Motorsport and watches go back a long way. And by watches, we mean chronograph watches.
Chronographs come with a few features that have put them on the wrists of many legendary drivers along the way, used as personal timers way before the digital age came upon us.
They were useful for tracking laps on the circuit thanks to their stopwatch function and other interesting complications like the tachymeter for measuring average speed or distance.
Nowadays, their role has been taken over by professional digital stopwatches, and since even the most basic phones have a built-in stopwatch, chronographs seem to be on their way out.
But no matter how digitalized we become, there’s no denying there’s a certain aura surrounding a chronograph watch.
The joy of being able to measure lap times mechanically has an appeal that no digital device will ever have.
It’s that feeling of doing things like in the past that makes chronographs still worthy today.
While chronographs have almost always been associated with price tags that few could touch, it doesn’t mean all are unaffordable.
There are quite a few options out there that offer that cool feeling and functionality of times past without making you feel poor.
Car enthusiast or not, a chronograph is a worthy addition to any watch aficionado’s collection.
So let’s dive into the best affordable options of one of the most popular types of watches ever made, the chronograph.
20. Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono
The military themed Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono features a 44 mm micro-sandblasted steel case, with screw-down crown, a solid case back, 100 meter water resistance rating, and a matching military style bund strap.
The 14.15 mm thickness, combined with the 44 mm case makes it hefty enough on the wrist, so it might not be a good choice for small wrists.
The watch’s heart is a Hamilton H-21 self-winding movement, which at its core is an ETA Valjoux 7750 modified for a power reserve of approximately 60 hours.
The durability of this watch is well known, coming with a non-domed sapphire crystal that makes it even less prone to damage, which is why it’s an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts.
The only downside would be the hefty price tag, hitting almost $1,700.
19. Hoffman Racing 40 Mechanical
Hoffman is a watch brand based in New York, and their Racing 40 Mechanical chronograph goes into more affordable price territory, priced at around $825.
The watch is powered by a Seagull ST1901/TY2901, a hand wound movement with a 37 hour power reserve and a 21,600 vph.
The watch’s heart comes encased in a 40 mm stainless steel case with a 50 meter water depth rating and with a dial protected by sapphire crystal.
Speaking of the dial, it’s simple, legible, and features a tachymeter scale on the bezel.
The watch comes in a limited edition of only 350 units.
18. Seiko Chronograph SSB299P1
When you see Seiko, you should be glad, as it’s one of the best Japanese watchmakers that manage to offer impressive timepieces at very affordable prices.
The Seiko Chronograph we’re talking about here comes with a quartz movement encased in a large 44 mm steel case with a fixed stainless steel bezel.
A tachymeter scale is painted on the bezel, and is paired with a red tipped chronograph hand.
The watch looks sporty and the bulky case gives it a tough appearance, but the dial is incredibly beautiful, proof that a lot of attention was given in designing it.
The chronograph sub-dials add contrast and depth to the rest of the dial, making it that much more interesting.
The watch comes with a battery life of around 3 years and a water resistance rating of 100 meter.
17. Citizen Thin Blue Line Chronograph Eco-Drive
The Thin Blue Line Chronograph Eco-Drive is one of Citizen’s most cherished chronographs. It’s a classic watch with a tough and sporty look worthy of the name “Nighthawk Chronograph”.
The piece is rated with a 200 meter water resistance, and features a tachymeter scale.
The dial sports a 1/5 second chronograph which measures up to 60 minutes, and the 12/24 hour time.
At 3 o’clock there’s a date window, but probably the most interesting feature is the solar powered movement, which means you’ll never need to replace the battery.
The case is 42mm, so not to small but not to big either, despite its aggressive and bold design. The price is a good one as well, going for around $550.
16. Bulova Marine Star Chronograph
The Bulova Marine Star Chronograph comes in a 44 mm stainless steel case, in which you’ll find a B612 movement, a hybrid between quartz and solar power, removing the need to replace the battery.
The movement powers a 1/5 Second Chronograph that measures up to 60 minutes, a 12/24 hour time, and the date.
Water resistance goes up to 100 meters, so it’s ok for occasional swimming.
The most interesting part of the watch is, of course, its dial, which comes in a beautiful blue with subtle orange accents.
The sub dials come at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, striking a nice balance on the dial.
15. Strela Leonov Chronograph
Strela is a name with a lot of history behind it. It all starts with a Russian watch factory that was making chronographs with the 3017 calibre, based on the Swiss Venus 150/152.
The factory was called at the time the 1st Moscow Watch Factory, but in 1964 it was renamed Poljot.
Strela itself was one of the brand names those watches were sold under. There was Poljot, Strela, and Sekonda.
Nowadays, Strela is a revival of the old brand and it’s located in Munich, Germany.
The Strela Leonov is a modern timepiece that honors Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to exit his capsule and conduct a spacewalk.
The watch itself comes powered by the Chinese made Seagull ST1901 hand wound movement, with a power reserve of 37 to 40 hours.
14. Seiko Flightmaster Chronograph
Another Seiko worthy of our attention is the Flightmaster Chronograph, a pilot’s watch with plenty of functions.
It’s got quite a busy dial, powered by a Japanese quartz movement, held together by a 42mm stainless steel case with a water depth rating of 200 meters.
At 3 o’clock we’ve got a date window, with chronograph sub dials positioned at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions. The rotating bezel features a gear edge, and contrasts with the black dial and white print.
Interestingly enough, this watch also comes with a handy alarm feature, among all other functions.
13. Tissot Men’s Chrono XL Swiss Chronograph
The Tissot Men’s Chrono XL Swiss Chronograph comes with a beautiful elegance and a minimalistic appearance that makes it a very good choice for those who want a more subtle watch on their wrists, but one that does more than tell the time.
The 45mm stainless steel case is impressive and clean looking and has a water resistance of 100 meters.
The blue dial comes out as balanced and the overall looks speaks of timelessness and elegance.
12. Seiko Neo Sports Chronograph Quartz SSB357
Priced at only $150, the Seiko Neo Sports Chronograph Quartz is an affordable timepiece with a big sporty aesthetic. And when we say big, we mean a 48mm diameter case, with a 14mm thickness to it.
The watch has a fixed steel bezel, with tachymeter scale printed on it, and paired with a red tipped chronograph hand.
The sub-dials are traditionally placed at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.
The interesting part is that the dial is made from carbon fiber, while the sub-dials on it are raised, adding depth to the dial.
11. Tissot Carson Premium Chronograph
The Tissot Carson Chronograph comes with an old school aesthetic and is powered by an automatic Swiss ETA movement.
There’s a sapphire crystal glass protecting the dial underneath, and overall, it’s a fine timepiece.
It actually makes for a perfect budget chronograph, as there aren’t many options on the market with a Swiss automatic movement priced under $500. Considering that, this one is a steal.
10. Nordgreen Pioneer
The Nordgreen Pioneer is a nice blend of chronograph complications and the minimalist Scandinavian design.
The dial is superb, with a futuristic design, impressive depth in the details, and a domed sapphire crystal glass that warps light in a very interesting manner.
With its minimalistic aesthetic, the Nordgreen Pioneer lacks the usual details of the chronograph sub-dials, but that makes it even more interesting and unique.
It’s beautiful, simplistic, and makes for a great addition, especially since it’s priced under $300.
9. Citizen Avion Eco-Drive
We’re now moving from the simplicity of the Nordgreen Pioneer to the overcomplicated dial of the Citizen Avion Eco-Drive. The Avion brings a unique style, and a solar powered movement.
The dial looks a little bit complicated, with a lot going on, but this is appealing to some, so give it a try if it’s to your liking.
The Citizen Avion Eco-Drive is an iconic chronograph already, which makes for a great tool watch.
It’s aviation inspired, so this might be the right choice for aviation enthusiasts, with legibility as the main concern.
8. Seagull 1963 Chronograph
The Seagull 1963 Chronograph is a remake of an older watch developed for the Chinese air force.
Though the remake uses a Chinese movement, the hand wound Seagull ST19, it’s based on a Swiss movement, so you can expect good enough quality from it.
The power reserve goes up to 42 hours, and has a 21,600 vph.
Feature wise, it comes with an acrylic watch glass, NATO canvas strap, and a display case back through which you can admire the inside of the watch’s heart.
7. Graf Zeppelin Series LZ127 Chrono
There’s something about this watch that just feels special.
Maybe it’s the contrast between the off-white colored dial and the superb font for its large Arabic numerals, or the way the running seconds on the right are perfectly balanced by the elapsed hours and minutes on the left, while a big date feature at the bottom and the Zeppelin logo seem to complete everything in style.
Honoring 100 years of the iconic Zeppelin airship, this watch has a Swiss Ronda 5020.B quartz movement complemented by a chronograph function that can measure elapsed time for up to 12 hours.
6. Vincero Chrono S
The Vincero Chrono S brings a unique dial design, with sub-dials at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, and comes in a great variety of case and dial colors.
It’s got a bold and masculine look, with enough qualities to make it a good choice for every day wear and tear. And with a price of around $215, it’s a bargain.
5. Seiko Classic Chronograph SNDC31
One of the greatest options for an affordable chronograph watch is the Seiko Classic Chronograph, priced just a bit above the $200 mark. It’s simple and classy, with a discreet 38 mm stainless steel case and thin polished bezel.
The dial is beautiful, featuring black Arabic numerals and minute markers on a creamy dial.
There’s a date display at 3 o’clock, and the three sub-dials of the chronograph function, a dual 60 second / 12 hour, 60 minutes, and the 1/20th of a second.
The movement powering the watch is the Seiko 7T92 quartz, and it’s rated for up to 100 meters of water resistance.
4. Citizen Military Field Chronograph Eco-Drive
The Military Field Chronograph Eco-Drive is another very popular watch from Citizen.
Its military inspired design makes for a very appealing aesthetic, with the matte black dial, large white and easily legible Arabic numerals, large luminous hands.
The dial has a date window at 4 o’clock, and the red chronograph hand ads to the contrasting looks. The movement is solar powered, so it should be trouble free when it comes to the battery.
The case measures 39mm in diameter, so it’s not too big, making it comfortable for smaller wrists as well, and the 100 meter water resistance rating is enough for swimming.
3. Timex Weekender Chronograph
With a nice and clean aesthetic, the Timex Weekender Chrono is among the best choices, especially given the $150 price tag.
The watch comes with a great selection of dial and strap colors, so there’s plenty to choose from depending on your style. It makes for a great daily wear timepiece.
2. Casio MTP4500D-1AV Aviator Stainless Steel Chrono
Moving towards the most affordable chronograph watches that are worth buying, we have the Casio Aviator Stainless Steel Chrono in the second place.
It makes for a good entry level timepiece for those who want to get into the chronograph watch world, with a busy dial and orange hands to add a nice contrast and help with legibility.
There’s a useful tachymeter which helps you make various calculations, and the overall look, despite the many functions and information provided, it’s still clean enough to look good.
1. Timex Expedition Field Chronograph
The most affordable chronograph watch you could have, and one to deserve the title, is the Timex Expedition Field Chronograph.
Usually priced at just under $50, this watch is an excellent choice for anyone.
It sports a more rugged look, so it’s appropriate for those outdoor enthusiasts.
The 30 minute chronograph is accurate down to 1/20th of a second, and the numerals are printed in increments of five, which reminds of the military watches of old.
Depending on your budget and income, affordable is relative.
For some, the Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono priced at almost $1,700 is affordable enough, for others only the last first five timepieces are considered affordable.
But no matter your choice, these 20 affordable chronograph watches are some of the best options you could have when you’re on a budget.
- 20. Hamilton Khaki Field Auto Chrono
- 19. Hoffman Racing 40 Mechanical
- 18. Seiko Chronograph SSB299P1
- 17. Citizen Thin Blue Line Chronograph Eco-Drive
- 16. Bulova Marine Star Chronograph
- 15. Strela Leonov Chronograph
- 14. Seiko Flightmaster Chronograph
- 13. Tissot Men’s Chrono XL Swiss Chronograph
- 12. Seiko Neo Sports Chronograph Quartz SSB357
- 11. Tissot Carson Premium Chronograph
- 10. Nordgreen Pioneer
- 9. Citizen Avion Eco-Drive
- 8. Seagull 1963 Chronograph
- 7. Graf Zeppelin Series LZ127 Chrono
- 6. Vincero Chrono S
- 5. Seiko Classic Chronograph SNDC31
- 4. Citizen Military Field Chronograph Eco-Drive
- 3. Timex Weekender Chronograph
- 2. Casio MTP4500D-1AV Aviator Stainless Steel Chrono
- 1. Timex Expedition Field Chronograph