At a time when high-tech smartwatches and fitness gadgets are becoming all the rage for your wrists, we will always have a soft spot for classic timepieces. But classic-looking watches that are high-quality aren’t typically what you’d call affordable.
Want a watch from a popular brand like Rolex or Patek Philippe? You’ll have to plonk down thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – which isn’t something everyone can afford. On the other hand, you don’t want a cheap watch that will fall apart after a few wears.
Now it may seem impossible to find a stylish watch with all these key features that are under $500, but we’ve done the hard yards for you! We’ve rounded up the most stylish, best-looking watches that are functional and high-performing, and above all, affordable.
So if you’re after a watch that’ll last, elevate your look, and won’t break the bank; take a look at the best watches under $500.
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Casio G-Shock DW5600 Series
Casio is synonymous with affordable, high-quality watches, so it’s hard to pick just one Casio for this list. That said, it’s hard to look past the 5600 Series Casio G-Shock.
G-Shock is Casio’s high-performance line and G-Shocks are some of the toughest watches on the planet. Water, shock and dust-resistant, they’re the final word in durability and affordability. The 5600 Series is as close as you can get to wearing one of the original square G-Shocks from the 80s and despite its low price remains an incredibly stylish, capable timepiece.
While its feature list is somewhat basic by modern G-Shock standards, it’s got more features than most quartz watches on the market: a powerful backlight, chronograph and alarm functions… It’s also incredibly tough, shock-resistant and water-resistant to 200m.
Timex Q Diver Reissue ‘Pepsi’
Timex is another brand that’s synonymous with quality affordable watches. Their retro-inspired Q collection is home to many of their best buys, including this bad boy which has a colour scheme that resembles the much more expensive Rolex GMT-Master ‘Pepsi’.
Other cool retro touches include a domed acrylic crystal, an old-fashioned battery hatch on the caseback (which makes it a cinch for you to change your watch’s battery yourself) and a very 70s day-date window at 3 o’clock.
With its stainless steel case and highly comfy integrated bracelet, the Q Diver Reissue is a great entry point into the world of stainless steel sports watches.
Swatch x OMEGA Bioceramic MoonSwatch ‘Mission to Mars’
Meet the most hyped watch of 2022. A collaboration between Swatch and OMEGA modelled after the original OMEGA Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, the MoonSwatch collection has become the most talked-about and in-demand watch collection in recent memory. At retail, they’re quite affordable, but such is the demand for these watches that resale prices are as high as AU$5,000.
It’s crafted from Swatch’s patented BIOCERAMIC, a unique mix of two-thirds ceramic and one-third material derived from castor oil. BIOCERAMIC is a really cool material: it’s sustainable, visually distinctive and tough.
Each of the 11 models features subtly different design cues, but all are remarkably faithful to the original ‘Speedy’: the famous tachymeter scale with a dot over 90, those distinctive Speedmaster subdials and chrono pushers… Yes, they have a quartz movement and the subdials are arranged differently, but it’s still clearly a Moonwatch.
We’ve chosen the ‘Mission to Mars’ variant here as it’s the most visually stunning. The red ceramic case and white dial just pop, as do the unique ‘Alaska Project’ rocket-shaped hands on the subdials. If you can get your hands on a MoonSwatch, this is the one to get.
Orient Bambino V2
A cult favourite among watch aficionados, the Orient Bambino V2 offers automatic watch quality and class at a fraction of the price most automatic dress watches retail for.
Not only does it have a 40-hour power reserve, but it even has hacking seconds – that is, the second hand stops when the crown is pulled out, so you can better synchronise the time. That’s a feature many high-end watches don’t have.
There are plenty of different Bambino variants out there and you can pretty easily pick one up from Amazon or the like for less than the price of a Daniel Wellington (pro tip: you should never buy a Daniel Wellington, they’re terrible).
Seiko 5 SRPD
You couldn’t have a list of high-quality affordable watches without including Seiko. The Seiko 5 range in particular is of outstanding value. The ‘5’ is in reference to the five base qualities Seiko demands from Seiko 5 watches: automatic winding, a day-date display, high water resistance, a protected or recessed crown, and a durable case and bracelet.
The 5 range encompasses a wide variety of different watches including field, dress and dive watches, but it’s the latter that most watch fans opt for. The Seiko 5 SRPD is a stand-out: the modern successor to the hugely popular SKX range of dive watches, it’s a handsome and durable piece that’ll give you plenty of kudos.
There are plenty to pick from but we like this SRPD reference in particular. The deep, subtle green colour is a bit unusual and very on-trend. The stainless steel bracelet is another big plus.
Tissot Tradition Quartz
Tissot is one of those brands where you’re not sure how they do it for the money. The Swiss watchmaker is a household name thanks to its superb, refined yet reasonably-priced timepieces. There’s a reason most people’s “first nice watch” is a Tissot.
This Tissot Classic Dream Silver resembles much more expensive Swiss watches like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual or the OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra but at a much more affordable price point. Its bracelet is a real highlight: an elegant design with brushed and polished links as well as a proper butterfly clasp.
This model is also available with a Swissmatic automatic movement if you’re willing to stump up a few more bones, but if not, this model’s reliable quartz movement will serve you fine.
Citizen Eco-Drive Chronograph
Citizen is another Japanese brand that’s a budget watch stalwart. This Eco-Drive Chronograph might look retro, but it’s actually got a high-tech secret: it’s powered by the sun.
That’s right, it’s got a solar-powered Eco-Drive movement. The dial of the watch, believe it or not, contains a solar cell – meaning that only a few minutes of sunlight each day will keep it powered for days on end. Great if you hate changing batteries and/or love the planet.
This model boasts a rally-style perforated leather strap and a base 30 pulsations meter for high-accuracy heart rate counting – a nice retro touch.
Adidas Project One
Last but not least we have the Adidas Project One. Normally watches from fashion brands aren’t much good, but the Project One is actually a rather decent buy.
Made by Timex, not only does it have a solar-powered movement, like the Citizen above, but it also features a case made out of recycled ocean plastic and bio-based resin – meaning it’s good for the planet while looking good, too. $179 is pretty cheap for a solar-powered watch, too.
It’s available in 5 vibrant colours including coral pink and mint green, but we rather like this blue variant… It’s a classic Adidas look.