More for Your Money

15 Value-Packed Watches for Five Different Budgets


February 26, 2020 Buying Guides By

One doesn’t have to be intimately familiar with the state of today’s watch market to know that there are a good deal of timepieces on both ends of the spectrum that don’t actually offer a whole lot of value. The trick, of course, is distinguishing between watches that lean maybe a little too much on their recognizable brand name and a lofty price tag, and those that stand out purely on merit.

We did the heavy lifting for you and found watches that pack the most value at five different price points. Each of these picks offers more watch, dollar-for-dollar, than most all of its peers. So whether you are looking to make your next step in watch collecting really count, or you’re just dipping a toe into the world of mechanical wrist watches, this list of best value watches should prove a solid guide.

Under $250

Swatch YIS40G Irony Sistem 51

For those looking for an affordable everyday watch, this option from Swatch is worth considering. Not only does it come with a steel bracelet, but it features a transparent case back that shows off a Swiss automatic movement with date function. Those qualities, paired with a cool blue sunray dial, make this an incredibly attractive pick for the price.

Movement: Swiss Sistem 51 Automatic
Size: 42mm
Water resistance: 30m

Orient Sun and Moon Version 3

Complicated watches for less than several thousand dollars are often few and far between. While the look of the Sun and Moon is striking enough with its Roman numerals, calfskin leather strap, and sizable case, it’s made all the more impressive by the fact that the complications are all driven by the Japanese brand’s own in-house, automatic-winding movement.

Movement: Calibre F6B24
Size: 42.5mm
Water resistance: 50mm

Seiko 5 Sport

Affordable mechanical dive-style watches are hard to come by — especially when you’re looking for one under $250. That’s why some of those from Seiko are such gems. The newly reimagined Seiko 5 Sports watch features a highly legible black dial with luminescent indices, a day-date window and a unidirectional bezel that sits atop a Hardlex crystal. And to top it off, the watch looks great on a range of straps, giving you the ability to regularly change up its look. (If the Sport is more than $250 when you click, wait a week or so and try again — they regularly go on sale.)

Movement: 4R36 Automatic
Size: 42.5mm
Water resistance: 100m

Under $500

Apple Watch Series 5

Some watch lovers don’t like to think of anything that has the word “smart” used as a prefix in its title as a “true watch.” Wherever one falls on that argument, it’s hard not to consider the latest from Cupertino when it comes to bang-for-buck. For less than $500, this watch does more than just keep the time; it tracks your fitness, connects you with work and family, and even takes and receives calls. “True watch” or not, that’s impressive.

Movement: Apple
Size: 40-44mm
Water resistance: 50m

Bulova Lunar Pilot

Omega may be the most recognizable watch brand to have sent its timepieces to the moon, but it’s not in a class of its own. This pick from Bulova also made a journey outside of Earth’s orbit in 1971 with the Apollo 15 mission (albeit in a slightly different form). This updated version features a handsome dial with a trio of subdials, a tachymeter scale and a highly accurate quartz movement. While this watch is usually marked at around $600, it can often be found for a steal at prices closer to $300 online.

Movement: Quartz
Size: 45mm
Water resistance: 50m

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical


The value a watch offers isn’t tied only to its functionality. In fact, a good deal of what a great watch offers is a story or a piece of history. Take this watch from Hamilton for instance. Inspired in large part by watches that Hamilton produced for the U.S. military during Vietnam, it has a throwback martial look to it that pairs really well with a modern wardrobe. All things said, the watch is a damn near perfect for daily wear.

Movement: ETA 2801-2 Manual-Winding
Size: 38mm
Water resistance: 50m

Under $1,000

Seiko Presage SARX027

When it comes to getting a great value watch, few brands are better than Seiko at consistently delivering a feature-laden product. The Presage, for instance, has an in-house movement sandwiched between a transparent case back and enamel dial adorned with the Arabic-numeral indices. A leather strap with a deployant clasp completes the classy, formal look.

Movement: Seiko 6R15 Automatic
Size: 39mm
Water resistance: 100m

Autodromo Group B Automatic

Correctly or not, the heritage and longevity of a watchmaker add value to any watch that comes out of its shop. Autodromo has found its own way to short-circuit this paradigm by producing watches inspired by dashboard instruments in mid-century cars. The Group B’s dial’s 1980s-inspired style paired with a cool integrated steel bracelet and 24-jewel automatic movement give this watch a sense of historicity that many of its contemporaries lack.

Movement: Miyota 9015
Size: 39mm
Water resistance: 50m

Junghans Max Bill


Like an Eames chair or a Castiglioni Brothers lamp, this watch is as much about the design movement it was born out of as it is the actual function it was originally built to serve. Designed by Max Bill, an original member of the Bauhaus movement, this faithful reproduction of the watch represents practical minimalism at its finest, all at an affordable price.

Movement: Self Winding ETA 2824-2
Size: 38mm
Water resistance: 50m

Under $2,000

Nomos Club


The Club is proof that a watch need not be gaudy in order to be remarkable. What this timepiece offers is more in the details: a beautiful silver-plated dial and an in-house movement with a 43-hour power reserve. And while it’s restrained in many respects, the playful color of the baton hands and Arabic numerals along the edge of the dial add a kind of youthful, sporty quality. All in all, the Club manages to be refined without taking itself too seriously.

Movement: Manual-Winding Caliber Alpha
Size: 36mm
Water resistance: 100m

Monta Atlas

American indie brand Monta is a regular guest on Gear Patrol roundups for the excellent value they offer. The Atlas is the brand’s latest, and it combines a handsome tool watch style with a GMT complication. Swiss construction, Swiss automatic movement, sapphire crystal…it’s all there, but it’s the refined details and quality that makes Monta stand out. You won’t want to miss out on the excellent steel bracelet, but the Atlas will look good on a range of straps as well.

Movement: Automatic
Size: 38.5mm
Water resistance: 150m

Oris Big Crown Pointer Date Bronze

Small changes can sometimes make an outsize impact on a watch’s attractivenss and utility. Take the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date for exmaple: it’s not the only watch to bring back the the pointer-date complication, but it does so with some adroit dial colors and refinements that look like a million bucks without actually costing a million bucks. Add in a multi-faceted dial, automatic movement and bronze case (other attractive versions in steel are available for less), and you’ve got yourself the perfect daily watch with just the right amount of different.

Movement: Automatic SW 200-1
Size: 39mm
Water resistance: 50m

Under $5,000

Grand Seiko SBGA285G


Generally speaking, most all of Grand Seiko’s high-end timepieces offer incredible value. The Japanese watchmaker’s attention to detail rivals — and in many cases exceeds — their Swiss counterparts, while often costing much less. This particular example from across the Pacific features an in-house Caliber 9R65 movement with a 72-hour power reserve and a stark black dial with contrasting metallic indices.

Movement: Automatic Caliber 9R65
Size: 40mm
Water resistance: 100m

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

You couldn’t have a list of value-driven watches without Tudor. It’s hard to find many other Swiss brands offering the combination of quality construction and chronometer-certified in-house movements that Rolex’s own sibling does. The Black Bay is the the brand’s flagship product, and many people absolutely love the reduced size of the Fifty-Eight version that measures an eminently wearable 39mm.

Movement: Tudor In-House Automatic MT5402
Size: 40mm
Water resistance: 200m

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture

At this price, you aren’t going to find many Swiss-made chronograph watches with in-house movements — much less those with a flyback function. A flyback simply allows you to restart the chronograph (stopwatch) without stopping it, but adds significant complexity and therefore, cost. Frederique Constant has, however, made a name for itself in part by offering such features at entry-level prices. Here, its automatic movement is also visible through the case back. If all this and its classical styling appeals to you, the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture offers a ton of bang for the buck.

Movement: In-House Automatic FC-760
Size: 42mm
Water resistance: 50m
How Does a Chronmeter Watch Work?

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Breaking down chronometer certification and why it matters today. Read the Story

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J.D. DiGiovanni

J.D. DiGiovanni is an associate editor on the Editorial Operations team at Gear Patrol. Originally from California, he now lives in Brooklyn.

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