The best watches under $500 of 2024

From automatic to digital, these timepieces won’t cost a fortune.

Best overall

Seiko Prospex Samurai is the best watch under $500.

Seiko Prospex Samurai

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Best budget

Timex Unisex Weekender is the best budget watch under $500.

Timex Unisex Weekender

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Best digital

G-Shock GWM5610 is the best digital watch under $500.

G-Shock GWM5610

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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 8 or some of our favorite hiking watches), but they are smartly selected for those who 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 

Best overall

Seiko Prospex Samurai

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 44mm
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Movement: Manual and automatic
  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Water resistance: 660 feet

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 series nicknamed Samurai, 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 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

Most sustainable

NIXON Light-Wave A1322

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 37mm
  • Weight: Not provided
  • Movement: Epson solar-powered quartz movement
  • Materials: Plastic, stainless steel, quartz
  • Water resistance: 328 feet

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 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 hybrid: Withings ScanWatch

Best hybrid

Withings ScanWatch

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 42mm
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Materials: Sapphire glass, stainless steel, silicone band
  • Water resistance: 164 feet

Pros

  • Plenty of features
  • Water-resistant
  • Sleek styling 

Cons

  • Relies on your phone’s GPS

Hybrid smartwatches offer a unique set of features. They look like classic analog watches with physical watch hands but also provide smartwatch capabilities. The Withings ScanWatch is one of our favorite hybrid options, in part because of its large feature set. It provides an extensive list of health monitoring, including heart rate details, sleep tracking, and oxygen saturation level measurements. It also features an altimeter and dedicated workout metrics such as VO2 Max. 

The Withings ScanWatch is sleek and modern looking, so despite all its fitness tracking capabilities, it will blend in seamlessly with your daily attire. It is waterproof to 164 feet, so you can even get your swim workouts in with this waterproof watch. And it promises a battery life of up to 30 days. It offers full smartwatch functionality, providing your phone’s notifications right on your wrist. You will need to keep your phone on you to take advantage of GPS tracking while working out, but for the price, this watch still has a lot to offer. 

Best automatic: Seiko 5 SNZG09K1

Best automatic watch

Seiko 5 SNZG09K1

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 45mm
  • Weight: 2.82 ounces
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Materials: Canvas, stainless steel, Hardlex
  • Water resistance: 328 feet

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 GPS: Garmin Instinct 2S Solar

Best GPS

Garmin Instinct 2S Solar

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 40mm
  • Weight: 1.52 ounces
  • Movement: Not applicable (digital)
  • Materials: Fiber-reinforced polymer, Power Glass
  • Water resistance: 328 feet

Pros

  • Rugged and durable build
  • Solar charging prolongs battery life
  • Extensive health and fitness tracking features

Cons

  • Detailed maps don’t show up very well

Garmin’s Instinct 2S Solar is a watch built for adventure and outdoor pursuits. It is a rugged watch with a rather old-school design, including a monochrome memory-in-pixel display. But, the guts (and surface) of the watch are far from old-school. It is topped off with Garmin’s Power Glass, which enables solar charging, lengthening the already impressive battery life when it gets enough sun. In smartwatch mode, it can get up to 51 days if you are in the bright sun for three hours per day. 

The Instinct 2S connects to three Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)—GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo—for excellent accuracy. You can even use it to navigate if you need some help getting back from a hike. The watch comes with an extensive list of trackable activities and provides lots of health and fitness metrics, making it an ideal training companion. 

The 2S is the smallest version of the Instinct 2, offering a 40mm case size that’s ideal for smaller wrists. Should you want something larger, the Instinct 2 Solar provides a bigger 45mm case size. And if you want to save $100 from either size, you can skip the solar charging. 

Best gift: Citizen Death Star 2 Eco-Drive

Best gift

Citizen Death Star 2 Eco-Drive

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Why it made the cut: The Citizen Death Star 2 is fully solar-powered and can go from business to casual without missing a beat.

Specs

  • Case Diameter: 41mm
  • Weight: Not provided
  • Movement: Japanese quartz
  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Water Resistance: 328 feet

Pros

  • Solar-powered design charges using ambient light
  • Glow-in-the-dark 3D-style face
  • Stylish and waterproof black stainless steel case

Cons

  • May need direct sunlight for initial charge

If you’re looking for a watch that’s fun to wear but subtle and stylish enough to bring anywhere, the Citizen Death Star 2 is a unique option to please any Star Wars fan. Its two-tone dial features a minimalist graphic of the Death Star topped with lightsaber-inspired hands, an X-wing, and 12 and 6 markers based on the film’s iconic opening credits. In dark environments, nearly every white element of the watch face glows in the dark, adding a subtle 3D effect. Like many of Citizen’s best watches, the Death Star 2 is also waterproof to a depth of 328 feet and is charged up using ambient light, making it a great low-maintenance choice for active people. For best results, the Citizen Death Star 2 may need to be charged in direct sunlight when it’s first used or after extended periods in the dark, but this shouldn’t be a big issue if worn frequently.

Best for diving: Orient Mako II

Best watch for diving

Orient Mako II

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 41.5mm
  • Weight: Not provided
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Water resistance: 660 feet

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

Best digital watch

G-Shock GWM5610

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Specs

  • Case size: 46.7 × 43.2 × 12.7mm
  • Weight: 1.8 ounces
  • Movement: Not applicable (digital)
  • Materials: Resin
  • Water resistance: 660 feet

Pros

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

Cons

  • Different colorways get pricey

The best digital watch under $500 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.

Best for budget adventures: Amazfit T-Rex 2

Best for adventure

Amazfit T-Rex 2

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 47mm
  • Weight: 2.3 ounces
  • Movement: Not applicable (digital)
  • Materials: Polymer alloy, silicone band
  • Water resistance: 328 feet

Pros

  • Rugged build
  • Affordable
  • Advanced fitness and health tracking

Cons

  • Very large size doesn’t work well on small wrists

The Amazfit T-Rex 2 is a fantastic budget option that still provides plenty of advanced features. This smartwatch offers dual-band positioning and support for six satellite positioning systems, as well as a built-in compass and barometric altimeter. You can import your own routes and use the watch to navigate your adventures. And it offers an extensive list of training features, including the ability to detect 15 types of strength training exercises and automatically count reps for you.

The T-Rex 2 is fitted with a 1.39-inch HD AMOLED always-on display that is easily visible outside. It’s a bulky watch, which isn’t great for those of us with small wrists, but it passed 15 military-standard tests, meaning it’s able to withstand extreme environments and temperatures. And it promises a battery life of up to 24 days with normal usage so that it will last even on longer trips.

Best field watch: Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive

Best field watch

Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 37mm
  • Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Movement: Japanese quartz
  • Materials: Stainless steel, nylon
  • Water resistance: 328 feet

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.

Want an even more luxe, but still not luxury-priced option? Check out the Ridge Field Watch, which features a Grade 2 titanium case (30 percent lighter than stainless steel) and high-clarity, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal for a lightweight, scratch- and corrosion-resistant build. In addition, it is self-winding, with a 42-hour battery reserve, and its water resistance is rated 200m—meaning it will be reliable and legible any, well, time you need it.

Best budget: Timex Unisex Weekender

Best budget watch

Timex Unisex Weekender

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Specs

  • Case diameter: 38mm
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Materials: Brass, nylon
  • Water resistance: 100 feet

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 under $500.

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 periodic hand-winding of 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. One hundred 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: Which strap material is best for a watch?

What strap material is best varies wildly between people. It truly depends on personal preference and how you use the watch. For example, you won’t want a metal watch band for exercise use, while a silicone band may not blend into your work attire as well. Knowing how you will be using your watch and what is most comfortable on your wrist will help you identify the best watch strap material. 

Q: What is the biggest difference between a cheap watch and an expensive one?

The biggest difference between a cheap watch and an expensive one is typically features. A cheap watch will tell you the time but likely nothing more, depending on how cheap it is. An expensive watch may offer smartwatch capabilities, fitness tracking, or other unique functionality. Expensive watches are also typically made from higher-end materials such as durable Sapphire glass on the face or utilize gold in the case and band.

Q: Which brand is best for watches under $500?

Which brand is best for watches under $500 depends, in large part, on what type of watch you are looking for. If you want a fashion watch, brands like Citizen or Seiko make fantastic options that are affordable and stylish. If you are looking for a fitness watch, Amazfit makes many advanced options under $500, or you can find entry-level models from the likes of Garmin under that price point as well.

Q: Can cheap watches be good?

Cheap watches can be very good. There are plenty of very impressive watches that don’t break the bank. Of course, it’s all a matter of what you are looking for in a watch, but there are many options that offer extensive features and functionality at affordable prices. 

Final thoughts on the best watches under $500

The best watches under $500 prove 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. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.