Battery-powered watches were the standard bearers for timepiece technology for a long time, but that’s changing. As watches become more about fashion than about time keeping, automatic watches have become a popular choice for people from all walks of life.
More reliable and more vintage in their design, they’re as much conversation pieces as they are a way to track the time of day, and there are countless options if you’re looking to pick up an automatic watch. Of course that means that there’s an incredibly broad range in terms of quality. Whether you’re seeking out something to wear in the office or around the house, we can help you find the best automatic watches available today.
Quick Look: The Best Automatic Watches
- Orient Men’s ‘Ray II’ Automatic Watch
- Victorinox Airboss Mach 9 Analog Display
- Invicta Men’s 8928OB Pro Diver Automatic Watch
- Hamilton Unisex Khaki King
- Seiko Men’s Prospex Automatic Diver Watch
- Orient 2nd Gen Bambino Version 2 Automatic Men’s Watch
- Tag Heuer Formula 1 Automatic Mens Watch
- Bulova Aerojet 97A136 Automatic Watch
- Stuhrling Original Luxury Dress Skeleton Watch
- Seiko Men’s SNK809 Seiko 5 Automatic
- Citizen OCTAVIA Men’s Automatic Watch
- Fossil ME3098 Automatic Self Wind Watch
- Bulova 98A179 Automatic Watch
- Fossil Men’s ME3110 Townsman Watch
- Citizen NB1031-53L Grand Touring Watch
- Seiko SARB017 Japanese-Automatic Watch
- Citizen Atomic Timekeeping Watch
- Seiko SNKM97 Analog Green Dial Automatic Watch
- Timex Men’s Metropolitan 40mm Watch
- Tissot Powermatic 80 Men’s Watch
1. Orient Men’s ‘Ray II’ Automatic Watch
If you're looking for an automatic diving watch that doesn't cling to the identity of Rolex's popular standard, Orient's Ray II may be the right choice for you. It's long been recommended as one of the best starting watches for new collectors due to its affordable price and its reliability, but that makes it an equally sensible option if you're just looking for a single watch that will last you for years. The midnight blue face is a bold choice further accentuated by the distinct and prominent time markers, and both date and day windows fit comfortably on its surface. The unidirectional and scalloped bezel rocks a luminescent pip to improve readability underwater, and that's further complemented by the high quality lume on the hands and dials. A stop seconds feature lets you achieve accuracy more easily, and the sturdy bezel comes with a cycle of 120 clear and distinguishable clicks.
2. Victorinox Airboss Mach 9 Analog Display
Among the community of timepiece collectors, Swiss automatic watches occupy a special place. The Victorinox Airboss Mach 9 may occupy the position of most expensive watch on our list (by a long shot), but it carries the prestige of a manufacturer internationally renowned for the precision of their craftsmanship, and it sports both an impressive design and a significant range of features that put it head and shoulders above the competition. The size makes it a great choice for everyday wear, and it's equally suitable for the trail as it is for the office. The Swiss automatic movement is incredibly precise, and it's accompanied by three chronograph faces to provide you with accurate parallel timekeeping. Twelve hour, thirty minute, and sixty second functions are all built in. The stainless steel case and anti-reflective sapphire crystal covering ensure that you won't have to worry about this watch breaking anytime soon.
3. Invicta Men’s 8928OB Pro Diver Automatic Watch
If you're looking for a dive watch, an automatic watch is a practical necessity for the sake of your safety. The reliability of an automatic watch ensures that you'll always know when you've been underwater too long. The Rolex Submariner is the gold standard for diving watches, but the Invicta takes both its aesthetic sensibilities and its notable features and offers them for less than a hundred dollars. This is a classy watch that will look just as good in the boardroom as it will under the sea, while the scalloped edge bezel is of the same stock as the Submariner, providing you with accurate timekeeping for diving expeditions. Also similar in design are the unidirectional rotating bezel and the screw down crown which greatly minimize the risk of mistakes in high pressure diving environments. This would be one of the best cheap automatic watches you'll find even without the high-quality diving features.
4. Hamilton Unisex Khaki King
Hamilton's Khaki King is an automatic field watch that can serve double duty as a casual or professional watch. Inspired by Hamilton's line of watches built for soldiers in World War II, the Khaki boasts clear and easy to read numbering and a design that manages to be elegant without becoming ostentatious. The day and date window on the top of the face occupied the twelve o'clock spot without crowding out unnecessary information, and it's housed behind durable sapphire mineral glass for an added layer of protection. The luminescence isn't of the top shelf variety you'd find in luxury diving watches, but it should get the job done in most nighttime conditions. Then there's the comfortable, rugged, and stylish band and the stainless steel housing. It's a simple watch that manages to get the basics right and should serve a versatile purpose in anyone's timepiece collection.
5. Seiko Men’s Prospex Automatic Diver Watch
A lot of companies market their own diving watches, but no companies get the fundamentals right as consistently as Seiko. This Prospex model diving watch offers water resistance able to meet the needs of even the most adventurous divers, and the unidirectional bezel is reliable and strong, so you don't have to worry about accidentally losing track of time. The inclusion of Lumibrite markers and hands is another bonus, ensuring that you'll be able to read the time no matter how deep the waters. Combine this with the smart industrial design and you're left with a versatile watch that's not just for underwater use.
6. Orient 2nd Gen Bambino Version 2 Automatic Men’s Watch
Like all of Seiko's subsidiaries, all the components of Orient watches and their movements are made in house, and that means that you'll get a level of craftsmanship that goes above and beyond with this $100 automatic watch. The Bambino is regularly regarded as one of the more popular dress watches around, and the second generation version brings with it an updated and more reliable movement from earlier models as well as a thin profile that makes it a great choice for both men and women. It may be fairly conventional in its design, but that's part of its charm.
7. Tag Heuer Formula 1 Automatic Mens Watch
Tag Hauer's Formula 1 watch may be expensive, but that's to be expected given that it's created by one of the most popular and respected luxury watch brands in the world. This pure stainless steel automatic watch relies on an extremely high-quality quartz movement, but its real selling point is its luxurious but understated style. The black, white, and silver design really pops without being ostentatious, and the gray face has a nice gradated gunmetal sheen that looks great under any light. It's a watch that will stand out at a party or board meeting without having to shout for attention.
8. Bulova Aerojet 97A136 Automatic Watch
Bulova's chic and stylish Aerojet may not be a skeleton watch, but it does offer insights into its automatic movements via an aperture window just above the six o'clock indicator and an exhibition case back. It's a smart choice that gives you a glimpse inside without disturbing the elegant design of the main face in a meaningful way. There's a simplicity to the elegance here: with an absence of any numbers whatsoever and slimmed down hands that create a refined aesthetic. In an interesting design choice, the crown is actually placed at the two o'clock position. It should minimize the threat of the crown cutting into your wrist when worn regularly. It may be largely bereft of features, but it's a very nice looking and accurate watch that's unstated enough to work with a variety of dress outfits.
9. Stuhrling Original Luxury Dress Skeleton Watch
Few timepieces look as cool as a skeleton watch. After all, if you're going to invest in the quality craftsmanship that comes from an automatic watch, why not show it off? Stuhrling's entry into the skeleton watch market doesn't come with all the bells and whistles you'd find with a diving watch or a Swiss watch, but it's an absolutely stunning piece of work. And there are a few neat features available despite the guts of the watch sitting front and center. A separate dial allows you to track the hours on a different time zone, a great convenience for international business people. The top dial, meanwhile, makes use of a beautiful display that shifts through the night and day cycle accurately. The luxury design apparent on the face extends to the strap as well. It's made of embossed alligator leather and secured with a stainless steel buckle.
10. Seiko Men’s SNK809 Seiko 5 Automatic
Seiko automatic watches are some of the most popular options around, and the Seiko 5 SNK809 has consistently been one of the most popular wristwatches in the world for years. It doesn't sport an expansive list of features or a design that will aw your friends and family, but it's a reliable choice that's available for an eminently reasonable price. As far as automatic watches under $200 are concerned, this may be the best around. It sports all the standard features you'd want from an all-around wristwatch: water resistance, a day and date window, and a precise automatic mechanism. And the design here is top notch. The face itself is easy to read but understated, and the crown occupies the 4 o'clock position to prevent it from chafing your wrist. The case is stainless steel and the dial window constructed from Seiko's Hardlex mineral glass for the sake of durability.
11. Citizen OCTAVIA Men’s Automatic Watch
Citizen's Octavia watch, a member of its popular Signature series, is in many ways a stark counterpoint to Seiko's perennial timepiece. Despite comfortably occupying a position among the best automatic watches under 1000 dollars, it's still significantly higher in price than the Seiko 5. But that's because this is a luxury watch through and through. The bold numbering and face design is striking, and that's doubly true for the small window that gives you access into the inner workings. It would be insincere to call it a skeleton watch, but the ability to glimpse at the gears is a nice aesthetic touch. But the real feature that separates this from other automatic watches for men is Eco-Drive technology. This allows it to be powered by solar energy and maintain a higher level of accuracy in timekeeping. Its power reserve lasts for a respectable 42 hours of disuse.
12. Fossil ME3098 Automatic Self Wind Watch
There are few if any watches that look quite like the Fossil ME3098. It takes the slight art deco sensibilities of the Townsman and kicks them into overdrive with pronounced Roman numerals and stark black markers that evoke the sense of a 1920s clock tower along with an open skeleton window offering a look into almost the entire guts of the timepiece. If you're looking for an even more detailed glimpse of the watch's insides, the open back offers that. All of it is cast in and opulent two tone style that blends together pink and maroon into a distinctive design.
13. Bulova 98A179 Automatic Watch
Bulova offers some of the best automatic watches around, and while the 98A179 certainly sports a great quality build, what really sets it apart from the competition is its unique design. The watch case is built like a tank, while the entirety of the face makes use of a skeleton display that lets you see all of its inner workings clearly and distinctly. The gunmetal finish lends the entire watch an industrial design that's well suited to the exhibitionist aesthetic, but the rugged look is more than just a stylistic choice. The sapphire glass and stainless steel that went into its construction can really take a beating.
14. Fossil Men’s ME3110 Townsman Watch
Fossil is going all in with its classic design on this model. The two subdial chronograph is supplemented by a separate skeleton dial that gives you a glimpse of the watch's inner workings, but the inclusion of these dials doesn't crowd out the general beauty of the watch itself. The counterpoint of blue and gold is gorgeous, and there's a sense of art deco design in the bold, golden Roman numerals that identify the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock indicators. Combined with the smart leather strap, it's a watch that offers a journey back to the past for less than $100.
15. Citizen NB1031-53L Grand Touring Watch
If you're looking for a great all around sports watch and you aren't afraid to put down some money for it, you'll love this Citizen Grand Touring model. The blue, white, and silver design is classic Citizen, but there's an extra layer of complexity created by the textured blue and blue bezel that rings around the edge. Fortunately, it's as functional as it is good looking. It makes use of Citizen's meticulously crafted automatic movement, and the sap crystal coating on the face results in a resilient watch that can also reduce the risk of glare when you're out in the sun.
16. Seiko SARB017 Japanese-Automatic Watch
The Alpinist may not be the cheapest watch on our list, but if you're looking for a watch suitable for the great outdoors, there are few better options on the market. The power reserve of 50 hours significantly beats the industry standard, and both manual and automatic winding options are supported. In a surprising twist, two separate crowns are built in: one at three o'clock and the other at four o'clock. The lower one controls the rotating compass ring, while the upper one allows you to adjust the time and the date window. The polished, stainless steel frame is surprisingly resistant to scratches, and the face is covered by sturdy sapphire crystal that's smartly raised just above the surface of the bezel itself. The surface of the face reflects light well, allowing you to read the time at a glance even in conditions of bright sunlight.
17. Citizen Atomic Timekeeping Watch
Just because this Citizen model is an atomic watch doesn't mean you need to worry about it leaking radiation. Instead, it uses a low frequency radio frequency to sync up with the atomic clock in Colorado every evening. The result is a classical automatic watch that offers more accurate timekeeping than even the most well made automatic movements can accomplish on their own. That also allows it to sync your watch up automatically to whatever time zone you're in. It also makes use of Citizen's trademark Eco-Drive technology to power your watch using any reasonable natural or synthetic light source.
18. Seiko SNKM97 Analog Green Dial Automatic Watch
Significantly cheaper and significantly more distinct than the Formula 1 is Seiko's green dial watch. The squared off green minute markers and gold colored five minute markers evoke a look that's vaguely retro futuristic, and that's an aesthetic that's only further bolstered by the squared off Arabic numbering. It's a smart and unique look that ventures to more experimental places than Seiko is normally known for. But the general design is classy, making it an appropriate choice for office or casual use. A month and date window at the 3 o'clock window makes sure that you always know what day it is.
19. Timex Men’s Metropolitan 40mm Watch
A stylish watch doesn't have to cost you hundreds of dollars. The sleek design of this Timex men's watch leans into the black aesthetic, sporting a mesh face with a matte black bezel and silver markers and arms that break the otherwise smooth all black finish. The Arabic numerals are stripped down to simple markers at the 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock positions to leave a watch otherwise unencumbered by clutter whatsoever. But if you're looking for variants, four other options are available, each incorporating the same basic design with a slick and sleek two tone aesthetic that minimalists will love.
20. Tissot Powermatic 80 Men’s Watch
The "80" in the name of the Powermatic 80 is its main point of pride, and its most prominent point of distinction from other watches in its class. It denotes that the Powermatic sports an 80 hour power reserve: a distinction that none of the other watches on our list come close to matching. Tissot is known for packing some great quality and features into watches with modest price tags, but that power reserve goes well beyond what one could reasonably expect. The design is clearly intended to allow this timepiece to serve as your formal office watch. The white face with its muted netting pattern is subdued but appealing as are the elegant Roman numerals that constitute its hour markers. The glass type is scratch resistant sapphire crystal for increased durability.
Best Automatic Watches Buyer’s Guide
Get to Know the Manufacturers
A good watch tells a story, and that extends to the heritage of the watch as well as its design. While our list wasn’t large enough to highlight the entire diversity of manufacturers producing automatic watches, we’ve covered many of the most important luminaries. Here’s what you need to know.
First founded in New York in 1875, Bulova is now a subsidiary of industry titan Citizen. But they maintain a unique identity – particularly due to the unique movements they designed in the 1950s. The precision of these watches actually caused American intelligence services to suggest they delay the release of their new movements, and they’re known even today for offering incredibly accurate timekeeping at affordable prices.
Japanese company Citizen is one of the biggest manufacturers in the business, but they’re particularly well known for a couple important innovations. They’re actually the owner of the Miyota movement technology which is prevalent in most automatic fashion watches, and their Eco-Drive technology allows their watch movements to be powered by both solar and artificial light.
Hamilton watches don’t carry a luxury price tag, but they do sport exceptional materials. In lieu of researching cutting edge innovations or inventing their own movements, they earn their reputation on their build quality and the quality of their materials.
Invicta sports Swiss engineering and has a legacy dating back to 1837. Although Invicta watches might not offer the best value for your money in terms of features when compared to other manufacturers on this list, but they can provide you with the feel of a luxury watch at a fraction of the price.
Despite now being a subsidiary of Seiko, Orient maintains their own identity, and that includes the high-quality movements that they produce locally. Orient watches are pretty and reliable, and they offer an extra level of assurance due to the exceptional level of quality control that their in-house manufacturing process facilitates.
As with their subsidiary Orient, every Seiko watch is made in-house. If you’re more interested in the ratio of quality to cost than you are in the prestige that comes from a luxury brand, Seiko is the company to beat. They arguably aren’t as reliable as their Swiss counterparts, but their value for budget and mid-range watches is exceptional.
Stuhrling is a recent brand dating back to 1999 that sources its parts from other manufacturers and doesn’t offer quite the same level of reliability as their more aged counterparts. But in terms of design, no one offers the level of diverse creativity as this American manufacturer. Their watches are conversation pieces above all else.
Tissot has contributed a lot to the innovations of Swiss watches despite only having roughly 250 employees. Their watches are of quality build all around, but if you’re going to get a Tissot watch, you should do so for their Powermatic technology. It offers hands down the best power reserves in the industry, and that’s a huge boon where automatic watches are concerned.
Victorinox is the brand that creates Swiss Army knives, and they apply that same level of meticulous craftsmanship to their Swiss automatic watches. You may pay a little extra for your Victorinox, but they’re the best automatic watches in terms of accuracy. They boast precise timekeeping that retains its accuracy within a window of a few seconds per year.
What is a Diving Watch?
If you’re planning to go scuba diving, diving watches are a safety necessity, and there are a number of standard features that make them easy to identify. The most obvious is the water resistance. To be able to sustain the pressures of deep water diving, all watches of this type need to be able to sustain depths of up to 200 meters. Diving watches can also be distinguished by their rotating bezels.
Since divers can only safely stay underwater for short periods of time, these bezels serve as reliable stop watches that require no digital components. They track the time along the rim of the watch’s face and tick off the established time, usually in 30 second increments. These bezels are always unidirectional to reduce the risk of them accidentally being adjusted. Many diving watches also come with luminescent faces and larger number markings to make them easier to read while underwater. Both the Citizen OCTAVIA and the Orient Ray II constitute affordable automatic watches suitable for diving.
What is a Field Watch?
A field watch can be a little more difficult to define than a diving watch. They got their name from their use in the field of battle, but today they’re more commonly watches for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain climbing, or camping. Field watches usually sport a rugged design, some degree of waterproofing, and a face that can easily be read even in extreme conditions. Luminescent faces are common, and many sport extra features like compass faces. A few, like Seiko’s Alpinist, enjoy water resistance at a comparable level to diving watches. Good field watches on our list include the Khaki King and the Seiko 5.
There’s a number of reasons to buy an automatic watch. They’re much less likely to break than quartz battery watches, and when they do break, repairs are both cheaper and easier. And while they have a reputation for being more expensive than their counterparts, there are a number of automatic watches under 200 dollars that are incredibly durable and reliable.
A good automatic watch is both a status symbol and a legacy that can be passed down generations. But that reputation means that many watches justify their pricing on the cultural cache of their manufacturer rather than on the quality of their craftsmanship. Fortunately, our list takes a holistic approach to evaluating watches, and you can count on any of the listed automatic watches to suit your needs admirably.