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. These ten timepieces prove it.
The Diver: A faithful homage to the original Seiko 6309 “Turtle” from the 1970s and ’80s, the Seiko SRP777 is water resistant up to 200 meters and has an automatic movement (with hand-winding capabilities, too). It’s a fantastic option for those who want the look of a vintage diver, but with modern capabilities and reliability.
Hamilton Khaki Field Quartz
The Field Watch: With a simple dial denoting all 24 hours of the day, a restrained 40mm steel case and a black-and-tan color scheme, the Hamilton Khaki Field Quartz is one of the best-looking field watches you can purchase under $500. For $100 less, you can also have a mechanical version of the Khaki Field, though you’ll lose out on the handsome looks of the quartz version.
Bulova Precisionist 96B158
The High-Beat: Bulova has created the same smooth, sweeping second hand that mechanical high-beat watches have at a considerably lower price by using its Precisionist quartz movement. It beats at a frequency of 262 kHz, which the company says is about eight times greater than that of a standard watch.
The Quartz Chronograph: You know Braun for making the official electric shaver of the NFL, but since its creation in the 1920s, Braun has always been about creating products with functionalist design. That shows in the BN0035, a clean Bauhaus-inspired watch with a practical and reliable quartz chronograph movement.
The Mechanical Chronograph: Few mechanical chronograph watches exist under $500, and even fewer have the Seagull 1963’s vintage pilot-inspired design. The watch uses a hand-wound mechanical movement made by Tianjin Seagull Watch Co. (one of China’s best movement manufacturers) housed in a compact 38mm stainless steel case.
Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military
The Homage: German watchmaker Steinhart makes one of the best-looking watches in the budget range: the Ocean Vintage Military. It’s an homage to the rare Rolex Military Submariner, and the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2 automatic movement and a 300-meter depth rating.
The Bauhaus: At only 9mm thin and featuring a large 44mm minimalist dial the Panzera Breuer is a great Bahaus design from a small manufacturer. What’s more, it includes the Miyota 81A automatic movement with a date function and a soft black leather strap with a push-button deployment clasp.
Tissot Heritage Visodate
The Dress Watch: One of our favorite affordable dress watches, the Tissot Heritage Visodate has an unmistakeable Mid-Century modern look and a day-date function. The watch retails at $650, but often can be found on sale for well under $500.
Victorinox Infantry GMT
The GMT: The Victorinox Infantry GMT is a simple field watch, powered by quartz; it’s also one of the few timepieces under $500 to feature a GMT function. And, with a steel mesh bracelet and a black dial adorned with typewriter-inspired numerals, it’s also got impeccably rugged good lucks.
The Pilot’s Watch: The Nighthawk is a versatile, practical pilot-inspired watch. It’s powered by a Citizen Eco-Drive solar quartz movement and features dual-time and date functions. And, if you think you need it, a slide rule adorns the watch face, just like one of history’s most iconic pilot’s watches, the Breitling Navitimer.