If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
watches are few The most interesting stuff to shop for occupies a niche between fashion, art and engineering. In the past, potential watch enthusiasts had two options: spend a small fortune, or buy something cheap and poorly-made. Now, things are changing. Respectable watches can be had for under $500, so almost anyone can make something nice for their wrist.
A stylish, well-crafted watch was, is, and always will be a sophisticated statement. As proof of this, consider the rise of the smartwatch (which we’re all buying). Many watch connoisseurs feared that the smartwatch spelled the end of the artistic, carefully made timepiece. The opposite appears to be true. People are still buying watches with the understanding that watches are much more than simple time-tellers. As proof, brands like Timex are releasing (and selling) throwback watches with mechanical movements and attainable price tags.
in this article
Best Men’s Watches Under $500
What to know before buying a watch
Best Men’s Watches Under $500
If you’re looking to invest in a timepiece that will be appreciated by connoisseurs (and your wallet), read on. We’ve rounded up some of the best watches under $500 (starting at less than $120), along with some brief tips on watch-buying to help guide you.
editor’s pick: Tissot PRX
Best dive watch: Timex M79 Automatic
Best chronograph: Dan Henry 1962 Racing Chronograph
best value, Seiko Series 5 Automatic
Best field watch, marathon navigator
Best dress watch: Orient Bambino
the harshest, Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Dive
classic look, take tissot
Best casual pick, Hamilton Khaki King Series
1. Tissot PRX
Somewhere between a dress watch and a sports watch, the Tissot PRX is a favorite of budget-conscious watch lovers. It’s clean and elegant, but the stainless steel bracelet and 40-millimeter case balance things out for an undeniably handsome piece. You’ll see a few dial colors on the internet, but we like this blue one – which is easily available on Amazon for under $350 right now.
Buy Tissot Men’s PRX for $336.59
2. Timex M79 Automatic
With a classic diver look and automatic movement, this Timex M79 is probably the best men’s watch under $500 (and a great Rolex Submariner alternative). Like all of Timex’s current vintage-inspired watches, the M79 has a level of build quality that is well above its price tag. At 40 millimeters, the case also has some nice weight to it, but not so much that it dwarfs smaller wrists.
Buy Timex M79 Automatic $199.00
3. Dan Henry 1962 Racing Chronograph
Founded by a keen watch collector, Dan Henry offers throwback watch styles that we all wish most of us could actually afford. One of our favorites from the brand is this 1962 Racing Chronograph that draws inspiration from iconic racing watches from the sixties, like the Omega Speedmaster. Inside the vintage-inspired 39-millimeter case is a reliable Seiko movement, and the watch is water-resistant to 50 meters.
Dan Henry 1962 $280 Buy
4. Seiko Series 5 Automatic
The Seiko 5 is a budget-conscious watch lover’s dream for two reasons: It’s automatic and it often costs around $100. For watch enthusiasts, an automatic movement at this price is like having your cake and eating it too. Add good looks and a respected Japanese brand and you have a truly great timepiece. It also comes in a good range of colors and styles, so you have quite a few options to choose from. The only minor downside is a Hardlex crystal, which lies somewhere between mineral and sapphire in terms of scratch-resistance, but that’s easily forgivable at this price.
Buy Seiko Series 5 Automatic $112
5. Marathon Navigator
We’re big fans of military-inspired watches right now, and this Navigator from Marathon pulls it off great. And it’s no wonder: the Canadian-based, Swiss-made brand has been making military watches since the forties. The Navigator has a thick, rugged case with a small, easy-to-read face. It is also water resistant to 62 meters and boasts a sapphire crystal face for top-notch protection against scratches and cracks.
Buy Marathon Navigator for $480
6. Orient Bambino
Need a classy dress watch? Buy this Orient Bambino (Model: 2nd Gen, Ver. 2) on Amazon for less than $200. The affordable Japanese brand is beloved by budget-conscious watch enthusiasts because of its reliable automatic movement and old-school good looks. Furthermore, despite its neat appearance, the watch is surprisingly water resistant to 30 meters.
Orient 2nd Generation Bambino Ver. 2 $159.00
7. Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Dive
Another great Japanese watch is the Citizen Promaster. Citizen has been a pioneer of the watch industry for over 100 years and currently holds a place in the hearts of watch lovers for its Eco-Drive movement. The movement is solar-powered, and Citizen claims it will keep accurate time for 10 years. The Promaster model is also incredibly adventure-friendly – and looks the part. It is rated water resistant to 200 meters and has a rugged polyurethane strap.
Buy Citizen Promaster Dive $281.25
8. Tissot Le Lol
Futuristic smartwatches may be all the rage, but classic dress watches like this Tissot Le Lola still have a place in every watch enthusiast’s arsenal. The name of the watch, Le Locle, refers to the Swiss town where Tissot was founded in 1853. Like the name, the quality of the watch is a testament to the long-lasting expertise of the brand. The watch looks timeless with a stainless steel case, black dial, roman numerals, and black leather strap. As you would expect from a classic watch, Le Locle also uses an automatic movement for authenticity.
9. Hamilton Khaki King Series
If you are looking for an everyday watch that goes with casual wear as well as office attire, then check out this Khaki King series from Hamilton. It has a classic, no-frills look with a stainless steel case, black dial, and brown leather strap, which combine for an elegant yet understated effect. It also has a sapphire crystal, ensuring it will remain scratch-free, as well as 50 meters of water resistance to protect against splashes and accidental submersion. Plus, an open skeletal back scores some strength points.
Buy the Hamilton Khaki King Series for $459
What to know before buying a watch
Choosing watches is a full-time hobby for some enthusiasts, but you don’t need to be a horologist to find a good timepiece. However, there are still some key features that every watch-owner should consider before making any purchase.
AgitationClock speed refers to the actual functioning of the clock. The three main watch movements are automatic, mechanical, and quartz.
Automatic watches essentially “charge” themselves with the movement of the wearer’s wrist, making it the most desirable and reliable movement (used by big brands like Rolex and Omega). Mechanical watches require hand-winding (usually every two days), and have recently seen a return to their old charm. Quartz, the most common movement today, uses a battery that needs to be replaced (usually every few years).
brand: The brand of a watch is a stamp of quality – or the lack thereof. Brand really matters when choosing the best watch, especially when you are looking for affordable watches. We have selected from trusted sources (mostly Swiss and Japanese) to ensure that your new timepiece lasts as long as possible without any maintenance.
water resistance: Even if you don’t plan to shower or swim with your watch, it’s always a good idea to protect it from water damage (eg, splashing in the rain or pool). Generally, if a watch has less than 50 meters of water resistance, it is only reliable against rain and the occasional splash. Water resistance to over 50m is safe for swimming, and ready for over 100m of diving.
crystal: The ‘crystal’ on the watch refers to the dial cover. Sapphire (or synthetic sapphire) is nearly scratch-proof and glare-reducing, making it one of the most desirable watch crystals. Less expensive watches use a mineral crystal (specially treated glass) or an acrylic crystal that is similar to plastic.
StyleIt can be tempting to pick up a watch just because it looks cool in itself, but it should also work with your personal style. Be sure to assess your own look and consider how well a watch will complement your style.