The 25 Best Men’s Watches Under $500 to Buy in 2022

Mar 9, 2022

Category: Style

Anyone who’s been into watches for more than five minutes quickly comes to a harsh realization: collecting these anachronistic accessories is a very expensive pastime. It doesn’t take long after starting the hobby for one to start limiting one’s searches exclusively to Swiss-made chronometers and trying to tell oneself that $10,000 is actually a good deal (which, you know, in some cases it may well be). But we’re here to say that collecting watches doesn’t have to be such a serious financial endeavor, as there are a great many watches under $500 that are worthy of a spot in your rotation.

The best men’s watches under $500 come in all forms. If you’re only interested in mechanical and automatic watches, you can easily build up a nice little assortment of such pieces without busting your budget. And if you’re willing to cast a wider net and also include quartz watches, then your collection will quickly and exponentially expand. Heck, even the world’s top-selling watch (well, smartwatch) can be had for under 500 bucks. So if you’re looking to fill your watch box without emptying your wallet, then have a look at our 25 favorite sub-$500 watches below.

Orient Kamasu

For anyone first getting into watches, especially automatic watches, Orient is a brand with which you’ll quickly become familiar. The Japanese watchmaker has long been a destination for the budget-conscious in search of a dependable mechanical watch, and the brand is especially renowned for its dive watch offerings. The Kamasu is our pick from Orient’s stable, as it offers sharp looks, a sapphire crystal, and a full stainless steel bracelet.

Case Size: 41.8mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $225

Timex Navi XL Automatic

Speaking of budget watch brands, there are few in the world that carry the heritage of the American icon Timex. The brand that’s known to “take a licking and keep on ticking” has a wide range of stylish offerings with quartz and, ever increasingly, mechanical movements. The Navi XL is one such mechanical offering, combining classic dive watch styling with a modern blacked-out case and an automatic movement to create a contemporary classic.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $259

Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver

If you’re looking for affordable watches under $500, you’ll find that a lot of the best offerings out there come from so-called microbrands — small, independent 21st-century watch brands that sell directly to consumers online. One of the best budget-conscious microbrands is Dan Henry, whose eponymous founder designs watches inspired by his own world-class vintage collection. The 1970 is the brand’s diver, with a quartet of colorful options inspired by the supercompressor divers that were popular in the Disco Era.

Case Size: 40mm, 44mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $290

Citizen Nighthawk

One of the most iconic watches you’ll come across at this low price point is Citizen’s Nighthawk, a popular piece that, unlike many pilot’s watches, is actually worn by a lot of pilots. Like most of Citizen’s lineup, the watch is powered by the Japanese brand’s proprietary Eco-Drive tech, which can charge its battery in any light. The famously busy dial of the Nighthawk includes both a dual-time function and a slide-rule bezel, two features that aviators adore.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Solar-Powered Quartz Dual-Time

Purchase: $297

Nezumi Voiture

There are some watches that look so good, we don’t really care about what’s going on under the surface — we just want to get them on our wrist. The Voiture is one such watch, but thankfully, it’s pretty great under the hood too. The original piece from the Swedish microbrand is a chronograph inspired by the motorsports chronos of the ‘60s and ‘70s. In addition to its cool retro looks, the watch also sports an interesting hybrid “meca-quartz” movement from Seiko that combines quartz timekeeping with a satisfyingly clicky mechanical chronograph module.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Meca-Quartz Chronograph

Purchase: $318

Straton Yacht Racer Quartz

Here we have another meca-quartz-powered microbrand chronograph, as the sweet spot for the segment is in the $300-$500 range. Straton, like Nezumi, is known for its retro motorsports-inspired watches, but the brand has gone in a slightly different direction for this new release. It’s still a decidedly vintage-style chronograph, but instead of being at home on the track, this watch is based on the yacht timer archetype, with a special subdial for timing regatta races. It’s a feature usually reserved for luxury watches and is very fun to see at this price.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Meca-Quartz Chronograph

Purchase: $319

G-SHOCK GSTB400-1A

Just about every watch enthusiast, no matter how much of a mechanical snob they may be, has a G-SHOCK in their collection. That’s because the rugged watches are perfect for when you just need to throw something on without thinking twice. We like the GSTB400 because it not only does everything a regular G-SHOCK does (super durable, loads of complications, a solar-powered battery, etc.), but it also looks the business thanks to its thin and nicely finished steel case and bezel.

Case Size: 46.6mm × 49.6mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Solar-Powered Quartz, Multi-Function

Purchase: $320

BOLDR Venture Wayfarer

If you want a tough watch but don’t want to go the G-SHOCK route and prefer something a bit more classic, then BOLDR Supply Co. really ought to be on your radar. The Singaporean outfit has only been around for a few years, but it’s already established itself as a leader in the outdoor watch space. Its Venture Wayfarer is the brand’s take on a classic explorer watch, with its 24-hour subdial allowing spelunkers and miners to distinguish day from night in regions with no daylight. The watch also incorporates a sapphire crystal and a lightweight titanium case.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $339

Baltic HMS 002

The updated version of the Parisian microbrand’s original offering, the HMS 001, Baltic’s HMS 002 is an extremely classy way to spend ~400 bucks. The dress watch’s 1940s-inspired sector dial combines multiple textures, while the stepped case incorporates a number of contrasting finishing techniques. This all adds up to a dress watch that is incredibly dynamic and ever-changing — not to mention supremely wearable thanks to its classically-proportioned 38mm case.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $365

Seiko Prospex Turtle

Of all the brands in the world that make excellent dive watches — your Rolexes, your Omegas, your Blancpains — none have as many iconic divers to their name as Seiko. The Japanese giant, an enthusiast favorite, counts legends like the SKX, the Tuna, the Monster, the Samurai, the Sumo, and the Turtle in its archives. The latter entry, originally a ‘70s watch, has been remade for the modern era with this Prospex ref. SRPE93, a robust diver with its namesake’s distinct cushion case and an ISO-certified diver’s rating of 200m.

Case Size: 45mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $372

Brew Retrograph

A favorite of design aficionados is Brew, a microbrand out of New York that draws inspiration from the unexpected world of coffee culture. Coffe and watches may seem like an odd mashup, but Brew’s retro espresso machine-inspired designs are undeniably beautiful and original, and a Brew on a person’s wrist is a pretty good indicator of taste. The vaguely Apple Watch-shaped Retrograph offers a feature unique to Brew watches: a highlighted area on the chronograph seconds track that gives you the ideal time to pull an espresso shot.

Purchase: $375

Tissot PRX

In 2021, Tissot turned the affordable watch industry on its head by releasing the PRX. Playing into the red-hot trend of steel integrated bracelet sports watches, the PRX was a modern-day reissue of a 1978 model from the Swiss heritage brand. With a thin profile thanks to its quartz movement and a shockingly-well-finished tapering integrated bracelet, the PRX became a smash hit and one of the best bargains in the industry, a fact that remains unchanged even after the release of the brand’s pricier automatic version of the watch a few months later.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $375

Apple Watch Series 7

Welp, you knew this was coming. Without question, this is the most controversial entry on this list, as many people don’t consider Apple Watches (or any smartwatches) to actually be watches. If the main purpose of a watch is to tell the time, well, that’s not really what the Apple Watch is — it’s a wrist-worn extension of your iPhone. However, since the Apple Watch is the best-selling “watch” in the world (it outsells the entire Swiss watch industry by itself), we have to include it here. And if you are going to wear a smartwatch, there’s no beating Apple’s latest industry-defining offering.

Case Size: 41mm, 45mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Smartwatch

Purchase: $399+

Bulova Lunar Pilot

One of the most famous watches in the world is Omega’s Speedmaster Professional; the “Moonwatch” that’s acclaimed as the first watch worn on the surface of the moon. But Omega’s flagship chronograph isn’t the only watch to be worn on the lunar surface. Bulova also sent up a prototype chronograph of its own during 1971’s Apollo 15 moon landing, and the Lunar Pilot is the modern-day version of that historical timepiece. Unlike the original, it boasts a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and an ultra-precise 262 kHz quartz chronograph movement.

Case Size: 45mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: UHF Quartz Chronograph

Purchase: $409+

Laco Augsburg

Around the time of World War II, one of the most iconic watch designs of all time was born: the Flieger pilot’s watch. Originally, just five companies were contracted to manufacture them: IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, Wempe, Stowa, and Laco. Out of that original quintet, only Laco offers Fliegers at anywhere near this price point, and that’s what we have here with the Augsburg. A traditional German-made Type A Flieger with some unique dial options, the Augsburg is able to keep costs down thanks to its Japanese-made Miyota automatic movement.

Case Size: 39mm, 41mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $410+

Marathon GPM

If you want a bargain-priced watch that could survive a paratrooping mission without breaking a sweat, then you’ll want to have a look at Marathon’s General Purpose Mechanical watch, or GPM. The compact and lightweight watch is insanely rugged and is designed specifically for use in the field — in fact, the Swiss-made mil-spec field watch is officially approved by the U.S. Army. In addition to its toughness, one highlight of the GPM is its tritium gas tube lume — a self-glowing illumination that lasts for up to 25 years and never needs to be charged.

Case Size: 34mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $420+

Seiko Presage Cocktail Time

Yes, this is the second Seiko on this list, and that’s no accident. Seiko is the budget watch brand for most enthusiasts and collectors, as there is little the massive brand doesn’t do well. And while Seiko’s divers (like the aforementioned Turtle) often get the lion’s share of the attention, the brand also knows its way around a dress watch. Evidence of this can be seen in the upgraded Presage version of the original Cocktail Time, a modern classic of a dressy piece that’s celebrated for its striking ice blue sunray dial.

Case Size: 40.5mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $425

Luminox Original Navy SEAL Evo 3001 Blackout

If your military allegiances lie with a branch other than the U.S. Army, then you may want a mil-spec watch that isn’t Marathon’s GPM. Enter the Navy Seal watch from Luminox. This dive watch was developed in collaboration with the elite Special Forces unit in 1994, and it’s been a flagship member of Luminox’s roster ever since. The version seen here is a blacked-out take on the original Navy SEAL watch and features mission-ready features like tritium gas tube lume, 200m water resistance, and a CARBONOX case and bezel.

Case Size: 43mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $435

Unimatic UC2

The majority of microbrands operate on a small scale, being known mainly to watch enthusiasts who discover them on internet forums and blogs. But an elite few have broken through to the mainstream, with perhaps none doing so as successfully as Unimatic. The Italian-based brand has only been around for a handful of years, but it’s already formed a large following and a strong identity thanks to its military-inspired minimalist aesthetic. The UC2 is the brand’s entry-level model, and it translates Unimatic’s signature dive watch style to a field watch template.

Case Size: 38.5mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $435

Yema Flygraf French Air & Space Force UTC

OK, we’ve got watches developed with the U.S. Army and the Navy SEALs, so the next logical step is this Yema chronograph that was made in collaboration with the (checks notes) French Air & Space Force. Unexpected collaborator aside, this uber-cool piece is the official watch of the aforementioned Euro-branch, and it’s well suited for high-flying tasks. Powering the watch is a meca-quartz chronograph movement, while a 12-hour bezel also allows the wearer to track a second time zone or elapsed hours.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Meca-Quartz Chronograph

Purchase: $449+

Nodus Sector Field

Many microbrands opt to play it safe with their designs, tapping into the current vintage watch craze to come up with designs inspired by the mid-century’s golden age of sports watches. Nodus is not this kind of microbrand. The L.A.-based watchmaker has made a name for itself with its refreshingly original and unexpected designs, like the Sector Field. A field watch that looks quite unlike any other in its category, the Sector Field boasts an intricate multi-layered dial and impressive specs that punch well above its weight.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $450

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

Without question, this has to be the most iconic watch you can get at this price point. The archetypical field watch, born from the trenches of WWII, is Hamilton’s renowned Khaki Field. Its rugged build, timeless style, illustrious history, and world-famous manufacturer all contribute to making the Khaki Field one of the most significant watches one can buy, and the fact that you can pick one up — with a hand-winding mechanical movement, no less — for under $500 is truly remarkable.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Hand-Wound

Purchase: $495+

Zodiac Grandrally

One of the most prestigious brand names on this list, Zodiac is a Swiss watchmaker with an incredibly rich history, including producing one of the very first dive watches ever with its Sea Wolf in 1953. These days, the brand’s collection largely lives in the $1K-$2K realm, and the Grandrally is the only Zodiac watch available under the $500 mark (albeit just barely). The watch is a quartz-powered retro racing chronograph that’s a modern reimagining of the brand’s Heuer-adjacent automatic chronographs from the ‘70s, and it just oozes retro cool.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Quartz Chronograph

Purchase: $495

Lorier Falcon

Prior to the 1990s, 36mm men’s watches were incredibly common. These days, they’re practically unheard of. Never one to follow the latest trends, NYC-based microbrand Lorier looks to the past in its designs, striving to recreate the feel of a brand-new vintage watch in the present day. The Falcon is perhaps its most daring offering yet, thanks to its diminutive 36mm case. Once you throw in its domed plexiglass crystal, arrow handset, and old-fashioned waffle dial, you’re left with a watch that looks like it came straight out of a time machine.

Case Size: 36mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $499

RZE Endeavour

Topping out our list, we have yet another microbrand watch. And while you might find that a bit suspect given some of the noteworthy brands in this guide, RZE’s value proposition might just convince you otherwise. The two-year-old Singaporean brand’s flagship diver offers a ton at this low price point, including a case, bezel, and bracelet that are all made from strong and lightweight titanium. RZE has even gone the extra mile to address titanium’s weak point — its softness — by applying its proprietary ULTRAHex coating that makes the case and bracelet 8x harder to scratch than stainless steel.

Case Size: 40.5mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $499

The 15 Best Automatic Watches Under $1,000

Got a little more in your budget to play with? Then have a look at our guide to the best automatic watches under $1,000 for some slightly more elevated looks.

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