The Twelve Best Under $500 Automatic Watches
NOTE: For a much more current list featuring Hamilton, Christopher Ward, and more, head on over this way for our post on the Best Automatic Watch Deals.
Automatic watch purists are kinda like round toe dress shoe purists. Zero tolerance. Even suggest they spend a good sum of money on a quartz based watch, and they’ll start to channel Charlton Heston from Planet of the Apes.
I kid. Mostly. But give em’ credit. Automatic watches are incredible feats of engineering and they deserve appreciation. No quivering quartz & battery needed. The movement of your wrist fuels these watches and the springs and gears take it from there. But all those parts and the assembly of such costs money. So know that some of these picks can pack a solid price tag…
The Cheapest of the Cheap: Invicta Pro Diver Coin Edge Automatic – $76.07
Invicta mastered the, um… “tribute” look to the Rolex Submariner. The quartz version is a ridiculous $52, while the automatic, somehow, only costs $25 more. Can Invicta’s pricing and styling sometimes raise an eyebrow? Absolutely. But the Automatic Pro Diver, sold direct by Amazon no less, is tough to argue with.
The Rubber Straps: Lacoste Navigator – $295.00 | Swatch Chrono – $370.00
Pretty expensive for a couple of rubber strap sport watches. But again, that’s the thing about automatics. They just flat out cost more. The Lacoste has a not too big skeleton window that’s placed right at 6 o’clock. The swatch, although modern in design, doesn’t look like it’s trying too hard. Free two day shipping on the Lacoste.
The Seiko 5s: Seiko Stainless Steel Automatic – $145.76 | Seiko 5 Black Strap – $105.00
That stainless version of the benchmark Seiko 5 is a stunner. Especially for $150. Well done Overstock.com. That’s a pretty sweet deal. It’s simple enough that it could hold it’s own with almost any of these stainless steel watches that even leather band addicts would wear. Considering the J. Crew Military Timex? Consider the Seiko 5 canvas band instead.
The Tissots: T-Sport PRC 200 – $336.60 | V8 Black Chrono – $323.00*
Watch snobs will turn their nose up at anything under $500. But for a lot of us, a $300 Tissot is as top of the line as it’s gonna get. Solid watches, both with Swiss Automatic Movements, and very different looks, but looks to spare none the less. The PRC-200 is on the smaller side at just under 40mm in diameter. Terrific cutaway date window though. The V8 Chrono is super sporty with thick white numbers and red accents on the dial. Extremely well reviewed too.
UPDATE: Looks like the V8 might not be an auto after all. See commenter Joe’s note in the comments section. Checked the official Tissot site. It’s quartz. Drat. Fooled. Nice catch Joe.
The shockingly well kept secret: Orient Black Mako – $98.91
A lot of guys know about Orient. A lot don’t. It took one that did to clue me in. Now part of Seiko, Orient has been one of if not the biggest maker of automatics in Japan for quite awhile. And you almost never, ever see a bad word spoken about then. under $100, great looking, and comes in blue too.
The Dramatic Armani – Meccanico Brown Strap or Black Strap – $316.00 ($395)
Over the top for a lot of us, and the pics on Amazon aren’t nearly as good as the shots on Nordstrom. But you’ll pay almost $100 if you buy through Amazon direct.
The Classic Stunner: ESQ Black Teju Lizard Embossed – $450.00
It really only takes one different but well executed design detail to get a minimalists attention. Check out the lizard band. Not croc, but lizard. Pretty slick. Also the dial isn’t black, but instead “anthracite gray.” Sure. Looks incredible. Expensive. Especially when a similar but not quite identical quartz movement option is going for $150 less.
Best in show: Bulova 96A111 Silver Dial – $216.95
Probably the cleanest looking, classiest of Bulova’s line. And at just over $200, it’s right in the wheelhouse when it comes to cost. It’s bigger than you’d think at 43mm, but not gargantuan. Incredible face with the two different sized windows, nice detail around the bezel, and again… the price.
So are you an Automatic Pureist? Do you lean one way in particular? Or, if it tells time and looks good on your wrist, you’re fine with whatever’s on the inside? Leave it all in the comments section below.
Feature inspired by the guys who left comments over here, saying they wouldn’t spend more than $30 on a quartz.