18 Best Automatic Watches Under $500 in 2021: A Wind-Worthy List

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by  Karlton Miko Tyack | Last Updated: 

The world of automatic watches can be intimidating if you’re a new collector or looking for budget timepiece options. With so many at 5-digit price points, it’s easy to get overwhelmed before even starting your search.

To save you some deep-watch-web forum crawls, we’ve rounded up the 18 best automatic watches under $500 so you can find the perfect timepiece for you and your budget.

1.
  • Classic dive aesthetic and popular Submariner homage
  • Features a dependable, in-house movement
  • Well-respected by the watch community
2.
  • The asymmetrical Pepsi bezel is distinctive and recognizable
  • The rubber strap is comfortable and well-fitting
  • The side of the bezel features a unique knurling texture, instead of a classic coin
3.
  • Elevated field watch using sophisticated design and high-end materials
  • The slender size and curved lugs allow the watch to fit comfortably on most wrists
  • Features an impressive 80-hour power reserve
4.
  • Clean legible face that’s easy to read at a glance
  • Dive style with modern design touches
  • Its case-to-band ratio fits most wrist sizes
5.
  • Design is taken directly from Bulova’s vintage archives from one of their popular 1966 models
  • The open heart is a cool touch that allows you to see the movement
  • This Aerojet design is versatile and comes in three different colors
6.
  • One of Orient’s most popular dress watches
  • The push/pull crown lets you set the time and date with just one pull
  • Slim, lightweight case that wears well under a sleeve
7.
  • Fun, outdoorsy design inspired by field and military watches
  • Looks great in green, blue, and black
  • The strap is a canvas nylon that’s durable and rugged looking
8.
  • Features a large case for a dress watch
  • The Swiss-made Swissmatic movement lasts 72 hours and is exclusive to Tissot
  • The leather strap features padding on the back for a comfortable and stable wear
9.
  • A blend of luxurious and sporty features making it suitable for casual or dressy occasions
  • The sunburst dial with cathedral hands and gold markers really pop on the wrist
  • Comes with a unique manual compass feature
10.
  • A skeleton display that allows you to see the mechanics inside the watch
  • Features a steampunk aesthetic and an earthy color palette
  • The black ion-plated stainless steel makes the case durable and gives it a tough look
11.
  • Classic dive style, with bubbly indices for a youthful twist
  • Seiko Jubilee bracelet has a unique dressy style that stands out from other dives
  • Features a crisp easy-to-use unidirectional bezel
12.
  • A fancy but understated dress watch
  • The monochromatic palette is combined with a complex bracelet
  • The bracelet features flex and rounded edges for comfort and fit
13.
  • The face gets more waterproof as you dive deeper
  • The dial features a charming aquamarine face and an illustration of a diver
  • Its vintage military style looks great on rubber, NATO, and metal bands
14.
  • A high-end design featuring an elegant and simple dress watch face matched with a complex case profile
  • Originally released for Seiko’s domestic Japanese market, this watch has since been discontinued making it highly sought after
  • A versatile watch that can be dressed up or down and worn with many strap styles
15.
  • Features fun design components like the power reserve complication, that makes it unique from traditional dive watches
  • Easy strap changing makes it readily versatile
  • Has an especially bright, long-lasting lume
16.
  • The black ion plating makes the watch especially durable
  • It has a commanding and fun all-black aesthetic
  • Unique and limited-edition
17.
  • An eye-catching color combination of blue and rose gold accents
  • The sapphire crystal features three layers of anti-reflection
  • Well-established Swiss brand known for their military and aviation watches
18.
  • Features a nostalgic and beloved heritage design
  • Often associated with James Stewart’s iconic Tissot in Rear Window
  • Reliable 25-jewel Swiss movement

I’m not the Obi-Wan of the watch world, but I’ve been around the horology block enough, doling out my fair share of advice to new collectors.

The pearl of wisdom I give most often, and most confidently: 

You don’t have to pay a lot for automatic watches.

Don’t sleep on affordable automatics, gents. Whether it’s from innovative production technology or clever employment of expired patents, high-quality automatic watches can be found at attainable price points.

How Did We Come Up With Our List?

We’ve rounded up our picks for the 18 best automatic watches under $500 based on in-depth research and using our own experience with automatics at a wide range of price points. 

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Not every automatic movement is made alike and not every watch is appropriate for every occasion. Here, we include the best of a variety—high power reserves, antimagnetic movements, dives, dress watches, and everything in between.

Let’s get to it.

18 Best Automatic Watches Under $500

Orient Ray II 

1.
Orient Ray II

While regarded as an excellent Submariner homage, the Orient Ray II is an esteemed dive watch in its own right. It features a reliable movement and is one of the objectively best dive watches in its price range.

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The Orient Ray II is known as one of best, if not the best, Rolex Sub homages out there. It’s also respected classic in its own right, which I attribute to its universal wearability.

Its stainless steel case is 41.5mm, 47mm lug to lug, and is originally on a 22mm three-link stainless steel band. Dive watches tend to fall in the 36mm-46mm range. Being in the “moderately large” category and having a comparably moderate band, the Ray II fits most wrist-sizes.

It runs on a F6922 automatic caliber, which is hand-winding, hacking, features a day/date display, and has a 40-hour power reserve. It operates at 3 oscillations per second. Most accurate mechanical watches run at 2.5 to 4, so the Ray II scores a solid B+/A-, I’d say.

Like the Triton, the Ray II features a water resistance of 200m and 120-click unidirectional bezel. However, the Ray II’s bezel doesn’t move very easily. The lume, on the other hand, is exceedingly effective and glows brightly and lengthily after just minimal sun exposure.

Design-wise, it adopts classic Rolex-esque bubbly indices and sword hands. And not to belabor the Sub comparison, but I love how much slimmer the bezel is than that of its source material. It gives it a longer, sleeker look, which the designers took full advantage of by making the numbers on the bezel wider and bolder.For a more utilitarian look, try it with a rubber strap.

What I Like

  • This watch features a classic dive aesthetic that’s beloved in the watch community.

  • It houses a dependable, in-house movement.

  • The lume will glow brightly all night long after just some sun exposure.

What I Don’t Like

  • The crown is tiny and difficult to turn. 

What Other Reviewers Say

First, I think most reviewers would find my B+/A- grade on the movement’s accuracy harsh; several reviewers gain only 2 seconds per day.

There are a lot of comparisons to the Seiko SKX—many claim that the hacking feature makes the Ray II a superior watch.

Reviewers are disappointed that the crystal is mineral instead of sapphire. While this is an understandable preference, expecting a watch that’s south of $150 to have this feature is a testament to just how premium the watch is overall.

The Verdict

While regarded as an excellent Submariner homage, the Orient Ray II is an esteemed dive watch in its own right. It features a reliable movement and is one of the objectively best dive watches in its price range.

1.
Orient Ray II

While regarded as an excellent Submariner homage, the Orient Ray II is an esteemed dive watch in its own right. It features a reliable movement and is one of the objectively best dive watches in its price range.

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Seiko Prospex Samurai Diver with Pepsi Bezel

2.
Seiko Prospex Samurai Pepsi Bezel SRPB53K1

The Seiko Prospex Samurai Pepsi Bezel is a beautifully designed and eye-catching watch. It puts an asymmetric, modern spin on the classic Pepsi bezel.

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The Seiko Prospex Samurai Diver with Pepsi Bezel is one Seiko’s most iconic watches. It’s a topnotch Rolex GMT Pepsi homage. It’s also a revered watch in its own right, not because of its similarities to the GMT but because of its thoughtful differences.

Out of all the Pepsi bezels out there, this watch is my favorite design. As a comparison, the red strip on the Seiko Sea Urchin Pepsi Bezel takes up about a third of the right side of the bezel. I think it looks arbitrary and reminds me of a low battery signal.

On the other hand, if a GMT homage employed a half-red bezel it would be too much like the source material. The Prospex Samurai’s subtle use of red makes it its own watch with a modern, asymmetric look.

It features a 44mm stainless steel case, but since it’s 48mm lug to lug, it actually wears smaller than other 44mm watches. Seiko usually makes huge watches, but this PROSPEX mercifully fits on small wrists. 

It’s also water resistant at 200m, features a Hardlex crystal, and has a screw-down crown that’s textured so it’s easy to grab and turn.

The Prospex Samurai runs on a caliber 4R35 movement, which is exactly like the SRPD11’s 4R36 but with an added date calendar complication at the 3-hour mark.

The waffling on the face makes the already legible hour markers bolder to the eye. I can actually read this watch without my glasses or contacts on.

The side of the bezel features a unique knurling texture, instead of a classic coin, similar to texturing on the screw-down crown.

The Samurai Pepsi Bezel comes with a comfortable, utilitarian-looking rubber strap. You can easily switch it out for a metal strap, but I think the rubber strap makes it unique from the GMT. It’s also a decent quality rubber, just below the rubber strap on a Breitling Aerospace, and definitely better than the kind you find on a Casio.

What I Like

  • The distinctive, asymmetrical Pepsi bezel pops on your wrist, and is fashion-forward yet sophisticated.

  • The Seiko LumiBrite is super bright and really shines on the thick hour markers.

  • The rubber strap makes it unique from other Pepsi bezel watches and is comfortable and well fitting.

What I Don’t Like

  • Seiko claims that caliber 4R35’s accuracy is between +45 / -35 seconds per day, which is a wide range. Though unlikely, you could be losing or gaining over half a minute a day at worst.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers agree that this watch wears smaller than its size suggests. However, they notice that the case, at 13mm, wears thickly. This polarizes reviewers based solely on preference.  

A vast majority of reviewers find the 4R35 to be sufficiently accurate. I only see one reviewer who notices and criticizes that Seiko only guarantees an accuracy of -35/+45 seconds per day, though he himself mentions he’s only gaining 7 seconds. 

Inaccuracy likely won’t be an issue for most people, but I’m glad he notes that Seiko won’t cover a loss of 35 seconds and a gain of 45 seconds, particularly since it isn’t antimagnetic.

The Verdict

The Seiko Prospex Samurai Pepsi Bezel is a beautifully designed and eye-catching watch. It puts an asymmetric, modern spin on the classic Pepsi bezel.

2.
Seiko Prospex Samurai Pepsi Bezel SRPB53K1

The Seiko Prospex Samurai Pepsi Bezel is a beautifully designed and eye-catching watch. It puts an asymmetric, modern spin on the classic Pepsi bezel.

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Hamilton Khaki King H64455533

3.
Hamilton Khaki King H64455533

You won’t find a military style field watch as elegant and high-end as the Hamilton Khaki King in this price range. Because of its subtle and sophisticated design elements and high-end leather strap, it’s the only military watch that can comfortably be worn with a suit.

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The Hamilton Khaki King is a chic and elegant take on the classic field watch. It’s in the same design family as the Seiko 5 SNK805, but it’s much fancier.

The Khaki King has the most unique military style face I’ve ever seen. The day/date display is at the top where the 12-hour position usually sits, which makes the face perfectly symmetrical and also allows the whole day to be spelled out (though it partially obstructs the 11 and 1 hours).

There’s a smaller circle in the face’s center featuring military time hours on top of a subtle sunburst. The section around that features 12-hour markers with the same sunburst but polished in a different direction. Usually, a bold circle is painted in the middle to section off the military time portion, so this is a sophisticated design departure that makes the face much more intriguing and high-end.

The sword hands taper towards the center and feature long syringe tips. Out of all the watches on this list, this has the most detail-oriented dial design.

Of course, the face is covered with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal.

The Khaki King runs on an H-40 movement, which has a whopping 80-hour power reserve. This means if you leave this guy on your dresser after work on Friday, it’ll be set to go the following week even if you haven’t touched it all weekend. You can also watch this movement through the display case back.

The case is 40mm and 47mm lug to lug, but is a mere 11.4mm thin. This is remarkable considering it’s an automatic. That, along with its curved lugs allows the Khaki King to sit comfortably on your wrist.

The calfskin leather strap has impeccable construction and stylish stitching on the sides and pulls its weight in elevating this field watch.

The Khaki King is water resistant at 50m, and unfortunately, doesn’t have a very bright lume.

What I Like

  • The crown sits between prominent crown guards to keep it from catching on anything.

  • Its classic military style mixed with high-end materials and artistic design elements make this watch versatile and a great everyday watch.

  • The slender size and curved lugs allow the watch to fit comfortably on most wrists.

  • The 80-hour power reserve is double the typical power reserve of a watch in this price range.

What I Don’t Like

  • The lume is so weak, it may as well not be there.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers praise the watch’s elegance and sturdiness.

Many mention that the bezel scratches easily, though few actually complain about this. As a field watch, the scratching adds patina and character, one reviewer noting that he has a story behind each scratch.

The placement of the day/date complication causes a bit of controversy. Some love the uniqueness of it, while others want an elevated field watch that has a more classic design. These reviewers complain that it obstructs too much of the 12-hour circle.

The Verdict

You won’t find a military style field watch as elegant and high-end as the Hamilton Khaki King in this price range. Because of its subtle and sophisticated design elements and high-end leather strap, it’s the only military watch that can comfortably be worn with a suit.

3.
Hamilton Khaki King H64455533

You won’t find a military style field watch as elegant and high-end as the Hamilton Khaki King in this price range. Because of its subtle and sophisticated design elements and high-end leather strap, it’s the only military watch that can comfortably be worn with a suit.

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Orient Mako II

4.
Orient Mako II

The Orient Mako II will check more boxes for a functionally and visually classic dive watch than any other timepiece in its price range. If you want a classic Submariner-esque automatic dive for under $200, this versatile timepiece will serve you well whether you’re in a dinner jacket or a t-shirt.

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The Orient Mako II is so similar to the Ray II that most roundups seem obligated to pick between the two. However, its several small differences add up to make it a completely different watch, one that’s more contemporary and style-forward.

Functionally, it also runs on an F6922 automatic caliber, is water resistant at 200m, and features a 120-click unidirectional bezel. It even has a 41.5mm case, 47mm lug to lug, and is on a 22mm band.

While the Ray II’s middle link is embellished on the sides, the Mako II features simpler, smooth links, for a more modern look.

The face is equally less ornate. It features skinny white strips as hour markers, except for the 12, 9, and 6 hours, which are bold Arabic numerals, leaving plenty of room between each marker. If legibility is important to you, the Mako II is the superior watch.

The bezel is also aesthetically cleaner, featuring smaller numbers. Since they’re white, they contrast with the dark background, and don’t take away from the legibility despite their smallness.

What I Like

  • The dial is clean with bold Arabic numbers, making it very legible, even at a glance.

  • This watch has a clean, contemporary style that’s casual and versatile.

  • Its case-to-band ratio fits most wrist sizes.

What I Don’t Like

  • The lume, though plenty bright, isn’t effective because the indices are so thin.

What Other Reviewers Say

Many Reviewers also see this watch as a more modern answer to the Ray II and praise the 41mm sizing, not too large and not too tiny for any wrist. Similar to the Ray II, reviewers mention that they would have preferred a sapphire crystal over its mineral crystal.

The stainless steel band is light, which some reviewers think make the watch feel cheap. Others liked the easy wear and mention that if properly fitted, the lightness won’t equate to looseness.

The Verdict

The Orient Ray II is a classic dive, with a cleaner, more modern look. Size-wise, it suits most wrists and features several premium qualities, mainly a hackable and accurate automatic movement.

4.
Orient Mako II

The Orient Mako II will check more boxes for a functionally and visually classic dive watch than any other timepiece in its price range. If you want a classic Submariner-esque automatic dive for under $200, this versatile timepiece will serve you well whether you’re in a dinner jacket or a t-shirt.

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Bulova Aerojet Open Heart Dress Watch

5.
Bulova Aerojet Open Heart Dress Watch

This Bulova Aerojet is a classic dress watch with a twist. It has a vintage-inspired design, but the open heart feature makes it unique. It’s a subtle watch that can blend into any formal outfit.

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I’m a big fan of Bulova dress watches, and the Bulova Aerojet Open Heart is one of my favorites. It’s an elegant vintage design, but doesn’t forgo the mechanical aesthetic that helps maintain a men’s watch’s masculinity.

It features a stainless steel case that’s 39mm in diameter and 12mm thick. Its 18mm leather band is beautifully croco-embossed for a classic dress watch look.

The Aerojet’s design is inspired by a popular 1966 model taken directly from Bulova’s vintage archives. Except for the 12-hour marker which is shaped like the Bulova tuning fork logo, each hour marker is a slender line with a pearl-like dot at the edge. The markers, as well as the watch’s crown, are rose gold serving as accents to the grey face and silver colored case. 

The design features are simple, which allows the open heart to be the watch’s statement feature.

The circular window on the dial reveals the movement’s balance wheel. Visually, this gives the watch some weight to what could’ve been a dainty design overall.

The movement is a Miyota caliber 82S0, an automatic and hand-windable function that features a respectable 42-hour power reserve. The Aerojet also features a mineral glass, features 30m of water resistance, and is equally ravishing with a black dial or a rose gold case.

What I Like

  • The design is based on a 1966 vintage Bulova, for a classic and elegant dress watch that won’t go out of style.

  • The open heart is a cool touch that allows you to see the movement and makes the watch more scientific and masculine.

  • This Aerojet design is versatile and comes in three different colors.

What I Don’t Like

  • The dots at the edge of the hour indices feature a confusing and distracting lume that doesn’t help you tell time in the dark since nothing else on the face has lume.

What Other Reviewers Say

The open heart garners some criticism from purists. Since the watch is based on a 1966 design that doesn’t feature an open heart, those looking for an updated reissue find the open heart gauche.

The Verdict

The Bulova Aerojet is a classic dress watch with a twist. It has a vintage-inspired design, but the open heart feature makes it unique. It’s a subtle watch that can blend into any formal outfit.

5.
Bulova Aerojet Open Heart Dress Watch

This Bulova Aerojet is a classic dress watch with a twist. It has a vintage-inspired design, but the open heart feature makes it unique. It’s a subtle watch that can blend into any formal outfit.

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Orient Bambino 2nd Generation Version III

6.
Orient Bambino 2nd Generation Version III

The 2nd Generation Bambino Version III is a most versatile dress watch because of its contrasting features. It has both modern and classic designs, and the case is thin yet relatively large in diameter. It goes best with a formal or smart casual look, but works with a fully casual look too. 

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Dress watches are usually either classic and antique-like or sleek and contemporary. The Orient Bambino expertly straddles both these worlds.

We’re looking specifically at the 2nd Generation Bambino, Version III. Quick lesson on what that means: Bambinos differ generationally based on their movement, and within that they differ version-wise simply based on their face design.

This Bambino features a stainless steel case at 40.5mm, 47mm lug to lug, and is originally on a 21mm leather strap.

The hour indices are sleek stick lines, as are the hour and second hands. In fact, the only number on the face is a singular date window by the 3-hour mark, for a minimalist, modern face.

The simple face is combined with subtle complexities. The sunburst dial, for example, is more or less noticeable depending on where the light hits.

The sides of the mineral crystal dome blur the sunburst making the face look different from all sides. However, at a thin 11.8” case, these complexities are subtle and don’t take away from the overall minimalist look.

This watch features Orient’s caliber F6922, which is a hand-winding, hacking movement with a date calendar. More jewels don’t always mean more accuracy, but with 22 jewels, we at least know the movement features reduced friction and higher durability.

As a true dress watch, the Bambino doesn’t have a lume like the other Orients on this list and is only water resistant at 30m, which is perfectly fine for getting caught in the rain or doing the dishes.

What I Like

  • The combination of antique and modern design features makes for a unique and adaptable dress wash.

  • The push/pull crown is a time-saver, allowing you to set the time and date with just one pull.

  • The slim case is comfortable and lightweight, and wears delicately under a sleeve as classic dress watches do.

What I Don’t Like

  • The 21mm lug size limits strap options, which is a shame because the unique face would go great with different embossed leathers.

What Other Reviewers Say

A few reviewers mention that the movement has a bit of a rotor noise and that there’s some grit when winding the watch.

Some reviewers prefer a sapphire crystal over this watch’s mineral crystal. Others mention that since this is a dress watch, not a beater, that the mineral crystal is sufficient.

The Verdict

The 2nd Generation Bambino Version III is a most versatile dress watch because of its contrasting features. It has both modern and classic designs, and the case is thin yet relatively large in diameter. It goes best with a formal or smart casual look, but works with a fully casual look too. 

6.
Orient Bambino 2nd Generation Version III

The 2nd Generation Bambino Version III is a most versatile dress watch because of its contrasting features. It has both modern and classic designs, and the case is thin yet relatively large in diameter. It goes best with a formal or smart casual look, but works with a fully casual look too. 

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Seiko 5 SNK805

7.
Seiko 5 SNK805

The Seiko 5 SNK805 is a popular field style watch that’s dependable, practical, and has a fun look that goes with any casual outfit or situation.

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The military-inspired Seiko 5 SNK805 is one of Seiko’s most popular and highly rated watches. It’s an exceedingly reliable watch that’s perfectly suited for a grown man, yet its fun aesthetic satisfies the kid in me that played with toy tanks and GI-Joes.

The SNK805 features a 37mm stainless case and an 18mm nylon strap that’s stylish and durable. It features a traditional buckle, with a leather strip sewn over the adjustment holes making it easier to slip the tongue through.

The SNK’s face is a fun, traditional field watch style and is often compared to the Orient Aviator, another popular field style watch. The Aviator is a perfectly respectable watch, but I prefer the Seiko SNK806 because it includes a day/date window.

It runs on Seiko’s legacy caliber, the 7S26, which is a self-winding automatic movement with day and date functions. It’s known in the watch industry as “the workhorse movement” due to its reliability and being one of the best for its price.

It has a water resistance of 30m, a Hardlex crystal protecting the face, and a display case back so you can watch that horse work—a cool feature I don’t often see at watches in the under $120 range.

This Seiko 5 also comes as a blue SNK806 and a black SNK80, which are less military-looking but equally as reliable and stylish.

What I Like

  • It boasts a fun outdoorsy design inspired by field and military watches.

  • This design also comes in blue and black.

  • The strap is a canvas nylon that’s durable and rugged looking, with leather adjustment holes for ease of use.

  • The display case back allows you to watch the movement, an uncommon feature for a budget watch.

What I Don’t Like

  • The small size of the crown makes it hard to pull out and uncomfortable to use.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers mention that the face is much darker than photos present. It’s actually a dark forest green that looks almost black in certain light.

Some reviewers think that the strap is cheap looking. I disagree with this because I don’t think a nylon field watch strap needs to be too high-end, just durable and durable-looking.

The Verdict

The Seiko 5 SNK805 is a popular field style watch that’s dependable, practical, and has a fun look that goes with any casual outfit or situation.

7.
Seiko 5 SNK805

The Seiko 5 SNK805 is a popular field style watch that’s dependable, practical, and has a fun look that goes with any casual outfit or situation.

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Tissot Everytime

8.
Tissot Everytime

The Tissot Everytime is a large, simple classic dress watch that is quintessential to the brand. Its exclusive Swiss movement makes it a really special offering, especially being in the budget category.

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Most people consider the Seastar to be Tissot’s flagship line. While it’s definitely their most popular, I think the Tissot Everytime is their most quintessential. It features everything Tissot does right, and as the name suggests, it’s a timeless dress watch.

Spec-wise, the Everytime features a round 40mm stainless steel case that’s 11.6mm thick. The 21mm strap is made of croco-embossed leather. It’s also water resistant at 30m.

It’s most special feature is its movement. The Swissmatic is an accurate automatic movement with a whopping 72-hour power reserve. Due to innovations in assembly and production, this Tissot-exclusive movement can be offered at shockingly low prices.

Tissot really shines in the dress watch category. Even their sporty lines have a fancy quality about them. The Everytime has a lot of the minimalist and sleek features that the Visodate does. With its smaller date window and thinner indices, it’s an overall cleaner style. That, combined with its bigger size, gives it a more executive aesthetic.

What I Like

  • The Swiss-made Swissmatic movement lasts an impressive 72 hours and is exclusive to Tissot.

  • The leather strap features padding on the back for a comfortable and stable wear.

  • The simple and large design makes for a dressy and commanding aesthetic.

What I Don’t Like

  • The sapphire crystal doesn’t have anti-reflective coating and has a lot of glare.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers love the watch’s size, since large dress watches are rare. Many use this as an opportunity to experiment with different bracelets and straps, with several recommending trying it with a mesh stainless steel to add shine.

Other favorite qualities from reviewers include the sweeping second hand and the display case back.

A few reviewers note the lack of lume, but since it isn’t a sport watch, they aren’t especially offended by it.

The Verdict

The Tissot Everytime is a large, simple classic dress watch that is quintessential to the brand. Its exclusive Swiss movement makes it a really special offering, especially being in the budget category.

8.
Tissot Everytime

The Tissot Everytime is a large, simple classic dress watch that is quintessential to the brand. Its exclusive Swiss movement makes it a really special offering, especially being in the budget category.

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Seiko Alpinist

9.
Seiko Alpinist

The Seiko Alpinist is a recognizable and stylish adventure watch, and you get a ton of features for what you pay for. It’s the most versatile watch on the list, able to be worn casually as well as in the most formal occasions.

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The Seiko Alpinist is one of the most coveted exploration watches in the under $500 range. Like a luxury sport watch quadruple its price, the Alpinist has both athletic and dressy qualities.

It features a stainless steel case that’s 38mm and 46mm lug to lug, and is originally on a 20mm leather strap. 

The Alpinist features two crowns. One is a screwdown at the 3-hour mark for winding and hacking. One is a rotating crown at the 4-hour mark which rotates the watch’s compass feature. The compass is a cool nod to the watch’s adventurous style.

What makes the Alpinist so recognizable though, is its face. The green sunburst dial shifts from dark blackish green to a brilliant green, often taking in the yellow tone of the sun, depending on the light. It features applied gilt gold markers that feature Arabic even numbers and long triangular odd number markers, classy cathedral style hands, and a date complication at the 3-hour mark.

It has a 23-jewel 6R15 movement, which boasts 50-hour power reserve, high accuracy, hacking, and winding.

It’s not necessarily a dive watch, but if your adventures take you off of dry land, the Alpinist is water resistant at 200m. This is a lot of watch for $500.

What I Like

  • Seiko forgoes their love affair with Hardlex crystal here, opting for a more scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.

  • Aesthetically, this watch is a beautiful blend of luxurious and sporty making it suitable for casual or dressy occasions.

  • The sunburst dial with cathedral hands and gold markers really pop and make the watch a noticeable accessory

  • The curve to the case gives the watch a comfortable fit.

What I Don’t Like

  • The sapphire glass, while scratch-resistant, has some reflectiveness.

What Other Reviewers Say

The Alpinist has a popular aesthetic and the reviews reflect that. Additionally, reviewers praise the fit many times over. Many claim that the fit and finish is comparable to watches several times its price, such as those from upper mid-tier Swiss brands.

The compass receives mixed reviews. Very few people find it helpful, but I agree that it’s a cool conversation piece. As someone who hikes and hunts off the beaten path, I think it’s a great contingency plan. However, the compass apparently doesn’t stay where you left it.

The Verdict

The Seiko Alpinist is a recognizable and stylish adventure watch, and you get a ton of features for what you pay for. It’s the most versatile watch on the list, able to be worn casually as well as in the most formal occasions.

9.
Seiko Alpinist

The Seiko Alpinist is a recognizable and stylish adventure watch, and you get a ton of features for what you pay for. It’s the most versatile watch on the list, able to be worn casually as well as in the most formal occasions.

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Fossil Townsman ME3098

10.
Fossil Townsman

The Fossil Townsman ME3098 is an earth-toned skeleton watch that combines several contemporary designs with several vintage and even ancient designs. It’s the most style-forward timepiece on the list, perfect to match with aesthetically similar outfits, ranging from very casual up to semi-formal.

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The Fossil Townsman ME3098 features a unique earthy steampunk look. It’s skeletal face and display case back puts the movement front and center.

The black ion-plated stainless steel case is 44mm in diameter and 12mm thick, and the leather strap is 22mm wide. The strap features adjustment holes that go more than half way up the strap making for a one-size-fits-all wear.

The automatic movement is an STP-11 caliber, which features a 44-hour power reserve, hacking, an anti-shock system, and a manual winding option.

The design itself is quite eclectic: The black ion-plating is super contemporary, the skeletal Roman numerals are a mix of modern and old, and the mechanism is of course fully visible. Overall, it’s a retro-futuristic look that is brought together by an earthy color palette of browns, golds, and blacks.

Other features include a Hardlex crystal and water resistance at 50m.

What I Like

  • The black ion-plated stainless steel makes the case super durable and gives it a tough look.

  • The unique earthy yet steampunk design makes the watch stand out.

  • The several adjustment holes make it so that most people won’t have to get the strap fitted. 

What I Don’t Like

  • The leather strap looks and feels stiff and cheap. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Many reviewers mention that the glass is perfectly clear and does not feature a brown tint, as many photos seem to indicate.

Several also clear up some confusing components of the movement’s description. It’s an automatic movement, but with a quartz battery—a hybrid of sorts. The second hand is powered by the motion of your wrist, while the hour and minute hands run off of the battery.

Reviewers also notice the cheap leather strap. Thankfully, the color palette helps it blend in, and if that isn’t enough for you, the strap is also easily switched out.

The Verdict

The Fossil Townsman ME3098 is an earth-toned skeleton watch that combines several contemporary designs with several vintage and even ancient designs. It’s the most style-forward timepiece on the list, perfect to match with aesthetically similar outfits, ranging from very casual up to semi-formal.

10.
Fossil Townsman

The Fossil Townsman ME3098 is an earth-toned skeleton watch that combines several contemporary designs with several vintage and even ancient designs. It’s the most style-forward timepiece on the list, perfect to match with aesthetically similar outfits, ranging from very casual up to semi-formal.

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Seiko SKX007K2 Dive

11.
Seiko SKX007K2 Diver

The Seiko SKX007K2 is a rugged and classic dive watch. Unless a sapphire crystal is that important to you, this one of the best dive watches at this price point and perfect for those looking for a classic dive that pushes the design boundaries without breaking any rules.

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Along with the Alpinist, the Seiko SKX007K2 Dive is another iconic timepiece. It’s also another highly regarded Submariner homage. As all good homages, its subtle differences are what make it stylistically strong, and an esteemed watch on its own.

The face features bubblier, less edged out indices than the Orient Ray II, and bigger indices than the Submariner. The hands are thicker, but taper towards the center of the face, for an exaggerated sword shape.

This gives it a more youthful look than the Ray II and the Sub. It also makes the face one of the most legible dives out there. 

The 22mm stainless steel bracelet is polarizing, but I think it makes it unique and the main reason I’d buy this watch over, or in addition to, the Ray II and the Sub. It’s the “Seiko Jubilee” which is a take on Rolex’s Jubilee band.

It looks more like a combination of the Rolex Jubilee and their Oyster band. It’s unlike any other bracelet out there and adds a dressy accompaniment to the youthful yet elegant face. Besides, you can always change the bracelet if you disagree.

Like the Seiko 5 SNK805, it features the legacy workhorse movement, caliber 7S26. The battery recharges while you wear it with the movement of your wrist.

The SKX007K2 stainless steel case is 42mm and is water resistant at 200m. Other features include a classic unidirectional bezel and luminous hour markers and hands.

What I Like

  • The face features a classic dive style, but the bubbly indices add a youthful but still elegant twist.

  • The Seiko Jubilee bracelet has a unique dressy style that makes this watch stand out from other traditional dive watches.

  • The Seiko SKX007K2 is an iconic watch, respected by even high-end watch collectors. 

What I Don’t Like

  • For a dive watch at this price point, using a Hardlex crystal over a sapphire seems like a cut corner.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers who love the bracelet praise its uniqueness. Others hate how dressy it is for a dive watch.

Most, if not all, reviewers agree that Seiko needs to get off the Hardlex wagon at this price point.

The Verdict

The Seiko SKX007K2 is a rugged and classic dive watch. Unless a sapphire crystal is that important to you, this one of the best dive watches at this price point and perfect for those looking for a classic dive that pushes the design boundaries without breaking any rules.

11.
Seiko SKX007K2 Diver

The Seiko SKX007K2 is a rugged and classic dive watch. Unless a sapphire crystal is that important to you, this one of the best dive watches at this price point and perfect for those looking for a classic dive that pushes the design boundaries without breaking any rules.

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Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date

12.
Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date

The Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date is a smaller and quieter dress watch than the Everytime, but it’s not any less confident. It’s lack of color makes it subtle, but the hidden complex designs add intrigue that fits delicately under your dress shirt sleeve.

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Another one of the brand’s remarkable dress watches, the Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date is an aristocratic option for those black-tie occasions. 

The case is 39.7mm in diameter, 9.5mm thick, and comes on a beautiful 20mm bracelet.

I love the bracelet on this T-Classic. The intermediate links are textured and polished, adding complexity. Since the watch is monochromatic throughout, the extra shine from the bracelet isn’t flashy.

It also has a bit of flex, which helps it conform to your wrist easily. The butterfly clasp has a smooth action and adds to the clean aesthetic, making it look as if the bracelet simply continues on without stopping.

The dial is multilevel, with a step separating the center circle that features a circular pattern from the outer circle where the polished bar indices are. The overall look is more skeletal than the Everytime.

The T-Classic runs on ETA caliber 2834-2, which features a 38-hour power reserve, and hackable seconds. You can see this movement through the sapphire display case back.

Other features include water resistance up to 30m and a sapphire crystal over the dial.

What I Like

  • The monochromatic palette tones down the fancy aesthetic for an understated and noble  look.

  • The bracelet features some flex and rounded edges on the clasp that won’t bite your skin for a fitted but relaxed comfort.

  • The case is small, round, and thin, so it slips under a sleeve well for a subtle, dressy look.

What I Don’t Like

  • Those with bigger wrists may find the small and thin case a little flimsy for them.

What Other Reviewers Say

This is a special occasion watch. Some reviewers think it’s subtle enough to wear for business, but I’d stick to the Everytime or the Visodate for work. In the context of the boardroom, I think wearing this T-Classic is like wearing a king’s crown.

Unfortunately, there are a few people with bigger wrists who aren’t comfortable wearing a watch so small (I think dress watches should be a little small).

The Verdict

The Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date is a smaller and quieter dress watch than the Everytime, but it’s not any less confident. It’s lack of color makes it subtle, but the hidden complex designs add intrigue that fits delicately under your dress shirt sleeve.

12.
Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date

The Tissot T-Classic Automatic Day Date is a smaller and quieter dress watch than the Everytime, but it’s not any less confident. It’s lack of color makes it subtle, but the hidden complex designs add intrigue that fits delicately under your dress shirt sleeve.

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Vostok Amphibian Automatic

13.
Vostok Amphibian Automatic

There’s literally no other watch out there like the Vostok Amphibian. Since the Soviets had to build a diver without using Western patents, this watch is truly unique inside and out.

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The Vostok Amphibian (also called the Amphibia or Amfibia) is a uniquely constructed Soviet era automatic. 

With a regular dive watch, the case back serves a screw which can shear the gasket. With the Amphibian, the case back is one part connected to a threaded locking ring. This allows the case to do two things: 

  • It avoids shearing the gasket.
  • The case tightens up the deeper in the water you go, effectively getting more waterproof.

The Soviets built this unique technology to create a diver that doesn’t use Western patents. 

The case is 41mm in diameter, 45mm lug to lug, and 15mm thick. The crystal is acrylic and the watch is water resistant at 200m. It also features an easy to use bidirectional bezel with little to no play.

The movement is an in-house 2416b caliber which features a hand winding option, shock absorbance, and 31 hours of power.

What I Like

  • The face is constructed like no other Swiss or Japanese watch and gets more waterproof as you dive deeper.

  • The charming dial features a memorable aquamarine face and an illustration of a diver.

  • Its vintage military style looks great on rubber, NATO, and metal bands.

What I Don’t Like

  • The power reserve won’t last two full days.

What Other Reviewers Say

The Vostok Amphibian isn’t a household name, but it definitely has an enthusiastic cult following by men and women alike.

I find it surprising how easy modifications apparently are according to reviewers. Vostok sells bezels, replacement crystals, and many other parts for cheap if you want to make upgrades.

Another cool thing I noticed is that many reviewers are true blue divers, praising the watch’s durability in the water.

The Verdict

There’s literally no other watch out there like the Vostok Amphibian. Since the Soviets had to build a diver without using Western patents, this watch is truly unique inside and out.

13.
Vostok Amphibian Automatic

There’s literally no other watch out there like the Vostok Amphibian. Since the Soviets had to build a diver without using Western patents, this watch is truly unique inside and out.

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Seiko SARB035

14.
Seiko SARB035

The Seiko SARB035 is a classy, versatile watch that employs sophisticated and high-end design elements. You can very easily transform the design with a simple change of the strap. Originally released exclusively for Seiko’s domestic Japanese market but since discontinued, the SARB035 is also a highly desired watch among serious collectors.

Affordable alternative to: Rolex Oyster Perpetual

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The Seiko SARB035 looks minimalist at first glance, with an understated and mature dial face. Other than the date window (and the “23 jewels” mark), there are no numbers on the dial, just stunning and highly polished applied indices and hands.

The profile of the case, however, displays complexities. The polished bezel is raised, showcasing several surfaces, angles, and steps from the side. Seen only with brief flicks of the wrist, these intricacies highlight the simple elegance of the dial face. These are some upper-tier Swiss-level design choices.

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The SARB035 features a 38mm diameter case, which is 44mm lug to lug and 11mm thick, classic specs for an evening watch. It runs on the 23-jewel 6R15 caliber, which features handwinding and hacking. It’s a robust, slow-beat movement that boasts a 50-hour power reserve.

We also recommend the SARB033, which has the exact same sophisticated design as the 035, but with a black face and date.

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The 035’s cream face makes it slightly dressier, but the 033’s black face has more light-play giving it just a tad more complexity. Both look great with different kinds of straps, so have fun experimenting. This versatility also makes both watches fit in with any dress code.

What I Like

  • The simple, elegant dial face and sophisticated case profile make this watch look high-end and extremely versatile.

  • Despite only a small portion of the indices and hands being lumed, they glow brightly and effectively for a legible face even in the dark.

  • The movement features a 50-hour power reserve, which is more than the average 36-40, and is especially impressive for a dress watch.

What I Don’t Like

  • While the original metal bracelet looks nice, the lack of micro adjustments or half links make it unideal for fine adjustments.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers agree on the SARB035’s unique versatility. Many claim they purchased it expecting a dress watch, yet now use it as their everyday driver. The polished indices are also very popular.

A few complain that the bracelet clasp’s gap at the snap lock makes the watch difficult to fit perfectly. Some also complain about the crystals’ lack of AR coating, while others like the added light play for a vintage feel.

The Verdict

The Seiko SARB035 is a classy, versatile watch that employs sophisticated and high-end design elements. You can very easily transform the design with a simple change of the strap. Originally released exclusively for Seiko’s domestic Japanese market but since discontinued, the SARB035 is also a highly desired watch among serious collectors.

14.
Seiko SARB035

The Seiko SARB035 is a classy, versatile watch that employs sophisticated and high-end design elements. You can very easily transform the design with a simple change of the strap. Originally released exclusively for Seiko’s domestic Japanese market but since discontinued, the SARB035 is also a highly desired watch among serious collectors.

Affordable alternative to: Rolex Oyster Perpetual

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2 Best Automatic Dive Watches Under $500

Orient Triton Dive

15.
Orient Triton

The Orient Triton is a fun diver that straddles the line between a tactical tool aesthetic and everyday sporty elegance. Its design is unique without going too far left from the classic realm, and it definitely punches above its price range.

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The Orient Triton is a toned-down version of Orient’s tool-heavy M-Force, and is more off the beaten path than the classic and simple Mako II and Ray II.

It features a 43.5mm stainless case, is 51mm lug to lug, and is originally on a 22mm three-link wide stainless steel band.

The Triton runs on a highly efficient 40N5A automatic caliber, which is hand-winding, hackable, and features a 40-hour power reserve. The specs are +25/-15 seconds per day, though a lot of wearers find it’s anywhere from +15/-5. My experience with Orient watches is that they tend to gain time.

I love the power reserve complication on the face. If you had an easy 10k to spare and prefer a classic style, you might think you’d rather have a Submariner instead of an Orient dive. However, the Triton’s power reserve complication is a unique design touch that you don’t often find on watches at any price point. 

This makes the Triton a great option for you if you prefer a more complex dial. It’s also a great option for you if you already own a classic dive and are looking for an additional dive unique from the one you already have.

The lume is extremely bright and is even painted on the power reserve complication (another nice touch) and is water resistant at 200m.

The drilled lugs make strap changes simple and easy, which is great because I think the Triton’s face is fun enough to go with a NATO or a rubber strap as well as its stainless steel bracelet. Drilled lugs aren’t that common with new watches, which is a shame because the back of non-drill lugs tend to get scratched up during strap changes.

What I Like

  • The power reserve complication and gold-colored coin edging add fun design components, unique from the traditional dive design.

  • The 40-hour power reserve often lasts two full days.

  • Changing the strap is fast and easy because of the drilled lugs, making this watch incredibly versatile.

What I Don’t Like

  • The bezel has a little bit of play.

What Other Reviewers Say

Critics fall into two camps when it comes to the power reserve complication: Those who think it’s fun and unique, and those who think it’s unnecessary both in design (subjective) and practicality (probably). 

 

Reviewers are impressed with the Triton’s sapphire crystal, a feature usually reserved for much more expensive watches.

The Verdict

The Orient Triton is a fun diver that straddles the line between a tactical tool aesthetic and everyday sporty elegance. Its design is unique without going too far left from the classic realm, and it definitely punches above its price range.

15.
Orient Triton

The Orient Triton is a fun diver that straddles the line between a tactical tool aesthetic and everyday sporty elegance. Its design is unique without going too far left from the classic realm, and it definitely punches above its price range.

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Seiko Prospex SRPD11 Special Edition Black Ion-Plated

16.
Seiko Prospex SRPD11 Special Edition Black Ion-Plated

Seiko makes excellent automatic watches, and the Prospex SRPD11 Special Edition is the perfect example. It features an accurate, shock-absorbant movement and authoritative black aesthetic.

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Seiko’s Prospex line was launched in 1965 with the debut of their first dive. An abbreviation for “professional specifications,” Prospex timepieces are high-performing sport watches. The SRPD11 is one of the most unique in this line because of the black ion plating.

It features a substantial 45mm case and 22mm band, both stainless steel, and is water resistant at 200m.

Black ion plating involves adding a titanium nitride layer, usually in vapor form, onto the stainless steel. This is cool for two reasons. First, the surface of the stainless steel is harder and more durable. Second, it has a commanding look. I always say that this watch makes you look like you have the highest TSA clearance.

The movement is Seiko’s 4R36 automatic wind, which features 24 jewels, a 41-hour power reserve, and an an-house anti-shock resistance system.

What I Like

  • The black ion plating makes the already durable stainless steel even more scratch-resistant.

  • It has a commanding yet playful aesthetic.

  • As a limited edition watch, this Prospex is unique and eye-catching.

  • Its proprietary Diashock system absorbs shock, which keeps the movement accurate.

What I Don’t Like

  • As well-fortified as this watch is, there’s really no reason not to include a sapphire crystal to protect the face. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Many reviewers mention that the watch is even more beautiful in person and that the images don’t do it justice. If you like getting complimented, this watch is for you.

Reviewers praise the accuracy of the movement and durability of the ion plating.

However, even reviewers who gave this watch an A-rating mention that a sapphire crystal would make it perfect. The Hardlex crystal reflects too much light and many mention it got scratched soon after taking it out of the box. Since Seiko touts the professional durability of the Prospex, I fully agree with this critique.

The Verdict

Seiko makes excellent automatic watches, and the Prospex SRPD11 Special Edition is the perfect example. It features an accurate, shock-absorbant movement and authoritative black aesthetic.

16.
Seiko Prospex SRPD11 Special Edition Black Ion-Plated

Seiko makes excellent automatic watches, and the Prospex SRPD11 Special Edition is the perfect example. It features an accurate, shock-absorbant movement and authoritative black aesthetic.

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2 Best Swiss Automatic Watches Under $500 

Glycine Combat 42 Vintage 

17.
Glycine Combat 42 Vintage

If you’re looking for a robust sport watch that has just a little fun with its design, the Glycine Combat 42 Vintage is for you. It’s an impressive Swiss automatic with all of the classic sport watch features and a case that fits most wrist sizes.

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The Glycine Combat 42 Vintage comes from the brand’s military inspired collection. This particular version mixes blue with rose gold adding pop and personality, but is still respectful of the design’s utilitarian roots.

The stainless steel case is 42mm and almost 50mm lug to lug. The case is 10mm, remarkably thin for an automatic. The lugs curve downward allowing the watch to fit comfortably on big and small wrists, and the integrated stainless steel band is 22mm wide.

Some unique design features include a matte and textured dial face, and the combination of blue with rose gold accents via the hands and indices. This contrast, the long minute hand that reaches all the way out to the edge of the dial, and the bold Arabic numerals make the Vintage 42 Combat very legible.

Other features include a flat sapphire crystal that boasts three layers of anti-reflective coating, and a crisp clicking unidirectional bezel with a blue aluminum ring.

It runs on caliber GL224, a reliable and accurate Swiss automatic movement that features a 38-hour power reserve.

The Glycine Vintage 42 Combat features a screw-down crown and 200m of water resistance.

What I Like

  • The color combination of blue and subtle rose gold accents make the watch pop, without sacrificing the classic sporty look

  • The three layers of antireflection make the sapphire glass crystal clear as well scratch resistant.

  • The bezel is easy to use and features a satisfying crispness with little to no play.

What I Don’t Like

  • Caliber GL224 is a dependable workhorse movement, but the 38-hour power reserve isn’t impressive, especially at this price point.

What Other Reviewers Say

I’m surprised to see how little attention Glycine gets in the US. I’d say about 95% of the reviews out there are from European users, most of whom love the brand and this watch especially.

Many US reviewers mention how they weren’t aware of Glycine and took a chance with the Combat collection, to positive reactions.

Reviewers agreed that the pictures of this particular color scheme don’’t do the watch justice, and that it’s much more beautiful in person as well.

Accuracy-wise, reviewers are losing and gaining no more than 8 seconds a day, which is excellent.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for a robust sport watch that has just a little fun with its design, the Glycine Combat 42 Vintage is for you. It’s an impressive Swiss automatic with all of the classic sport watch features and a case that fits most wrist sizes.

17.
Glycine Combat 42 Vintage

If you’re looking for a robust sport watch that has just a little fun with its design, the Glycine Combat 42 Vintage is for you. It’s an impressive Swiss automatic with all of the classic sport watch features and a case that fits most wrist sizes.

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Tissot Visodate

18.
Tissot Visodate

Partly due to its pop culture importance but mostly due to its timeless style, this Tissot Visodate is an iconic dress watch that can easily be worn as an everyday watch. It’s stylistically vintage at its core, but the smooth lines and minimalist face add a modern sleakness

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The Tissot watch that James Stewart famously wore in Alfred Hitcock’s Rear Window is a style icon that’s both highly coveted and elusive (there isn’t even a reference number on record for it). That’s likely why this Tissot Visodate, which looks so much like Stewart’s mystery Tissot, is iconic in and of itself.

It features a 40mm stainless steel case, is 47mm lug to lug, on a 20mm embossed leather strap.

One big difference between Stewart’s watch and this modern iteration is that there are no Arabic numerals on it. Every hour marker is a sleek silver stick shape, with slimmer subtle lines between each of the indices. The only numbers present on the face is on the day/date by the 3-hour mark.

The minimalist updates and its gently curving sapphire crystal bring this nostalgic watch into the present day.

It runs on a Swiss automatic movement, ETA caliber 2836-2 which runs on 25 jewels, features a power reserve of 38 hours, and a shock absorber. Both Tissot and ETA are under the Swatch umbrella, so while Tissot’s movements aren’t in-house, they’re “in the family” so to speak.

This Visodate is also water-resistant at 30m and features an awesome display case back.

What I Like

  • This watch features a nostalgic heritage design that’s iconic and beloved.

  • The addition of a shock absorber helps maintain the movement’s accuracy.

  • This watch is a fancy dress watch, but its minimalist design makes it understated and appropriate as a business casual piece too.

What I Don’t Like

  • The leather strap looks premium but it has a stiff plastic-like feel to it. Fortunately, this is easily replaced.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers are excited that an iconic Swiss automatic dress watch could be so affordable. The addition of the day/date complication to the vintage face are met with positive reactions, as is the display case back.

Most reviewers agree that while the leather strap looks and even smells like high-quality leather, that there is a bit of a cheap feel to it. Unfortunately, many mention they switched out the strap.

The Verdict

Partly due to its pop culture importance but mostly due to its timeless style, this Tissot Visodate is an iconic dress watch that can easily be worn as an everyday watch. It’s stylistically vintage at its core, but the smooth lines and minimalist face add a modern sleekness

18.
Tissot Visodate

Partly due to its pop culture importance but mostly due to its timeless style, this Tissot Visodate is an iconic dress watch that can easily be worn as an everyday watch. It’s stylistically vintage at its core, but the smooth lines and minimalist face add a modern sleakness

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Key Things to Consider When Buying an Automatic Watch Under $500

When and Where You’ll Wear it

Style-wise, luxury sport watches are the most versatile if you’re looking for an everyday watch. Quality-wise, ask yourself how strong, accurate, or waterproof do you need your watch to be?

For example, the Seiko SKX007K2 is iconic, but if you’re going to wear it as a beater, you either accept that the Hardlex crystal will get scratched up, or you go for a watch with a sapphire crystal.

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Price

How much do you want to pay for your automatic? If you love your watch, whatever you pay isn’t wasted. 

Sometimes watches are expensive because of design, sometimes it’s because of a high-end movement, sometimes it’s because of the features, and as I’ll get into below—sometimes it’s simply because of the brand name. For under $500, you won’t get many watches that tick every single box.

As this roundup proves though, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to at least tick a lot of the boxes. 

Expensive Doesn’t Mean Good

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Some high-end watch makers will use their brand to hike up the prices of their budget lines. If you want a high-end brand for less, there’s nothing wrong with going for these brand-name budget lines. You just aren’t necessarily paying for high quality in this situation.

Warranties and Customer Service

Most new automatic watches aren’t as fragile as new collectors may think. I get that you don’t want to disturb the analog mechanics inside the watch, but so many movements these days are antimagnetic and shock resistant anyway. Definitely take care of your watch, but don’t baby it. Watches are meant to be worn and enjoyed.

You’ll be able to more easily do this if you know you’re covered, so look into warranties and get all the details from your seller.

Buy What You Love

I love automatic watches, but they aren’t inherently better than quartz watches or hand wind watches. What’s your style? Just buy what you love and pay what you’re comfortable with. There’s no wrong way to enjoy a watch.

Budget Your Time

And on that note, which watch did you love on this list?

The Ray II, Mako II, and Seiko SKX007K2 are classic dives while the Orient Triton, the Prospex Black Ion and Pepsi Bezels each add a unique twist.

4.
Orient Mako II

The Orient Mako II will check more boxes for a functionally and visually classic dive watch than any other timepiece in its price range. If you want a classic Submariner-esque automatic dive for under $200, this versatile timepiece will serve you well whether you’re in a dinner jacket or a t-shirt.

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The Glycine’s memorable design and the Vostok’s rare Soviet construction take dives to the next level.

Tissot stands out as an established Swiss brand that makes excellent automatic dress watches, with the iconic Visodate, the aristocratic T-Classic, and the quintessential Everytime each offering unique strengths.

18.
Tissot Visodate

Partly due to its pop culture importance but mostly due to its timeless style, this Tissot Visodate is an iconic dress watch that can easily be worn as an everyday watch. It’s stylistically vintage at its core, but the smooth lines and minimalist face add a modern sleakness

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As far as dress watches go, I personally love the sunburst dial of the Bambino and the open heart of the Bulova Areojet.

For field watches, the SNK805 is affordable and fun, while the Seiko Alpinist and Hamilton Khaki King elevate the genre with sophisticated design and materials.

Even in the $500 range, you can find a variety of different automatic watches for every purpose.

FAQs

What is an automatic watch?

Also known as a self-winding watch, an automatic is a mechanical watch that’s powered by the motion of the wearer. This makes manual winding technically unnecessary.

What is the lifespan of an automatic watch?

An automatic watch can last a lifetime if you take care of it. Dirt, shock, and magnetism can negatively affect your automatic watch’s lifespan. The more complications a watch has, the more attention it needs. Ditto for older watches. Get your watch serviced every five years to ensure they last forever.

Is it bad to let an automatic watch stop?

There’s nothing wrong with letting your automatic watch stop. Just wind it up next time you need to wear it.

Is it OK to shake an automatic watch?

It’s okay to shake an automatic watch to get the rotor spinning. It’s best to just wear it to get it going, and if it’s not running at all, there’s nothing wrong with winding it. That’s what the winder is there for. 

TAM's Top September Picks Under $50

Bespoke Post Weekender
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Armaf Club De Nuit Intense Man
Quality, affordable Creed Aventus clone
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