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Updated Dec 1, 2022 9:55 AM

Watches under $500 should have a baseline function of telling time. After that, the bells and whistles are just bonuses, or, technically speaking, complications. When considering the plethora of choices you can find in a watch—be it mechanical or quartz, analog or digital, field or diver—things get a little bogged down in spec-reading over features. Affordable watches are no less useful than expensive ones because, well, even the best watches under half a grand perform the same task as a pricey one. You don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to add an accessory to your wrist for styling purposes or simple timekeeping. These are the best watches under $500 for casual fans and collectors alike.

How we chose the best watches under $500

When finding the best watches under $500, we used a combination of personal experience, hands-on testing, past recommendations, and online research to narrow down what’s worth wearing. We compared specs like crystal quality (the glass dome that goes over a dial), water resistance, brand names, and band types to discover what timepieces are best for most people. We also consulted professionals and collectors, combed through hundreds of critical reviews and consumer impressions, and kept an eye on the most frequently cited value-oriented watches. We narrowed down our picks with the budget, accessibility, color variety, size, band and crystal quality, and water resistance in mind. One note: These aren’t smartwatches (if you want that, check out our thoughts on the Apple Watch 7), but they are smartly selected for those that want a timeless timepiece.

The best watches under $500: Reviews & Recommendations

With some of the key terms defined, it’s time to dive into our picks. While we’ve chosen models for specific categories, watches are highly subjective and there’s a lot of overlap here. Be sure to check out the entire list of best watches under $500 before committing to one model. 

Best overall: Seiko Prospex Samurai 

Seiko

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Why it made the cut: The handsome Seiko Prospex Samurai is a stainless steel watch that provides accurate timekeeping and excellent water resistance, and with its looks, it’s sharp enough to wear daily.

Specs

  • 44 mm case width
  • 200 meters water-resistance
  • Self-winding automatic movement

Pros

  • Casual enough for daily wear
  • Stainless steel
  • Attractive face

Cons

  • Chapter ring can appear slightly misaligned
  • Band feels cheap

The Seiko Prospex Samurai is consistently cited as a top contender for sub-$500 watches, and we have to agree. A sturdy diver that doubles as a casual watch, the Seiko Prospex Samurai has a stainless steel case and band that ensures durability and protection against water and minor scuffing. Though simple in design, its face is gorgeous and can match any occasion or outfit you pair with it. Plus, its date window and easy-to-read face make it a solid everyday watch for work and weekends alike.

This Seiko comes from the brand’s nicknamed Samurai series, due to its hands resembling a samurai sword, and is a Prospex, or “Professional Specifications,” variant initially introduced in 2017. While we believe the black and white colorway is the most versatile, this timepiece also comes in other hues, like blue and green, so grab one that suits your mood. Its own downside is one that’s notorious with Seiko’s value watches: misalignments. Some buyers report a slightly misaligned date window and chapter ring, so beware of an off-centered dial.

Most sustainable: NIXON Light-Wave A1322-100m

Nixon

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Why it made the cut: A stylish mariner’s watch that makes an effort to be green, this solar-powered watch eliminates the need for disposable watch batteries, and makes use of recycled ocean plastic for its band.

Specs:

  • 37mm face
  • 20mm band
  • Water resistant to 100 meters

Pros

  • Water resistant
  • Solar-powered for battery-free operation
  • Band made of recycled ocean plastic

Cons

  • Takes a while to charge if left indoors
  • Watch interface is confusing

The NIXON Light-Wave A1322-100m is a stylish mariner’s watch that puts its oceanic theme right up at the bow. With an attractive band made of recycled ocean plastic, paired with a battery-free design that capitalizes on solar power, this watch will appeal to ocean advocates and those interested in green product design.

The NIXON Light-Wave comes in seven colorways, with a range of band designs and hues. With so many available colors, this watch is easy to style with lots of different aesthetics and will work well with sporty outfits as well as polished office wear. In some ways the NIXON may be more married to its aesthetics than it is to its function, as the uniform minute-hands and the double-sided second-hand make it difficult to tell precisely what time it is. Still, it achieves its aesthetic aims—this is a good-looking watch—and dignifies itself with its strong green-focused design.

Best automatic: Seiko 5 SNZG09K1

Seiko

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Why it made the cut: The Seiko 5 SNZG09K1 has a slightly larger size compared to other field watches and a see-thru back that provides an interesting window to the watch’s inner workings.

Specs

  • 45mm case width
  • 100m water-resistance
  • See-thru back

Pros

  • Large size for a field watch
  • Bold, easy-to-read dial
  • 48-hour power reserve

Cons

  • May be too big for those with smaller wrists
  • May not provide accurate timekeeping

Our pick for the best automatic watch under $500 is also the best-looking field watch we’ve found: the Seiko 5 SNZG09K1. This attractive timepiece is slightly larger than most military-styled field watches with a case size of 45mm, compared to the industry standard 38mm to 44mm, making it a much bolder watch built for sport and casual use. The large dial is clear and easily digestible, especially its day and date function, and its secondhand wields a bright red pointer for easy tracking. With 100m water resistance, this timepiece can freely withstand rain and occasional immersion if needed.

As far as self-winding automatic watches are concerned, this one’s got efficiency. The Seiko 5 SNZG09K1 has a 48-hour power reserve, which means you can take it off and it’ll run for up to two days before it needs to wind up again. And, of course, like all automatic watches, no batteries are required. Those who have smaller wrists may want to try the Seiko 5 SNK805 for a better fit.

Best for diving: Orient Mako II

Orient

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Why it made the cut: This gorgeous, classic diver is accessible enough for entry-level collectors and will prove reliable both underwater and at a weekend barbeque.

Specs

  • 41.5mm case size
  • 200m water-resistance
  • Automatic movement

Pros

  • 200m water-resistance
  • 120-click unidirectional bezel
  • Classic style

Cons

  • Must be hand-wound
  • Crown can be tough to wind

Ask any serious watch collector and they’ll agree: Orient’s Mako II is the quintessential diver. Considered a classic by many, this stylish diving watch presents a reasonably sized timepiece with unique details that make it more attractive. This diver offers up to 200 meters of water resistance, which means you can take it into the shower or a hot tub without worry. Of course, that also means you can take it underwater for a dive. In the dark, it has a powerful lume that glows the hands and numerals of the dial, as well as an accent at the 12-o-clock on the outer bezel. An added day-and-date function makes this watch suited for daily wear.

Although it’s automatic, the Orient Mako II needs manual winding, with its movement clocking in at around 4+ to 6+ a day. It also features second hacking, so you can manually adjust the secondhand for precision timekeeping. Its polished and brushed stainless steel band will look sharp and handle any water tossed its way.

Best digital: G-Shock GWM5610

Casio

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Why it made the cut: The G-Shock line of watches is known to be tough-as-nails and the GWM5610 adds the bells and whistles to make it as practical as it is tanky: atomic timekeeping, solar power, and a clear display with no clutter.

Specs

  • 43mm case width
  • 200 meters water-resistance
  • Solar-powered

Pros

  • Impact- and water-resistant
  • Atomic (radio-controlled) timekeeping
  • Clear display with backlight

Cons

  • Different colorways get pricey

The best digital watch is also an upgrade to the most durable. The GWM5610, an update to the classic DW5600, is a tank built to withstand heavy impact from the dings of daily wear and up to 200 meters of water resistance. It’s equipped with five daily alarms, a backlight, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and an auto-calendar, which means that once set, you no longer have to tweak it to account for leap years or shorter months. Unique to the GWM5610 is its atomic timekeeping, which uses radio signals to auto synchronize the time at midnight. Its Tough Solar can power this watch for up to a whopping 18 months without exposure to light.

The best part about the GWM5610 is its uncluttered display, which, unlike other G-Shock watches, makes reading the time and date a cinch. That display is made of mineral, which is extremely tough to scratch. Its 43mm case width makes it a smart digital option, and paired with its durability, it’ll warrant daily wear.

Bestlooking: Q Timex Reissue Falcon Eye

Q Timex

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Why it made the cut: This ‘70s reissue by Timex is a battery-operated timepiece that has an adjustable band, and a gorgeous electric-blue dial with pops of gold.

Specs

  • 38mm case width
  • 50 meters water resistance
  • Day and date complications

Pros

  • Adjustable band
  • Luminescent dial
  • Unique style

Cons

  • Not great for small wrists
  • Cheap band

This eye-catching timepiece from Timex is gorgeous, sophisticated, and exudes the energy of the 1970s. The Falcon Eye, named after its gold-tone color around its dial similar to that of a falcon, includes an adjustable band that makes for an easy custom fit without the use of tools, and a luminescent dial for brightness in the dark. Its wavy electric-blue face looks terrific in contrast to its gold accents and stainless steel band, and its sleek size—13mm thick, 38mm case width—makes it a watch appropriate for dressy occasions.

Its band, which also has a vintage aesthetic, may be one of its only downsides—some claim it feels cheap and won’t adjust to smaller wrists, as the links cannot be taken off and its lug width of 18mm doesn’t taper down enough. A replacement band may be in order for those with sizing issues. Still, for a quartz watch, this one is as beautiful as they come.

Best chronograph: Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive

Citizen

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Why it made the cut: A sleek field watch with bold numerals and lume hands, the Citizen Chandler Chronograph adds a strong solar-power component and three attractive subdials to an easily digestible face.

Specs

  • 39mm case width
  • 100 meters water resistance
  • Solar-powered

Pros

  • Clear, large dial
  • Solid lume on hands and hour marks
  • Excellent movement and battery

Cons

  • Grommets on band hinder buckle

With its rugged appeal, the Citizen Chandler Chronograph is a simple watch with a large display that makes it distraction-free, and a bright lux for easy reading at night. It’s equipped with two push buttons that start and stop its chronograph feature, while its subdials at 10- and 6-o-clock keep track of its passing seconds and minutes (its 2-o-clock sundial presents the military time).

This watch’s nylon strap is built tough to prevent ripping, though its grommets are somewhat large which hinders adjusting its buckle. Because it’s solar-powered, the Citizen Chandler Chronograph never needs a battery change and its power reserve keeps it ticking for 150 days without light exposure.

Its water resistance, while not as high as other picks on this list, provides ample protection in the rain and in moist conditions, which also makes it suitable for hikes and unpredictable weekends. Available in green and blue, this timepiece lends an outdoorsy look to any ensemble.

Best budget: Timex Unisex Weekender

Timex

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Why it made the cut: With its easy-to-read face and plethora of band styles, the Timex Weekender is a reliable watch that’s versatile, attractive, and surprisingly affordable.

Specs

  • 38mm case width
  • 30 meters water resistance
  • Nylon strap

Pros

  • Backlight
  • Versatile and lightweight
  • Plenty of color options

Cons

  • Not built for water immersion
  • Loud ticking

The Timex Weekender may be the perfect candidate for an entry-level watch that won’t break the bank. Resembling the classic military field watch with its nylon band and large numbered dial, this timepiece has a surprising amount of features that make it a solid value pick. It has a backlight that illuminates the entire dial with a cool blue hue to help you read it in the dark. It’s unisex-appropriate at 38mm wide, and its bands come in a variety of colors for styling. Furthermore, those bands can also be switched out, as the back of the watch features a slip-thru design that lets you slide a new strap in place without the use of tools.

Here’s a solid timepiece that you can toss on without having to worry about feeling its presence due to its lightweight. It has its cons, though. For one, owners frequently say that the Timex Weekender has a pretty loud tick to it. It’s also not suited for much water activity, with its resistance at 30m, so you may need to take it off if you get caught in the rain or need to wash dishes.

Things to consider before buying the best watches under $500

A watch can offer many features, also known as complications, that may boost its value, appeal, and usefulness. But complications aside, there are a number of things to keep in mind when shopping for a new watch.

Movement

Think of the movement of a watch as its engine, or the way it gets its power. Three types of movements exist for a watch: mechanical, automatic, and quartz.

Mechanical is the oldest type of watch movement and it requires periodically hand-winding a spring to maintain its power. An automatic movement is technically mechanical but it self-winds through the wearer’s natural wrist motion. Quartz replaces the mechanical workings of a watch with a crystal and battery, which will need replacing every few years, depending on the watch’s specific functions. It must be noted that the movement of a quartz watch provides the most accurate timekeeping. 

Brand

Like a television set or digital camera, a watch’s brand is usually an indicator of its quality. Names like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, and Roger Dubuis are that of luxury and skew higher in price due to their intricate details and dependable movements. For this list, we’ve compiled more budget-friendly, though reliable brands popular with collectors and retailers today: Orient, Seiko, G-Shock, Citizen, and Timex. Though not on this list, value-oriented brands Bulova, Hamilton, Dan Henry, and Tissot are also known for quality timepieces.

Band

It’s important to be mindful of a watch’s band, or strap, when purchasing a new timepiece. Bands made with fiber-like nylon are usually built for a rugged aesthetic, often found in field watches, and are tough to rip and tear. Stainless steel bands are made of metal and provide durability against the elements, including rust resistance. These are often with a finish that leaves the band looking polished. To adjust a stainless steel band, you’ll have to use tools to remove its links.

Water resistance

Even if you’re not a diver, a watch’s water resistance is a vital piece of information that can tell you what occasion it can be worn. A watch with no or low water resistance will cause corrosion and damage its inner workings. A timepiece that can handle minor splashes, steam, and light rain is one that offers roughly 50 meters of water resistance. 100 meters of water resistance can handle the above, plus the pressure of swimming. The higher the meter number, the better it can handle pressure underwater. For a watch used daily, we recommend aiming for a piece with at least 100 meters of resistance for durability

FAQs

Q: Is Tissot a luxury brand?

Tissot is a luxury brand with a rich history and the use of high-grade materials. However, it’s also affordable, making it a solid entry-level luxury brand. Tissot manufactures Swiss-made watches and those undergo a special certification process that maintains at least 60% of production must be generated in Switzerland. Swiss-made watches are known for being high quality, but Tissot still manages to sell some of its timepieces for well under $600.

Q: Is Rolex a luxury brand?

Rolex is a luxury brand and perhaps the most recognizable in the world of watches. It’s known for producing watches of extremely high quality, with movements that are accurate and survive for decades. The brand also holds a hefty price tag and even its cheapest timepiece will set you back well over $3,000, warding away those who casually wear watches.

Q: How do you know if a watch is good quality?

You know if a watch is of good quality by reading and understanding its specs. Markers of quality lie in a combination of reliable movements, crystal (the glass dome that goes over a dial) type, parts, and the finish of a timepiece. Generally speaking, the more expensive a watch, the better quality of parts it relies on.

Final thoughts on the best watches under $500

The best watches under $500 prove that you don’t have to sacrifice an entire paycheck for comfort and quality. When it comes to a striking timepiece that’s reliable, water-resistant, and casual enough for daily wear, the Seiko Prospex Samurai proves it can hold a mantle to even the most extravagant of watches. Its simple design is easy-to-read and will match any outfit you can throw at it.