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A Guide to Affordable Watches Under $500

Buying a watch is very hard for many men. Although some people want you to believe you have to spend at least $1000 for anything substantial, I can tell you this doesn't have to be the case. You can get a nice watch on a smaller budget. Having that said, you should be very aware of what you're buying when it's affordable, as sometimes it's not worth the money. I'll run down the types of watches you should look out for when buying a watch on a budget.

Fashion Watches

Generally, the most common watches you'll see are fashion watches. Fashion watches are by brands that aren't specifically specialized in watch making. The main appeal will be the design and branding.  This is what you'll be looking for if you just want something affordable, tells time and looks cool. You'll often see they have a fashionable design instead of a classic look.

You should be aware of what you're buying when you're buying one. The movements in these watches are always cheap, common Chinese quartz movements. Although they generally function exactly like they should, there is nothing "luxurious" about them. The overall build will also feel cheap when compared to better watches.

A very important note is that you should never pay too much for these watches.  Because of the cheap movements and subpar housing quality, they aren't expensive to make. When you pay more than $300 for one, you're only paying for the brand name, not quality. If that's your thing, go for it, but I'd never recommend it to anyone.

My favorite fashion watch brand is Fossil. They have great looking watches of decent quality and are very affordable. Other brands are Diesel, Adidas, Kenneth Cole and Calvin Klein.


Fossil Chronograph:

Kenneth Cole New York:

Very Affordable Automatic Watches (under $250)

Almost all luxury watches have automatic (or "mechanical") movements. Realistically, from a practical standpoint, quartz movements are better as they are more accurate. The appeal of automatic watches is they are complicated to make, and the technology behind them is hundreds of years old. Having something that doesn't require a battery makes it feel like it's "alive". I personally almost exclusively wear automatic watches.

As complicated as they are to make, there are affordable options if you want an automatic watch. Japanese watch company Orient makes great mechanical watches for under $200. In my opinion, they make the best affordable watches. A more famous Japanese manufacturer is Seiko. Besides the great Seiko "5" series, the Seiko Orange Monster is highly praised by many watch enthusiasts (design-wise, well, that's your call). You can find them all for under $250.

I love these watches as they offer amazing value. If you don't have that much to spend, you really should consider one of these. Having that said, there is a reason why they are so inexpensive. They often have mineral crystals, which scratch quicker than the more expensive sapphire crystal. You'll also notice they may have cut costs on the bracelet, since they feel cheap and flimsy.


Orient Black Mako:

Seiko Orange Monster:

The Step Up ($300-$500)

If you want something of higher quality and have a bit more to spend, you'll be looking at the $300-$500 range. It's quite a lot for some people, but quality-wise it really is a step up. The bracelets/leather bands, for example, generally feel better, and you'll only see scratch resistance sapphire crystals. There are a couple watchmakers that make amazing time pieces around this price point. But, beware. There are a few fashion brands (like Emperio Armani and Hugo Boss) that sell in this price range. Like I said earlier, those watches are often not worth the money, as they offer very little value being cheap Chinese quartz watches.

A manufacturer everyone should take a look at is the British Christopher Ward. They make beautiful classic looking timepieces with great automatic movements. They do make more expensive watches, but specifically the lower-end line offers great value. A Swiss alternative is Tissot. The brand offers Swiss watch making at a reasonably affordable price. Another well respected brand is the American Hamilton. Their Khaki Field is a timeless watch. And, never count out Seiko. At this price point they, too, make great watches.

If you can afford it, I'd always recommend watches in this price range. They definitely are of better quality and probably will last longer. While you might get bored of your cheap fashion watch in a year, you'll cherish a more expensive automatic watch for a long time.


Tissot PRC200 Chronograph:

Christopher Ward C9:


The key word on buying a watch on a budget is “value” – you should know what you're buying. Watches are different than clothes, as they involve years of wear and moving parts, which you should consider when buying a watch. A watch is more than just a bracelet.

If you can afford it, buy a nicer automatic watch. There are absolutely beautiful watches in the $300-500 price range. If that's not your thing or you can't afford it, buy a nice fashion watch… but don't pay too much for it.

by Wesley Wong

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