The Best Automatic Watches Under $500
Collecting watches is an expensive hobby. No matter your tax bracket, watches in general are (rightfully) considered to be functional pieces of art, and good art is, well…expensive.
The fact that the price of a good automatic watch can go up seemingly almost indefinitely, makes it really hard to stick to (or even determine!) a reasonable budget. Moreover, the market can seem impossible to navigate, and it can easily appear as though the only way to buy a good investment piece is to spend several thousand dollars.
At TheWatchResource, it is our mission to shine the light on often overlooked players, pieces that are designed and built to perfection, yet remain accessible in price. In this guide, we put together a list of the best automatic watches under $500; let’s take a look.
Different Automatic Movements
Before we begin, we would like to point out some essential information so we are on the same page as far as technical specifications. In order to provide some rationale behind the price differences, we have to look at the origin of the movement as the single most important determining factor in the final retail price.
It’s not going to come as a huge surprise that automatic movements are among the more expensive solutions for watch movements, so the retail price of these timepieces will naturally be higher due to the additional hours of work that go into the final product.
Watch brands tend to go one of two ways: they either use in-house movements (movements they’re manufacturing or altering), or use movements provided by movement manufacturers.
Currently, the most commonly used automatic watch movements are Swiss or Japanese automatic movements.
For your convenience, and because of our slightly nerdy tendencies, you will find the list of our top automatic watches below $500 split in two categories based on the origin country of the movement.
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Watches with Swiss Automatic Movement Under $500
When it comes to watches, having the “Swiss Made” label on the dial is something we are all excited to see. However, Swiss labor is not the cheapest in the world, therefore finding watches with automatic Swiss movements under $500 is quite challenging. Brands who can produce these watches at lower price points are either part of a larger organization so they have more resources available, or purchase Swiss made movements from movement manufacturers. For example, Tissot and Hamilton are all under the Swatch Group umbrella, as well as ETA (the watch manufacturer), therefore they have more internal resources to be cost effective. Victorinox on the other hand is using automatic movements provided by Seillita, a Swiss company manufacturing automatic watch movements.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the top Swiss automatic watches under $500!
Hamilton Khaki Field Auto 38
The Hamilton Khaki Field watch is a resilient military watch with a rugged design. As the first soldier’s wristwatch, the Khaki Field pays homage to Hamilton’s military background, and this timepiece is ready for any expedition. Hamilton’s most popular collection, the Khaki Field watches are classic army designs that have stood the test of time. They’re designed for life’s explorers and are sure to meet your demands in the wild.
The 38 mm case width counts a smaller size, however, this size is truly a tribute to the traditional field watch sizes. Hamilton’s own H-10 automatic movement provides an 80-hour power reserve. The Hamilton Khaki Field Auto 38 is an all time favorite!
Victorinox I.N.O.X. Mechanical
The I.N.O.X. Mechanical is the newest addition to the Victorinox I.N.O.X. collection. This innovation replaces quartz with mechanical movement in a finely built delicate mechanism. The dial’s complex guilloche pattern is not only a distinctive, timeless element, but it’s also meant to resemble the handle of a Swiss Army Knife. To cap it off, Victorinox has invented a hardwood strap that is the first of its type. It’s the perfect invention that goes hand in hand with our environmental mission. It’s strong, robust, and fashioned into a leather base.
Victorinox Airboss Mechanical
This one is for all the watch lovers who are fascinated by movements, because the Airboss Mechanical from Victorinox has a translucent exhibition case back showing off its Sellita automatic movement. The blue dial and brown leather strap is a perfect combination we can never tire of, in this case paired with the red accents–cherry on top. To sum up, a beautiful eye-catching watch with a Swiss made automatic movement, named Airboss?! Sign us up.
Tissot Seastar 1000
The Tissot Seastar 1000 is the ultimate water sport watch, with its high water-resistance, and screw-down crown, as well as its unidirectional ceramic bezel. The Powermatic 80 movement boasts 80 hours of power reserve, which is enough to continue telling time accurately even if the watch is not worn for three days.
The very sporty dial and bezel and counterbalanced by the stainless steel mesh bracelet, making sure the watch is an appropriate addition when you’re strolling through the city.
Tissot Ballade Automatic
The Tissot Ballade Automatic is another example from Tissot for providing luxury at affordable price. The Powermatic 80 movement gives you an 80-hour power reserve. The sword minute and hour hands give the timepiece a straight-to-the-point feel, which is further amplified by the simplistic hour markers. The two Roman numerals for 6 and 12 o’clock make the dial very balanced, and the dial’s inner ring has a beautiful guilloche pattern, which complimented by the fixed bezel’s texture. A very classy choice!
Stuhrling Depthmaster Heritage
The color teal on a watch dial is not something you see everyday. That’s why the Stuhrling Depthmaster Heritage caught our attention as well! Classic dive watch design, with an exciting pop of color that is still subtle enough to be appropriate as your everyday watch. It can worn with a casual Polo, or you can dress this timepiece up with a dark suit. The clean inner-workings of the Depthmaster Heritage are showcased in an exhibition caseback. The automatic movement is Swiss made CL-888, which is based on the Chinese Sea-Gull ST1612. The end result is a very affordable automatic movement where the seconds hand will sweep smoothly on your teal dial!
Watches with Japanese Automatic Movement Under $500
The Japanese watch brands and movements are also a very exciting option for watch connoisseurs, as these movements are known for being reliable and exceedingly high in quality.
The two most common movements are Miyota automatic movements, which is part of the Citizen group, or Seiko (NH35) automatic movements. The two are generally recognizable as the behemoths of the Japanese horological landscape.
Sternglas Hamburg Automatik
The Sternglas Hamburg Automatik is highlighting Hamurg’s importance. The 42 mm casing does a good job of emphasizing the design, which was inspired by marine measurement tools.
The Hamburg Automatic Edition has a great vintage appearance in conjunction with the white satin-finished dial. The engraving of the Hamburg’s map can be found on the rear of the case, which is a unique touch we absolutely love.
Spinnaker Bradner Pacific Blue
The Spinnaker Bradner is a fascinating, performance sports watch that is quickly becoming an iconic timepiece. It’s known for its three-dimensional inner rotating bezel and neo-vintage appearance, all wrapped in a watch that’s always dependable, sturdy, and very cool looking!
Read our in-depth Spinnaker Bradner Review.
UNDONE Aero Worldtimer Doolittle
Relive the sensation of awe, daring, and inventive spirit that the pilots, engineers, watchmakers, and travelers of the past shared as they advanced watchmaking and aviation technology beyond futuristic designs. The AERO Worldtimer from UNDONE adds the iconic GMT functionality to the new AERO collection’s makeover. The result is an exciting balance of modern and vintage design, and we absolutely love it.
Dan Henry 1975 Skin Diver
The Dan Henry 1975 is a ’70s inspired skin diving watch that can be your everyday go-to timepiece. The vintage elements of the dial are made a bit more dynamic with the bright orange second hand. The reliable Miyota 9015 automatic movement provides 42 hours of power reserve, and the case at 39 mm width makes this a perfect fit for all wrist sizes.
Seiko 5 SSK0003
The Seiko 5 SSK003 is a timepiece with a straight-to-the-point design. Functionality takes priority: the 42.5 mm case width is perfect for most wrist sizes, the crown is moved to the 4 o’clock position to enable flexible wrist movement. The red GMT hand pops visible against the dark blue dial. Overall visibility is great of course as we’re talking about a dive watch after all, which can be easily dressed up and down to suit different events and situations.
Phoibos Wave Master
The Phoibos Wave Master diver watch has all the features a classic dive watch should have. Reliable automatic movement (provided by Seiko), anti-reflection coating sapphire crystal dial window, and a three-fold clasp with push button release. To top it off, the Phoibos logo is absolutely badass, and the colorful hands and hour marks provide the perfect pop of color to ensure the eye-catching factor. Definitely one of our favorites.