 200m water resistance and an inner-rotating bezel, but also packs in more style than many divers ten times its price.

Case Size: 40mm or 44mm
Crystal: Sapphire-Coated Mineral
Water Resistance: 200m

Purchase: $290

BOLDR Venture Wayfarer

While BOLDR’s regular Venture is the brand’s vision for a modern-day field watch, the Wayfarer version was created as a tribute to mid-twentieth century explorer’s watches. It adds a 24-hour subdial, a feature favored by spelunkers and miners back in the day so they could better keep track of the time without having access to the sun. The Wayfarer also features everything you’d expect from a Venture, including the same 38mm titanium case, AR-coated sapphire crystal, and 200m water resistance.

Case Size: 38mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Water Resistance: 200m

Purchase: $339

Spinnaker Fleuss

As one of the larger microbrands, Spinnaker has a pretty robust catalog of watches. But the Fleuss is quickly becoming the young brand’s flagship, as it wonderfully blends vintage and modern dive watch aesthetics to create something new. From the domed and lumed mineral crystal bezel to the sand-textured dial with applied Arabic indices to the very modern 43mm case size, the Fleuss is quite unlike any other dive watch on the market (though it does bear some resemblance to the $15,000+ Blancpain Fifty Fathoms) which makes it especially desirable at its low price point.

Case Size: 43mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Water Resistance: 150m

Purchase: $350

Baltic HMS 002

Given the level of finishing and attention to detail seen on this dress watch from French microbrand Baltic, it’s hard to believe this piece is priced below $500. And yet, somehow, it is. The 1940s-inspired HMS 002 features a stepped sector dial with dual contrasting finishing, along with a generously domed hesalite crystal for a true vintage look and feel. Ticking away inside is the Miyota 821A, which helps keeps the case appropriately thin at just 12mm including the bubble-like crystal.

Case Size: 38mm
Crystal: Acrylic
Water Resistance: 50mm

Purchase: $402+

Laco Augsburg

Laco is one of the five manufacturers who made the original Flieger pilot’s watches during WWII, and since the other four are Stowa, Wempe, IWC, and A. Lange & Söhne, the German brand is in some good company. You can still get an authentic Flieger today from Laco for a lot less than you’d expect, as the Augsburg features the classic Type A layout and distinct handset. The pilot’s watch is available in 39mm or 42mm case sizes with blue or black dials, giving you ample opportunity to own a true historical timepiece for under $500.

Case Size: 39mm or 42mm
Crystal: Sapphire (Also on Caseback)
Water Resistance: 50m

Purchase: $410+

Tissot V8 Swissmatic

It’s nearly impossible to find a Swiss-made automatic from a heritage brand for under $500, but Tissot has managed to do that here thanks to their modular Swissmatic movement. The movement boasts a healthy 72-hour power reserve, and the fact that it’s stuffed inside a good-looking and versatile automotive-themed three-hander with a sapphire crystal and 100m water resistance makes the V8 Swissmatic one heck of a bargain.

Case Size: 42.5mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Water Resistance: 100m

Purchase: $450

Seiko Presage Cocktail Time “Black Cat Martini”

The original Seiko Cocktail Time remains a budget classic, but the brand’s more recent Presage models continue to impress with their added complications and daring style. The Black Cat Martini’s mocha/violet-colored, radial-striped sunburst dial includes a deep-set small seconds counter at six o’clock along with a massive power reserve indicator that’s tracked by a yellow arrow-tipped hand. It’s a ton of style combined with some classy complications for not a lot of money.

Case Size: 40.5mm
Crystal: Hardlex
Water Resistance: 50m

Purchase: $480

Unimatic U2-F

Italian brand Unimatic has one of the most identifiable design languages of any microbrand with their minimalist and utilitarian style, and it’s executed wonderfully on this unique and beautiful field watch. The U2-F features a vintage military-style dial in RAF Grey that’s offset with bright white Super-LumiNova C1 indices and hands for high readability. The oblong case gives way to a massively-thick domed sapphire crystal, which helps this robust field watch achieve an impressive water resistance of 300m.

Case Size: 38.5mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Water Resistance: 300m

Purchase: $484

Seiko Prospex Samurai “Great White”

Yep, another Seiko. Truth be told, Seiko dominates at this price level, and this guide could arguably consist of a dozen Seikos and few would complain. The Samurai is a classic modern Seiko design, with a sharp-edged angular case that stands out among divers at this price. This particular iteration of the Samurai features a gorgeous blue wave-patterned dial with a hidden shark fin at 8 o’clock as well as a second shark fin as the counterweight on the seconds hand; two subtle tributes to the watch’s namesake.

Case Size: 43.8mm
Crystal: Hardlex
Water Resistance: 200m

Purchase: $498

Lorier Falcon

Like Unimatic, three-year-old New York-based microbrand Lorier has wasted no time in firmly carving out their own design language. For the Falcon, they shrunk down the formula that began with their Neptune diver and turned it into a conservative, vintage-styled everyday watch that’s reminiscent of the original Rolex Explorer. A waffle dial, arrow hands, 36mm case size, and plexiglass crystal bring vintage style, while blue-glowing BGW-9 Super-LumiNova, an exquisitely-brushed, fully-articulating flat link bracelet, and super-thin Miyota 90S5 movement add a luxurious modern touch.

Case Size: 36mm
Crystal: Acrylic
Water Resistance: 100m

Purchase: $499

The 30 Best Men’s Watches Under $1,000

So, you like the look of these watches but have a little more money to spend, hmm? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Have a look at our guide to the 30 best men’s watches under $1,000. There you’ll find a vast selection of watches lurking below the four-figure mark, with automatics, hand-crankers, quartz, and maybe even a smartwatch all vying for a piece of your wallet.