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Quartz watches bring excellent accuracy but it’s undeniable that most can’t compete with mechanical timepieces in terms of craftsmanship and looks.
After the release of the first quartz watch by Seiko in 1969, and the Quartz Crisis that followed after, many people took the beauty of mechanical models for granted and switched to battery-powered alternatives. Luckily, watches with mechanical movements have been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the last decade.
More often than not, a quality mechanical watch is likely to cost you more than a quartz timepiece. Nevertheless, it’s possible to find some great bargains in today’s market. In this article, I have listed 9 best mechanical watches under 500 dollars.
Since both hand-wound and automatic timepieces can be classified as mechanical, the list below includes watches from both groups. All models come from recognizable brands known to be experts in the field. I wish you the best of luck at picking just one!
Best Mechanical Watch Under $500 (Top 9 Reviewed)
We open up the list with one of my go-to brands when it comes to mechanical timepieces, Tissot. The Swiss watchmaker offers a plethora of entry-level automatic watches and the model we have here is a prime example of that.
The watch uses a Swissmatic movement, a precise and popular caliber across Tissot collections. The power reserve of this one is 72 hours.
It comes with a 42,5mm case and bracelet with a butterfly clasp with push-buttons closure – both made from stainless steel. The caseback is see-through, allowing you to observe the intricate workings of the Swiss mechanical movement.
The dial window is made from scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and provides great protection against damage. The silver-tone luminous hands and hour markers fit in perfectly with the black dial, offering a minimalistic yet classy look. At three o’clock, there’s a date window.
The water-resistance of this model is rated at 100m, making the watch safe to wear in a shower or even during swimming sessions.
If you’re new to the Swiss brand, feel free to read my Tissot review.
Bulova is another Swiss-born watchmaker that’s full of affordable mechanical watches. That’s only the first of as many as three Bulova timepieces on this list. That’s how much I rate the brand.
Since Bulova is technically owned by the Japanese mogul Citizen, this and many other models use a Japanese automatic movement. In the case of this model, the power reserve is 40 hours.
The watch comes with an oversized stainless steel case with a diameter of 46mm. The gold-tone bracelet is made from the same material and uses a deployment clasp with a push-button release. Similar to the Tissot model above, the caseback is transparent.
This Bulova model has a skeletonized dial displaying the complex workings of the movement. The watch face is protected by a sapphire crystal. All three watch hands, as well as the hour markers, are luminescent.
With a 100m water-resistance, it’s okay to wear the watch in water as long as you don’t go scuba diving or snorkeling.
Should you wish to learn more about the brand, feel free to read the A-Z review of Bulova watches.
As far as mechanical watches are concerned, I rate Seiko on par with Bulova. That’s why I also picked three automatic models from the Japanese watchmaker.
The first one belongs to the long-forgotten, yet extremely stylish line by Seiko, SARB. The collection was discontinued by Seiko a few years ago and although since then the prices for these models have risen a bit, they still provide excellent value for money and are available for less than $500.
Seiko SARB035 uses ultra-reliable Japanese automatic movement in the form of Seiko 6R15. The caliber is used in many other popular Seiko watches, as well as automatic models from other recognizable brands. It has a power reserve of 50 hours.
Many say that the model is a budget, stripped-down equivalent of a Rolex Explorer or Tudor Black Bay 36. And to be honest, it’s hard not to see the similarities.
The watch comes with a 38,4mm stainless steel case. It has a see-through caseback which allows us to marvel at the movement’s work. The dial boasts a classic look, with an ivory background and silver-tone watch hands and hour markers. Both are filled with lume. At 3 o’clock, there’s a date window. The dial is made from scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, whereas the screw-down caseback is Hardlex.
The bracelet is made from stainless steel and uses a push-button deployment clasp. What adds to the solidity of this model is a 100m water-resistance.
The time has come for the second Bulova automatic timepiece and by no means is it any less comment-worthy than the previous pick, is it?
The watch we have here comes from the Wilton collection, rich in automatic models with an elegant touch to them. Although the automatic movement originates from Japan as well, the power reserve in this one is considerably higher (60 hours).
The stainless steel case measures 42mm in diameter, and its back is transparent. It’s one of two Bulova watches on the list that uses an elegant leather band. The navy blue strap has a push-button buckle closure.
Similar to the first Bulova timepiece on the list, it has the so-called Open Heart dial, although here the skeletonized part is considerably smaller. In the case of this model, the only illuminated part is the hands. The dial is made from domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating.
The water-resistance of this watch is rated at 100m. Since it comes with a leather strap, it’s still possibly best to avoid frequent contact with water as its much more prone to damage than ie. stainless steel bracelets.
Topping off the list of mechanical Bulova timepieces is this beauty from the Classic collection. Like all Bulova models on the list, it uses the Japanese automatic movement. The power reserve in this case is approximately 40 hours.
Bulova Classic 98A165 comes with a 43mm stainless steel case, with the biggest part of the caseback transparent. Same as the model above, the watch comes with a classy leather strap, this time in brown color. The watch too uses the standard buckle closure.
Like all automatic timekeepers from Bulova on this list, it has a skeleton dial through which you can observe the work of the movement. In the case of this model, both the hands and the hour markers are luminescent. Perhaps one shortcoming of this otherwise excellent timepiece is the lack of a sapphire crystal dial. Instead, it comes with a mineral glass.
Akin to the model above, the water-resistance is rated at 100m. Again, to minimize the risk of damage to the leather strap, it’s still best to take the watch off when going for a swim or even during a shower.
If you’re looking for a brilliant automatic timepiece and are a diving enthusiast at the same time, you might have just scored a jackpot.
Seiko SRPC44 from the Prospex collection provides quite a contrast to the minimalistic SARBO35 model we discussed above. It’s a brilliant diver’s watch, using a 24-jewel automatic movement with a 41-hour power reserve.
Another metric that distinguishes the two models is the size of the case. Whereas the previous pick was quite small and would look great on any wrist type, the one here is pretty massive (45mm). Also, the caseback here isn’t transparent. Framing the case is an attention-worthy, unidirectional gold bezel.
The black dial is beautifully complemented by silver-tone hour markers and hands. Both are luminescent. At 3 o’clock, there’s a window displaying the day and date. In the perfect world, the dial window would’ve been made from sapphire crystal but in this case, it’s a Hardlex mineral crystal.
The watch comes with an accordion-style silicone strap with standard buckle closure. This model is an ISO-certified diver’s watch and has a water-resistance rated at 200m.
Are you a fan of the ultra-retro style mechanical movements? If so, this Invicta model, first of the two hand-wound timepieces on the list, might be of huge appeal to you.
Invicta 24693, from the American’s brand Pro Diver collection, uses a Chinese mechanical movement. Since it’s a hand-wound mechanical type, it requires daily winding. It’s one for the connoisseur and those who appreciate the whole process.
The watch comes with an oversized 47mm stainless steel case and a unidirectional blue bezel. Basically, the whole dial is see-through and displays the workings of the movement. The caseback is equally transparent. This model uses only two hands for hours and minutes – the second hand is not included. Both hands are luminous, as are the index markers. The dial window is made from mineral crystal glass.
The bracelet is too made from stainless steel case and uses a deployment clasp with a safety button. The timepiece is classified as a diver’s watch but when we compare its 100m water-resistance with two other models on this list, it looks quite bleak.
Are you new to the brand? You can read the Invicta brand review by clicking here.
The second Invicta model on the list and again it’s one for those who appreciate the daily routine of winding a timepiece.
Similar to the Invicta diver’s watch above, this one too uses a Chinese mechanical movement. The model displays a rather elegant style and would be a good choice for a dress watch.
The case measures 42mm in diameter and is made from stainless steel. The part of the caseback that’s exhibited is equal in size to the skeletonized part of the face.
Both the hands and the Roman numerals are black. In combination with the white dial, they present a classic, refined look. None of these are luminescent, though – which probably is a bit of a let-down. The watch face is protected by Invicta-patented Flame Fusion crystal. As far as durability is concerned, the material is very similar to mineral crystal.
The mechanical watch comes with a croc-embossed leather band with standard buckle closure. On the waterproofing front, it can withstand a depth of 30m which technically means it’s just splashproof. It’s strongly advised to avoid frequent contact with water, especially due to the leather strap.
Closing the list of the best mechanical watches under 500 bucks is a third Seiko timepiece. It’s also the second diver’s watch from the Japanese watchmaker.
Seiko SRPD11, belonging to the Prospex collection full of automatic masterpieces, uses a 24-jewel Japanese movement with both manual and automatic winding capabilities. The power reserve of this one sits at 41 hours.
The case is fairly big, with a diameter of 44,5mm. Both the case and the bracelet, which comes with a three-fold clasp with a push-button release, are made from stainless steel. The caseback in this model is screw-down. The watch also has a uni-rotating bezel.
The blue dial with white luminescent hands and hour markers is protected by a hardened mineral crystal glass. It’s definitely not as scratch-resistant as sapphire (available in most watches on the list), but it’s still a solid enough protection against damage during everyday use. Additionally, at 3 o’clock there’s a day and date window.
Since it’s a diver’s watch, the water-resistance has to be at a top level and it is. It’s rated at 200m.