Best watches under $500 of 2022
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Updated Oct 13, 2022 12: 05 PM
Watches under $500 should have a baseline function of telling time. The rest of the bells and whistles are merely added bonuses or complications. There are so many options for a watch, whether it is mechanical, quartz, digital, analog, field, or diver. It can be a bit overwhelming to try to read every feature and detail. Cheap watches can be just as useful as expensive watches. Even the best watches costing half the price can do the same job as a more expensive one. Accessory items are not necessarily expensive and can be added to your wrist for style purposes or timekeeping. These are the best watches under $500 for casual fans and collectors alike.
- Best overall: Seiko Prospex Samurai
- Most sustainable: NIXON Light-Wave A1322
- Best automatic: Seiko 5 SNZG09K1
- Best for diving: Orient Mako II
- Best digital: G-Shock GWM5610
- Best-looking: Q Timex Reissue Falcon Eye
- Best chronograph: Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive
- Best budget: Timex Unisex Weekender
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. To find the best timepieces for most people, we compared specs such as crystal quality (the glass dome that covers a dial), water resistance and brand names. We also consulted experts and collectors, analyzed hundreds of consumer impressions and read critical reviews to find the most value-oriented watches. Our criteria for choosing the best watches included affordability, color variety, size, band, crystal quality, water resistance, and accessibility. 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.
Things to consider before buying a watch under $500
Watches can have many features, also called complications, which may increase their value, appeal, and utility. There are many things to remember when shopping for a new watch.
Think about the movement of your watch as the engine or how it generates its power. There are three types of movements for watches: quartz, automatic, or mechanical.
Mechanical, the oldest type watch movement, requires that a spring is manually wound every so often to keep it in power. Although technically an automatic movement is mechanical, it self-winds using the wearer’s natural wrist motion. Quartz replaces the mechanical parts of a watch with a battery and crystal. This will need to be replaced depending on the watch’s specific functions. The quartz movement provides the best timekeeping.
A watch’s brand is often a sign of its quality, just like a TV set or digital camera. 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. We’ve compiled a list of more affordable, but reliable brands that are popular with retailers and collectors today: Citizen, Orient, Seiko and G-Shock. Bulova, Hamilton and Dan Henry are all valued brands that are well-known for their quality timepieces.
When purchasing a new watch, it is important to pay attention to the band or strap. Fiber-like nylon bands are often made for rugged aesthetics, which is common in field watches. They are also tough to rip and tear. Stainless steel bands are made from metal and offer durability against the elements, including resistance to rust. These bands are often finished with a polished finish. You will need tools to remove the links from a stainless steel band.
Even if you are not a diver, the watch’s water resistance can tell you when it can be worn. Watches with low or no water resistance can cause corrosion and damage to its internal 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 more meters it has, the better it can withstand pressure underwater. For a watch used daily, we recommend aiming for a piece with at least 100 meters of resistance for durability
The best watches under $500: Reviews & Recommendations
Now that you have some key terms in place, it’s time for us to get into our picks. We’ve selected models for specific categories but watches are subjective and there’s lots of overlap. Be sure to check out the entire list of best watches under $500 before committing to one model.
Best overall: Seiko Prospex Samurai
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.
- 44 mm case width
- 200 meters water-resistance
- Self-winding automatic movement
- Casual enough for daily wear
- Stainless steel
- Attractive face
- 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. The Seiko Prospex Samurai is a sturdy diver that can also be used as a casual watch. It has a stainless steel band and case that provide protection against water and minor scratches. Although it is simple in design, the face of the Seiko Prospex Samurai is stunning and can be paired with any outfit or occasion. Its date window and easy to read face make it an excellent watch for both work and weekend.
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. Although we think the black and white colorway is most versatile, the timepiece can also be found in other colors, such as blue or green. The downside to this watch is the same one that Seiko’s value watches are known for: misalignments. Some customers report a slightly misaligned chapter ring and date window, so beware of an off center dial.
Most sustainable: NIXON Light-Wave A1322-100m
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.
- 37mm face
- 20mm band
- Water resistant to 100 meters
- Water resistant
- Solar-powered for battery-free operation
- Band made of recycled ocean plastic
- 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. This watch is a stylish and practical choice for ocean lovers and anyone who is interested in green product design. It features a band made from recycled ocean plastic.
The NIXON Light-Wave is available in seven colorways with a variety of band designs. This watch can be worn with both sporty and professional outfits, thanks to its many colors. The NIXON may be more devoted to its aesthetics than its function. Its uniform minute-hands, and double-sided second-hand make determining the time difficult. It still achieves its aesthetic goals–this watch is beautiful and has a strong green-focused design.
Best automatic: Seiko 5 SNZG09K1
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.
- 45mm case width
- 100m water-resistance
- See-thru back
- Large size for a field watch
- Bold, easy-to-read dial
- 48-hour power reserve
- 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 easy to read, particularly the day and date functions. The secondhand has a bright red pointer for easy tracking. With 100m water resistance, this timepiece can freely withstand rain and occasional immersion if needed.
This self-winding watch is efficient. 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. No batteries are required, as with all automatic watches. Those who have smaller wrists may want to try the Seiko 5 SNK805 for a better fit.
Best for diving: Orient Mako II
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.
- 41.5mm case size
- 200m water-resistance
- Automatic movement
- 200m water-resistance
- 120-click unidirectional bezel
- Classic style
- Must be hand-wound
- Crown can be tough to wind
Ask any watch collector and they will agree that the Orient’s Mako 2 is the ultimate diver. This stylish diving watch is a classic. It’s small in size and has unique details that make it stand out. 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. You can also take it underwater for a diving experience. 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. This watch is suitable for daily wear with an added day-and date function.
Although the Orient Mako II is automatic, it requires manual winding. Its movement runs at approximately 4 to 6 hours per day. Second hacking allows you to manually adjust the secondhand for precise timekeeping. Its polished and brushed stainless-steel band will look sharp and can withstand any water.
Best digital: G-Shock GWM5610
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.
- 43mm case width
- 200 meters water-resistance
- Impact- and water-resistant
- Atomic (radio-controlled) timekeeping
- Clear display with backlight
- Different colorways get pricey
The best digital watch is also 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. The GWM
is a modern update to the classic . It has five daily alarms, a counter, a countdown and an auto-calendar. Once it’s set, you don’t have to adjust it to accommodate 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. The display is made from mineral, which is very scratch-resistant. Its 43mm case width makes it a smart digital option, and paired with its durability, it’ll warrant daily wear.
Best–looking: Q Timex Reissue Falcon Eye
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.
- 38mm case width
- 50 meters water resistance
- Day and date complications
- Adjustable band
- Luminescent dial
- Unique style
- 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. For those with sizing issues, a replacement band might be an option. This quartz watch is still beautiful.
Best chronograph: Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive
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.
- 39mm case width
- 100 meters water resistance
- Clear, large dial
- Solid lume on hands and hour marks
- Excellent movement and battery
- Grommets on band hinder buckle
The Citizen Chandler Chronograph has a rugged appearance. It features a large display with bright lux that allows 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 made tough to resist ripping. However, the grommets on its buckle are a bit too large for easy adjustment. 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 is not as high as the other picks on our list but it provides adequate protection in rain and in humid conditions. This makes it ideal for hiking and unpredictable weekends. This timepiece is available in blue and green, giving any outfit an outdoor look.
Best budget: Timex Unisex Weekender
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.
- 38mm case width
- 30 meters water resistance
- Nylon strap
- Versatile and lightweight
- Plenty of color options
- Not built for water immersion
- Loud ticking
The Timex Weekender is a great entry-level watch that won’t break the bank. This timepiece is reminiscent of the classic military field watch, with its nylon band and large number dial. It has a surprising number of features that make it an excellent value choice. The backlight illuminates the entire dial in cool blue to make it easier to read in the dark. It’s unisex-appropriate at 38mm wide, and its bands come in a variety of colors for styling. You can also swap out the bands by using the slip-thru design on the back of this watch. This allows you to slide a new strap in without any tools.
This is a solid timepiece you can wear without feeling it’s presence because of its lightweight. However, it does have its downsides. One of its cons is that it can be loud. 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.
Q: Is Tissot a luxury brand?
Tissot is a luxury brand with a rich history and the use of high-grade materials. It’s also very affordable, making it an excellent 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 is known for making watches of exceptional quality with accurate movements that last 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. You can tell if a watch is of high quality by its reliable movements, crystal (the transparent glass dome that covers a dial), type, parts, and finish. The quality of the parts that a watch relies on is generally higher if it is more expensive.
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 makes it easy to read and can match any outfit.