Dirt-Cheap Timepieces You'll Actually Wear

10 Great Watches Under $150


December 26, 2017 Buying Guides By

Last Updated November, 2017: This post has been updated with new picks for 2017. Prices and links have also been updated.

It’s easy to assume the most interesting watches lie in the realm of four, five and six figures, where exotic materials, complex hand-made movements and limited editions abound. But there’s something to be said about a cheap watch with character and a solid build. And the price point is lower than most think — you don’t need to spend thousands or even many hundreds for a quality affordable timepiece. Some dirt-cheap watches that sell for $150 or less have all the basic facets of a great timepiece.

Admittedly, purchasing a timepiece in this price range can be tricky — it’s littered with chintzy, fast-fashion watches poorly built with crappy parts. But on the flip side, there do exist many watches around $150 that have garnered their own cult followings and are snatched up by everymen and horology nerds alike. Some are from our favorite affordable Japanese brands (you know who we’re talking about), others young innovators — but they all go to show that the affordable watch need not be marked by a plastic case or hands that fall off after a month’s use. These 10 watches represent the pinnacle of the bargain-barrel timepiece.

Timex MK1 Aluminum

Though any number of great Timexes could’ve made this list, we’re particualrly enamored with the newly reissued MK1 — a recreation (of sorts) of a short-lived 1980s military-issue watch. While the original was meant to be disposable and had a mechanical movement inside and a plastic case protecting it, this version swaps both with a more reliable quartz engine and a higher-quality case made from anodized aluminum.

Movement: Quartz
Case diameter: 40mm
Water resistance: 30m

Orient 3 Star

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 37mm case, a stainless stell bracelet and a colorful dial. Its as simple of an automatic watch you can get, but therein lies its charm.

Movement: Orient 469 automatic
Case diameter: 37mm
Water resistance: 30m

Citizen Chandler BM8180-03E

Could this be a more perfect casual watch? It has Citizen’s lauded solar-recharing Eco-Drive movement inside, so battery changes are a thing of the past, and at 37mm it hits a sweet spot in terms of size. The military-style dial is also a nice touch.

Movement: Eco-Drive solar quartz
Case diameter: 37mm
Water resistance: 100m

Citizen NH8350-83L

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 Titanium

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 the young U.S. watch brand Bertucci an enticing option. Similarly enticing is the classic field watch dial design, the Japanese quartz movement inside and a 100-meter depth raiting.

Movement: Quartz
Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Seiko 5 Sports SNZG13

No list of dirt-cheap watches is complete without the Seiko 5. Originally launched in 1963, the 5 has cultivated a fev following amongst watch fans for its utilitarian mechanical movement and the value it provides. The SNZG13 here is one of the 5’s more rugged modern iterations, featuring a stainless steel bracelet, a 100-meter depth raiting and a dial with big, legible numerals coated in lume.

Movement: Seiko 7S36 automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Nokia Steel

If you just wanted to spend $130 on a good-looking quartz watch, you could do a lot worse than the Nokia Steel (formerly the Withings Activité). But this being a “hybrid” smartwatch, you get more than just the time of day. The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth to give you simple sleep and fitness tracking info that, while not super comprehenisve, is helpful in tracking and motiviating healthy behavior.

Movement: connected quartz
Size: 36mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Braun BN0021

Braun’s minimalist aesthetic is perfect for someone looking for a wardobe accutremont 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: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Swatch Sistim51 Irony

When Swatch launched the Sistim51 — an autonomously assembled automatic movement boasting a 90-day power reserve — it was a revelation, but its plastic case limited its appeal. Now you can get the same movement cased up in stainless steel, making it a more reserved option for everyday wear.

Movement: Swatch Sistim51 automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Seiko 5 Sports SNZF17

The Seiko 5 comes in many iterations, and the “Sea Urchin” dive watch is one of our favorites. In addition to using Seiko’s workhorse 7S36 automatic movement, it comes adorned with a unidrectional countdown bezel and steel bracelet.

Movement: Seiko 7S36 Automatic
Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
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