It’s the holiday season and the watch lover in your life needs a gift — or maybe you want to treat yourself. For the kind of person who won’t even look at quartz watches except with contempt, watch accessories or actual mechanical watches are the way to go. And though mechanical watches can get expensive, there’s also a number of relatively affordable options that’ll delight even the horological snob. The following mechanical watches range in price from under $100 up to entry-level luxury at around $1,500 — with a lot of great options in between.
1. Seiko 5 Field Watch
The classic ultra-affordable automatic watch, the Seiko 5 Field watch is shockingly robust for its price. A slight strap upgrade from the canvas one it comes on will make for a cool and satisfying watch that will last for years.
2. Swatch Sistem 51 Col-ora
Colorful, casual and fun, Swatch’s Sistem51 collection of mostly plastic watches with Swiss automatic movements is a great source for stocking stuffers or spontaneous gifts for the guy who needs some levity in his watch rotation.
3. Orient Kano Dive Watch
This is a handsome automatic sport watch you can beat up and not worry about. You won’t worry because it’s inexpensive, but also because it’s tough, with 200m of water-resistance and that celebrated Japanese build quality.
4. Timex Waterbury Traditional Automatic
The Timex Waterbury collection offers a classic look and a Japanese automatic movement that’s visible through the case back. It’s available in different dial colors and strap options, and it makes a great first mechanical watch or a casual option for the seasoned watch guy.
5. Seiko Presage Cocktail Time SRPD37
Perhaps better known for its sport watches, the more genteel side of Seiko shines in its “Cocktail Time” series. These are stylistically more formal but remain fun thanks to their affordability and dial executions, which include this green version with a yellow seconds hand.
Gear Patrol Magazine Subscription
Gear Patrol Magazine is a deep dive into product culture. Inside each issue, you’ll find seasonal buying guides, rich maker profiles and long-form dispatches from the front lines of product design. Get four print magazines — delivered quarterly — with an annual subscription.
6. Tissot V8 Swissmatic
You’re not going to find the specs and features that Tissot offers in the handsome and sporty V8 Swissmatic — which include a Swiss automatic movement (with 72 hours of power reserve), 100m of water resistance, and sapphire crystal, all in a 42mm-wide steel case on a steel bracelet — for a much lower retail price than this.
7. Laco Aachen 39
The right size, the right price, and the right look. Laco is a German brand with a history of making military pilot watches, and here it offers a classic 39mm version with a Japanese Miyota automatic movement inside — perfect for the adventurous guy on a budget.
8. Bulova Oceanographer “Devil Diver”
Named for its depth rating 666 feet, the Bulova “Devil Diver” is a reissue of a vintage classic from the 1970s. With a unique look and Japanese automatic movement inside, the newest models feature colorful interpretations like the blue and orange pictured here as well as a cool green and black version.
9. Citizen Promaster Fugu
Citizen’s Promaster dive watches are affordable, genuinely cool and rough-wearing classics, and the most recent Fugu automatic versions excited fans. Although they have only been launched so far in certain markets, some are already available online.
10. Baltic Aquascaphe
We’re big fans of French brand Baltic at Gear Patrol. The Aquascaphe is a retro-inspired dive watch with a solid Japanese automatic movement inside, a 39mm case, and an approachable price for the budding watch enthusiast.
11. Martenero Edgemere Reserve
The Edgemere Reserve is one of the latest watches from New York-based Martenero watches. It’s got a unique look with a colorful design, a power reserve of 40 hours indicated on the dial, a 24-hour subdial at 6 o’clock, and a Japanese automatic movement, all in a 40mm case.
12. Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao
This young independent brand is offering some of the most elegant and nicely executed watches anywhere near their price level. Proudly Chinese inside and out, the brand’s first product offers a classical design, stunning porcelain dial, and other attractive details.
13. Carpenter Brooklyn Gent
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Carpenter Watches makes understated tool watches inspired by its home city. The Brooklyn Gent has a utilitarian charm, 38mm steel case, and a Swiss automatic ETA 2824 movement inside.
14. Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
33mm wide might sound small, but Gear Patrol found this pilot’s watch to be one of our favorite sub-$1k watches of the year. Based on a model made for the British military in the 1970s, but with modern updates like a manually wound Swiss movement, its proportions and details make it a unique wearing experience and a strong value.
15. Mido Multifort Patrimony
Who said you can’t get a good-looking Swiss automatic watch from an established brand for under $1,000? Mido is among the brands proving that you can get all that and the associated features you expect from luxury watches, like sapphire crystal, for three-digit prices.
16. Detroit Watch Company L’Horloge
This independent brand based in Detroit offers a well-executed range of watches that draw on classical design cues. They include not only a unique American personality but Swiss mechanical movements and other desirable specs for reasonable prices.
17. Ollech & Wajs P-104
The high-quality vintage watches from Swiss Ollech & Wajs are fun finds for budget hunters. The modern brand, however, continues to make tool watches that are remarkably faithful to the brand’s spirit of past decades and, just like the vintage models, they offer strong value. The P-104, in particular, has a unique look with its touches of sporty orange.
18. Autodromo Intereuropa
Autodromo is based in New York and caters to the broad section of watch lovers that overlaps with car lovers. The new Intereuropa takes design cues from the automotive world and features a manually wound Swiss mechanical movement and a moderately sized 40mm case. A great watch for the car enthusiast.
19. Farer GMT
At this price range, you can expect a bit more from your watch. However, the Farer GMT is still very much “affordable” considering what it’s offering. With its excellent details and Swiss automatic movement featuring a GMT (dual time zone) complication, this is a genuinely useful watch offering premium qualities and a unique look.
20. Yema Superman Heritage GMT “Coke”
This is an attractive GMT watch that combines features of a dive watch with 300m of water resistance. It’s bicolored black and red bezel lends it the “Coke” nickname just like the popular Rolex model. Powered by a Swiss ETA 2893 automatic movement, the Yema Superman is a great GMT option for the mechanical watch lover who appreciates vintage styling and modern build quality.
Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Auto Gear Patrol Special Edition
Our special edition watch pairs features like a quickset date function and 80-hour power reserve with a robust 40mm stainless steel case and 100-meter depth rating. The result is an all-around tool watch capable of offering effortless everyday wear while also performing on hearty adventures. Made in limited quantities specifically for Gear Patrol.