The 18 Best Affordable Watches

One of the biggest misconceptions about buying a watch is that it needs to be expensive to be nice, when, in fact, many watches under a grand prove just how wrong that notion is. Admittedly, finding them amongst the many other budget timepieces that are cheaply-made or chintzy can be difficult, which is why we went through the trouble to round up the best examples at three different price points

Under $150

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There’s just something to be said about a cheap watch with a solid build and some character. Admittedly, purchasing a timepiece in this price range can be tricky — it’s littered with junk. On the flip side, plenty of examples out there have garnered cult followings, made up of everymen and horology nerds alike. Some are from respected Japanese brands — Citizen, Seiko — others young innovators. But they all go to show that the affordable watch need not be marked by a plastic case or hands that fall off after a month’s use.

Timex MK1 Aluminum

Though any number of great Timexes could’ve made this list, we’re particualrly enamored with the newly reissued MK1 — a recreation (of sorts) of a short-lived 1980s military-issue watch. While the original was meant to be disposable and had a mechanical movement inside and a plastic case protecting it, this version swaps both with a more reliable quartz engine and a higher-quality case made from anodized aluminum.

Movement: Quartz
Case diameter: 40mm
Water resistance: 30m

Orient 3 Star

Using an automatic movement based on an old caliber originally from Seiko, the Orient 3 Star is a simple, utilitarian automatic akin to the Seiko 5. While there’s not much in the way of fit and finish, it does have a well-proportioned 37mm case, a stainless stell bracelet and a colorful dial. Its as simple of an automatic watch you can get, but therein lies its charm.

Movement: Orient 469 automatic
Case diameter: 37mm
Water resistance: 30m

Citizen Chandler BM8180-03E

Could this be a more perfect casual watch? It has Citizen’s lauded solar-recharing Eco-Drive movement inside, so battery changes are a thing of the past, and at 37mm it hits a sweet spot in terms of size. The military-style dial is also a nice touch.

Movement: Eco-Drive solar quartz
Case diameter: 37mm
Water resistance: 100m

Citizen NH8350-83L

You’d be forgiven for thinking Citizen’s entire lineup is made up of its quartz Eco-Drive watches, but the brand does, in fact, make some mechanicals. The NH8350, for instance, packs a Miyota 8200 automatic movement into a clean-cut stainless steel case and comes adorned with a shimmering, sunray blue dial. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better mechanical dress watch for less.

Movement: Miyota 8200 automatic
Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Bertucci A-2T Titanium

Cases made from solid titanium — loved for its lightweight, durable and hypoallergenic properties — are not such a common site on sub-$150 watches, which is what makes the young U.S. watch brand Bertucci an enticing option. Similarly enticing is the classic field watch dial design, the Japanese quartz movement inside and a 100-meter depth raiting.

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

Seiko 5 Sports SNZG13

No list of dirt-cheap watches is complete without the Seiko 5. Originally launched in 1963, the 5 has cultivated a fev following amongst watch fans for its utilitarian mechanical movement and the value it provides. The SNZG13 here is one of the 5’s more rugged modern iterations, featuring a stainless steel bracelet, a 100-meter depth raiting and a dial with big, legible numerals coated in lume.

Movement: Seiko 7S36 automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Nokia Steel

If you just wanted to spend $130 on a good-looking quartz watch, you could do a lot worse than the Nokia Steel (formerly the Withings Activité). But this being a “hybrid” smartwatch, you get more than just the time of day. The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth to give you simple sleep and fitness tracking info that, while not super comprehenisve, is helpful in tracking and motiviating healthy behavior.

Movement: connected quartz
Size: 36mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Braun BN0021

Braun’s minimalist aesthetic is perfect for someone looking for a wardobe accutremont rather than a showpiece. What’s more, graphic elements like the yellow seconds hand and austere font are sure to call to mind the brand’s legacy of Bauhaus-inspired product design.

Movement: quartz
Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Swatch Sistem51 Irony

When Swatch launched the Sistem51 — an autonomously assembled automatic movement boasting a 90-hour power reserve — it was a revelation, but its plastic case limited its appeal. Now you can get the same movement cased up in stainless steel, making it a more reserved option for everyday wear.

Movement: Swatch Sistem51 automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Seiko 5 Sports SNZF17

The Seiko 5 comes in many iterations, and the “Sea Urchin” dive watch is one of our favorites. In addition to using Seiko’s workhorse 7S36 automatic movement, it comes adorned with a unidrectional countdown bezel and steel bracelet.

Movement: Seiko 7S36 Automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Under $500

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You can get a pretty damn good watch for less than the cost of a big night out, that’s for sure. But while there are plenty of great dirt-cheap timepieces under $150, if you’re looking for more features, more capability and more impressive designs, you need to bump up the ceiling of your budget. But only a little. For a mere $500 you can enter the world of geeky timepieces, where complications, mechanical movements and daring design elements are plentiful.

Timex Marlin


With few exceptions, Timex long abandoned mechanical movements in favor of digital and quartz movements years ago. That’s exactly why Timex’s latest watch, a reissue of the famed Marlin, is so exciting. It comes with a hand-winding movement underneath, and if that weren’t enough, it comes with a sleek case, dial and strap design that truly look like they were plucked from the 1960s.

Movement: hand-wound
Size: 34mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Braun BN0211


If you want excellent modern design in a watch, you don’t need to pay much, fortunately. Braun’s BN0211 has won both an iF and a Red Dot award for its minimal, stealthy aesthetic. A yellow seconds hand pops against a stealthy black dial and sleek black case, and the watch comes mounted on a comfortable stainless steel mesh bracelet.

Movement: quartz
Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Seagull 1963


Want a new mechanical chronograph under $500? The Seagull 1963 is pretty much your only option. That’s no concession, though. It uses a hand-wound mechanical movement made by Tianjin Seagull Watch Co. (one of China’s best movement manufacturers), housed in a compact and authentically sized 38mm stainless steel case.

Movement: Seagull ST21 hand-winding chronograph
Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Orient Bambino V4


The latest iteration of Orient’s beloved, mid-century-style dress watch. The domed dial now comes in an excellent slate-gray colorway and features rose gold accents. The watch also gets an updated suede strap. Ticking underneath is an automatic movement from Orient featuring hand-winding and hacking seconds.

Movement: Orient F6724 Automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Citizen Stilleto


When Citizen launched its mind-blowingly thin (less than 3mm) Eco-Drive One in 2016, it captivated watch enthusiasts, but with a price tag over $2,000, it was steeply priced. At under $500, and with a still crazy-thin case thickness of 4.7mm, the Stilleto is a fantastic compromise, given its sleek proportions and classy guilloche dial. Of course, that solar-powered quartz movement is also a gem, making battery changes a thing of the past.

Movement: Eco-Drive solar quartz
Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: splash-resistant only

Tissot Everytime Swissmatic


Yes, an automatic mechanical watch from a Swiss watchmaker for under $400. The Tissot Swissmatic makes use of the revolutionary Sistim51 automatic movement from its sister brand, Swatch, which in turn keeps the cost low. But where Swatch’s Sistim51 watches are boldly designed and difficult to make work for everyday use, the Tissot utilizes a clean design in a slim, almost Bauhaus-like package that could dress both up and down.

Movement: Sistim51 automatic
Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Merci LMM-01


Parisian “concept store” Merci recently launched its first timepiece, and it’s one hell of a looker, like a crossover between a modern Mondaine watch and a vintage field watch. The dial is adorned with Helvetica numerals and red accents, and for under $400, you can even get it equipped with a Swiss-made, hand-winding mechanical movement from ETA (a quartz version is also available for less).

Movement: ETA 2801-2 hand-winding
Size: 37.5mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Laco Augsburg


German watch brand Laco is perhaps best known for its super simple, super legible flieger pilot watches. This Augsburg doesn’t stray far from that formula: it comes with a stark black dial adorned with numerals given a healthy dose of lume, plus a big 42mm case (a smaller 36mm variant is also available for fans of small watches). Inside ticks an automatic movement from Miyota, and the whole thing comes affixed to a thick brown leather strap.

Movement: Miyota 821A automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 50m

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