The 45 Best Automatic Watches Under $500

The 45 Best Automatic Watches Under $500

Let’s be honest: not everyone can spend thousands of dollars on every new watch purchase, especially someone who might just be getting into the watch collecting hobby or perhaps looking to spend $1,000 or so to assemble his or her first three-watch collection. Fortunately, there are a plethora of options out there in the sub-$500 watch category, with choices from the usual suspects like Seiko, Citizen, Swatch, Timex, and Orient, as well as from several microbrands that offer worthwhile options in that narrow price range as well. Here we have compiled a selection of the best automatic watches under $500 that deserve to be on your radar — and perhaps even in your collection.

Before we begin, some important ground rules:

Our curated list will feature watches costing under $500, and equipped with an automatic movement inside. The very few exceptions to the under-$500 rule will be called out in the descriptions below. As always, we can’t include every potential watch that meets the criteria in this range, but you can find some others in several other guides on our site, such as our lists of The 40 Best Seiko Watches and The 40 Best Microbrands. Finally, in order for this list to flow properly, the watches will be grouped together according to the following style categories: 1) Dive2) Dress3) Everyday
Finally, at the end of the list, we will shout out a handful of watches that are worthy of notice but just missed the cut on price.

Dive Watches:

Seiko SRPC91 "Turtle" Save the Ocean Edition

Specifications: Price: $495, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 13.3mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
The Seiko "Turtle" lineup is famous for its predecessors' popularity among explorers who wore them on expeditions in extreme conditions and environments, including the members of the famed Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition. The watch featured here is the Ref. SRPC91, and it is part of the Save The Ocean series from Seiko. This model features a captivating, reflective blue dial that shines blue to black in different light conditions, and a two-tone blue dive-scale bezel that sets it apart from the other models within this family of divers.

Seiko SRPB53 "Samurai"

Specifications: Price: $495, Case Size: 43.8mm, Thickness: 13.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
If you think the Turtle is too sedate in its look, try this one. The Samurai is a member of the Prospex family of divers, watches known for their angled case profiles and stark dial markers. The Samurai features a waffle dial with a textured motif that is subtle while still commanding attention. For under $500, you can get the rubber strap-fitted option; on a bracelet, the price edges over the $500 mark. 

Seiko SRPD51 5 Sports

Specifications: Price: $295, Case Size: 42.5mm, Thickness: 13.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
Although not a direct successor, this line of Seiko 5 Sports is often referred to as the modern re-issue of the cult-classic SKX. The SRPD51 arrived on the market with mixed reactions, mostly due to its lack of a  screw-down crown and 100-meter water resistance, but since its initial release, much of the criticism has subsided as it becomes more clear that this watch was never trying to be an SKX replacement, but rather, a great addition to the Seiko 5 family. With its new caliber, familiar design formula, and plenty of variations available, it has become been a top seller in the Seiko 5 family.

Seiko SBDY033 Prospex Monster Vintage

Specifications: Price: $450, Case Size: 42.4mm, Thickness: 13.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.4mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
Following in the path of many iconic Seiko divers, the Seiko Monster Vintage is a cult classic that might not win over everyone out there, but for those interested in a striking and aggressive-looking dive watch, its instantly recognizable design will grab you. The watch features a sunburst blue dial with applied markers filled with tons of Lumibrite in a shade of vintage patina. Compared to its predecessors, this latest iteration of the Monster features an elongated cyclops lens for easier viewing of its day and date. The Monster is nicely priced under $500 and offers quite a value proposition for a serious-looking watch.

Nodus Retrospect II

Specifications: Price: $450, Case Size: 40.5mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35, Regulated in four positions, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
As noted in our recent video review, the Nodus Retrospect II comes with a great build quality for the price. The watch contains a Seiko NH35 movement and sports a distinctive design — two of the leading factors in Nodus' capturing the attention of the microbrand crowd. With the Retrospect restock in the very near future, it certainly contends strongly against more mainstream brands in the "watches under $500" category.

Timex Navi XL Automatic

Specifications: Price: $259, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8215, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Mineral

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The Navi XL Automatic takes its inspiration from a 1970s dive watch from Timex's archives. While the Navi XL Automatic is far from a certified diver, it does offer 100 meters of water resistance, a sporty yet stylish look, and certainly enough robustness to get you through the day. The featured Navi XL Automatic here is a full IP-coated stainless steel version, differentiated from other color variants by its date wheel with a black background — a subtle detail that complements the watch's stealthy look and elevates it in terms of design, especially at this price.

Orient Kamasu

Specifications: Price: $280, Case Size: 41.8mm, Thickness: 12.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.3mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Orient Caliber F6922, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Mineral
In the same market segment as the famed and discontinued SKX, the Kamasu presents itself as the successor to previous popular divers in Orient's lineup, including the Mako II and Ray II. Although the Kamasu sports the most basic of dive watch elements, it has quickly become one of the best value propositions in watchmaking with its solid movement, sapphire crystal, wearable case, and pleasing looks. Check out our video review of the piece for more detail.

Orient Kano

Specifications: Price: $425, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 12.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Orient Caliber F6922, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Mineral

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A larger-size diver from Orient, the Kano captures attention with its very dominant case dimensions and a set of design element that separate it from its sibling, the Kamasu. The Kano has a streamlined and simple design with its markers and handset while offering a middle-of-the-road presence despite its larger case size. The broad hour and minute hands lend a high level of legibility, enabling easy reading of the time in any condition and contributing to this watch's value proposition.

Dufrane Barton Springs

Specifications: Price: $499, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 12.85mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.6mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Sellita SW200-1, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Domed SapphireShop Here
Featured in our buying guide of the 40 Best Microbrands, Dufrane Watches is a cool boutique brand based in Austin, Texas. The company made its first big splash with the Barton Springs 656, a minimalist dive watch that is priced very aggressively and offers a fun aesthetic with a solid Swiss movement inside. Dufrane watches are hand-assembled in the USA by another great microbrand, Lum-Tec, which is regarded as one of the best in business at regulation.

Dan Henry 1970

Specifications: Price: $290, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 14.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45.7mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Mineral
Dan Henry, founder of the eponymous watch brand, is a well-known collector of vintage watches and founder of the website Timeline Watch. Watches bearing the Dan Henry name are known to scream value for money, and the 1970 model is no exception. It houses a Seiko NH35 movement inside a vintage-style compressor diver-style case and has been sold out once in its previous colorway iterations. It also comes in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm in diameter.

Spinnaker Bradner

Specifications: Price: $290, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 180m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Another compressor-style, vintage-inspired dive watch comes to us from Spinnaker, a brand that offers a wide range and variety of dive watches as suggested by its nautical-themed name. Particularly well priced in that range is the Bradner, with its unique hour hand that sets it apart in the niche field of compressor-style dive watches.

Raven Solitude

Specifications: Price: $480, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35A, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Don’t be fooled by the looks of the Raven Solitude. For its price, it packs a host of technical features and a great overall build quality. A diver's watch that manages to channel both fun and functional seriousness, it boasts a 300m water resistance and a well-regulated movement inside. Raven was one of the pioneers in the microbrand community and continues to gain respect from both its customers and its peers.

Glycine Combat Sub

Specifications: Price: $500, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto ETA 2824, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
The actual MSRP of the Glycine Combat Sub is well over $500, but the brand's acquisition by Invicta has led to some of the expected heavy discounting, so this Combat Sub model can be commonly can be found for under $500. If you do find one of them at that price, be assured that you are getting one of the best values in watchmaking. With a Swiss movement, a well-finished case, and a classically militaristic dial design, this is a winner, at least for anyone with a wrist iarge enough to accommodate the 42-mm case size.

Traska Freediver

Specifications: Price: $400, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 12.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire crystal
This Traska Freediver with a mint-green dial is an eye-catching example of an affordable dive watch dressed up with an unconventional and rather playful dial color. In addition to that verdant dial, the watch has a great build, including a slightly oversized crown, sans crown guards, a nod to vintage-inspired design. Perhaps most notably for a watch in this price range, the Freediver features a scratch-resistant coating that helps it achieve a hardness level of 1,200 HV.

Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic

Specifications: Price: $400, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 13.1mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8203, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
The Promaster Dive Automatic is one of the leading dive watches in Citizen's vast range, well priced while still delivering professional specifications. (The Citizen Promaster Diver range and its predecessors have long been the dive watches of choice for the Italian Marina Militare.) Though it sports a rather large, chunky case, the watch sits extremely well on the wrist thanks to its total lug-to-lug length. The movement inside is a reliable Japanese Miyota.

Vostok Amphibia

Specification: Price: $88, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Vostok 2416, Power Reserve: 31 Hours, Crystal: Domed Acrylic
Known and loved by legions of value-hungry dive-watch enthusiasts, the Vostok Amphibia is a cult classic. For a little under $100, the Russian made Vostok, which runs on an in-house movement, comes in hundreds of different case and dial variations and is the subject of a busy aftermarket modification scene. Famously worn by Bill Murray in the hipster favorite film, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," the Amphibia is the least expensive, legitimate, automatic diver’s watch you can buy — full stop.
Zelos Hammerhead Bronze Blue

Zelos Hammerhead 2 1000M Bronze Midnight Blue

Specification: Price: $449, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 17mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 1,000m, Movement: Seiko NH35 Automatic Power Reserve: 31 Hours, Crystal: Domed Acrylic. Shop here.

The robustly built Zelos Hammerhead dives even deeper than the shark that it's named for — 1,000 meters, thanks in part to its built-in helium release valve. This version has a rugged 44-mm case made of bronze, a material with a long history of maritime use, in diving equipment like helmets and in the hulls of ships. Behind the nautical blue dial is a self-winding movement sourced from Seiko, protected behind an attractive solid caseback with an engraving of the deep-sea predator from which the Hammerhead model derives its name.

Timex Navi XL Automatic

Timex Navi XL Automatic Gunmetal Case

Specifications: Price: $259, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Mechanical Automatic, Crystal: Mineral. Shop here.

An alternative to the black IP-coated version of this watch covered above, this gunmetal-gray-finished model has its own style of masculine appeal. It's got the same white-on-black date display, big luminous markers, and military-inspired 24-hour inner scale but sports a synthetic rubber strap in place of the all-black model's leather strap, a better option if you're actually planning to go diving with it.

Dress Watches:

Bulova Sutton Skeleton

Bulova Sutton Skeleton Stainless Steel

Specification: Price: $400, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 12.15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Miyota 8N26, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Domed Mineral

Rocking a skeleton watch is a great yet none-so-subtle way of broadcasting to the room that you're wearing a watch with a mechanical movement, and fortunately for those horological exhibitionists on a limited budget, ever-reliable Bulova offers one for under half a grand. The 43-mm stainless steel case houses an openworked version of the Japanese Miyota self-winding movement that offers a power reserve of 42 hours. The watch is mounted on a handsome three-link bracelet that fastens securely to the wrist with a push-button deployant clasp.

Seiko Presage Series SRPB41 "Cocktail Time"

Specifications: Price: $450, Case Size: 40.5mm, Thickness: 11.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
Seiko's "Cocktail Time" Presage models are some of the most compelling dress watches on the market, especially at this pricing sweet spot. The SRPB41 has been one of the most prominent faces of the Presage series, and the dials of the Cocktail Time sub-family are all inspired by specific classics of mixology. The finely finished dials come in a variety of colors and textural motifs to offer something for everyone. 

Seiko Presage Series SARY055 and SARY057

Specifications: Price: $450, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
If we were naming the best everyday watches from Seiko just above $500, we'd have to name the SARB033 and 035 references, which are versatile, work with a variety of third-party straps, and offer a classic wearing experience at 38 mm. As a result of their success, models like the SARY055 and SARY057, priced lower, are greatly overlooked. These models on the surface share many of the same characteristics as the SARBs, but are distinguished by larger cases, different movements, an absence of lume on the dial, and an added day-date function. These two will never get the same love as the typical SARB033 and 035, but with a slightly lower price tag and a larger case, they are fine dress-watch options for those with larger wrists.

Seiko Presage SSA405 "Blue Moon"

Specifications: Price: $475, Case Size: 40.5mm, Thickness: 11.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R38, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
This watch brings a captivating open-heart design to the Presage collection, with the cocktail-inspired dial's off-center aperture serving as a window into the exposed, beating balance of the watch. As the name suggests, the SSA405 is inspired by the "Blue Moon" drink served at the Star Bar in Tokyo's Ginza district. The dial features a deep blue color that reflects light depending on the angle and delivers a great package for those with a liking for open-heart designs — a style difficult to pull off while still staying under that magic $500 price barrier.

Sternglas Naos Automatik

Specifications: Price: $445, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 43mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 821A, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Launched from a Kickstarter campaign, the young Sterglas brand has since catapulted them into success. Unlike many brands that use Kickstarter to make uninspired watches, Sternglas brings an approach to watch design that bears some obvious Bauhaus influences yet is still distinctly its own. The Naos Automatik was one of its first mechanical watches, offering this style of minimalist design at a more attainable price point than many of its contemporaries.

Bulova American Clipper

Specifications: Price: $280, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 11.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8205, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: MineralThe New York based company, and member of the large Japanese conglomerate, Citizen Watch Co., has a vast archive to draw from when it comes to re-creating historical watch models for the contemporary consumer. The American Clipper is a nod to the brand’s roots in America and comes in with a very attractive price tag, a reliable Miyota caliber within, and solid minimalist looks for mass appeal.

Timex Giorgio Galli S1

Specifications: Price: $450, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.75mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 9039, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: K1 Crystal
Designed by Giorgio Galli of Milan, this piece was one the most noteworthy releases from Timex in the company's very busy last few years. With a newfound dedication to making mechanical watches, Timex made a great leap with the design of this piece. The S1 features a clean aesthetic and a Miyota 9000-series caliber, the 9039, which is a substantial step up in quality from the typical 8215. This one has been hard to keep in stock, but let’s hope we see more of these becoming available again soon.

Orient Bambino Version 5

Specifications: Price: $185, Case Size: 40.5mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Orient Caliber F6724, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Domed mineral glassShop Here
A standout among the many Orient Bambinos that we've included in previous lists, this 5th version makes its case for this category with vintage-style Arabic numerals and a very clean dial that makes it much dressier than most of its predecessors. While it is slightly on the thicker side for a dress watch, thanks in part to its domed crystal, it sits rather well on the wrist. It’s hard to fault this watch with its basic movement from Orient, especially at the exceptionally affordable pricing.

Orient Sun and Moon

Specifications: Price: $321, Case Size: 41.5mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.3mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Orient Caliber F6B24, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Mineral
The Sun & Moon is an offering from Orient’s Classic lineup with a day/night indicator that resembles the highly coveted yet typically expensive moon-phase complication. It sits at the larger end of the spectrum for a dress watch, due to the complications on the dial, but for the "wow" factor alone you can't go wrong at this price.

Orient Bambino Version 4

Specifications: Price: $185, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 11.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Orient Caliber F6724, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Domed mineral glass
As an alternative to the previously covered Bambino Generation 5, consider its elder cousin, the Version 4. This model is a simpler take on the dress watch, with applied indices, sharp hands, and a vignette-style dial that greatly elevates its look. This particular variation with a blue dial complements almost any formalwear ensemble given its accommodating color palette, and it offers Orient's typical  value proposition at under $200.
Tissot Gent XL

Tissot Gent XL Swissmatic Black Dial Beige Strap

Specifications: Price: $475, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 12.33mm, Lug-to-Lug: 52 mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto ETA C15.111, Power Reserve: 72 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire. Shop here.
The "XL" in the watch's name is apt, and worthy of note, as 43-mm steel cases at this price range are not common, especially equipped with sapphire crystals and Swiss-made automatic calibers. Tissot once again flexes its muscles as one of Switzerland's most value-driven producers of serious watches with this model, which pairs a black PVD-coated case with a black dial and a pleasantly contrasting beige leather strap. 

Everyday Watches:

Boldr Venture Sand Storm

Specifications: Price: $299, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 44mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35A, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire crystalBoldr has come a long way from its startup in Singapore to the international microbrand scene. With the Venture Automatic, the company has created an attractive new case design and balanced dial with very legible font sizes compared to those on its previous iteration. On top of that, the Venture is now available with an automatic movement, which makes it a lock for a spot on any list of best automatic watches under $500.

Nodus Sector Field

Specifications: Price: $400, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12.75mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 150m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
The Sector series is the latest family from Nodus and takes a different aesthetic direction than its previous diver-style releases. The Sector Field offers a modern take on the sector dial format that's ideal for everyday wear. The watch features a unique handset and a striking case design with a mix of blasted and polished finishing. 

Undone Cali Basic

Specifications: Price: $315, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35A, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Plexiglas
Undone Watches have become increasingly popular over the past few years largely thanks to the level of customization that they offer. While some models are a bit over-the-top, from a design standpoint, for daily wear, the Basecamp collection has managed to separate itself from the bunch — even this model, with its admittedly polarizing California dial and automatic Seiko-provided movement, all for just $315. 

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical

Specifications: Price: $360, Case Size: 34mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 40.8mm, Lug Width: 16mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Seiko NH35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Marathon Watch has its origins in the early 1900s and began really dipping its toes into the world of military-issued timepieces in 1941, producing watches and timing instruments for the Allied Forces. In years since Marathon has continued to develop watches for military personnel with designs suited to their specific tasks.  For a field watch-style piece that can be worn on the ground, look no further than the General Purpose Mechanical. Available with both an ETA hand-winding movement as well as an automatic Seiko NH35, and sporting a tactical look with its tritium tubes, this is a watch both versatile and very cost-effective.

Laco Aachen

Specifications: Price: $410, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 11.55mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.5mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 821A, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: SapphireShop Here
The German brand Laco has a history dating back to 1925, which includes a stint as a supplier of timepieces to pilots during World War 2. Under its current ownership, Laco continues to mine this heritage by offering a great lineup of pilot watches for civilians — both at the higher end and also the entry-level segment of the market. These two flieger models contain Japanese movements and are available in case sizes of either 39mm or 42mm. The Miyota 821A is modified and now features hacking in all of the Laco watches in which it is used.

Laco Casablanca

Specifications: Price: $490, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 11.75mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 821A, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Aside from its better-known aviation-style watches, Laco also offers other daring designs that deviate tastefully from those base "flieger" styles. The Casablanca takes the inspiration of classic timepieces from the mid 20th century and gives it a modern twist. Its legibility is greatly emphasized, during the day thanks to its nicely contrasting dial elements but also at night thanks to its fully lumed dial.

Baltic HMS002

Specifications: Price: $400, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 821A, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Hesalite
French microbrand Baltic has been on a roll lately, especially with last year's release of a limited-edition piece with in a salmon dial that was met with almost universal applause. The HMS002 featured here hosts the same sectored dial design as that model and knocks it out of the park with its silver dial and blued hands. It features very accommodating wrist dimensions and a no-nonsense movement that positions this piece as perhaps the best looking sector under $500.

Lorier Falcon Series II

Specifications: Price: $499, Case Size: 36mm, Thickness: 9mm + 2mm glass, Lug-to-Lug: 44mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Miyota 90S5, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Plexiglas
A passion made a reality by a humble husband-and-wife team, Lorier is another microbrand that has made steady strides over the past several years, the latest example being the introduction of Falcon Series II. This tastefully designed watch offers modest, vintage-appropriate proportions and a bold modern spirit with its striking waffle dial. Add in the Miyota movement and it all spells another hit for the small but mighty brand.

Timex Marlin Day-Date

Specifications: Price: $259, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8215, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Acrylic

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After the success of the first Timex Marlin reissue, it was only a matter of time before Timex expanded on that success. Accordingly, the Marlin catalog has grown over the past couple of years, adding a traditional automatic version and eventually this Marlin Day-Date to the vintage-inspired family, which began with a hand-wound model. The Marlin's day-date complication is executed in an unobtrusive way, contributing to this watch's casually elegant look.

Timex M79

Specifications: Price: $279, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 14.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8215, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Acrylic
In a similar storyline to that of the Marlin, The Timex M79 was introduced with an automatic Miyota movement after the success of the Q Timex reissue; the "M" signifies a mechanical movement, and "79" is the year the Q Timex was introduced. It features a case size slightly larger than that of the Q Timex, but despite that, it has a great 46mm lug-to-lug length that make it suitable for a majority of wrists.

Swatch Sistem51 Irony

Specifications: Price: $200-$255, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 13.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50.6mm, Lug Width: 25mm (proprietary), Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Sistem51, Power Reserve: 90 Hours, Crystal: PlexiglasThe Sistem51 is a revolutionary watch by Swatch, boasting a single-screw movement with a power reserve of a whopping 90 hours, all for a cost of $250 or less. The lineup features a variety of youth-oriented designs that cater to newer watch enthusiasts. Swatch was created to counteract the devastating effects of the quartz crisis on the mechanical watch industry during the 70s and 80s, and much of that ethos remains here. The Irony series offers an elevated use of materials in comparison to Swatch's traditional plastic models and feature movements that are serviceable. These are a great place to start, or revisit, on your watch collecting journey.

Seiko SRPE53K1

Specifications: Price: $275, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 44.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex
The new "bezel-less" Seiko 5 Sports has made some waves in the watch community following the release of the dive bezel variant. The SRPE53, often referred to as the DressKX by enthusiasts, has been dominating the affordable price market of watches with its clean design and wearability. For $275, this model has quickly jumped near the top of the list as one of the best everyday watches you can find in this price range.

Orient Maestro

Specifications: Price: $185, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45.8mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Auto Orient Caliber F6722, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Mineral

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The Orient Maestro is a no-nonsense watch that promises lots of bang for your buck, with 100 meters of water resistance and a reliably performing, in house caliber inside. Its dial design is simple, perhaps lacking a bit of soul, but its look makes the Maestro suitable for essentially any scenario.

Tissot Everytime Swissmatic

Specifications: Price: $395-$495, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Tissot Swissmatic, Power Reserve: 72 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
The Everytime Swissmatic is a unisex watch, simple in its aesthetics and feature-rich in its technical execution. Its Swissmatic movement has a lengthy 72 hours of power reserve, and its steel case has a sapphire crystal on the top. This movement will need to be sent to Tissot for servicing some years down the road, but that's no reason to pass up such an affordable Swiss watch. 
Bulova Hack Watch

Bulova Hack Watch

Specifications: Price: $350, Case Size: 37mm, Thickness: 14mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8250, Power Reserve: 42 Hours, Crystal: Mineral. Shop here.
Bulova's simply named Hack Watch is a true piece of American military history, issued to U.S. troops during World War II. The modern descendants of those early pieces, which helped to define the look of what we now call field watches, have a similarly clean, utilitarian aesthetic, with large legible Arabic numerals, a simple minute track, a matte-finished steel case, and a NATO-style, mission-ready leather strap. The movement inside is Japanese but the Bulova Hack watch is in very respect an American classic. 

Just Missed the Cut:

While this article focuses on the best automatic watches under $500, we would like to give a mention to a few of the watches out there that just missed the cut with the price but are unquestionably great options to go for.

Hamilton Khaki Field Auto 38mm

Specifications: Price: $575, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Hamilton H-10, Power Reserve: 80 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire crystal
The beloved Hamilton Khaki Field unfortunately has missed the cut as it retails slightly above the $500 price tag and the Khaki Mechanical features a hand-wound movement.  This considered, putting the criteria for this list aside for a moment, there is no question that the Hamilton Khaki Auto with its wearable case, lengthy power reserve, and versatile looks is one of the best watches out there when it comes to value for money.

Hamilton Khaki King

Specifications: Price: $575, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto Hamilton H-40, Power Reserve: 80 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire crystalSimilar to what was mentioned with the Khaki Field Auto, the Khaki King has been highly raved about as a result of its shared traits with other Khaki models with the added use of a day-date complication.

Tissot Visodate Heritage

Specifications: Price: $650, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Auto ETA 2836-2 Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire crystalOne of the most classic Tissot watches that is often compared as a rival of the SARB033 and 035 due to their simplicity and practicality. Although the Visodate features a less water resistance of only 30 meters, it is definitely a great dress watch for its price from a great entry-level Swiss manufacturer.

Seiko Presage SRPD39

Specifications: Price: $525, Case Size: 41.7mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Auto 4R35, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire crystal
The Presage SRPD39 is a stunning watch that is just above the $500 price point. This model is often referred to as the Zen Garden. It features leaf hands and a dial finish that does not truly show its full effect until close inspection.

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