12 Best Watches Under $500 in 2019

Best Overall

Orient Men’s ‘Ray II’ Automatic Watch
  • Unidirectional bezel works well and is incredibly easy to operate without error 
  • A tried and true classic from one of the best Japanese automatic watch manufacturers 
  • A reliable and accurate choice that works right out of the box 
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Premium Choice

Hamilton H70555533 Khaki Field
  • Sports a great aesthetic that's great for both casual and business use 
  • Rugged design allows it to be used even in extreme environments 
  • Luminous hands and markers make it a great watch for nighttime 
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Great Value

Invicta Men’s 8926OB Mechanical Watch
  • A budget timepiece that can double as both a diving and dress watch 
  • Anti-glare surface blocks excessive light 
  • Durable stainless steel body 
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Wristwatches may not be the practical necessity they once were. After all, the phones we carry in our pockets with us everywhere we go can provide us with accurate time readings and plenty of more features to boot. But that doesn’t mean that watches are inconsequential. A good watch can be a necessary safety aid for divers, a great way to accessorize your business or casual attire, or a navigational aid when you’re exploring the great outdoors.

While there are plenty of super cheap watches on the market, spreading your search to include the best watches under 500 dollars gives you more opportunity to get a truly high-quality and specialized timepiece. Before spending your hard earned cash, check out our comprehensive list.

Best Overall

1. Orient Men’s ‘Ray II’ Automatic Watch

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If you want a superb dive watch that's more than just a conversation piece, you don't have to drop half a grand. The Orient Ray II is one of the most well regarded watches for divers in the know, and you can get it for less than a third of this list's budget. Orient is well known for the precision and quality of their automatic movements, and the 120 click unidirectional bezel tracks your time in reliable five minute increments that are marked off with solid and easy to hear clicks. The bezel is simple to set even in deep waters or while wearing heavy gloves, and its sturdy design means you don't have to worry about making mistakes in harsh conditions. The fact design is simple but handsome, and a the bold luminescent hands are easy to see in the dark.

Key Features
  • Unidirectional bezel works well and is incredibly easy to operate without error 
  • A tried and true classic from one of the best Japanese automatic watch manufacturers 
  • A reliable and accurate choice that works right out of the box 
  • Bright dial is attractive but also highly functional 
ModelFAA02005D9 Water ResistantYes, to 200m 
Premium Choice

2. Hamilton H70555533 Khaki Field

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If you're going to drop nearly 500 dollars on a watch, chances are that you want something you can use in a wide variety of different situations. Hamilton's field watch fills that position admirably. It's a handsome piece of work with a mostly muted design that looks just as good in the office as it will at the beach, and the calfskin band is incredibly comfortable. This is a tough watch too. The steel case ensures that it can be comfortably worn on the trail or while doing intensive crafts and labor. The numbers on the face are bright and bold and can track time in both 12 hour and 24 hour formats. The decent water resistance means it can be worn in the shower or while snorkeling, but you may want to swap out the band if you plan on keeping it immersed on a consistent basis.

Key Features
  • Sports a great aesthetic that's great for both casual and business use 
  • Rugged design allows it to be used even in extreme environments 
  • Luminous hands and markers make it a great watch for nighttime 
  • Very comfortable band design 
ModelH70555533 Water ResistantYes, to 100m 
Great Value

3. Invicta Men’s 8926OB Mechanical Watch

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For well under a hundred bucks, Invicta's Pro Diver can provide you with a reliable diving watch that you can count on to keep you safe even in deep waters. The smart and gorgeous design drew clear inspiration from Rolex's Submariner timepiece, and that means that you can be confident wearing it in your everyday activities. A lot of higher end diving watches tend to be rather chunky, but the Pro Diver can fit comfortably underneath a dress shirt sleeve. The mineral glass lens makes use of anti-reflective coating to provide clear results even in bright sunlight, while the Japanese automatic movement results in reliable timekeeping.

Key Features
  • A budget timepiece that can double as both a diving and dress watch 
  • Anti-glare surface blocks excessive light 
  • Durable stainless steel body 
  • Includes a day and date window 
Model8926OB Water ResistantYes, to 200m 

4. Victorinox Swiss Army Chronograph Watch

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Chronograph watches by their very nature are often overly cluttered. The smart design of the Chrono Classic manages to subvert this. The three sub-dials provide you with all the information you need without cutting off the larger timekeeping face, and there's even room for a tachymeter built around the face's outer rim. That it manages to do so without seeming overly large is an impressive show of craftsmanship. The reflective and flat design to the sub-dials also makes them easier to read than if they were more conventionally raised. The sapphire crystal surface is treated with an anti-reflective coating and is also scratch resistant.

Key Features
  • A luxury Swiss army watch with a lot of utility built in 
  • Chronograph sub-dials present necessary information clearly without crowding out the main face 
  • Comes with a calendar and tachymeter 
  • Scratch resistant and anti-reflective face 
Model241493 Water ResistantYes, to 100m 

5. Citizen BM8180-03E Men’s Eco-Drive Watch

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There aren't many outdoor watches that are quite as resilient as Citizen's Eco-Drive series. The Eco-Drive battery can be charged by both artificial and natural light, so you won't have to worry about replacing it for years, and the luminescent arms that circle its face are bright and vibrant even in the darkest conditions. The bright and clearly designed numbering offers the sort of practicality you'd want from an outdoor watch, but it's attractive enough to be able to wear in social situations without having to worry about embarrassment. The military design is attractive, and it's a smaller watch that should fit comfortably on most wrists.

Key Features
  • Eco-Drive technology is a great and long-lasting alternative to more traditional battery options 
  • Matte background and clean numbering combine for an easy to read surface 
  • Luminova paint creates very strong illumination in darker conditions 
  • Mineral glass is scratch resistant while also minimizing glare from light 
ModelBM8180-03E Water ResistantYes, to 100m 

6. Orient ‘2nd Gen Bambino Version III Dress Watch

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Version three of the Bambino is a big change for Orient, so you may want to give it a look even if you're familiar with their earlier models. This is a dress watch through and through, and it sports a modern design that's minimalist and distinct from the antique inspiration that once defined the Bambino's aesthetic. The simple sunburst dial is exceedingly attractive, and traditional numbering around the face has been abandoned in favor of basic tick marks. It's an impressive looking watch for barely a hundred dollars, and it regularly tops the list of best formal watches. And despite the domed mineral glass surface, it's a slim timepiece that packs a lot of craftsmanship into a small amount of space.

Key Features
  • A great looking watch that can fit with a number of different looks 
  • One of the most affordable dress watches you'll find 
  • Domed mineral crystal face 
  • Offers decent water resistance 
ModelFAC0000CA0 Water ResistantYes, to 30m 

7. Stuhrling Original Luxury Dress Skeleton Watch

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It can be easy to forget it, but creating a timepiece is an incredibly delicate act of craftsmanship. Skeleton watches like this model by Sturhling put that craftsmanship front and center. The black skeleton dial exposes all of the inner workings so you can see how it works on a fundamental level, and the automatic movement operates to a high level of precision. The Krysterna crystal diamond window is shatter resistant, and the silver markers have a nice, beautiful sheen. This isn't a watch meant to be worn in deep waters, but it's resistant enough to work in the shower or while swimming.

Key Features
  • Exposed skeleton watch gear work makes for a great conversation piece 
  • Reliable Swiss parts and craftsmanship 
  • Automatic movement is powered by the movement of the wearer's wrist 
  • Silver components are a nice change of pace from more traditional options 
Model133.33151 Water ResistantYes, to 50m

8. Seiko Men’s SKX009K2 Diver’s Watch

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With its ISO 6425 certification, you can be assured that the Seiko SKX009K2 will suit you well when you go diving or engage in other water sports. But the first thing you'll probably notice is the unique design which sports bright shades of both red and blue around the bezel. The Hardlex crystal that constitutes its surface is significantly more scratch resistant than more traditional mineral glass, and the band has a fold-over clasp that can keep it secured comfortably to your wrist. The unidirectional bezel can be easily controlled when above water, but it becomes a bit more difficult to turn when in deep waters, a safety precaution that tends to separate high-end dive watches from more stylistically inspired models.

Key Features
  • Seiko Lume Brite luminescent paint offers some of the best lighting of any watch 
  • Automatic design means you never have to worry about a battery going dead 
  • Unidirectional bezel works exceedingly well 
  • Fold-over clasp is firm and safe without being uncomfortable 
ModelSKX009K2 Water ResistantYes, to 200m 

9. Tissot T-Classic Tradition Silver Dial

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Tissot is known for two things: the highly accomplished skill that goes into their craftsmanship and the substantive price tag you can usually expect to pay. The T-Classic bucks the latter while maintaining the former, and that makes it one of the best top watches within our price range. This dress watch maintains the look of vintage watches with subtle updates that lend it a timelessly contemporary feel. By relying on battery power than opting for automatic movement, the T-Classic manages to keep the price down, but it offers respectably reliable performance, a decent amount of water resistance, and a scratch resistant surface. Since this is a dress watch, none of the advanced features you'd expect from a more outdoors-oriented watches are are present, but it will look good with a wide variety of outfits, and you won't have to pay a premium for the privilege.

Key Features
  • A classic and inexpensive timepiece for a fraction of the price of most Swiss watches 
  • Stainless steel case is scratch resistant and water resistant 
  • Quartz movement accomplishes a high level of precision in timekeeping 
  • Calendar window is useful but understated 
ModelT0636101603700 Water ResistantYes, to 30m

10. Seiko SKX007K Analogue Watch

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The SKX007K has been in continuous production for over two decades with only minor redesigns to stay up with current trends, and yet it continues to be consistently regarded as one of the better watches under 500 dollars. If you're looking for an alternative diving watch to the Submariner that combines most of the usability at a fraction of the price, the SKX007K should top your list. It's also one of the best mechanical watches for new collectors and those who simply want a durable option they can wear underwater. The dial covering itself is crafted from Seiko's Hardlex materials, one of the best options if you're worried about scratches or cracks, while the case is crafted from sturdy stainless steel. The unidirectional bezel is one of the best in the business, supporting 120 clicks and ticking steadily along with practically no give.

Key Features
  • A solid diving watch that's been a favorite among professionals for years 
  • Incredibly durable face and casing is highly resistant to scratches 
  • Unidirectional bezel performs extremely well 
  • Solid and eminently readable Lumibrite hands 
ModelSKX007K Water ResistantYes, to 200m 

11. Bulova Men’s 96A135 BVA-SERIES

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A good automatic watch can last several generations without any notable loss in performance, and the solid craftsmanship of the BVA-SERIES 120 is what makes it an easy choice for a list of the best automatic watches under 500 dollars. But it pairs that reliability with a truly stunning design that allows you a glimpse into its precise inner workings. Bulova is one of the biggest names in the luxury watch market, and they've really pulled out all the stops in the aesthetic design of this dress watch. The two sub-dials allow you to peek into the guts of this watch without affecting readability, and the calfskin leather band is comfortable, soft, and highly adjustable. The domed covering is made of sturdy and resistant mineral glass.

Key Features
  • An incredibly classy and innovative dress watch with a beautiful design that exceeds its price point+
  • Incredibly legacy precision means you can pass this watch down from generation to generation 
  • Domed mineral glass protects the inner workings from scratching and shattering 
  • Calfskin leather band looks and feels great 
Model96A135 Water ResistantYes, to 100m 

12. Orient Men’s ‘Sun and Moon Version 3

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A lot of watches come with inset sub-dials for added utility, but few of them look as good as those built into the Sun and Moon watch. The Sun & Moon indicator probably won't have a major impact on your ability to tell time, but it's a beautiful addition that rotates throughout the day and gradually reveals more of the gorgeous sun/moon cycle art etched in. More useful (though a bit more understated) is the inclusion of dedicated sub-dials for the date and day of the week. The precision required to operate all four metrics in tandem with one another is painstaking, and that's what makes the price point for this watch truly stunning. The sapphire crystal surface makes the casing incredibly resilient, while the power reserve can last a good forty hours.

Key Features
  • Allows you to follow day/night cycles as well as the date and day of the week 
  • An incredible amount of precision given the number of metrics being tracked 
  • Moon and night dial is a real work of art 
  • Sports a smooth and effective winding mechanism 
ModelFAK00002S0 Water ResistantYes, to 50m

Best Watches Under $500 Buyer’s Guide

Which Movement is Right for You?

A watch without precise movement isn’t going to be much use at all, and that’s why it’s important to pay attention to the system of movement that goes into each wristwatch’s operation. There are three main options to look at here.

Quartz

First made popular by Seiko in the 1950s, quartz watches are simply battery powered. That means that they require less input than traditional mechanical watches, and despite having a reputation for being cheaper in quality than their brethren, that’s not always the case. Tissot’s T-Classic, for instance, allows you to get the craftsmanship of a well-respected luxury brand for what amounts to bargain basement prices.

Mechanical

When watch enthusiasts talk about Swiss craftsmanship, they’re typically discussing mechanical watches. But many mechanical workings are mass produced now, and that means you can get a reliable boutique option for far less than the multi-thousand price tag that many luxury brands charge. Quartz powered watches are more likely to require repairs somewhere down the line, but the simple but meticulous craftsmanship of mechanical watches means they can last years and years without any loss to the quality of their movement.

Automatic

Automatic watches work on the same fundamental principles as mechanical watches, but they don’t need to be wound every day. Instead, the movement on these watches are directed simply by the movement of your wrist. To compensate for this, most automatic watches come with a power reserve that keeps them running even when they aren’t worn. Just keep in mind that if you take them off for significant periods of time, they may need to be recalibrated.

One of the biggest selling points of a watch for many collectors is the level of skill that goes into their creation, and if that’s the case, you’ll absolutely want to invest in an automatic or mechanical watch. You may want to consider purchasing a skeleton watch that allows you to see the internal movements without having to open up the case. But if you just want a utility watch that will keep time reliably, a quartz alternative will likely suit you just fine.

Determining Durability

You can expect the movements of all the watches on our list to provide you with accurate timekeeping practically into perpetuity, but there’s also the durability of the face to consider. After all, if you can’t read the dial, it won’t do you much good. All of the glass in our watches are made of one of three materials.

The most prevalent watch glass in the luxury market – and the cheaper alternative as far as our options are concerned – is mineral glass. By being treated by heat or chemicals, mineral glass is pretty resistant to scratches, and shattered glass is rare. But it’s not immune to scratching, and the face may need to be changed periodically over time.

More resilient is sapphire crystal, but you can expect to pay significantly more one way or another for watches that use this material. While the sapphire used in most watches is synthetic, it’s nearly as strong as diamonds in terms of durability, and that means it’s more likely to scratch anything it brushes up against rather than feel the effect itself.

Only used in Seiko watches, Hardlex glass falls somewhere between mineral glass and sapphire crystal in terms of both durability and pricing. While it shouldn’t be the sole, or even a major, determinant factor in springing for a watch, it’s a nice feature of Seiko timepieces that allow you a better level of confidence without having to shell out the extra money for a sapphire face.

Conclusion

Don’t let the $500 limit for our list scare you off. Many of the watches on our list clock in comfortably under $100, and those pushing the $500 marker typically offer the kind of features and reliability you’d expect to find on far more expensive luxury timepieces. Any of the watches on our list will last you a good long time, and they’re timeless enough to keep suiting your outfits even as the seasons and years pass by. While you may end up dropping a few hundred dollars, you can expect to get your money’s worth out of them.