The humble wristwatch is far more than just a means to tell the time. It is a statement of identity, style, and taste. It tells the world that time matters to you and suggests precision, punctuality, and accuracy are traits that you value. A good watch is an accessory for all occasions. You get wristwatches, pocket watches, and even some that hang from your shirt using a pin or safety clip, such as nurses’ watches. Make no mistake, it is possible to get good watches sub $500 – and some of them come from the top watch brands.
Part of the style of a watch is the material the watch strap is made from and the material of the watch case (bezel). Then there is the size and shape of the hands and the markings on the dial. Finally, there are additional functions that the watch does besides telling the time. Most watches include at least the day, date, and month, whilst others have much more – ranging from alarms and countdown timers to stopwatches and depth meters.
Whether your taste runs to Swiss watches or top watches from other great watch brands, you will find watches rated in 3 main categories: watches below $250 are regarded as fashion watches. Whether you are looking for a Swiss watch, an automatic watch, or a dress watch. Whether you are looking for a divers watch, pilots watch, or a watch that will give you access to technology there are a lot of good men’s watch brands that will suit your needs.
So, selecting, buying, and wearing a watch is about so much more than just the ability to tell the time. Now let’s take a look at some of the best watches under $500 out there:
Review of the Best Watches Under $500 this 2021
- Tissot Heritage Visodate Watch
- Rotary Skeleton Watch
- Junkers Bauhaus Watch
- Apple Smartwatch
- Citizen Nighthawk Eco-Drive Watch
- Garmin Forerunner 230
- Seiko Prospex Diver’s Watch
- Bulova Precisionist
- Victorinox Infantry Watch
- Seagull 1963 Watch
- Garmin D2 Pilot Watch
Tissot Heritage Visodate Watch
- Stylish brown croc-embossed calfskin leather band
- Swiss made movement
- Stainless steel bezel
- Automatic movement
This stylish round-faced, sliver-dialed timepiece from Swiss watchmaker Tissot is a casual classic in its simplicity and elegance. Tissot is long known to make high-quality watches and this one is no exception. The look is retro-modern simplicity and it will wear equally well in both formal and informal settings. The 20mm wide strap is made from croc-embossed (i.e. it looks like crocodile skin) calfskin leather.
The bezel is stainless steel with a transparent backing so you can see the movement at work - and the cover is scratch resistant sapphire crystal. The case is 40mm wide and a slim 11.6 mm high. The watch is an automatic winder (in case you are likely to forget to wind it up daily) and sweeps elegant silver-toned hands around a dial marked with similarly silver toned 5-minute markers and small black minute markers.
There is a day and date window at the three o’clock position. The hands and 5-minute markers are luminescent. The watch is water resistant to 30m which means it resists splashes, rain and brief immersions in water but is not recommended for swimming (which would, in any case, ruin the attractive calfskin leather band).
A round, stylish watches for men that dresses up and dresses down equally well and makes its wearer look classy and elegant. A sapphire crystal face cover resists scratches and a transparent rear case lets you watch the Swiss made movement at work. The white face with silver-toned hands and five-minute markers match the stainless steel bezel and the whole timepiece is finished off with a brown croc-embossed calfskin leather band to create an automatic retro-classic that any man-about-town should be proud to wear.
Rotary Skeleton Watch
- Swiss made movement
- Skeleton design is a conversation starter
- Automatic movement
- Waterproof to 165 ft.
A skeleton watch exposes the movement for all to see (i.e. most of the front cover of the watch is not there so that you can see the movement that makes the watch work). This elegant and mechanically mesmerizing beauty comes from Rotary, a brand that lays claim to the title of ‘oldest (established 1895) family-owned and run Swiss watchmaker’. The bezel of the small (39 mm) round watch is rose gold plated.
The visible parts of the cover are white with a black track just inside the rim and rose-gold colored 5-minute markers. The deep blue hands sweep over the fascinating intricacy of the exposed movement. The band is brown crocodile leather that offsets the warm glow of the rose gold plated bezel attractively.
Rotary offers a lifetime guarantee on the watch, provided you send the watch (and till slip proof of purchase) back to Rotary for a chargeable service every 3 years.
An elegant timepiece that not only looks stylish, not only is it one of the best Swiss watches under 500 Dollars but is sure to attract admiring and curious glances and is a real conversation starter. With automatic movement and waterproof to 165 ft. you cannot go wrong with this Swiss made wrist watch.
Junkers Bauhaus Watch
- 24 Hour time feature
- Power reserve
- Water resistant to 30m
- Date display
From Swiss made to German made – the Junkers Bauhaus sports a slim 40mm stainless steel bezel wrapped around an interesting face design. The typical Bauhaus style shows in the small black minute markers space out the distance between 5-minute markers indicated by a number at the rim and a thin 10mm line. The compass quadrants are marked with luminous dots just above the minute numbers. So far, so typical – a clean uncluttered, stark Bauhaus look.
To this, Junkers has added the following: at the 12 o’clock position there is a power reserve indicator. The watch is powered by a modified Japanese automatic movement from Miyota and so the power reserve indicates how long the watch can run without being worn. The 6 o’clock position displays the hours in 24hr format. The date display is at 3 o’clock and ‘JUNKERS automatic’ printed prominently at 9 o’clock.
The domed cover is made from Hesalite (a synthetic mineral crystal) and so needs more care and coddling than a sapphire crystal would. The watch is rated as water resistant up to 30m.
The Junkers Bauhaus is a classic dress watch in the clean, simple Bauhaus design tradition with the added features of a power reserve indicator and a 24-hour time format display. It sports an automatic Miyomi movement and dresses up better than it dresses down. One of the best dress watches under 500 dollars, you won't regret buying this watch.
- Sleek slim space gray design
- Multiple watch faces available
- Additional sensors – heart rate, pedometer, etc.
- Smartphone sync
Apple smart watch is slim, sleek and attractive. It is not a traditional mechanical watch though – more like a small computer that you can wear on your wrist. The watch battery lasts for 18 hours of normal use – but Apple is only able to achieve this by keeping the beautifully clear and vividly colorful 1.5” 312 x 390-pixel display off for most of the time. When you raise your arm as you normally would look at your watch, sensors detect the movement and turn the display on so you can see the time. When you lower your arm the display turns itself off again. This would also make a great gift for runners.
Besides telling the time (which the watch does incredibly accurately because it syncs itself against online atomic clocks when connected to your phone and the internet) this watch has additional computer-like functionality as well as more traditional watch features. Traditional features include day, the day of the week, month and year displays; stopwatch; countdown timer; and moon phase indicators.
Elements (besides traditional functions) that can be displayed on the face include sunrise and sunset times, next appointment from your calendar, battery level remaining on the watch, the weather prediction (min, max temp) for your current location, steps walked in the day, heart rate, stock price tickers, fitness and activity targets – and more, including complications from apps installed on your phone.
The watch can display notifications and messages (including SMS and WhatsApp) as well as email notifications. With 6 GB of storage, and the ability to hold and play back a small collection of songs, (you can connect a Bluetooth headset to it) – or be used to control iTunes on your phone. It includes Siri so you can give it voice instructions and you can make or answer phone calls on the watch as long as your phone is in range.
If you buy this Apple Watch, you'll also need an iWatch charging dock and maybe a clear screen protector to go with it. The watch includes a heart rate meter, which is great for tracking your health. It also contains NFC components meaning that it can be used to pay for goods using the Apple Pay system – simply double click the side button and hold the watch up to the contactless reader. You’ll be notified that payment is completed by a gentle tap on the wrist and a beep.
The watch brought into the 21st century – Apple offers you a computer on the wrist that does far more than just tell the time. It looks sleek and feels comfortable on the wrist. If you are not just looking to tell the time but to manage your life without having to consult your IPad or IPhone all the time, then the Apple is for you. An obvious choice for the techie.
Citizen Nighthawk Eco-Drive Watch
- Eco drive (solar powered)
- 24hr time indicator
- Included slide rule
- Solid stainless steel construction
Citizen is one of Japan’s top watch brands and the Nighthawk is a serious looking watch originally designed for use by pilots. Big, bulky, made of solid stainless steel this watch looks like it means business. The face is covered with tick marks and numbers in red and white and there are 5 pointers to keep track of. The 5-minute markers are large and luminous (blue instead of green) and large luminous 12 and 6 appear at the appropriate compass points. There is a date window at the 3 o’clock position.
The dome is a synthetic mineral crystal. The main reason for all the numbers on the face is that the watch includes a functioning slide rule on the dials which pilots can use to calculate flight paths with. The left-hand side of the face is dedicated to a 24hr time display. This can be set to a different time zone so that you can at least have a sense of what time it is in a time zone other than yours (most pilots would set this to GMT).
The watch is rated as waterproof to 200m which means it is suitable for strenuous water activities but not scuba diving. You do need to remember to wear it and expose it to light to keep it running!
A solid, chunky stainless-steel man’s watch designed for pilots and navigators with a built-in slide rule and a 24hr clock that can be set to another time zone. A working watch that looks equally impressive in dress-up situations.
Garmin Forerunner 230
- Running / Training Tracker features
- Built-in GPS
- Long battery life
- Bulky but lightweight
The Garmin Forerunner 230 is a watch designed for and dedicated to runners. It includes a GPS but not a heart rate monitor (the heart rate monitor can be bought separately) and will track your pace, distance, run time, lap time – and even provides audio prompts to tell you how many laps you have run and what your lap time is. It includes activity monitoring, step tracking, calorie counting and sleep monitoring features as well.
The watch battery is rated for 16 hours in training mode and for up to 5 weeks in watch only mode. Watch faces are customizable and the watch can be paired with your phone using Bluetooth. When paired the watch can display notifications from your phone and will automatically transfer data from training sessions back to connected apps for analysis and review.
The watch face is large and bulky but the watch itself is light. You can get a variety of different colored straps to change its look.
The ultimate runner’s watch. If you are serious about your running and training there is no other choice. With built-in GPS you will always be going in the right direction with this watch, and although bulky it is an exceptionally lightweight watch with a long battery life. You can transfer training data using the connected apps, so with the Garmin ForeRunner, you will never be at a loss as to where you stand with your training regime.
Seiko Prospex Diver’s Watch
- Water resistant to 200m including for diving
- Automatic movement
- Solid stainless steel construction
- Readable in murky water
- Comfortable silicon rubber band
The Seiko Prospex Diver's Watch is a different kind of specialty watch. It is a chunky, stainless steel watch that looks good and fits comfortably on the bigger wrist. The bezel rotates clockwise and has 120 clicks. As befits a diving watch, the band is soft rubber which holds the watch comfortably tight against the wrist. The rounded shape and the crown positioned at 4 o’clock mean that the watch does not dig into the skin.
The face is black with a day and date complication at 3 o’clock, chunky hands and large luminous 5-minute markers. You are sure to be able to read it even in low visual conditions in murky water. The bezel is marked in 10-minute increments. The movement is automatic. The cover is Hardlex synthetic mineral crystal. This is a solid, practical, honest and reliable working watch.
The perfect watch for its purpose. Water Resistant to 200m for diving, with a solid stainless steel construction, comfortable silicon rubber band, and readable dial even in murky water, the Seiko Prospex Diver's Watch is an impressively solid working watch that will just keep on going and going and going.
- Precisionist movement – highly accurate
- Stylish dress watch
- Black leather strap
- Reasonable price
As a stylish dress watch the Bulova Men’s Precisionist sports a stainless steel bevel, a charcoal black dial marked with multi-layered swirling patterns, facetted stick shaped five-minute markers with luminous squares against the rim. The strap is black leather. The cover is mineral crystal. The sweeping second hand is a treat and people get mesmerized watching it work.
What sets the watch apart is the extremely accurate precisionist movement which rivals the movements of much more expensive Swiss models. Bulova claims the watch only loses or gains 10 seconds a year, a claim substantiated by user reviews.
An inexpensive and stylish dress watch with a high precision movement and smooth sweeping second hand. This watch will give you highly accurate timekeeping at a reasonable price, with its Precisionist movement. The black leather strap will ensure that it will complement any outfit from formal to informal.
Victorinox Infantry Watch
- Swiss made
- Sapphire Dome
- Water resistant to 100m
- Great price
A solid, round, rugged stainless steel watch the Victorinox Infantry Watch is styled to be unisex. It has a black face with luminous five-minute markers, large clear numbers on all the hours except 12 o’clock where the number is replaced with the famous Victorinox logo. The bracelet is an attractive stainless steel mesh and is fastened with a foldover clip. The movement is automatic and the dome is sapphire crystal, which is perfect for this type of solid workman’s watch.
There is a date window is located at 3 o’clock. This watch is an attractive and clearly solidly well-made watch. It will tell the time accurately and it will stand up to the rigors of living on a working person’s wrist.
A good, solid, attractive Swiss-made watch from a world famous brand. The attractive stainless steel mesh wristband and automatic movement make this a perfect workman’s watch that will never let you down.
Seagull 1963 Watch
- Uniquely styled replica of an old classic
- Chronograph function
- Hard wearing sapphire crystal
- Stainless steel case and bezel
The only chronograph to feature amongst our mechanical watches, the Seagull 1963 Watch is a re-make of a 1963 Chinese Airforce watch that is much treasured by collectors. The watch features a synthetic sapphire dome and a mechanical hand-wound movement. The watch has a stainless steel case and bezel with a transparent back. The face is cream colored and is marked with gold-toned markers at odd numbered five-minute intervals and numbers for the even numbered five-minute intervals.
There is a red star with a fold edging just below the 12 o’clock position. The strap is olive green NATO style military webbing. The left-hand side of the face is given over to a 60-second timer dial and the right-hand side features a 30-minute timer. The crown and stopwatch controls are on the right-hand side of the watch.
There is no day or date window on this watch though. This is a uniquely styled watch that beautifully remakes an old classic. Wear it and stand out from the crowd.
The watch that will make you stand out of the crowd. It will spark conversations and will wear equally well in formal and casual situations. It is unique and beautiful and the chronograph function, stainless steel bezel and hard wearing sapphire crystal dome make it one of the best men’s watches for the money you can get.
Garmin D2 Pilot Watch
- Includes altimeter with adjustable barometric settings
- WAAS GPS
- Syncs to Garmin Pilot
Just like they did with the ForeRunner for runners, Garmin has produced the ultimate purpose designed watch for pilots. The D2 does it all. It has a sensitive WAAS GPS built in along with a 3 axis compass - and you can trust its barometrically adjustable altimeter to give you accurate height readings. It can direct you to the nearest airport based on your location and its built-in database of worldwide airports.
The watch will display your route on a moving map and can easily be set to display essential flight information such as bearing, glide ratio, distance to waypoint/airport, GPS ground speed, GPS track and estimated time en route. You can create flight plans on your device using the Garmin Pilot app and then sync them to the D2 over Bluetooth. You can set vibrating alarms to remind you of tasks such as tower check-ins, time to change fuel tanks, etc.
And, though the D2 displays local and Zulu/UTC time you can also view the time in up to 4 other time zones. Finally, you can use the watch to control VIRB action cameras attached to your plane – start and top recordings and capture still images – from multiple cameras at once. The backlight of the watch even glows orange so as not to destroy your night vision.
The ultimate pilot’s watch. If you fly, you need one. No questions asked.
Best Watches under $500 Buying Guide
How should I care for my watch?
Tissot Heritage Visodate Watch
This is a stylish, robust, retro-classic designed, Swiss automatic watch from Tissot – a good watch brand. One of the best automatic watches under $500 on the market you cannot go wrong with the Tissot Heritage. This men’s dress watch is perfect for the man that is upwardly mobile, and going places. It is classy and elegant and lends a certain style to its wearer. The croc-embossed calfskin leather band, stainless steel bezel and automatic Swiss-made movement, and date window are just the icing on the cake for this great-looking watch.
Rotary Skeleton Watch
A great-looking, refined men’s dress watch with the added element of interest in the skeleton design which reveals the inner workings of the movement to all. Bound with a crocodile leather strap, finished in warm rose gold and topped with a sapphire crystal, this watch speaks to elegance and style. The wearer will not only get a timepiece that will serve its basic purpose, it will be sure to attract attention. Made by the oldest family-owned and run Swiss watchmaker you will not find a better men’s watch for the money.
If you are looking for a watch that offers more than just timekeeping, you found it in the Rotary Skeleton Watch will is our Premium Choice.
Junkers Bauhaus Watch
The Bauhaus design tradition is full of clean, simple, classic lines – and the Junkers Bauhaus Watch delivers on this design aesthetic. To this design language, it adds the features of a power reserve indicator and a 24-hour time format display. It sports an automatic Miyomi movement and looks good on any wrist. A classic quality dress watch for men, the Junkers Bauhaus watch will provide you with the perfect accessory on your wrist.
It is water-resistant to 30m and features a date display window for convenience. All in all, for the money this is one of the best men’s watches for the money and makes it our choice for a great value.
How should I care for my watch?
Caring for your watch has two parts: cleaning the watch and general maintenance.
Cleaning your watch:
There are two parts to cleaning a watch; the watch case itself and the strap or bracelet.
The watch case:
- If the watch is not certified water-resistant you should only ever use a soft brush and a dry or slightly moist damp cloth to clean the watch.
- If the watch is certified water-resistant then you can use a slightly wetter, soapier cloth. DO NOT EVER immerse the watch in hot water.
The watch strap:
- If the watch strap is made of steel, other metals, or plastic/rubber then you can also use a slightly damp cloth to clean it.
- If the watch strap is made of leather or fabric then steer clear of the water as water can damage the appearance of the strap. Use a dry soft brush or cloth to wipe the strap down instead.
You should have your mechanical watch serviced every 3 – 5 years. This means a qualified watchmaker/service technician opens the watch up and cleans the mechanism and inspects for wear and tear. If you have a quartz mechanism battery-powered mechanical watch then the moving parts of the mechanism should be inspected when the battery is replaced. The battery on your quartz watch should be replaced the first time the watch stops – or, if you have a watch with a battery level indicator, as soon as the power indicator shows the battery is near the end of its lifespan.
Water-resistant watches should have their seals checked and preferably replaced whenever they are opened for a service or when the battery is replaced. If you swim in saltwater or your watch is exposed to a lot of sweat, perfume, or chemicals you should wipe down the watch with a soft dry cloth as soon as possible after the exposure (after your swim or at the end of the day when you remove the watch and place it on your nightstand).
Click here to see our reviews of the top watches for hiking.
If the watch is water-resistant rinse with cold water and then wipe with a soft cloth – especially after a swim in the sea. Watch mechanisms are delicate and precise pieces of machinery and even a small speck of dust can cause them not to hold time accurately. Not servicing a mechanical watch properly, will likely result in the watch gaining or losing time, and this will lead to your watch not performing as well as it should.
Try to avoid sleeping with your watch on as this can result in the face or strap being scratched or damaged – especially if you are a restless sleeper and/or have a bed frame of hard material.
What do “chronometer” and “chronograph” mean?
A chronometer tells the time. A chronograph records the time. This means that all watches are chronometers. They can all tell you the time of day. Only watches with a built-in stopwatch function are able to record the time and so only these watches qualify as chronographs. With mechanical watches, the mechanism design has to earn the right to be called a chronometer bypassing strict precision and accuracy tests administered by the Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
These tests last 15 days and the watch is not allowed to gain more than 6 seconds or lose more than 4 seconds in a day. Passing this test means that a watch is very accurate and the watch manufacturer is allowed to display the word ‘chronometer’ of the watch face. Any watch that includes a stopwatch function is allowed to call itself a chronograph.
How can I tell if I’m buying a quality watch?
The first and most obvious sign of the quality of a watch is the manufacturer’s name and tradition – the brand value of the watch. A watchmaker that has been in business producing precise mechanical watches for over 200 years must be doing something right. Linked to the brand value is where the watch is made and the type of mechanism the watch uses. Legally, only a watch where the movement (the mechanism inside the watch) has been manufactured, placed in the watch casing, and inspected in Switzerland is qualified to have ‘Swiss Made’ displayed on the watch face.
If the movement is made in Switzerland but the watch is assembled and tested elsewhere in the world then the watch can display ‘Swiss Movement’. If the movement is made anywhere else then the watch is not legal to have ‘Swiss’ anything displayed anywhere on the watch. The Japanese also make high-quality movements – but here you need to check that the movement comes from a reputable manufacturer such as Seiko, Casio, and Citizen (or Miyota, part of Citizen).
Both these measurements are all good and well, but with the number of fakes and counterfeits on the market how do I tell if the watch is a genuine article – that it is likely to be a product of the famous brand and really earned that ‘Swiss’ label? The first thing to check is the weight and feel of the watch. Quality shows in the materials used in the manufacture of the watch and top-rated watches tend to have a weight and heft to them that cheap knockoffs lack. Don’t just glance at the watch.
Take a close-up look at the materials. Compare it to other watches. Weigh different watches in your hand – and on your wrist. Comparing watches, though it takes time, will give you a point of reference on which to judge your choice. The second step is to look at the way the movement operates. Take a good look at the second hand of the watch. If it only moves once a second and the watch makes a definite ‘tick-tock’ sound then you are likely looking at a cheap mechanism or a knockoff.
Quality watch movements are precise and accurate things – and often move the secondhand multiple (up to 9) times a second, resulting in a smooth ‘sweep’ of the second hand around the dial of the watch rather than a staccato stop-start-jump every second. The ‘glass’ part of the watch that covers the face of the watch should be sapphire crystal. Sapphire is incredibly hard and scratch-resistant and any watch over $300 that does not have a sapphire crystal cover is not likely to be all that it is made out to be.
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Glass and mineral crystal covers are just not good enough. The ‘glass’ part of the watch that covers the face of the watch should be sapphire crystal. Sapphire is incredibly hard and scratch-resistant and any watch over $300 that does not have a sapphire crystal cover is not likely to be all that it is made out to be. Glass and mineral crystal covers are just not good enough. The final point is accuracy and is harder to measure. To check the accuracy, you can visit the watch seller multiple times spread over days and check the time displayed on the watch.
You can then compare the time displayed on the watch to what you know to be the correct time (if you have a smartphone you can visit one of the many atomic clock sites on the web that display the time accurately down to the nanosecond). If the watch loses or gains more than 10 seconds a day then you know that it is not a chronometer, no matter what is printed on its face! The last, common sense thing to add to make sure that your watch is quality is to look at the dealer and the price of the watch.
If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is – and you are likely buying a fake. And the thing about buying a fake is, no matter how good it looks on you, deep down inside you know it is a fake, and that colors your perception of yourself and potentially taints the image you project in the world. Even an amateur horologist (watch lover) is likely to be able to identify the fake and see the faint taint of desperation and shabbiness that attaches itself to the wearer of a fake ‘brand name’ watch.
Watches are personal items that do far more than tell the time. They speak of your identity, your purpose, your tastes, and your attitudes. Sure, your smartphone can tell the time – but it simply does not have the verve and pizazz of a top-notch wristwatch. It’s time that you started telling the time in style. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a high-quality men’s watch, there are many watches under 500 dollars that will look good on your wrist and meet your requirements in a watch, from a dedicated pilot watch to divers to an elegant men’s dress watch or just a gift for your teenager, watches are great for any situation.