Looking for a stylish timepiece? You don’t need to break the bank.
We have done the research, and have weeded out anything too tacky or flashy. Here are three examples of the best men’s watches under $500 (a reasonable amount to spend, considering it’s on your wrist all day long).
OK, yes, don’t need a watch.
Keeping track of the time is not an issue anymore – these days, everyone carries a smartphone. So what’s the point?
An analog (mechanical) wristwatch is one of the most stylish accessories a man can have. It is a personal statement. There’s often a story associated with a watch – perhaps it was received as a present for a special occasion, or inherited as a family heirloom. My own watch was given to me by my friends at an important time in my life.
Watches are also a reminder of our analog past, an era that has all but slipped away with the revolution of personal computing. When it was first developed and refined, the wristwatch had major implications for humanity – we welcomed a future where everyone could be “on time” and activities could be compartmentalized into neat chunks of hour increments.
There’s also the matter of complications. I know, I know… the blog is about simplicity. But I refer to the complications inside automatic watch movements – those elaborate combinations of springs, gears, and levers that add functionality such as timers, moon phase trackers, power reserve indicators, and more. As an engineering nerd, these inventions fascinate and impress me for their ingenuity and precision. Every automatic watch is a reminder of what we have been able to achieve without using any electronics or circuits (and in today’s crazy world, that kind of nostalgia is welcome).
Curious about how an automatic watch works? Watch this video (from my favorite watch channel on YouTube).
I think there’s a time and place for both kinds of watches – the traditional and modern. Apple Watches are great when you’re at the gym or on the trail – but a real, automatic (self-winding) watch can serve as a personal statement the rest of the time. When I’m out and about, I don’t want to worry about having to charge my own watch – there are enough devices to keep charged as it is!
Finally, I believe watches can actually help us slow down and simplify. Instead of checking the smartphone (which is sure to hit you with dozens of other notifications), simply glance at the watch once in a while. Choose mechanical over electronic. Make it work for you as part of your fight against information overload.
Watches range from the deceptively cheap to the absurdly expensive, and come in all shapes and sizes. Things to consider when buying a watch:
- Case material (plastic, stainless steel, silver, gold, platinum, etc.)
- Dial pattern/style (crosshair, enamel, meteorite, skeleton, etc.)
- Dome (plastic or sapphire)
- Band (rubber, steel, leather)
- Case diameter (larger watches will look better on bigger wrists)
- Water resistance
- Lume (whether it glows in the dark, and how brightly)
- Movement speed (beats per hour, e.g. from 3,600 to 36,000)
- Country of manufacture (Switzerland, Germany, Japan, etc.)
- … and much more!
It will ultimately come down to a personal choice, but I have selected three of my personal favorites that cost less than $500:
1.) Tissot Visodate Heritage Automatic
We start with a watch from Tissot – a classy (and Swiss Made!) timepiece. This is retro, understated style – a versatile casual/dress watch that won’t break the bank.
It has a domed sapphire crystal on top, which makes it look even better in person – and makes it very easy to read.
Case width: 40mm
Movement: ETA 2836-2 (automatic)
Power Reserve: 38 hours
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Features: seconds, day of week, date, and a transparent display case back so you can see the movement underneath.
Retails for: $400-$450 (see more pictures and reviews on Amazon).
2.) Seiko SRPB55 Black Ion Prospex Automatic Dive Watch
Now for something completely different – a classy dive watch from the wizards at Seiko. The SRPB55 is making waves among watch fans for its unique look and bold ion plated gunmetal case.
The watch comes with a Seiko rubber strap with buckle closure. The watch is protected via a Hardlex mineral crystal (not sapphire). Solid case back. Notice the hands are modeled after the Seiko Orange Monster (mentioned below).
Case width: 44mm
Movement: Seiko 23 jewel automatic (4R35)
Power Reserve: 41 hours
Water Resistance: 200 meters
I think this is a great looking watch that balances style and function perfectly.
Retails for: $400 (see more pictures and reviews).
Note: this slot used to be occupied by one of my favorite Seiko watches of all time, the infamous “Orange Monster” (Amazon link). It has recently crept up to the $550-600 price point, which is why it has been replaced with the watch above. Generally speaking, it’s really hard to go wrong with a recent Seiko automatic of any kind!
3.) Junkers Bauhaus (Ref. 6060-5)
We’ve heard from Switzerland and Japan – now let’s see what the Germans have in store for us. Turns out there’s a very classy vintage-style automatic available for a hair under $500 from Junkers (famous for producing aircraft that served in both World Wars).
Behold: the Junkers 6060-5, a homage to Bauhaus (modernist) design principles. A beautiful watch that goes with just about any outfit you can think of.
The dome is made of Hesalithe Glass, and the watch features a transparent crystal case back. Beige dial. On the dial: sweeping seconds, 24 hour display, stop seconds, date, and top it off – a power reserve indicator!
Case width: 40mm
Movement: Citizen/Miyota 9132
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Made in Germany. Retails for: $500 (see more pictures and reviews).
Note: the more knowledgeable among you are probably wondering why I didn’t mention the infamous Junkers Max Bill – which practically has a cult following in the watch world. It’s a great looking watch, but unfortunately doesn’t meet the price cutoff (it’s typically $800-$850). So if you’re willing to dish out a bit more, check it out.
Bonus: Vintage Watches
The 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were great decades for horology – companies such as Omega, Longines and Rolex were producing great looking watches with simple, eye catching designs. These can now be found for sale on auction websites (eBay) and in specialty vintage watch stores.
Vintage watches can also be very expensive, partly because it’s difficult to find them in good condition. There’s no guarantee you will be able to find a good one for under $500, but there are some great deals out there.
If you decide to go this route, do your research first – start with the vintage sections of forums such as Watchuseek and Timezone. Make sure you’re buying the real thing, not a well made replica.
Before buying a watch, try it on in person. Watches often look better in pictures than they do in real life, and some just won’t “feel right” on your wrist. Try a few on before making a decision.
P.S. Please do your own research online for accurate prices and retailer information, especially when it comes to used/vintage goods. Always look for reputable dealers with good feedback and reviews.