best watches under 500

Best Watches Under $500

In this article, we’re going to focus on the watches that don’t seem worth your while. We’re going to concentrate on the best timepieces that all cost less than $500.

It’s a popular myth that you need to spend $8,000 on a Rolex, or even $100,000 on a Patek Philippe to get a great watch. This is simply not true.

For under $500, you’re not going to end up with an heirloom collector’s piece. Instead, you can get an attractive style-driven watch at an attainable price. It will look good and tell time well, perhaps even more accurately than a Rolex. And, you can wear it with confidence because you won’t need to keep it in a safe or take out an insurance policy on it.

Best Watches Under $500

Best Watches Under $500

We will highlight what makes for a great watch under $500 and share our top 3 picks in three price categories: $0 – $150, $150 – $300 and 300 – $500. Finally, we’ll finish with a comprehensive list of our fifty favorite watches under $500. Each timepiece will be one you can trust on your wrist, that isn’t overpriced, and is sure to meet the aesthetic appeal of any discerning gentleman.

Characteristics of Great Watches Under $500

At this price point, a great watch is defined by style and value for the money. Since $500 is still a consequential amount of money, our focus will be on classic watches that will look good today, tomorrow and even ten years from now.

The classic Timex Weekender is a watch that everyone can afford and still looks good

The classic Timex Weekender is a watch that everyone can afford and still looks good

It’s not an easy task to curate a solid under-$500 list because the watch market is so heavily saturated at this price point. Unfortunately, with most of these cheap watches, you get what you pay for. Shoddy craftsmanship, inferior materials and a timepiece that will likely begin looking old before it ever gets old. All of the timepieces on our list are quartz run or mechanical watches with a strong history of customer satisfaction. Some of them are from globally recognized brands like Timex and Citizen, whereas others have recently proven themselves in the investor-driven world of Kickstarter. Even the youngest watch brands just out of their campaign have amassed a following due to their ingenuity, the quality of their materials and the craftsmanship. 

In the $300-500 category, the “entry-level luxury” watch market begins, and this stretches all the way to $3000. This is the infamous sub-$3000 watch category, most of which should be sold for less than the price of many of the timepieces listed below. For the most part, watches priced between $500 and $3000 are poorly constructed, underwhelming, and heavily dependent on fluffy branding. In short, they are a waste of money. 

Nomos Tangente 38

Nomos is one of the few watch brands between $300 and $3000 that’s worth the investment

Now, certainly, there are a few exceptions to every rule. A very small contingent of brands, namely watchmakers like Sinn, Frederique Constant, and NOMOS, actually produce some exceptional timepieces. If you can afford a watch between $1,000 and $3,000, we urge you to consider one of those brands. However, if you have a tighter budget, keep reading.

 

Where to Buy Watches Under $500

Without a doubt, the answer is online. Jewelry and watch stores simply don’t serve this market, and department stores are typically staffed with employees who can open cases but know nothing about watches. Websites like Amazon will have a wide array of timepieces, as will gray market dealers like Gemnation. The best bet for something unique, however, is to seek out timepieces doing well on Kickstarter. Websites like Kickstarter have amassed a reputation for turning out some of the most unique and forward-thinking watches to hit the market.

Lew and Huey Kickstarter Watch

Lew and Huey Kickstarter Watch

Kickstarter and Campaign Watches

In the last 5 years, many of the new, exciting sub-$500 watch brands have emerged via Kickstarter and other campaign-based websites. Never before have entrepreneurs had such an easy time starting a watch brand. Today, a simple search of Kickstarter.com will net you dozens of results in the men’s watch category. Each brand is attempting to raise capital based on the promise of a product, usually a prototype, with a heavy discount for pre-production buyers. Unfortunately, there are many CONs to buying watches on Kickstarter. Financially, tiny margins and low prices at the beginning make it hard for watchmakers to build sustainable businesses. The watches are often rushed through production, leading to questionable quality control. You’ll have to wait to receive a watch that you mostly likely can’t return. 

Lew and Huey Kickstarter Watch Schematic

Lew and Huey Kickstarter Watch sales schematic

In general, we don’t recommend buying watches this way, but here are the key DOs and DON’Ts of shopping for watches on Kickstarter and investment websites:

  • DO look for watches that have received significant traction and are selling well
  • DO research and corroborate the claim of top Kickstarter watches by reading third-party articles and reviews before buying
  • DO research the seller to see what their history is on the site and their background (do they have any experience making watches?)
  • DON’T invest in watches that have not actually been built
  • DON’T come in at the ground level as a first investor unless it’s money you’re willing to lose
  • DON’T invest more than $250 on a Kickstarter watch; if you have more to spend, buy a timepiece that already has a great reputation or a successful former Kickstarter watch
TW Steel watch

TW Steel watch meets all the requirements of a great watch under $500

How to Buy a Watch Under $500

As we said earlier, with so many sub-$500 watch choices on the market, it would be nearly impossible to sort through all the available options. If you take that challenge upon yourself, here are some guidelines to consider:

DOs and DON’Ts of Watches Under $500

  • DO focus on style over the movement
  • DON’T buy gold plated watches as they will lose their color quickly
  • DO look for quartz watches
  • DON’T buy a watch from a luxury brand like Rolex for $500. It’s a fake
  • DO jump on mass-produced movements like Ronda and ETA
  • DON’T buy used watches in this price category
  • DO stick with brands that have been around long enough to establish a reputation (give the new brands time to prove their value)
  • DON’T buy from a retailer that has a seller on sale for far less money than anyone else; this is a sign it’s damaged or possibly stolen
  • DON’T buy watches with stones, gems or other gaudy embellishments; they will make the watch look cheaper, not more expensive

Our Top 3 Under $150 ($)

 

Timex Red Wing Waterbury

A vintage inspired style, Timex is a household watch brand that is well regarded for their reliability. The Red Wing Waterbury is one of our favorite styles produced by Timex and is perfect for those in need of a chronograph that is still appropriate for many office environments. The Waterbury name pays homage to the birthplace of this iconic American watch company. Click here to buy a Times Red Wing Waterbury.

 

Bertucci A2-T

This solid titanium timepiece also has a retro feel taking us back to the classic military watches. A beast of a watch, this is the perfect companion to those who need a watch that can keep up with them whether it’s chopping wood at the cabin, coaching your kid’s little league game or checking to see when it’s time to clock out at work. Click here to get the Bertucci A2-T.

 

Seiko 5 Sea Urchin

With an appearance similar to the classic Submariner, this timepiece from Seiko uses their in-house automatic movement with the time, day, and even the date. Solid steel construction guarantees it can take a beating and keep on beating. In fact, even the links are solid steel which is hard to find in any timepiece at this price point. If you’re in need of a watch that works as hard as you do, this is likely the one for you. Click here to get the Seiko 5 Sea Urchin.

Our Top 3 $150-300 ($$)

Helgray GMT II

With its dual time zone capability, Helgray was one of the most successful watch brands to come out of Kickstarter. The GMT, like all of their watches, uses a Ronda quartz movement and doesn’t cut corners with quality. Helgray uses a stainless steel (grade 316L) case covered by a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. The hands are diamond-cut and are luminescent. Another military-inspired watch, this expedition watch is one of our favorites because it passes the cuff test and is just formal enough to work at the office. Click here to get the Helgray GMT II watch.

 

Rossling & Co Rogart

At 40mm and with a sister watch that’s just 36mm, this ultra-thin timepiece is perfect for men with smaller wrists. With its light tweed strap, NOMOS-style dial, and small stature, this is one timepiece that will turn heads. It works well with anything from denim to business casual or even a suit if you switch it onto a black or brown strap. Click here to get the Rossling & Co Rogart watch.

 

Laco 1925

This WWII style pilot’s watch is slightly more modern with a 42mm case powered by the Citizen Miyota 821A automatic movement.  It maintains its roots with no date window but improves night readability with SuperLuminova coatings. Click here to get the Laco 1925 watch.

Our Top 3 $300-500 ($$$)

Tianjin Seagull 1963

Chinese watches often get a bad rap, but Seagull is the exception. Their timepieces are renowned for their quality movements. This particular watch is a modern reconstruction of the Chinese Airforce chronograph from 1963. It was, at the time, considered a masterpiece and is still coveted as a collector’s piece. This new version is petite at just 38mm and features an exhibition caseback that showcases the Seagull No. ST19 mechanical movement in all its glory. This really is one watch every gentleman should consider for their collection, regardless of its low price point. Click here to get the Tianjin Seagull 1963 watch.

Brathwait Automatic watch

Braitwait Automatic watch

Brathwait Automatic Minimalist

One thing we appreciate about Brathwait is that unlike many of their competitors (Shinola), they pull back the curtains and advertise the exact costs of manufacturing their watches. Sure, we’re not big fans of throwing around words like “luxury” for a watch that costs less than $500, but all in all, if you’re looking for a very simple timepiece that’s well built and stylish, this might be a good pick for you. This is Brathwait’s first introduction to automatic movements, but they use the Miyota Cal. 9015 which means you have little to worry about. Click here to see the exact cost breakdown of the Brathwait Automatic Minimalist watch and get your own.

Tissot Visodate

Tissot has enjoyed an illustrious history as one of the most acclaimed second-tier Swiss watchmakers. The Visodate is one of our top picks for those wanting a classic and refined timepiece that is boardroom appropriate. Available in a range of styles, you can easily find one that works well trekking with friends through Europe or for an evening at the opera in New York. The automatic movement is likely one of the highest quality movements you’ll find in this price category which makes this watch one of our top picks. Click here to buy the Tissot Visodate watch.

Top 50 Watches Under $500

WatchmakerModelPrice
BurberryTricolor Webbing Dual Time$$$
BrathwaitAutomatic Minimalist$$$
StuhrlingMonaco$$$
LuminoxRecon$$$
Swiss ArmyChrono Classic$$$
Swiss ArmyMaverick$$$
ZenoNavigator$$$
StuhrlingSymphony Pocket Watch$$$
TW SteelPilot Watch$$$
BurberrySlim$$$
GrovanaTraditional$$$
AzzaroLegend$$$
SeikoSRP777$$$
HamiltonKhaki Field$$$
Tianjin Seagull1963$$$
SteinhartOcean Vintage Military$$$
PanzeraBreuer 44$$$
TissotHeritage Visodate$$$
Lew & HueySpectre Fireball Orange$$$
BulovaMoonwatch Special Edition$$$
AlpinaHorological Smartwatch$$$
Apple2nd Generation$$$
CitizenBlue Angels World EcoDrive$$$
Glycine KriegsMarine Manual$$$
Seiko“Pepsi” Dive Watch$$$
ReverieSea Spirit$$$
HelgrayGMT$$
StrangerMangalarga$$
SO&COMadison$$
AlexanderStatesman$$
VictorinoxInfantry GMT$$
Rossling & CoClassic Stirling$$
TissotPR100 Chronograph$$
UndoneUrban Vintage Chronograph$$
Mr. JonesLast Laugh Tattoo$$
SkagenHagen Connected Hybrid Smartwatch$$
Brooks BrothersRed Fleece Chronograph$$
Elliot HavokBritish Green Racer Chronograph$$
Daniel WellingtonCanterbury$$
Laco1925$$
Original GrainThe Barrel$$
OrientBambino$$
MarathonGeneral Purpose$$
Alberta WatchesRacing Green$
ArmitronDigital Chronograph$
TimexWeekender$
TimexRed Wing Waterbury$
Seiko5 Sea Urchin$
BertucciA-2T Titanium$
CasioEdifice$

Conclusion

There are so many timepieces in this price range available from sellers online and offline. If you’re spending your hard-earned money make sure it’s on a watch you recognize. All too often do we hear stories of people who bought a watch from a street vendor solely on appearance and it stopped working or physically fell apart in short time. In fact, sometimes it happens before the buyer even gets home.

If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best watches under $500. What timepieces would you add to the list?

Summary
Best Watches Under $500
Article Name
Best Watches Under $500
Description
A list of underrated watches below $500 worthy of every gentleman's attention.
Author
Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
Publisher Logo
34 replies
  1. Marnix says:

    I would strongly recommend looking at Stowa as well. These are German-made watches with Swiss or German movements. They have several lines, from airman’s-style watches (‘Flieger’) to the Bauhaus-inspired Antea.

    I have had an Antea for 10 years now, and I still wear it pretty much every day. Prices have increased a little over the last decade, but they are still very good value for money due to direct sales from the factory.

      • Marnix says:

        I do apologise for my late response, as well as my lack of knowledge on current Stowa prices when I initially posted. Apparently the Antea I’ve had for 10 years now has gone up in price from the € 350 – € 400 I paid then to the € 1000+ mark now. I do know that Swiss movements such as the ETA 2824-2 have gone up in price significantly, but I was not aware that this would lead to threefold pricing.

        The current affordable models seem to be the following:
        – Flieger Ikarus with a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement at the 650 euro mark. That may just put it above the $ 500 target, as I’m note sure about current €/$ exchange rates. https://www.stowa.de/en/Flieger+Klassik+40+Ikarus.htm

        – The Marine Klassik, also with a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, same price. I still really like that one due to its clean lines: https://www.stowa.de/en/Marine+Klassik+40+wei-.htm

        – ‘My’ Antea is nowadays available from € 1020 – € 1170, depending on size, and movement. The whole Antea range can be found at https://www.stowa.de/en/Antea/

  2. Andy says:

    Were are you going to get an Laco 1925 for under 1.000? Tell me, and i am right there.
    Of course, this kind of ranking is always subjective, but i wonder to find “Brands” like Burberry or Wellington in your list, and to miss Brands like Invicta, the Deep Ray Collection of Orient – which is quiet a better value than the Bambino – or Poljot, which offers even fine automatics for less than 500 USD.

    As mentioned before, of course a ranking is subjective, but watches from companies like Burberry are, in best case, an fashion accessoire, purchased from Chinese suppliers for less than 10 USD per item. They will not last long, they will be fashionable long and they have no history or reputation. It’s like purchasing a leather jacket in the Porsche store. Does anyone expect, this will be manufactured by Porsche? They have experience in vehicles, not in Fashion.

    Anyway, there are a lot of valuable watches, also from Chinese manufacturers like Seagull, of course often “inspired” by well known brands, and long experienced companies like Orient or Poljot, why to look for a watch like Bertucci or Panzera with a 3 USD movement installed?

    • Ralph Pine says:

      Invicta is a dreadful brand: inflated prices, debatable quality, unlucky designs. In relation to Orient, I do share your opinion.

      • Andy says:

        Your’re right, but you have to see it out of an European continent view. You are able to purchase a Invicta “Submariner Clone” with an Miyota or Seiko Automatic movement for less than 100 €, which is indeed value for money in competition for many other watches you are only able to order in the net with taxes, customs and pp. So for that, in order to the title of the article, Invicta in my view is a better value than most of the namend watches.

        • Ralph Pine says:

          Probably the 8923. I don’t think any other Invicta can be considered a good buy. Sure, I understand your point. The Sturhling, which appears on the list, is a real crap, the Bertucci, the DW and some others.

          • MG says:

            Agree Invicta is garbage and Sturhling is unthinkable. And don’t get me started on Shinola. They all flood the market with cheap crap and spend hundreds of thousands on advertising and promos for dealers.

  3. Alexander_F says:

    The watch from the Citizen Eco-Drive series you’ve added is definitely worth it, but I might add that the whole series offer a lot of different designs, and some of them might be less casual than the Blue Angels World, i.e. the AW1231-07A and the BM7251-53L. I’ve been using Citizen Eco-Drive watches only eversince my first watch and I wouldn’t take any other. The solar driven battery definitely is a plus, so you never need to recharge a battery.
    Other that that, I really like the ones presented here, they are definitely inspiring.
    Greetings from across the Atlantic

  4. Martin says:

    In my opinion this listing is missing several entry-level watches that punch way above their price tag, e.g. the Seiko SARB’s, the Orient Polaris GMT, select Hamilton Jazzmaster, the Bulova Moon Watch, etc.

  5. Christopher Long says:

    I’m glad you’ve included a Seiko 5 in your list. They are remarkable value for money, are well made (and look it), and frankly I question the wisdom of spending much more on a watch – they inevitably come in for knocks now and then.

    • Gary Paul says:

      I can’t believe the Seiko Premier with kinetic movement and perpetual calendar wasn’t listed. My wife bought mine from Amazon in 2014 for about $450. It’s a great watch and even though I wear mine doing everything, including working with tools, gardening, etc., it still looks great. The sapphire crystal is still perfectly smooth and clear, even though I banged the watch against hard objectsquite a lot when I first started wearing it (it’s a big watch). I didn’t notice ANY of the recommended watches having these features.

  6. Adam Fenyves says:

    I vastly disagree with the content of this article.

    1. Some models in the list are too much of a homage and are copies of well known models of prestigious brands and will definitely ruin your appearance if real watch fans see them on you (legal or not, they are simply fakes).
    2. The article recommends not to buy used watches, but in my opinion a VINTAGE watch would look much more refined than any of the above (even from the sub-500USD range, take a 60s Longines or a Seiko KS Hi-Beat for example)

  7. Derrick S Johnson says:

    Just brought a watch from an American company started by three friends, the watch brand is called Vincerco . It is price under $300 comes with a leather strap that has an easy quick change latch. You can purchase the straps in 4 or five different colors . So it is like getting five different watches for the price of one.The watch that I just brought from them is well made and looks great i get a lot of compliments on it. I own 12 watches so believe me when i say that this is a cheap but well made watch . It’s like getting a new Mercedes for the price of a use chevy.

  8. Gregory says:

    Thank you for a very informative article! Will you be able to offer advice for pocket watches in a future review?

  9. Laurence Smith says:

    I can not believe you would recommend buying ANY Timex period. Completely and utterly bad quality time pieces that scream out *cheap watch*

    I can’t believe this entire article, I am literally unsubscribing from your newsletter as soon as I finish typing this, before I get any more BAD fashion tips.

    I have a fantastic simple Tag that I bought second hand on eBay for $450
    I have a funky antique Omega I bought on eBay for $550, though it needed a new band for my liking.
    I bought an unused deadstock Mont Blanc watch for around $500, again on eBay

    You propose that people were obviously CHEAP and NASTY watches and specifically tell them to avoid second hand watches?? I’d rather wear a fake Rolex than anything you suggest for $500

  10. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the guidance! I would love to hear your opinion on watches from Rado, as they have interesting designs, in my opinion.

  11. Simon says:

    My God – the watch fanatics are even more bitchy then the “socks vs. no socks” fanatics 🙂

  12. Christopher Long says:

    Articles that extol the manifest virtues of inexpensive watches invariably act as irritants to the watch-snobs. I suspect they may be troubled by an unconscious awareness that they have over-paid for something.

  13. Dan Gridin says:

    Great article as always!

    My question may seem a bit “offtop”, but I will greatly appreciate you answering it.

    When talking about $500-3000 price range you almost always mention Frederique Constant, Nomos and Sinn. But what about Junghans (especially Max Bill line)? They seem to have one of the best price/quality/design ratios on the market, but strangely I didn’t find any mention about this brand in GG’s articles (except of the comments section).

Comments are closed.