The Best Chronograph Watches Under $2,000

You probably didn't know you could get serious chronos for this kind of money — even mechanical ones.

yema yachtingraf bronze limited edition

There's good news for anyone who admires chronograph watches but doesn't have multiple thousands to spend: You can get an excellent mechanical chrono for under two grand. Even better? You've got options — exciting options.

In the past few years, a new crop of chronos has arisen that's lowered the cost of getting that somehow captivating complication on your wrist, but decent mechanical chronograph watches under $2k are, in fact, still rare. Small and independent brands don't often push into mechanical chronograph pricing territory and typically stuck to simpler, time-only options. However, it now seems that more brands have discovered that it's the value proposition that makes the sale more so than the outright price.

We get it: $2,000 is still a serious chunk of change. If you simply need or want time-recording functionality, of course, you can get it from quartz watches that cost in the triple digits — or from your smartphone. But if mechanical chronographs intrigue you, the following examples are about the best you're going to get — and they show that this price level is where the value's at.

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Maen Skymaster Automatic Chronograph

A Swiss automatic chronograph for around $1k should get your attention, but it appears all the details and hallmarks of more expensive luxury watches are there in the Maen Skymaster, too — from a nicely finished case to a retro, box-style hesalite crystal (sapphire is an extra ~$55). We also love the vintage sizing at just 38mm and, despite automatic chronographs normally being quite thick, the Skymaster measures just 12.9mm (2mm of which comes from the raised crystal). Maen seems to offer a nearly unheard-of value.

Diameter: 38mm
Movement: ETA 2894-2 automatic
Price: ~$1,095+

Limes Nightflight Chronograph

Fluted bezel, cathedral hands, classical Arabic numerals... it all offer the archetypal look of a military pilot's chronograph watch. The thick ETA 7750 movement inside will balance out its modest size at just under 38mm, so it shouldn't wear too small. Making components like its cases in-house, Limes (a sister company to Archimede, featured below) is a German brand with a history going back to 1924 that continues to be run by the third generation of the founder's family.

Diameter: 37.8mm
Movement: ETA 7750 automatic
Price: ~$1,280

Tissot Heritage 1948

Tissot is the only major Swiss watchmaker represented on this list, as most sub-$2k chronographs come from smaller brands. Like the Maen Skymster above, the Heritage 1948 is powered by the ETA 2894 automatic movement, helping keep it impressively thin (11.9mm) and wearable with a modest 39.5mm case diameter. The design references a 1940s style that differs from the multitudes of vintage-inspired watches drawing upon the 1960s and '70s.

Diameter: 39.5mm
Movement: ETA 2894-2 automatic
Price: $1,400

Archimede Outdoor Chronograph

Like its sister company Limes (above) Archimede offers a German approach to tool watches at quite reasonable prices. It also stands out on this list of sub-$2,000 chronographs by not having the vibe of something specifically from the 1970s or earlier. The Outdoor Chronograph has a unique look and offers a pragmatic feel and legible design with in-house-made case.

Diameter: 41mm
Movement: ETA 7750
Price: ~$1,550

Yema Yachtingraf Bronze Limited Edition

The Yachtingraf is based on a vintage model intended for yacht racing, hence the big subdial with its emphasized minute markers that give it a captivatingly quirky and asymmetric style. Next, it offers premium materials like sapphire crystal and a bronze case, but also an interesting movement: the Seiko automatic chronograph caliber inside is uncommon but solid and reliable. 

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: Seiko NE86 automatic
Price: $1,699

Nivada Chronomaster Aviation Sea Diver

Vintage watch fans were excited to see the once-defunct brand Nivada return from the Quartz Crisis abyss with one of its most famous models: the Chronomaster. They weren't disappointed, either, as the watch offers a faithful modern rendering of the vintage design. The size makes it feel straight out of the 60s as well, and the brand has done a great job with thoughtful touches and details. 

Diameter: 38.3mm
Movement: Sellita SW510 manual or automatic
Price: ~$1,700+

Farer Chronograph Sport Moritz

British microbrand Farer's colorful proclivities manifest in the Chronograph Sport collection — a range of unique-looking models with a motorsport theme. The Moritz offers a relatively subdued design within the collection but features some fresh highlights. (For a truly vibrant look, check out the Carnegie.) All the models feature a hand-wound Swiss movements. 

Diameter: 41mm
Movement: Sellita SW510 manual
Price: $1,955

Hanhart Pioneer 417 ES

The Hanhart 417 ES was originally made in the first half of the 20th century as a pilot's watch, but it later became associated with the actor and style icon Steve McQueen, who often wore it on a Bund strap. The German brand is making it again today, and it offers a cool historical backstory, solid build and manually wound Swiss movement. Although 42mm isn't especially large for a modern chronograph, it happens to be larger than the mostly retro-styled and -sized watches on this list. 

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: Sellita SW510 manual
Price: $1,970

Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope

The Max Bill range from German watchmaker Junghans is a longtime icon of the famous Bauhaus school of design, and the Chronoscope represents it particularly well. Available in multiple versions featuring black or white dials and a couple design variations, each is equally compelling and a great example of the design philosophy of functional minimalism. 

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: ETA 7750 automatic
Price: ~$1,995

The Ultimate Guide to Chronographs

Not familiar with the ins and outs of chronos? Then let this guide be your primer.


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