If you want a watch that’s built to last for a good long time without the need to replace the batteries, a mechanical watch provides one of the best alternatives. Since they get their power from the movement of your wrist, you never have to worry about your watch battery running out on you (just so long as you keep your mechanical watch in regular use).
If you’re looking for the best mechanical watches of the new year, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best watch models you’ll find anywhere, all of them featuring the time-tested automatic movement. We’ve also included a dedicated guide to the specifications and features you should pay attention to when shopping for the best mechanical watch. In this guide, we breakdown such features as whether you should be looking for a Sapphire Crystal front, and what level of water resistance is actually enough. Let’s jump straight into the watches that we reviewed!
- 10 Best Mechanical Watches
- 1. Seiko Men’s SNK805 Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch
- 2. Oris Divers Heritage Sixty-Five Automatic Mens Watch
- 3. Orient Men’s “Sun and Moon Version 4” Automatic Stainless Watch
- 4. Timex Marlin Automatic Black/Silver One Size
- 5. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Watch
- 6. Zodiac Men’s Olympos Stainless Steel Swiss-Automatic Watch
- 7. Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver
- 8. Junghans Max Bill Max Bill Hand-Winding Watch
- 9. TAG Heuer Men’s CAU1111.BA0858 Formula 1 Stainless Steel Watch
- 10. Tissot T Classic Le Locle Automatic Black Dial Black Leather Mens Watch
- Mechanical Watch Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Mechanical Watches
1. Seiko Men’s SNK805 Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch
The SNK805 from the reputable name, Seiko, takes the functional design of a field automatic watch, strips out all but the essentials, and delivers it for a great price. The resulting watch from Seiko is one of the best mechanical watches for consumers who are working on a tighter budget. Green dominates everything from the face to the comfortable nylon strap, and the military style design utilizes Arabic numerals that are easy to read in any environment. That's further accentuated by the presence of bright luminous accents on the watch dial for reading it in the dark. And while you shouldn't go swimming with this Seiko watch, you can wear it in the shower or in the rain without worrying about it taking any damage thanks to being protected to moisture at depths of 100 feet.
2. Oris Divers Heritage Sixty-Five Automatic Mens Watch
The Oris Heritage doesn't look like your traditional automatic movement dive watch, but that's part of its charm. Gone is the traditional blue and white color scheme in favor of the distinct contrast of black dial and case and white numbering. Of course, with a price tag approaching $1500, this watch is as much a status symbol as it is a way to keep track of time underwater, but divers can definitely count on it to serve them in a pinch. Since it's protected from water to a depth of 330 feet, it's a suitable choice of mechanical watch for swimming and diving, and it also includes a top of the line unidirectional bezel for more safely tracking your time underwater. The watch face is protected by tough sapphire crystal glass.
3. Orient Men’s “Sun and Moon Version 4” Automatic Stainless Watch
If you're looking for watch brands that will combine elegance with functionality, while also allowing you to accurately tell the time, there's no better choice than Orient. And for our money, there's no cooler looking Orient watch than the Sun and Moon. With a style that evokes art deco sensibilities, it stands distinctly apart from all the other automatic movement watches on the market. And despite the presence of three chronograph dials, the face isn't overly crowded. These dials tell you both the date and the day of the week, but the coolest inclusion is a sun and moon dial with some expertly crafted symbols. This watch is certain to be a conversation piece everywhere from the office to the street.
4. Timex Marlin Automatic Black/Silver One Size
There's a simple elegance to this Timex watch that will be appealing to a lot of men, and we can't think of many mechanical watches that have the bold sense of style that this model does. Stripped of numerals and fitted with a dark black dial, this watch removes all but the most basic essentials in favor of a timepiece well suited to more professional situations. The one extravagance packed in to the face is a date dial that keeps you up to date clearly without sticking out like a sore thumb. As a nod towards these intentions, Timex has even included a display case with every watch they deliver. And it's a reliable choice too, thanks to the high-quality automatic watch movement built in. Timex have opted to not go for the more conventional sapphire crystal watch front on this mechanical watch, and instead have opted for their own 'Domed Acrylic Crystal' front. We think it looks great, and offers a nice alternative to some of the other sapphire crystal or quartz alternatives.
5. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Watch
Like the Seiko SNK805 watch design for men, the Hamilton is a watch that draws inspiration from military field watches. But in lieu of the army green design, Hamilton has instead opted for a sleek black and white aesthetic. The printed Arabic numerals display both traditional and military time, and they're bold and bright enough to read at just a glance which make reading the time a pleasure. The silver tone hands are even luminescent so you can read them more easily in the dark or while underwater. And this is a sturdier watch than the SNK805 as well thanks to the inclusion of durable and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that protects the dial. And the smaller design means this is a watch that both men and women can wear comfortably.
6. Zodiac Men’s Olympos Stainless Steel Swiss-Automatic Watch
Switzerland watches represent the pinnacle of watchmaking for many customers, but the Olympos by Zodiac takes things to the next level. The gold face adds a level of opulence that we haven't seen in many watches, and it's further complemented by a pretty unique trapezoid design that adds some heft, weight, and elegance to the overall look. And rather than opting for a traditional stainless steel bracelet, this mechanical watch employs a soft, comfortable, and appealing genuine black leather band. This watch bears an asking price of about $800, but for those with discerning tastes, we think the automatic movement here is worth every cent. Zodiac has been producing these watches since 1961, but they're as gorgeous now as they were decades ago.
7. Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver
Dan Henry is a legend in the world of watch collecting. If you have the time to check out watches by brand, he's built a collection of thousands and created one of the most thorough resources for watch collectors available. And now he's got his own brand of watch in the 1970. This is an undeniably cool watch that takes clear inspiration from racing watches. The combination of peach, black, and silver may be a bit unconventional, but it creates an aesthetic like no other, especially with the larger, blocky designs of the indices. Just keep in mind that this vintage style timepiece with automatic movement is a limited edition, so you could find fierce competition for a copy. And the 41 hour power reserve means you can go almost two days without wearing it.
8. Junghans Max Bill Max Bill Hand-Winding Watch
While we've featured a lot of minimalist timepieces on this best-of list, none of them can match the Max Bill mechanical watch by Junghans in terms of cleanly minimal sophistication. Both the indices and the hands are razor thin, and the bezel itself is incredibly slim, letting the watch face here really shine. And the absence of any additional windows or subdials results in a clean look that will appeal to a ton of modern consumers. Both the markers and the hands are luminous for easier reading in the dark. The Max Bill is produced entirely in Germany, and it's unisex in design. And the material craftsmanship is great across the board. The band is made from soft calfskin leather and the case from durable and scratch resistant stainless steel.
9. TAG Heuer Men’s CAU1111.BA0858 Formula 1 Stainless Steel Watch
This Formula 1 model from Tag Heuer is a lot of watch for a lot of money, but it's easily one of the best luxury mechanical watch options available anywhere. Rather than lean into the minimalist watch design that's become so popular for dress watches, Tag Heuer has taken the effort to pack as much information as possible into the face here. A tachymeter bezel helps you make the most out of the already meaty three chronograph subdials built into the face. And with a quartz movement fully crafted in Switzerland, you can count on this timepiece to continue to serve you for years to come.
10. Tissot T Classic Le Locle Automatic Black Dial Black Leather Mens Watch
For a lot of watch brands, watches are priced largely according to the popularity of the brand, but Tissot has made a name for themselves delivering visually arresting watches with reliable functionality for a decent price. Although the price may be in a completely different ballpark to that of the aforementioned Seiko watches, the Tissot T Classic Le Locle is one of our favorite watches by them. A minute chronograph and a date window are great watch features in any model, but Tissot brings a lot of life to the dial thanks to the textured face and the elegant combination of rose gold and black that makes up its larger design. And Tissot has opted for more classical Roman numerals on the watch face that are bold and easy to read.
Mechanical Watch Buyer’s Guide
There was a long time when mechanical watches were treated like a bygone relic, but as more and more customers look back to the past, the appeal of mechanical watches is being rediscovered. The craftsmanship and hours of care that go into a mechanical watch make it not just a way to tell time but also a fashion accessory and a personal statement. Finding the best mechanical watches often involve personal preferences. We can’t help you decide whether you want a silver dial or blue dial, but we can provide you with advice on more tangible things, such as the automatic movement, or the type of bracelet you should be looking at.
When discussing the best automatic movement in watches, one word appears more than any other: Swiss. And there’s a reason for that. To truly qualify as a Swiss watch, the manufacturer must meet certain standards. A majority of watch parts must be made in Switzerland, and the automatic movement itself must pass certification. Considering the sorts of expectations that Swiss mechanical watches entail, that’s a pretty solid standard of quality. Just make sure that the automatic movement a watch manufacturer promises is actually legitimate.
That being said, Swiss watches aren’t the be-all and end-all. There are some truly impressive Japanese watch movements available, with the Miyota movements being some of the most prolific and popular. All of the movements in the watches on our list are quality, but if you’re really meticulous, you may want to research the specific movements of any watches you find that aren’t on our list. The hours of research that you put in now will ensure your investment pays off, and you get that watch of your dreams, with that blue dial and metal bracelet.
If you don’t plan on taking your watch swimming, just about any watch will do, but the resistance to moisture ingress becomes significantly more important if you’re looking for a watch you can take with you to the ocean or go diving with. We generally recommend a watch with a waterproof rating of 660 feet, or 200 meters, if you plan to use your watch while diving. Half of that will be fine if you’re just going to go snorkeling or swimming in shallower waters.
Almost all of the watch cases and bracelets on the market today are crafted from stainless steel. It’s a fairly affordable material that has a nice smooth finish and is resistant to damage and scratching. Stainless steel is also hard to mark or damage with cleaning materials, or sweat from prolonged periods of time. Copper is also a material that’s relatively prevalent in watch making, but it’s more prone to damage. If you want the most damage resistant watches on the market, you should look for models that are made from titanium. Similarly, most cases are protected by quartz mineral glass. More heavy duty ones will offer a screen of Hardlex, quartz or sapphire crystal glass. Sapphire Crystal is an incredibly hard wearing material that can resist some pretty nasty scratches, so can be a fantastic option for your watch glass.
The form your band takes is more a matter of personal preference. Whether you want a stainless steel bracelet, leather band, or rubber bracelet depends on where you’ll be wearing it. Rubber obviously isn’t the best choice for wearing around the office, but it’s a great option if you want a sports watch you can wear around the gym. Conversely, metal watch bracelets can be a lot more hard-wearing, however, they can sometimes become uncomfortable if you hours every day typing.
The right features for any different watch are going to be contingent on what you plan on using it for. If you want to wear your watch around the office, all you really need to worry about is the form. Consider how it looks on your wrist, how well it will coordinate with your various outfits, and whether or not you can see yourself wearing it for a long time. A watch brand like Rolex or Victorinox often offers a way of flexing your status, and that allows manufacturers to charge a premium on watches that would otherwise cost far less.
If you need something more pragmatic, you’ll have a whole selection of other features to consider. Diving watches will obviously need a high water resistant rating, but serious divers will tell you that you need a unidirectional rotating bezel as well. Without a mechanical way to track how long you’ve been underwater, you could be putting yourself at risk. Regular business travels, meanwhile, can really take advantage of a watch display that shows off the world time and a GPS system that syncs up with whatever time zone you’re in. Ultimately, consider why you need your watch, and you can narrow down the features that matter from there.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Mechanical Watches Worth it?
That really depends on what you want from a watch. They aren’t as accurate as most modern quartz watches, but their meticulous design makes them a work of high craftsmanship. The number of moving parts that go into a mechanical watch is astonishing, and we highly recommend one if you want to display your discerning sense of taste. Mechanical watches are very often lusted after because of their high levels of workmanship, the intricacies of the automatic movement, and the beautifully designed dial.
What is the Best Brand of Watch?
We don’t like to pay too much attention to what brand is “best”. Your needs will play a large part in what sort of watch you should look for, and there are simply too many quality manufacturers to name just one. Whether you end up going for a Rolex, or a Seiko, If you pay attention to the features and specs you need, you’re bound to find the top brand for you accordingly.
Why are Mechanical Watches Expensive?
They don’t have to be. While mechanical watches are generally a bit more expensive than their battery powered contemporaries, the price range they cover is vast. You can find a decent Seiko mechanical watch for less than $100, or you could find yourself spending thousands for the most outstanding models, with the most intricate automatic movements on the market.
How long does a Mechanical watch Last?
In terms of overall life, a mechanical watch could hypothetically last forever. Unlike a battery powered watch, there’s no shelf life on the gears that make up the inside of a mechanical watch. That said, a watch with a mechanical movement does need to be wound regularly. Typical mechanical watches will need to be wound every 24 to 48 hours, but some can last a week or more and continue to keep time accurately on a single wind.
We hope you’ve found our guide to the best mechanical watches of 2020 informative. We think any watch on our list is worthy of your attention, but we’ve also tried to provide you with the information people need to shop with discretion. Whatever your price range or your taste, HotRate is always working hard to find nice and affordable products for our readers. Be sure to come back whenever you’re in need of shopping advice.