I have to start off by debunking the preconceived notion that in order to get a solid watch you have to do some serious damage to your bank account. I’m talking about thousands and thousands of dollars. Even though major brands will do their best to force you into thinking that that’s the way of things, it isn’t. Precisely because of this ludicrous idea, I thought that it would be wise to show you my list of 10 best watches under $500.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of watches apart from these 10 to choose from, but in this price range, these are the creme of the crop. Most importantly, I will list some wearables that aren’t manufactured by obscure Chinese companies selling watches for $15. You’ll see some major brands on my best watches under $500 list!
However, prior to delving deeper into the list, let us first address a few very important questions about this particular price category. What makes it so great? What are the things worth looking out for? How does one choose the best under $500 watch? What expectations should you have? Questions like those.
What Makes $500 The Best Price Range?
Let me present you with a simple fact. For a watch, the worst price range to choose from is between $500 and $3.000. Period. That’s where the shady stuff is. Basically, you get to pay a pretty penny for a watch whose price is purely brand-driven. Some major brand decides to make a watch for the common man and in order to make it worth their while, they invest as little as possible into the manufacturing process. Consequently, you get crappy materials, flimsy construction, and so on.
Of course, not all brands to this. Nevertheless, being that that’s the way in which the market operates, natural fluctuation of prices and products brought forth the $500 price range. The price range where moderately well-known brands get to showcase their craftsmanship. That’s where the good stuff is. Please note that we will not be browsing through the world of best smartwatches or sports watches! I tried to find the best traditional looking under $500 watches which serve almost no other purpose than being decent watches.
Choosing The Best Watches Under $500
As you might think, choosing a good timepiece isn’t the easiest of endeavors. There are plenty of aspects worth taking into consideration, but none more important than your personal preferences. Let your childhood dreams lead the way! You know what kind of design you are most attracted to, what is the perfect size for your wrist, do you prefer a metal bracelet or a leather strap, you know, things like that.
However, what I would like you to have in the back of your head when you’re choosing a watch in this price range, is to never settle for a fashion brand watch. They are junk. Always look for a timepiece crafted by a watchmaking company that has been on the scene for at least a century. You know, the likes of Citizen, Tissot, Victorinox, etc. With manufacturers like these, you know what you are getting. No lies, no tricks.
What Do I Get From Purchasing an Under $500 Watch?
Well, if you do your research properly, you get what you pay for. Mostly, you get stainless steel watches with quartz movements which are very reliable, tough, and accurate. Of course, do not get me wrong and think that these watches come featureless. As a matter of fact, most watches within this price range are equipped with essential features like water-resistance and anti-reflective crystal dial windows. Are you worried about low-light readability? Please, just because these are cheaper that does not mean that they do not come with luminescent hour markers and hands! Trust me, I sometimes wonder why someone would even spend more than $500 on a watch.
What Should I Expect From a $500 Watch?
This is probably the most important question you could ask yourself. In the end, your overall satisfaction with the wearable will be influenced by your primordial expectations! My advice would be to keep your expectations within the realm of basics. What I mean by that is, try to expect the best from the watch in respect to its time-keeping abilities. Make sure that it is precise and does not lose hours on a weekly basis! Also, make sure that the manufacturer has tested the watch in numerous ways in order to confirm that it is able to withstand harsher treatments. You should expect to be able to carry your timepiece outdoors without having to worry about it falling to pieces when faced with a piece of wood. Try to approach this as if you were purchasing pocket watches for men. Expect only the essential.
However, if you are expecting to get domain-specific features like compasses, barometers, and altimeters, you will not find the likes of Casio G-Shock Mudmaster on this list. Extra features can sometimes be found with these under $500 watches, but they are often simple ones like dual-time reading.
What Should I Avoid By All Costs?
If I were to write a full list of things that you should look out for when purchasing a watch under $500, there is a possibility that it would be endless. However, there are a few things that you truly should avoid no matter how strong the temptation may be!
- When you are looking to place your order online, please avoid settling for a seller which sells the particular timepiece at a seriously marked-down price! There lurks a great danger that something is massively wrong with the watch. For example, it could be scratch-down to the bone, have broken hands or torn bracelets.
- If you stumble upon a watch made by a world-renowned brand which simply does not sell wearables for $500 or less, immediately skip it! You would be amazed by the sheer quantity of fake items on the market. Trust me, you will not be able to buy a Rolex for $250. Again, no matter how much the seller sounds convincing or the thing looks real, pass on it, I beg you.
- You will find that a lot of watches in this price category have mineral crystal or glass dial windows. Even though they will do the trick of protecting the dial, they will not make it scratch-resistant. At least not in a way a sapphire crystal window would. Therefore, try to settle for a watch with a sapphire crystal window because it truly does the best job of protecting the dial from getting scratched.
- Try to avoid timepieces with movements made anywhere else than Switzerland or Japan. Moreover, if the movement is not made in Switzerland but the watch clearly states that it is Swiss-made. You will find that Miyota movements can be frequently found in this price category, but worry not, because Miyota belongs to Citizen.
10 Best Watches Under $500
Since the market is stacked with wearables you really never should have any contact with, this list will hopefully narrow down your options and help you settle for the right watch for you. It is important to mention, however, that all of these are very highly praised timepieces which serve their purpose as well as many of the “high-end” watches.
Rotary Men’s Swiss Watch
Let me start off by presenting you with the Rotary Swiss watch. One of the most incredible mid-range watches ever manufactured. No matter what sales channel you may visit, I assure you that you will not be able to find a single negative thing said about it.
Since it is crafted by a renowned Swiss watch brand, you get to experience nothing short of a brilliantly reliable timepiece. It has a rose-gold plated skeleton case which houses the incredibly precise Swiss automatic (self-winding) movement. The diameter of the case is 39mm.
The silver index dial on the Rotary is protected by a sapphire glass window in order to protect it from potentially getting scratched. What I really adore about this watch is its sophisticated and inconspicuous stem. It reminds me of a diamond. Not sure why.
With a price tag just above $300, you get a water-resistant, elegant, rose-gold plated Swiss watch. In terms of its looks, I can not be honest and say that there is a better-looking watch in its price range.
However, keep in mind that the rose-gold plated case could lose its color sooner than you would want it. I am not saying that you should avoid this watch by all costs, but it is worth having that fact in mind through the process of making your final decision.
So elegant and luxurious
Water-resistant up to 165ft
It is gold-plated meaning that it will eventually start losing its color
Rotary Men’s gs90505/06 Analog Display Swiss Automatic Brown Watch
- Rose gold plated automatic Swiss Made watch
- Silver index dial with sapphire glass
- Swiss-automatic Movement
- Case Diameter: 39mm
- Water Resistant To 165 Feet
The Junkers Bauhaus is a real thing of beauty. I love it when a piece of accessory has the power to take me back in time. Just look at it. It is as simple as a watch can be, yet again, it is enthralling to look at. When it comes to the movement, it is equipped with the industry’s standard Citizen Miyota 9132 with an astounding amount of 26 jewels. The case is made from stainless steel and it has a crystal back cover! For some reason, the Bauhaus reminds me of pocket watches. It just has that vintage charm.
The beige dial really showcases the vintage character of this watch. As you are able to see, it has a 24-hour display, date window, stop second, sweep second, and a power reserve display. Both the hands and the green hour markets are luminescent. The Bauhaus also has a Hesalithe glass window which is, of course, scratch-resistant.
Other than a simple leather strap, no other type of bracelet would work with the way this watch is designed. I do not know if you are a fan of vintage-looking wearables, but they truly warm my heart and appease my taste.
Truly vintage design
Luminescent hands and hour markers
Crystal back case
Power reserve display
Even though it has a Hesalithe glass window, it is not as scratch-resistant as sapphire
Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Promaster Nighthawk
Even though it retails for just $235, the Citizen Nighthawk is one of the best-equipped men’s watches of the whole lot. Apart from the obvious facts that this is an extremely reliable and tough timepiece, I have to mention that it comes with an almost long forgotten feature. I am talking about the pilot’s slide rule. Sure, we are no longer using these for calculation purposes, but it is nice to see some brands equipping their watches with them. The stem at the 8 o’clock position is the one to use in order to control the slide rule.
From the stem to the push-button clasp, this watch is made from 43 mm stainless steel. In order to maintain its accuracy, the Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Promaster relies on its Japanese quartz movement. Even though the black dial is scratch-resistant and well protected, I am struggling to say that it has one of the most readable layouts. Then again, it has to be busier than usual in order to perform its dual-time function.
In addition to all of this, the Nighthawk is water-resistant up to 660 ft (apart from scuba diving, everything else is allowed), comes with a low-charge warning, as well as luminous hands and markers.
Comes with a pilot’s slide rule
Water-resistant up to 660 ft!
Great value for money
Not very readable layout
The second’s hand can lag
Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Promaster Nighthawk Dual Time Watch with Date, BJ7000-52E
- Stainless steel watch featuring date window at three o’clock position, dual-time display, and pilot’s slide rule inner chapter ring operated by crown at 8 o’clock position
- 42 millimeters stainless steel case with mineral dial window
- Japanese quartz movement with analog display
- Also features low-charge warning, luminous hands/markers, and Silver-tone band with foldover push-button clasp
- Water resistant to 200 m (660 ft): In general, suitable for professional marine activity and serious surface water sports, but not scuba diving.
Bulova Men’s 96B158 Precisionist
In case you did not know, Bulova is one of the oldest American watch brands. The company was founded in 19872! Since then, they have provided many people with timepieces which lasted them a lifetime. As the name insinuates, the Bulova Precisionist is one of the most precise mid-range watches on the market. The reason for its precision lies in the Precisionist-class torsional resonator movement with which the Precisionist is equipped. It is far more accurate than the regular quartz movement.
The first thing that draws the eye is the Precisionist’s swirl-pattern dial. When combined with silver hands and bullet hour markers, it truly creates a mesmerizing effect. Of course, both the hour and minute hands are luminescent. However, the second’s hand is the one that is interesting. It is in a perpetual sweeping mode!
Other features of the Bulova Precisionist include the mineral crystal dial window which is scratch-resistant, a date window, black genuine leather strap, 100 ft water-resistance, and other.
Incredible precision provided by the Precisionist-class torsional resonator movement
Mesmerizing swirl-pattern dial
Water-resistant up to 100 ft
Even though this is a rare occurrence but there are no genuine flaws to point out apart from the mineral crystal dial. It just does not provide enough protection.
Bulova Men’s 96B158 Precisionist Leather Strap Watch
- Due to a recent redesign by Bulova, recently manufactured Bulova watches, including all watches sold and shipped by Amazon, will not feature the Bulova tuning fork logo on the watch face.
- Precisionist, one of the world’s most accurate movements-accurate to within seconds a year
- Stainless steel case
- Continuously sweeping second hand
- Black leather strap
Victorinox Unisex Infantry
If you have made your mind up and are looking to settle for a true analog Swiss-quartz movement watch, then the Victorinox Infantry has to be among your top choices. Honestly speaking, Victorinox is one of the best manufacturers of mid-range timepieces. Like most other watches under $500, this one also has a stainless steel case.
One interesting feature about the Victorinox Infantry is its unique mesh bracelet with a fold-over clasp. If I had to choose my favorite type of watch bracelet, the mesh would surely be very highly ranked! I don’t know. It just looks elegant and manly. And I like elegant and manly designs.
The black dial features Arabic numbers and a very subtle date window. However, one detail which I particularly love is the Victorinox logo at the 12 o’clock position. The sapphire crystal dial window apart from being scratch-resistant is actually anti-reflective as well! Trust me, during summer, when the sun is blazing, you will be grateful for this feature. Of course, like all other Victorinox watches, the Infantry is also water-resistant up to 330 feet.
Swiss precision and reliability
Anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial window
Gorgeous mesh bracelet
I wish I had a complaint
Victorinox Unisex 241649 “Infantry” Stainless Steel Watch with Mesh Bracelet
- Round stainless steel watch with 24-hour bezel featuring date window at three o’clock position on black dial
- Swiss-Quartz movement with analog display
- Anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial window
- Features fold-over clasp closure on mesh bracelet
- Water-resistant to 100 m (330 ft): suitable for snorkeling, as well as swimming, but not diving
All of you history buffs out there will find this watch very familiar. Yes, you guessed it right! It is a replica of World War II German pilot watches! Overall, it is fairly simply designed, but not in a traditional way. As you can see, the main dial is used for reading out the minutes, whereas the smaller sub-dial shows the hours. I will be the first one to tell you that it does take some time to get used to a different layout. However, it is not impossible!
The sand-blasted case is made from stainless steel and is 42 mm in diameter. It hosts a very reliable Citizen Miyota 821A automatic movement. Since the watch is made in Germany, durability is not something you are going to have to worry about! Both hands on the dial are SuperLuminova treated, meaning that you would be able to use the watch even if it is pitch black. Also, the Aechen comes with a brown leather strap with 4 silver rivets.
Unfortunately, the dial does not feature a date indicator, but as the watch is modeled after WWII German pilot timepieces, it is understandable that it does not. Finally, the Laco Aechen is water-resistant up to 165 feet. Swimming, yes! Scuba diving, no way!
Historically significant design
SuperLuminova treated hands for great readability in the dark
No date indicator (it really does make a difference)
Priced over $400 which would be fine if it had more features
Laco Type B Dial Miyota Automatic Pilot Watch 861690
- Made in Germany
- Stainless-steel case, black dial, Superluminova
- Automatic-self-wind movement from Miyota
- Case diameter: 42mm
- Original WWII German Pilot watch design
Tissot Men’s Visodate
If you are a watch aficionado, then you are surely familiar with just how much impact Tissot has made on the whole watchmaking industry! Through the years, they have brought numerous innovations to the scene, often turning the conventions of watchmaking upside down.
Design-wise, their Visodate model can be categorized as a classic. It combines a simple stainless steel case, black dial, and a black leather strap with a deployment clasp. So, the color-combination is pretty much standard, but the overall built quality makes up for the sometimes tedious design. Furthermore, the Visodate is governed by the Swiss automatic self-wind movement.
As you might imagine, it has a sapphire crystal dial which is very much scratch-resistant. Also, both the hands of the watch and the hour markers are silver-toned. Therefore, apart from looking great, the dial is perfectly safe as well!
Additional features include water-resistance of up to 99 ft and a date indicator. Now, the watch is water-resistant but it would not be wise to swim with it. I mean, you will not have to take it off when you are washing your hands, but I am not sure how well it would fair when submerged in deeper water.
Unparalleled reliability and durability
Simple yet appealing design
The dial lacks an anti-reflective coating
It can gain a few seconds on a daily basis
Tissot Men’s T0194301605101 Visodate Black Dial Watch
- Automatic movement
- Durable sapphire crystal protects watch from scratches
- Stainless steel case
- Water resistant to 99 feet (30 M): withstands rain and splashes of water, but not showering or submersion
- Length :40mm, Width:40mm
Rossling & Co. Classic 40mm Stirling Watch
I think that it is very difficult to design a watch that is simultaneously very elegant and casual. For some reason, that kind of versatility gets frequently overlooked. Luckily, Rossling & Co. have blessed us with such a timepiece. One feature that makes this watch as versatile as it is, is its tweed strap. Whether you are thinking about wearing a suit or a casual t-shirt and jeans combination, the Rossling & Co. Classic would perfectly compliment your overall look.
It has a 40 mm high and 7 mm wide stainless steel case with a simple onion crown stem on the side. The steel back lid serves the purpose of protecting the hidden Swiss quartz mechanism inside. Even though it would not survive a brief round of scuba diving, you would still be able to take this watch swimming because it is up to 100 ft water-resistant.
I am not sure if you share my opinion, but I find this white dial with blue hands looking remarkably fine! It is simple and easy on the eyes. Nowadays, manufacturers have a tendency to make dials way to busy, inasmuch that it takes a lot of mental effort just to read the time out. Why would you want that in your life?
100ft water-resistant (I know it is not much, but at least you can take it swimming)
Retails for $200 which is fairly reasonable
Beautiful tweed strap provides incredible versatility (style-wise)
No date indicator
Its thinness gives a sense of fickleness
Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X.
If we are talking about best watches under $500, we have to mention at least one Victorinox timepiece. With a price tag of just above $300, you get a watch designed to meet Swiss watchmaking criteria. Victorinox takes pride in performing over 130 tests in order to make their watches as tough and reliable as they can be. For example, this particular model withstood being run over by a 64-ton tank! If you are an outdoorsy kind of person, this watch will help you keep track of the time through all sorts of escapades you might find yourself in.
The case of the Victorinox I.N.O.X. is made from 43 mm hypoallergenic stainless steel. It comes with a rubber strap with a simple buckle mechanism and a removable black bumper. Of course, if you are an avid swimmer or scuba diver, it is worth mentioning that the Victorinox is water-resistant (up to 660 ft)! Moreover, its jellyfish bumper provides increased visibility while you are underwater.
Lastly, when it comes to the dial, it is a triple-coated anti-reflective crystal. I personally find the black dial-silver hand combination very attractive! Needless to say, both hour and minute hands are luminescent.
Incredibly tough and durable (passed over 130 tests)
Complies with Swiss watchmaking standards
660 ft water-resistance
Sometimes the minute hand tend to be late
Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X. Rubber Watch, 43mm, Black
- RUBBER STRAP. A smooth rubber strap wraps your wrist in soft comfort for a perfect fit, day or night. Etched lines in the band give a chain-link appearance, making this watch suitable for work, the weekend and a night out.
- SWISS MADE. This Swiss Made watch is made to withstand 130 extreme endurance homologation tests. Case is crafted from high-grade hypoallergenic stainless steel. Analog quartz movement.
- DIVE DEEPER. Able to withstand the toughest conditions, high pressure and tall drops, this I.N.O.X. watch is the ultimate explorer. Ready for pool or ocean dives, this watch can go down to depths of 200 meters. Water resistance: 20 ATM/200 m./660 ft.
- WATCH DETAILS. 43 mm. Military time, date, end-of-life indicator, scratch-resistant, triple-coated anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and screw-down crown. Removable black protection bumper.
- TRUSTED QUALITY. Watches purchased from authorized retailers eligible for a 3-year limited warranty. Excludes battery life, normal wear and tear, improper handling, damage resulting from abuse, misuse, accidents or unauthorized repair.
Breytenbach Automatic Open Heart Watch
Even though the Breytenbach is fairly traditionally designed and does not possess any groundbreaking features, I find its elegance and simplicity incredibly soothing. The case is made from 316L stainless steel and has a back cover screwed to it. In diameter, it is 45 mm wide and 15 mm high. The black band is made from genuine leather and is Croco-embossed. Both sides of the strap are held together by a simple stainless steel buckle 22 mm wide and 220 mm long.
The Breytenbach is equipped with Seagull automatic movement, and quite honestly, in this day and age when automatic watches are becoming more and more expensive, it is nice to see a decently priced automatic watch.
When you look at its dial, you can see that it is open-hearted. Basically, through a small sub-dial sized opening you get to see the mechanics do their magic! However, the most prominent feature of the dial is its big date window. Additional two sub-dials include a month and a day dial.
For $160, you get a real beauty. You get a 165 ft water-resistant classic automatic multifunction watch!
Looks very retro/nautical
Given its price and overall build quality, it is a bargain
Large date window
Some have experienced issues with the hands not being held in place firmly
It has a tendency to get 5 minutes late on a weekly basis
Breytenbach Men’s BB86452WS Automatic Bigdate Multifunction Open Hearth Watch
- Seagul-big-date multifunction
- Big-date, day, month, open-hearth
- Classic style watch
- 3D design
- Water resistant to 165 feet (50 M): suitable for swimming and showering
Could There Be a Winner?
I have to make it clear that when you are choosing a watch under $500, you must not fall the trap of good looks. Trust me, I have fallen for it plenty of times. Even when it comes to these ten, some are simply better looking than others, but that does not make them better overall.
To me, the clear winner is the Victorinox I.N.O.X. . I know that it is not as pretty as the Junkers Bauhaus , not smart as the Polar M400, but it is more reliable, durable, and for an under $500 watch, it is well equipped. Most importantly, it is manufactured by a renowned Swiss watchmaking company which crafts its timepieces with formidable precision. So, it covers the first two precautions. It is made by a renowned watchmaker and it has a true Swiss movement. Also, I forgot to mention that it comes with a 3-year warranty.
Think about the features for a second. The Victorinox comes with a date indicator, anti-reflective crystal window, hypoallergenic stainless steel case, 660 ft water-resistance, and a jellyfish bumper for better underwater readability. Moreover, let us not forget that it has passed more than 130 tests which showcase its toughness. When a company runs a tank over its product to ensure it is durable enough, you know you are dealing with brilliant manufacturing.
Quite frankly, even if you are interested in outdoor watches and have an adventurous spirit, the Victorinox can serve that purpose as well. All in all, there is nothing more to ask from a mid-range $300 wearable. It is nothing short of a great watch.