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
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 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

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
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. 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

Casio G-Shock GWM5610
amazon.com
$140.00
$109.48 (22% 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

Braun BN0021
Braun amazon.com
$160.00

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

Timex Q 1978 Reissue Day-Date
timex.com
$169.00

Though any number of great 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.

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

Withings Steel HR
amazon.com
$179.95

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
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

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

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
amazon.com
$137.98

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.com
$249.00

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
scurfawatches.com
£205.00

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.

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

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
seikousa.com
$275.00

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 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.

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

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

Bulova Lunar Pilot Moonwatch
amazon.com
$431.00

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

Seiko Prospex
macys.com
$495.00

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 original 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
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 — 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
unimaticwatches.com
€1.00

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

Astor & Banks Fortitude Lite
astorandbanks.com
$649.00

How do you classify the Astor & Banks Fortitude Lite watch? It's restrained enough for formal-wear duty, but sporty enough to feel masculine and interesting. We'll just call it versatile. Not many watches strike that balance so well, and far fewer that offer the solid range of specs that the Fortitude Lite does for its price. Why "Lite?" It's thinner than the Fortitude model that came before it, lacks a date display and is not quite as antimagnetic (but still meets ISO antimagnetic standards).

Movement: Miyota 9039 automatic
Size: 38.5mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Baltic Aquascaphe
baltic-watches.com
€624.00

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

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 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

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 moonphase 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
hamiltonwatch.com
$845.00

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
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 Trident C60 Sapphire
christopherward.com
$950.00

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 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
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 Superman Steel Bronze
yema.com
$990.00

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