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8 Best Racing Watches for Men at Every Price Point

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Karlton began covering men's style and grooming topics for The Adult Man since 2020 as a writer. He's also written for other popular men's publications such as The Modest Man and Effortless Gent. Karlton is an LA-born, New York-based lover of culture and optimism. Perpetual watch-wearer. Always holding a martini or a football, Karlton's favorite subjects in school were recess, PE and prom. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Mar 25, 2024
11 min read
Best Racing Watches Close Up with the Armogan Regalia S89

If you’ve spent any time in the watch world, you know there’s almost too much choice. With hundreds of great brands and hundreds of lousy ones, how do you know if you’re getting a good deal or getting ripped off?

That’s why I created this guide to the best racing watches. So start your engines and get ready to ride.

I love a racing watch that leans into its automotive heritage.

The standard Speedmaster is an undeniable legend, but I think it set the stage for chronos and other racing watches to lean into a more space-based, science-forward look and function. 

Moreover, thanks to the Submariner’s ubiquity, divers tend to get more of the spotlight.

Hard-leaning racer timepieces are reliable, well-built, and have the kind of cool factor that any guy can sport.

If you’re looking for some objectively good race watches at every price point, read on. And if you’ve never considered acquiring a racer, you really should—starting with these.

My Recommendations

Best Under $300: Armogan Regalia S89

Armogan R87 Regalia watch on wrist

The S89 comes from Armogans Watches’ Regalia collection, inspired by 1950s British car racing. It has a classic and historical look. But, it’s one that isn’t invoked as often as the standard three-subdial black chrono or the more eye-catching and unconventional chronos.

It’s vintage and prototypical enough to fit in with anyone’s personal style, but it’s still distinct. 

If you’re a guy who loves a leather jacket with ripped jeans, the sportiness perfectly matches the vibe of utilitarian or workwear clothes. Plus, British car racing goes hand in hand with rock n’ roll and motorcycles. 

Still, if you’re a cable-knit-and-slacks guy, you’ll love the color palette and distinguished aesthetic.

Armogan Watches Regalia Silvered White R87 close up

Details like the Arabic indices, which are in a sort-of tempered Wonderland-esque font, and the use of red accents against bold whites cinch this visual balance.

Armogan, a Belgo-Luxembourg watchmaker, takes inspiration from the past’s best and most iconic navigational tools. I’ve been collecting watches and working in this industry for decades. Models with this specific focus are typically the best because they naturally combine everything we love about watches: Style, function, history, and lore.

So, I love that Armogan’s entire brand is based on this. Clearly, they have a true understanding of what makes watches tick—pun intended.

What I Like

  • The distinct but classic design is sporty yet elegant, making it a great piece for various personal styles.
  • It runs on Miyota’s OS11 Chronograph, which is reliable and has an amazingly satisfying push button click.
  • Armogan provides a two-year international warranty, giving you confidence and security in your purchase.

What I Don’t Like

  • Water resistance could be better. I’m not deeply offended by this at this price point, but I’d love a little more water resistance than 50 meters.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers love how versatile and stylish this watch is. And like me, many enjoy its functional qualities.

Many praise the clarity of the crystal, making the watch easy to read from any angle. This is due to the fact the mineral is double-domed, which also makes it less likely to shatter and matches the vintage look.

Also, reviewers report that their packaging reads “designed in Belgium, assembled in China.” This is 100% not surprising at this price point, so we appreciate the candidness. It definitely instills customer trust.

The Verdict

The Armogan Regalia S89 boasts a quality-for-price that I rarely see in chronograph racing watches. It perfectly balances sportiness with high class, is rooted in historical designs, and can really be worn in a wide range of dress codes.

On top of that, it’s beautifully built, and runs on a fun and dependable Miyota movement. That push-button click is satisfyingly crisp. It makes it feel like an engaging grown-up toy that’s still seriously built and stylishly classy.

Best Under $300
Armogan Regalia S89

The racing style of the Regalia is more casual than Armogan's dressier Sopraffino Grande, though it perfectly balances sportiness with high class. The biker-esque detailing is undeniably cool, and the watch boasts a fantastic quality for the price.

Check Price Read Our Review

Best Under $500: VAER R1 Racing Chronograph

VAER R1 Racing Chronograph

VAER is known for building durable everyday wrist watches, and as such, often uses tried-and-true sport watch designs. With its striking composition, the R1 Racing Chronograph really knocks the ‘60s and ‘70s auto-watch look out of the park.

The first elements you’ll notice are the cushion case and the bold subdials. Upon closer inspection, the brushed flat top of the bezel against the polished sides, visible from a bird’s eye view, adds dimension and sophistication. On the dial, the mix of flat and applied features, as well as matte and shiny ones, also achieve this.

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These are labored-over details. 

Did I mention the mecaquartz movement? This watch is as accurate as a quartz, but has the buttery sweep of a mechanical.

What I Like

  • The eye-catching design is impeccably finished and truly unique.
  • You can get this exact model with a 38-millimeter case or a 42-millimeter case, providing options for a wide range of wrist sizes.
  • The mecaquartz movement is accurate, with a smooth chronograph sweep.

What I Don’t Like

  • The striking design isn’t for everyone. Even in my case, I personally love it, but it’s not conservative enough to wear to my office.

What Other Reviewers Say

In addition to loving the uncommon design, reviewers praise VAER for building what many consider a reasonably-priced watch with such a solid construction. 

It has 100 meters of water resistance, is equipped with an AR-coated scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and flaunts a 40-month battery life.

This watch also gets a lot of respect for being assembled in the USA.

The Verdict

The VAER R1 Racing Chronograph is a unique and durably-built racer. It’s stylish and beautifully detailed, and can handle anything the day can bring, whether you accidentally knock it against a brick wall or drop it in the pool.

Best Under $500
VAER R1 Racing Chronograph

The Vaer R1 Racing Chronograph is a unique and durably-built racer. It’s stylish and beautifully detailed, and can handle anything the day can bring, whether you accidentally knock it against a brick wall or drop it in the pool.

Check Price

Best Under $1,000: Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC911

Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC911

The Seiko Speedtimer SSC911 has all of the discipline and bang-for-buck qualities we’ve come to expect from this heritage Japanese brand. And since it comes from their professional Prospex line, this racer is equipped with top-notch specs.

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Visually, it has a thick tachymeter reminiscent of a dive watch bezel, which adds to the robust and sporty look, giving it a sum-of-all-sport-watches vibe. If you’re the type of guy who loves a powerful-looking tool watch, but one that isn’t overwhelming, this is an effective design.

Of course, all of the Seiko-specific features are there, from the windowed sword hands (brilliantly lumed, by the way) to the date window situated between the four and five indices.

What I Like

  • The design is robust and bold, perfect for anyone who wants an undeniably sporty timepiece.
  • It’s powered by an accurate solar movement that gets energy from both natural and artificial light.
  • Seiko watches are loved and esteemed, with a community of enthusiasts all over the internet that you can use as a resource.

What I Don’t Like

  • At 164 grams, this watch is on the heavier side, though I’m sure some people think that sport watches should have a weighty presence.

What Others Reviewers Say

Reviewers appreciate the mix of classic sport watch features. In fact, many mention that it’s a good watch for someone who can’t decide between a dive or a racer.

Seiko often uses their proprietary Hardlex crystal, even on pricier models. Reviewers enjoy that this comes with a real-deal sapphire.

The Verdict

The Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC911 is an athletic sport watch that’s as powerful functionally as it is visually. It definitely has a presence on your wrist.

As Seiko does, the movement really punches above its price point, with excellent accuracy and a reliable solar-powered mechanism.

Best Under $1,000
Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC911

The Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC911 is an athletic sport watch that’s as powerful functionally as it is visually. It definitely has a presence on your wrist. As Seiko does, the movement really punches above its price point, with excellent accuracy and a reliable solar-powered mechanism.

Check Price

Best Under $2,000: Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic H38416711  

Hamilton American Classic Intra Matic

The Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic (Reference H38416711) is a down-sized version of the Hamilton Chronomatic. At 40 millimeters, though, it’s a pretty universal size. Beyond that, this watch is a flawlessly executed panda dial with a confident, handsome look.

The dial is just slightly domed, giving it a vintage touch. Meanwhile, cool visual qualities, like the racetrack subdials and polished baton indices, provide visual intrigue while also upping the legibility.

I also think that the perfect polishing throughout the top of the case emphasizes all of the sharp angles, giving it a frenetic, racer-friendly characteristic.

On the function side, this watch runs on Hamilton’s H-31, a Swiss automatic with a whopping 60-hour power reserve.

What I Like

  • The dial has a vintage yet timeless panda dial design, upgraded with sleek modern execution and construction.
  • It runs on a Swiss automatic that’s reliable and flaunts a whole 60 hours of power.
  • I love how Hamilton uses an archived American design and builds it with contemporary spec-forward Swiss chops.

What I Don’t Like

  • I wish the date window had the same black-background-white-text design as the subdials. The stark white against the cream dial almost looks like a mistake. It’s close but not tonal and offers no contrast.

What Other Reviewers Say

Several reviewers claim they love this watch more than its larger predecessor.

Since the subdials are built to a smaller scale, the newer Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic looks more balanced and harmonious. I fully agree with this.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for a worthwhile panda dial racer, the Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic succeeds on all fronts. It’s retro yet relevant and flawlessly executed. 

There’s so much balance going on, from the practical proportions to the sophisticatedly sharp edges of the case and lugs. It’s a truly handsome racing watch.

Best Under $2,000
Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic H38416711

If you’re looking for a worthwhile panda dial racer, the Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic succeeds on all fronts. It’s retro yet relevant and flawlessly executed. There’s so much balance going on, from the practical proportions to the sophisticatedly sharp edges of the case and lugs. It’s a truly handsome racing watch.

Check Price

Best Under $5,000: Tag Heuer Chronograph CBN2013.FC6483

Tag Heuer Chronograph

Tag Heuer’s Carrera line is ubiquitous in the sport of automotive racing. This Chronograph (CBN2013.FC6483) is my absolute favorite because of how immaculately it brings together dressy elements and sporty features.

If I’m going to spend $5,000 on a watch, I need it to be versatile. 

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Thanks to the rose-gold plated accents and the almost pearl-like white dial, this stunner pairs naturally with a leather watch strap. This is a truly difficult feat to achieve with a chronograph.

And in case you’re wondering, no, this doesn’t take away from its athleticness. Its dimensional body, 42-millimeter case, sharp lugs, and detailed pushers anchor the aesthetic firmly in the racetracks.

And its movement, a robust Swiss automatic with an 80-hour power reserve, is as beautiful as it’s sturdy. Turn the watch around to see the layers of gold, silver, and jewels. It’s a real treat.

What I Like

  • With its sporty but elegant design, you can wear this watch on a leather strap with your suit, or on a stainless steel bracelet with any casual combination.
  • The exhibition caseback allows you to admire the attractively multi-layered automatic movement.
  • Its 80-hour power reserve means you can leave this watch on your dresser for over three days without worrying about it falling behind.

What I Don’t Like

  • The lume is good, but I wish it wasn’t just peppered above the actual indices. Even the brightest glow needs more than dots to host it.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers are pleased with Tag Heuer for giving us a stately variation of the Carrera Chronographs. And just like me, they agree that the exhibition caseback really takes this over the top in a good way.

From all of the reviews online I’ve read and watched, it’s clear that Tag Heuer absolutely served up a crowd-pleaser here.

The Verdict

The Tag Heuer Chronograph (Reference CBN2013.FC6483) is the perfect racer for a one-watch collection. It can be worn as an athletic dress watch or as a leveled-up casual timepiece.

Looks aside, it’s a functionally superior Swiss chronograph and a true luxury sport watch.

Best Under $5,000
Tag Heuer Chronograph CBN2013.FC6483

The Tag Heuer Chronograph (Reference CBN2013.FC6483) is the perfect racer for a one-watch collection. It can be worn as an athletic dress watch or as a leveled-up casual timepiece. Looks aside, it’s a functionally superior Swiss chronograph and a true luxury sport watch.

Check Price

Best Under $10,000: Omega Speedmaster Racing Master Chronograph 329.30.44.51.01.001

Omega Speedmaster Racing Master Chronograph

The Omega Speedmaster is truly one of the best entry-level luxury watches on the market. However, while the Speedy subline focuses on the Moonwatch, this Racing Master variation goes back to its roots on the racetrack.

This is seen through the racing style minute track, a two-layer alternating set of markings that make the watch look even more frenetic. In fact, I think they look like mini racing flags.

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And since this is Omega, this watch is built to the most premium standards, inside and out. It runs on a highly accurate Master Chronometer and is built to last. Just look at the bezel ring. The ceramic construction provides a vivid hue, not just a murky black, that won’t fade over time.

What I Like

  • It runs on Omega’s Chronometer 9900, which boasts incredible accuracy, while the Co-Axial ensures it continues that way in the long run.
  • This watch honors the Speedy’s automotive roots, with a racing style minute track.
  • The transparent caseback gives you an opportunity to watch one of the most advanced movements in the industry.

What I Don’t Like

  • 50 meters of water resistance is arguably unacceptable at this price point. For $10,000, give me at least 100, Omega.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers absolutely love how high-gloss this watch is. Omega’s Liquidmetal bezel is almost as mirror-finished as the polished parts of the case.

Some purists complain about the dual subdial layout compared to the Moonwatch’s three subdials. I personally prefer it for this variation though, because it gives the racer minute track more room to shine.

The Verdict

The Omega Speedmaster Racing Master is a timeless standard in that everyone knows and trusts the Speedy. It’s one of the most important watches in the world and arguably the most important chronograph in history. 

However, this premium investment piece is a unique variant in that it turns its focus toward the subline’s racing background.

Best Under $10,000
Omega Speedmaster Racing Master Chronograph 329.30.44.51.01.001

The Omega Speedmaster Racing Master is a timeless standard in that everyone knows and trusts the Speedy. It’s one of the most important watches in the world and arguably the most important chronograph in history. 

Check Price

Best Under $30,000: Rolex Daytona 116503

Rolex Daytona 116503 Watch

The Rolex Daytona 116503 is one of the most desirable racing watches on the market, not least of which is due to its elusivity. It’s one of the brand’s Rolesor watches, meaning it’s a two-tone model, featuring 18k gold in its construction (the bezel, pushers, and middle bracelet links).

It’s a categorically aristocratic timepiece, complete with perfect applications and a strong, durable construction despite using gold.

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See, this watch is powered by Caliber 4130, a real-deal Chronometer that can stay precise even in the face of temperature variation and shock. 

Also, Rolex’s blue Parachrom hairspring levels up the movement’s resistance to shock, as well as magnetic fields, while also maintaining lifelong stability. It’s just one of Rolex’s hundreds of patented technologies.

What I Like

  • The gold Rolesor variant is beautiful, unique, and also quite rare.
  • Like a lot of Rolex watches, this watch is a sound investment.
  • The Chronometer movement is impressively stable and maintains this stability over time.

What I Don’t Like

  • This watch is extremely elusive and impossible to get at retail price.

What Other Reviewers Say

In 2016, this 116503 replaced the 116523. Reviewers acknowledge and love that the Rolesor version of the 116503 is a true icon and a universal grail.

However, some think that the fatter fonts on the bezel look less sleek, compared to the slender font of its predecessor. Admittedly, this bezel is generally busier looking, but whether or not that’s good or bad is completely subjective.

The Verdict

If you can get your hands on one, the Rolex Daytona 116503 is a classy and impressive timepiece and an instant family heirloom. It has a distinguished look, the benefit of brand clout, and a construction that ensures it will last generations.

Best Under $30,000
Rolex Daytona 116503

If you can get your hands on one, the Rolex Daytona 116503 is a classy and impressive timepiece and an instant family heirloom. It has a distinguished look, the benefit of brand clout, and a construction that ensures it will last generations.

Check Price

Money No Object Pick: Richard Mille RM029

Richard Mille RM029

This maximalist watch is built to rigorous specifications, with outstanding attention to detail—and there’s a lot of detail here. If you love a big, eye-catching timepiece, or one that you can look at for hours while also discovering something new, go for the Richard Mille RM029.

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Watching the movement as you operate the crown is one of the many delights this watch offers.

Richard Mille actually uses engineering analysis, similar to the kind used for making Formula 1 cars, ensuring every single tiny component is effectively playing its part. 

It’s no wonder they skeletonized the design. Considering the painstaking labor and structure that goes into this, who wouldn’t want to see every detail?

What I Like

  • The meticulously built movement is fascinatingly complex and exceptionally accurate.
  • Between the fully skeletonized design and multi-layered aesthetic, this maximalist watch is remarkably unique.
  • This watch is made only of premium materials inside and out, from grade 2 titanium to 18k white gold to the black-PVD-treated date bridge.

What I Don’t Like

  • At almost 50 millimeters on its longest sides, this watch is definitely too big for many wrists.

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers appreciate how complex and unlike any other racing watch, the RM029 is.

There are some complaints about the 50 meter water resistance and the imposing size of the watch. However, many also mention that the curved caseback makes it ergonomic despite this size.

The Verdict

The Richard Mille RM029 is a true feat of engineering. I recommend this watch to those who want everything a racing watch can offer, as well as those who love an eye-catching timepiece that no one else has. The RM029 is maximalism to the highest degree.

Money No Object Pick
Richard Mille RM029

The Richard Mille RM029 is a true feat of engineering. I recommend this watch to those who want everything a racing watch can offer, as well as those who love an eye-catching timepiece that no one else has. The RM029 is maximalism to the highest degree.

Check Price

3 Key Things to Consider When Choosing a Racing Watch

Armogan racing watches on flat background surface

As with any watch, there are several things to consider when choosing a racing watch. Here are three of the most important ones.

  • Price: Yes, price is something to consider regardless of the watch style. However, a lot of racing watches are equipped with complex functionalities.

    Chronographs are a pretty advanced complication. As such, a lot of racers are expensive. Fortunately, brands we’ve included here (like Armogan and VAER) have done a good job of productively stuffing their sub-$1000 watches with respectable specs.
  • Style: Do you want a standard sport watch like the Seiko? Or something classic yet distinct like the Armogan? Perhaps you like the eye-catching cushion case of the Vaer. Just because you’re looking within a single category of watches doesn’t mean there won’t be a range of aesthetics.
  • Automatic vs Quartz: If accuracy is your priority, then always go for a quartz. Go for a mecaquartz if you still want that smooth hand sweep.

If you really want an automatic, I highly recommend choosing a model with an exhibition caseback, like the Omega we feature here. In my opinion, the most practical reason to want an automatic is to experience the horological aspects of it.

Winners at the Finish Line

Okay, so I think all of these timepieces are winners. But your winner depends on what racer you’re looking for.

Looking for a budget racing watch? The Armogan Regalia S89 punches far above its price point more than any other bang-for-buck watch I’ve seen in a while. It’s also classic yet unique and functionally sound.

Great Value for Money
Armogan Regalia S89

The racing style of the Regalia is more casual than Armogan's dressier Sopraffino Grande, though it perfectly balances sportiness with high class. The biker-esque detailing is undeniably cool, and the watch boasts a fantastic quality for the price.

Check Price Read Our Review

Meanwhile, the Vaer R1 is a swanky cushion case watch under $500, while the Seiko Prospex Speedtimer is a pure sport watch for less than a grand.

If you’re looking for a panda dial, the Hamilton Intra-Matic is a good choice for under $2,000. The Tag Heuer Chrono may be close to half a grand, but it’s also an effective option for a one-watch collection.

The Omega Speedmaster Racing and the Rolex Daytona 116503 are two Swiss hard-hitters worth the investment if you can pay the price of admission.

And if money is no object, why not go for the Richard Mille RM029? There’s truly nothing like it.

FAQs

What makes a racing watch?

A racing watch has a high-contrast dial for at-a-glance legibility and often extra features that can calculate speed, like a chronograph.

What watches do NASCAR drivers wear?

The Rolex Daytona is often associated with NASCAR racing because of the record-breaking Paul Newman Daytona. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr also wore Daytonas. Tissot was an official timekeeper for Nascar in the mid-aughts.

What is a racing chronograph?

Racing chronographs have high-contrast dials, a quick start/stop pusher, and often a flyback function for quick setting and resetting.

What is the difference between a dive watch and a racing watch?

A dive watch is made to go deep underwater. It needs to have good water resistance, a way to calculate descent and ascent (usually in the form of a rotating bezel), and lume. A racing watch needs to be legible enough to read at a glance, and able to calculate speed and distance.