One of the biggest misconceptions about buying a watch is that it needs to be expensive to be nice, when, in fact, many watches under a grand prove just how wrong that notion is. Admittedly, finding them amongst the many other budget timepieces that are cheaply made or chintzy can be difficult, which is why we went through the trouble to round up some of the best examples at three different price points: $150, $500, and $1,000.

      Under $150

      There’s just something to be said about a cheap watch with a solid build and some character. Admittedly, purchasing a timepiece in this price range can be tricky — it’s littered with junk. On the flip side, plenty of examples out there have garnered cult followings, made up of everymen and horology nerds alike. Some are from respected Japanese brands — Citizen, Seiko — others young innovators. But they all go to show that the affordable watch need not be marked by a shoddy materials or hands that fall off after a month’s use.

      Casio World Time

      While the circa $10 Casio F91W-1 probably also deserves a place on a list like this, we’ll begin with the awesome World Time just to avoid Casio-overload. But the Japanese brand is undeniably strong in this price point with tough, reliable, dirt-cheap watches. Oh, and some people find them to be quite stylish as well. This Casio World Time offers all these attributes and more (including world time, calendar, and alarms) with a dash of retro-futuristic nostalgia, and it’s surprisingly robust for such a great price.

      Movement: Japanese quartz
      Case diameter: 39.5mm
      Water resistance: 100m

      Orient Tri Star

      Using an automatic movement based on an old caliber originally from Seiko, the Orient 3 Star is a simple, utilitarian automatic akin to the Seiko 5. While there’s not much in the way of fit and finish, it does have a well-proportioned 37.5mm case, a stainless steel bracelet and a colorful dial. Its as simple of an automatic watch that you can get, but therein lies its charm.

      Movement: Orient 469 automatic
      Case diameter: 37.5mm
      Water resistance: 30m

      Swatch Essentials

      Swatch is Switzerland’s answer to fun, inexpensive, mass-produced quartz watches, but with a distinctly playful European design sense. There’s a colorful Swatch in just about any style you could want, from versatile examples like this Essentials collection model to bold and quirky watches galore.

      Movement: quartz
      Size: 41mm
      Water Resistance: 30m

      Timex MK1 Aluminum
      $37.51 (58% off)

      Though any number of great Timexes could’ve made this list, we’re particualrly enamored with the reissued MK1 — a recreation (of sorts) of a short-lived 1980s military-issue watch. While the original was meant to be disposable and had a mechanical movement inside and a plastic case protecting it, this version swaps both with a more reliable quartz engine and a higher-quality case made from anodized aluminum.

      Movement: Quartz
      Case diameter: 40mm
      Water resistance: 30m

      Braun BN0032

      Braun’s minimalist aesthetic is perfect for someone looking for a wardrobe accoutrement rather than a showpiece. What’s more, graphic elements like the yellow seconds hand and austere font are sure to call to mind the brand’s legacy of Bauhaus-inspired product design.

      Movement: Quartz
      Size: 40mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Withings Steel HR

      If you just wanted to spend $134.96 or so on a good-looking quartz watch, you could do a lot worse than the Withings Steel HR. But this being a “hybrid” smartwatch, you get more than just classic looks and the time of day. The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth and offers heart rate monitoring to deliver fitness tracking and healthy behavior motivation — all in a very wearable package.

      Movement: Connected quartz
      Size: 36mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Casio G-Shock GWM5610
      $98.57 (30% off)

      A direct descendant of the original G-Shock from 1983, the modern G5600 version and similar watches are as tough as ever. For under $100 you get some nearly indestructible wrist gear that is more accurate than any luxury mechanical watch, and no need for battery changes with solar power. Just make sure you get one that says “Tough Solar” on it, and has a positive display for the best legibility. Further, G-Shocks are just fun, unpretentious, hassle-free, and extremely comfortable to wear.

      Movement: Solar-powered Japanese quartz
      Case diameter: 39.5mm
      Water resistance: 200m

      Citizen NH8350-83E

      You’d be forgiven for thinking Citizen’s entire lineup is made up of its quartz Eco-Drive watches, but the brand does, in fact, make some mechanicals. The NH8350, for instance, packs a Miyota 8200 automatic movement into a clean-cut stainless steel case and comes adorned with a shimmering, sunray blue dial. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better mechanical dress watch for less.

      Movement: Miyota 8200 automatic
      Size: 40mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Bertucci A-2T Classic

      Cases made from solid titanium — loved for its lightweight, durable and hypoallergenic properties — are not such a common site on sub-$150 watches, which is what makes this timepiece from young brand Bertucci such an enticing option. Similarly enticing is the classic field watch dial design, the Japanese quartz movement inside, and a 100-meter depth rating.

      Movement: Quartz
      Size: 40mm
      Water Resistance: 100m

      Under $500

      You can get a pretty damn good watch for less than the cost of a big night out, that’s for sure. But while there are plenty of great dirt-cheap timepieces under $150, if you’re looking for more features, more capability and more impressive designs, you need to bump up the ceiling of your budget. But only a little. For a mere $500 you can enter the world of geeky timepieces, where complications, mechanical movements and daring design elements are plentiful.

      Orient Bambino

      This is just one of multiple iterations of Orient’s beloved, mid-century-style dress watch. The classic dial comes in an excellent black colorway with Roman numerals but a bit of an Art-Deco touch to keep in interesting — but, again, it's worth checking out all the options. Ticking underneath is an automatic movement from Orient (i.e., in-house movement) featuring hand-winding and hacking seconds.

      Movement: Orient F6724 Automatic
      Size: 42mm
      Water Resistance: 30m

      Citizen Stiletto
      $232.72 (42% off)

      When Citizen launched its mind-blowingly thin (less than 3mm) Eco-Drive One in 2016, it captivated watch enthusiasts, but with a price tag over $2,000, it was steeply priced. At under $500, and with a still crazy-thin case thickness of 4.7mm, the Stiletto is a fantastic compromise, given its sleek proportions and classy guilloche dial. Of course, that solar-powered quartz movement is also a gem, making battery changes a thing of the past.

      Movement: Eco-Drive solar quartz
      Size: 38mm
      Water Resistance: splash-resistant only

      Timex Marlin Automatic

      Timex abandoned mechanical movements in favor of digital and quartz movements years ago — but we were excited when they started to bring mechanical watches back, starting with the Marlin. It’s available with an automatic movement, and if that weren’t enough, it comes with a sleek case, dial, and strap design that truly look like they were plucked from the 1960s.

      Movement: Miyota automatic
      Size: 40mm
      Water Resistance: 30m

      Merci LMM-01 Field Watch

      Parisian “concept store” Merci launched its own timepiece, and it’s one hell of a looker, like a crossover between a modern Mondaine watch and a vintage field watch. The dial is adorned with Helvetica numerals and yellow accents, it’s equipped with a VH31 quartz movement from Seiko, and it comes in at under $300.

      Movement: Seiko VH31 quartz
      Size: 38mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Seiko 5 Sports SRPG Field Watch

      No list of dirt-cheap watches is complete without something from the Seiko 5 line. Originally launched in 1963, it’s cultivated a feverish following amongst watch fans for its utilitarian mechanical movement and the value it provides. The Seiko 5 comes in many iterations, and the field watch is one of our favorites. You can still get the OG models in the SNK line for very cheap indeed, but the brand's modern, updated version is going to have an even more solid and refined feel for a still crazily low price.

      Movement: Seiko 4R36 Automatic
      Size: 39.4mm
      Water Resistance: 100m

      Seagull 1963

      Want a new mechanical chronograph under $500? The Seagull 1963 is pretty much your only option. That’s no concession, though. It uses a hand-wound mechanical movement made by Tianjin Seagull Watch Co. (one of China’s best-known movement manufacturers), housed in a compact and authentically sized 38mm stainless steel case.

      Movement: Seagull ST21 hand-winding chronograph
      Size: 38mm
      Water Resistance: 30m

      Shinola Model D Detrola

      If you want classic design, you don’t need to pay much, fortunately. Shinola has done a nice job hitting the right balance between vintage-inspired charm and a sleek modern look. The Detrola is the brand's entry level watch, and it offers a lot of options thanks to its TR90 resin (a kind of plastic) case that's easily executed in different colors. It's equipped with a robust quartz movement made from Swiss parts and assembled in Detroit.

      Movement: Shinola Argonite 705 quartz
      Size: 43mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Bulova Lunar Pilot Moonwatch

      When people think “moon watch,” Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster Professional comes to mind. It was the first watch worn on the moon, after all, but there are actually quite a few timepieces that have ventured off this rock. When Mission Commander David Scott and his Apollo 15 crew touched down in the Hadley-Appennius, Scott checked his Bulova and logged the landing at 06:16:29 p.m. This Bulova 956B251 is a high-beat quartz-powered homage to that very watch.

      Movement: Bulova 262kHz quartz chronograph
      Size: 45mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Laco Augsburg

      German watch brand Laco is perhaps best known for its super simple, super legible Flieger pilot watches. This Augsburg doesn’t stray far from that formula: it comes with a stark black dial adorned with numerals given a healthy dose of lume, plus a big 42mm case (a smaller 36mm variant is also available for fans of small watches). Inside ticks an automatic movement from Miyota, and the whole thing comes affixed to a thick brown leather strap.

      Movement: Miyota 821A automatic
      Size: 42mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Seiko Prospex SRP777

      With its big cushion case, knobby bezel and simple dial, the SRP777 is a faithful homage to the original Seiko 6309 “Turtle” from the 1970s and ’80s. But unlike the Turtle, the new watch is water resistant up to 200 meters (the old one was only rated for 150) and has an automatic movement with hand-winding capabilities. It’s a fantastic option for those who want the look of a vintage diver, but the capabilities and reliability of a modern watch.

      Movement: Seiko 4R36 automatic
      Size: 45mm
      Water Resistance: 200m

      Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

      Hamilton’s popular Khaki Field watch needs no introduction to those who have ever explored the world of affordable mechanical watches. It has a cult following for a reason – or more like reasons (plural). Not only is it one of the most inexpensive Swiss mechanical watches you can buy, but it’s solid with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and it perfectly recalls the brand’s history making watches for actual military use.

      Movement: Hand-wound Swiss ETA 2804-2
      Size: 38mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Under $1,000

      Yes, you can get some truly special timepieces from luxury brands if you decide to spend a couple grand — don’t let us deter you from pulling the trigger on your dream watch. But you can get a surprising amount of watch for less than a single grand, too. Want a monstrous titanium dive watch? You can get that for under $1,000. Or a super-thin, mechanical dress watch? We found two. Want a bronze case or an enamel dial? They’re all here, as well, along with a handful of other great-looking, reliable timepieces from watchmakers big and small.

      Baltic Aquascaphe

      French indie brand Baltic’s Aquascaphe was already a great-looking vintage-inspired dive watch, but its 2020 iteration is possibly the best yet. Now with a steel 12-hour bezel and a contemporary look with white, contrasting dial elements, it still offers restrained sizing at just 39mm wide. Water resistant to 200m, it’s available on a steel bracelet but prices start at under $600 on a Tropic rubber dive strap.

      Movement: Miyota 9039 automatic
      Size: 39mm
      Water Resistance: 200m

      MkII Cruxible Hellion

      MkII is an independent brand that specializes in producing modern homages to historic military watches, and the Cruxible recreates the World War II-era American watch. It’s available in a wearable 39mm size with an automatic Seiko movement in either a date or no-date variant. Military watches have a utilitarian charm that’s hard to beat, and MkII is appreciated by enthusiasts for offering solid value.

      Movement: Seiko NE15 automatic
      Size: 39mm
      Water Resistance: 100m

      Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto

      The Hamilton Intra-Matic remains one of our favorite affordable timepieces. Its simple mix of elegance and style harkens back to an era when understated design ruled drawing boards. Featuring a beautiful gold dial with a matte finish decorated minimally with Hamilton’s vintage “H” logo, faceted lugs and a thin leather band, the Intra-Matic could easily pass as an heirloom timepiece, without the fuss of vintage upkeep.

      Movement: ETA 2892-2 automatic
      Size: 38mm
      Water Resistance: 50m

      Tissot PRX Powermatic 80

      The value that Tissot is offering for its combination of features, style and quality in the PRX Powermatic 80 watches can only be described as aggressive: You get the "integrated bracelet" look and waffle-textured dial that hints at watches many times its price, a solid automatic movement with 80 hours of power reserve, as well as overall great finishing for its range. Best of all, though, is that it's got an uncommonly 80s throwback feel that stands out in today's market — and if you're cool with quartz, there are even more affordable versions.

      Movement: Powermatic 80 automatic
      Size: 40mm
      Water Resistance: 100m

      Seiko Prospex Alpinist SPB121

      Seiko’s Alpinist is one classy field watch. Aside from the deep forest green dial, it also comes packing an automatic movement and an inner rotating bezel that can be used as a compass when synched with the position of the sun. And with a case diameter of 39.5mm, it’s a great mid-size watch that should look great on just about anyone. Based on the brand’s first sport watch made in 1959, Seiko has released an updated version now residing in the Prospex family.

      Movement: Seiko 6R35 automatic
      Size: 39.5mm
      Water Resistance: 200m

      Christopher Ward Trident C60 Sapphire

      Christopher Ward has always offered a lot of watch for the money, and that’s absolutely true even on the higher end of the brand’s wares. This iteration of the stalwart C60 dive watch, for example, packs a Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement that visible through a blue-tinted sapphire dial. Its heavy-duty construction and water resistance to an incredible 600 meters is just a huge bonus.

      Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic
      Size: 40mm
      Water Resistance: 600m

      Mido Ocean Star 200

      The Ocean Star 200 is a great example of Mido's value: Its design might not stand out at first in the sea of dive watches available, Tbut it offers impressive levels of fit and finish for its price. It comes in at just under $1k in this configuration, but you can get it on a rubber strap for a bit less — or in titanium for nominally more considering the upped value proposition. Did we mention the excellent 80-hour-power-reserve automatic movement inside?

      Movement: ETA C07.621 automatic
      Size: 42mm
      Water Resistance: 200m

      Junghans Max Bill Automatic

      Understated, slim and impeccably clean, this Bauhaus-inspired Junghans is perfectly sized to peek out from under a French cuff. Its case measures 38mm and houses a self-winding movement between 10mm of polished stainless steel and Sicralan-coated plexiglass. Super Luminova has been applied to the hour and minute hands as well as markers at both 6 and 12 to help it shine through the night.

      Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic (base)
      Size: 38mm
      Water Resistance: 30m

      Archimede OutDoor

      It's tough to find an unfussy tool watch that also stands out for its original design. That's what German watchmaker Archimede's Outdoor collection of rugged watches achieves, but this watch is about more than its looks. The brand is part of the Ickler family of companies (also including Limes) which makes its own cases and offers features like special case-hardening technology. With 200m of water resistance this tough little watch has the specs to survive just about anything you throw at it, and the badass looks to match. With a Swiss automatic movement inside, that's a pretty strong value.

      Movement: Sellita SW 200-1 automatic
      Size: 39mm
      Water Resistance: 200m

      Yema Superman Steel Bronze

      Yema is one of our favorite makers of historically inspired French tool watches. This new version of the brand's popular Superman dive watch is strikingly unique-looking with its mixture of steel case, bronze bezel and a couple of dial color options — but it also offers some interest under the hood: It's powered by the new-and-improved generation of Yema's own in-house-designed-and-assembled automatic movement. All that for under $1,000 makes it pretty compelling even in the crowded dive watch space.

      Movement: YEMA2000 automatic
      Size: 39mm or 41mm
      Water Resistance: 300m