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: under $150, under $500, and up to $1,000.

How We Tested

collage of watches product and lifestyle images
Courtesy

We test watches for reviews by wearing them over a period of time, usually ranging from a week to months and even longer. This gives us a chance to experience their quirks and discover the details or issues that won't be apparent just seeing a watch in pictures, in person or even wearing it for a short period of time. Where applicable, we'll size the bracelets, swap straps, turn the bezels, use the different functions, wind and set the watch, and observe how it feels to do so and how these elements perform.

Although we don't use machines to test their accuracy or water resistance, we might take a watch swimming, traveling or otherwise out into the real world. Wearing it social settings, seeing how it makes us feel and what kind of reactions it gets is yet another kind of test. We won't intentionally beat the hell out of a watch (usually), but we'll often put it through some rigorous paces.

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 shoddy materials or hands that fall off after a month’s use.

Casio World Time

Casio World Time
amazon.com
$24.99

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 (reviewed here) just to avoid Casio overload. But the Japanese brand is undeniably strong at 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

    Swatch Bioceramic Think Time White

    Swatch Bioceramic Think Time White
    swatch.com
    $90.00

    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 Bioceramic collection model (which boasts a type of ceramic case!) to bold and quirky watches galore.

    • Movement: Quartz
    • Size: 34mm
    • Water Resistance: 30m

      Orient Tri Star

      Orient Tri Star
      amazon.com
      $107.99

      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. It's as simple of an automatic watch as you can get, but therein lies its charm.

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

        Casio G-Shock GWM5610

        Casio G-Shock GWM5610
        amazon.com
        $150.00
        $111.00 (26% off)

        A direct descendant of the original G-Shock from 1983, the modern G5600 version and similar watches are as tough as ever — and still the best G-Shock as we found in our review here. For under $150 you get some nearly indestructible wrist gear that is more accurate than any luxury mechanical watch. We're talking atomic accuracy for models like this GWM5610 with radio-synched time keeping (Multiband 6). Just make sure you get one that says “Tough Solar” on it, and that has a positive display for the best possible experience. Further, digital G-Shocks are just fun, unpretentious, hassle-free, and extremely comfortable to wear.

        • Movement: Japanese quartz with Tough Solar and Multiband 6
        • Case diameter: 43.2mm
        • Water resistance: 200m

          Braun BN0021

          Braun BN0021
          Braun amazon.com
          $160.00

          Braun’s minimalist aesthetic is perfect for someone looking for a wardrobe accouterment 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

            Timex Q 1978 Reissue Day-Date

            Timex Q 1978 Reissue Day-Date
            amazon.com
            $179.00

            Though any number of Timexes could’ve made this list we’re particularly enamored with the Q reissues, a series of revived designs from a time when quartz watch technology was something to boast about. Bucking the modern notions that quartz is of less interest or value, the Q Timex watches give the tech center stage — alongside irresistible and genuinely well-executed retro styles. See the Q 1978 Reissue Day-Date reviewed here.

            • Movement: Quartz
            • Size: 37mm
            • Water Resistance: 50m

              Withings Steel HR

              Withings Steel HR
              withings.com
              $179.95
              $134.96 (25% off)

              If you just wanted to spend $143.96 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

                Citizen NH8350-83E

                Citizen NH8350-83E
                ebay.com
                $117.00

                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

                  Courtesy
                  Bertucci A-2T Classic
                  amazon.com
                  $144.95

                  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 the 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

                    Nixon Base Tide Pro

                    Courtesy
                    Nixon Base Tide Pro
                    nixon.com
                    $150.00

                    Water-resistant to 100m and displaying tide charts on a large, legible screen, Nixon's Base Tide Pro is known as the watch most associated with professional and amateur surfers. It's kind of become a classic for that reason and feels like it's got tons of legit field testing behind it. It's also just a fun and casual summer watch with cases made from recycled ocean plastic and available in a range of colors, offering a cool alternative to the more commonly seen G-Shock.

                    • Movement: Quartz
                    • Size: 42mm
                    • 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

                      Orient Bambino
                      amazon.com
                      $201.66

                      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

                        Timex Marlin Automatic

                        Timex Marlin Automatic
                        timex.com
                        $259.00

                        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

                          Scurfa Diver One Titanium

                          Scurfa Diver One Titanium
                          scurfawatches.com
                          £246.00
                          £184.00 (25% off)

                          A watch brand founded by a commercial diver, Scurfa watches get real respect from actual divers and watch guys. Not only are they as affordable and functional (with reliable quartz movements and 500m of water resistance) as a dive watch should be, but they also play the role of a sporty everyday watch with aplomb. For a little less you can get the brand's basic Diver One in stainless steel, but the small price premium for a lightweight titanium case sounds pretty good to us.

                          Editor's Note: The Scurfa Diver One Titanium is expected to be restocked soon. Versions of the non-Titanium model, though, are currently in stock.

                          • Movement: Ronda 713SM quartz
                          • Size: 40mm
                          • Water Resistance: 500m

                            Merci LMM-01 Field Watch

                            Merci LMM-01 Field Watch
                            merci-merci.com
                            €250.00

                            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. If mechanical movements are your thing, they've got that too.

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

                              Seiko 5 Sports SRPH Field Watch

                              Seiko 5 Sports SRPH Field Watch
                              amazon.com
                              $176.99

                              No list of dirt-cheap watches is complete without something from the basic 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 (hacking and hand-winding, for instance) for a still crazily low price.

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

                                Seagull 1963 Chronograph

                                Seagull 1963 Chronograph
                                longislandwatch.com
                                $329.00

                                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 or 42mm stainless steel case. It's based on a historical watch made for the Chinese air force.

                                • Movement: Seagull ST21 hand-winding chronograph
                                • Size: 38mm or 42mm
                                • Water Resistance: 30m

                                  Shinola Model D Detrola

                                  Shinola Model D Detrola
                                  shinola.com
                                  $395.00

                                  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

                                    Seiko 5 Sports GMT

                                    Seiko 5 Sports GMT
                                    amazon.com
                                    $459.98

                                    An automatic GMT at under $500. That alone should get your attention, and it would be a big deal in the watch industry no matter what. But one that looks this good — and not like a Rolex homage — is remarkable. Seiko outdid themselves in terms of value and just creating an awesome product, but it also changed the game in the watch industry. These were hard to get initially, but are getting easier, and you really can't go wrong. Of the current black, blue and orange dial options, we especially like the blue.

                                    • Movement: Seiko 4R34 automatic GMT
                                    • Size: 42.5mm
                                    • Water Resistance: 100m

                                      Bulova Lunar Pilot Moonwatch

                                      Bulova
                                      Bulova Archive Lunar Pilot Moonwatch
                                      amazon.com
                                      $625.00
                                      $378.99 (39% off)

                                      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

                                        Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

                                        Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
                                        hamiltonwatch.com
                                        $495.00

                                        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 in the thousands and 10,000 range — 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 grand, too. Want a solid dive watch with a Swiss automatic movement? You can get that for under $1,000. How about sapphire crystal and even relatively exotic materials like bronze? It's all here, along with a handful of other great-looking, reliable timepieces from watchmakers big and small.

                                          Unimatic Modello Uno U1

                                          Unimatic Modello Uno U1
                                          unimaticwatches.com
                                          $550.00

                                          This Italian microbrand is a straight-up phenomenon. Their minimalist and design-savvy approach to classic tool watches has seen endless limited editions sell out in a snap, but their standard production models are usually available (in batches). The Unimatic U1, as its name suggests, was the brand's first product, and it offers a unique take on a dive watch with a Japanese automatic movement inside and 300m of water resistance.

                                          • Movement: Seiko NH35A automatic
                                          • Size: 40mm
                                          • Water Resistance: 300m

                                            Seiko Prospex "King Turtle"

                                            Seiko
                                            Seiko Prospex "King Turtle"
                                            macys.com
                                            $595.00
                                            $446.25 (25% off)

                                            With its big cushion case, knobby bezel and simple dial, the so called “Turtle” is a faithful homage to the original Seiko 6309 from the 1970s and ’80s. The modern Turtle is updated with the likes of 200m of water-resistance (the old one was only rated for 150) and an automatic movement with hand-winding capabilities. Our love of the modern Seiko Turtle is expounded upon in a full reviewed here. But the (also so-called) "King Turtle" gives fans some of the upgrades they called for like sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel insert — and a generally elevated feel with a waffle-textured dial and (controversially) a magnifier over the day and date.

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

                                              Baltic Aquascaphe

                                              Baltic Aquascaphe
                                              baltic-watches.com
                                              €624.00
                                              €520.00 (17% off)

                                              French indie brand Baltic’s Aquascaphe was already a great-looking vintage-inspired dive watch, but it just keeps giving rise to more great iterations. We particularly like it with a steel 12-hour steel bezel and a contemporary look featuring white, contrasting dial elements — and 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

                                                Tissot PRX Powermatic 80

                                                Tissot PRX Powermatic 80
                                                tissotwatches.com
                                                $650.00

                                                The value that Tissot is offering for its combination of features, style and quality in the PRX Powermatic 80 (reviewed here) 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

                                                  Echo/Neutra Averau

                                                  Echo/Neutra Averau
                                                  echoneutra.com
                                                  $630.00

                                                  Echo/Neutra is an independent Italian brand that specializes in producing modern sport watches, and the Averau is its take on a mountaineering or field watch. It’s available in a wearable 39mm size with a Swiss automatic movement. There are also small seconds and moon phase models as well as different dial colors and PVD-black case options. Field watches have a utilitarian charm that’s hard to beat, and Echo/Neutra is appreciated for adding a dash of originality and character to the familiar archetype.

                                                  • Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
                                                  • Size: 39mm
                                                  • Water Resistance: 100m

                                                    Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto

                                                    Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto
                                                    hamiltonwatch.com
                                                    $945.00
                                                    $845.00 (11% off)

                                                    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 several beautiful dial executions 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

                                                      Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-interpretation

                                                      Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-interpretation
                                                      seikousa.com
                                                      $725.00

                                                      Seiko’s Alpinist is one unusual field watch. Aside from the unique dial design, it also comes packing an automatic movement and sapphire crystal. And with a case diameter of 38mm, it’s a solid mid-size watch that should look great on just about anyone. Based on the brand’s first sport watch made in 1959, Seiko's modern version recreates the original that was said to be made for Japanese "mountain men."

                                                      • Movement: Seiko 6R35 automatic
                                                      • Size: 38mm
                                                      • Water Resistance: 200m

                                                        Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300

                                                        Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300
                                                        christopherward.com
                                                        $865.00

                                                        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 is visible through the caseback in a 40mm case (with more size options and colors available). Its heavy-duty construction and water resistance to 300m is just a bonus.

                                                        • Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic
                                                        • Size: 40mm
                                                        • Water Resistance: 300m

                                                          Mido Ocean Star 200

                                                          Mido Ocean Star 200
                                                          midowatches.com
                                                          $930.00

                                                          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, but 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

                                                            Yema Navygraf Marine Nationale

                                                            Yema
                                                            Yema Navygraf Marine Nationale
                                                            yema.com
                                                            $899.00

                                                            Yema is one of our favorite makers of historically inspired French tool watches. This handsome version of the brand's popular dive watch was made in collaboration with the French navy — but it also offers some interest under the hood: It's powered by the current 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
                                                            • Water Resistance: 300m