Curiously enough, despite the arrival of the smartwatch with all its multitasking allure and its flashy functionality, mechanical watches have grown a lot in popularity over the past few years.
And though the quartz revolution has made watches so much more affordable and accessible to everybody, the advance in manufacturing technology has brought to us, in recent decades, some outstanding mechanical timepieces that rival the affordability of higher end quartz ones.
Hand wound or automatic, these analog anachronistic masterpieces are a lot more impressive than any quartz or digital alternative for your wrist.
Their springs and gears, often on display behind the case-back, present a much more interesting way of keeping track of time, one that doesn’t need charging over night or changing a battery every few years, but engage you in a much more pleasant habit of winding that crown every morning, as a sign that your day has started.
If this is the kind of relationship you want with your timepiece, but don’t feel like spending a fortune getting one, allow us to recommend the following affordable mechanical watches.
- 20. Vostok Amphibia Automatic
- 19. Seiko Recraft
- 18. Tissot Everytime Swissmatic
- 17. Citizen NJ0100 Automatic
- 16. Seiko Presage Cocktail Time “Blue Moon”
- 15. Orient Bambino III
- 14. Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic
- 13. Seiko 5 Sports SSK Sports Style GMT
- 12. Orient Sun & Moon Automatic
- 11. Bulova Hack Watch
- 10. Orient Kamasu
- 9. Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver
- 8. Invicta Pro Diver
- 7. Orient Tristar
- 6. Swatch Sistem51
- 5. Timex Marlin Automatic California Dial
- 4. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical
- 3. Laco Augsburg
- 2. Seiko 5 SNK805
- 1. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
20. Vostok Amphibia Automatic
Vostok may not be as well known as other names in the watchmaking industry, but as the watch supplier of the Russian military, it’s a good and affordable option for those who love that rugged aesthetic.
The Vostok Amphibia Automatic is made to withstand the most harsh conditions and environments, sporting by a reliable Vostok automatic movement, protected in a case with a 200 meter water resistance rating, and costing under $100.
The Amphibia Automatic is a humble timepiece, but one favored by plenty of people around the world, so much that vintage variants sell for hundreds of dollars.
19. Seiko Recraft
The Seiko Recraft is a wacky collection, out of which we prefer the SNKP27 with its lovely green dial and the rectangular case shape with slightly curved edges.
It’s a rarity in the watch world, a vintage inspired timepiece reminding of the 1970s.
The watch comes with only 50 meters of water resistance, an automatic movement without hacking function and without hand-winding, and just a mineral crystal Hardlex protecting the dial, but it’s an impressive timepiece nonetheless. And it costs a humble $275.
18. Tissot Everytime Swissmatic
An elegant and affordable enough piece is the Tissot Everytime Swissmatic. Costing around $400, it’s one of the best mechanical timepieces you can get for the money.
The simplicity of its dial, the clean and minimalistic aesthetic, with that lovely contrast between the stark black of the dial and the silver hue of the case, hands, and indices, really make for a stunning watch.
And inside there’s a reliable Swiss automatic movement with a hearty power reserve of 70 hours, with an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds a day, proving to be quite a capable mechanical caliber. Especially for that price.
17. Citizen NJ0100 Automatic
One of the big Japanese names in affordable watches is Citizen, and their NJ0100 Automatic proves to be quite a sight, powered by a Miyota 8210 automatic movement, with a water resistance of 50 meters.
The price doesn’t exceed $150, so it’s perfect, but the fact that it’s an older model and not in production anymore makes it a little harder to find. But if you look around the internet, you should find plenty.
16. Seiko Presage Cocktail Time “Blue Moon”
The Seiko Presage Cocktail Time “Blue Moon” is a real stunner. It may be a little more expensive at $440, but still on the affordable side, and it’s worth all those bucks.
It comes in a 40.5 mm stainless steel case, with an automatic 4R35 movement as its ticking heart, reliable and with a 41 hour power reserve.
But the most captivating part of this timepiece is that dark blue sunburst dial, giving the watch an artistic and captivating look.
15. Orient Bambino III
The Orient Bambino is among the most popular affordable watches out there, one with a dressy look and plenty of variants to choose from.
Our favorite is the second generation Version III, which boasts a remarkable dark blue dial with sunburst finish, playing with light in such a way that it changes its appearance depending on the surroundings.
On the technical side, it comes powered by a Japanese automatic movement, a 30 meter water resistance, and a superb domed glass protecting the dial, made from mineral crystal.
The thin bezel and curved lugs, plus that domed glass give this watch a very elegant look. And the fact that you can find it for about $100 makes it that much more appealing.
14. Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic
Moving on to the tool watch category, we’ve got a Citizen from their Promaster series of watches, the Promaster Dive Automatic. It’s a bit more expensive, exceeding the $500 mark, but it’s often found on sale for less, which makes it a very good option.
And coming with a 8200 Miyota automatic movement, sapphire crystal, an ISO certification for dive watches, with a depth rating of 200m, high visibility dial and rotating dive bezel, it’s a watch you shouldn’t miss out on.
It’s a very capable diver at a great price.
13. Seiko 5 Sports SSK Sports Style GMT
The Seiko 5 Sports SSK GMT is somewhat of a unicorn. Automatic, GMT function, and with a price tag under $1,000, actually under $500 to be more precise.
As the entry level into the automatic Seiko 5 Sports collection, this is a dream come true for those looking for a reliable watch with a fantastic look.
It comes in a 42.5 mm case, housing inside a Seiko 4R34 automatic movement, and with a water resistance of 100 meters. What’s not to like about this?
12. Orient Sun & Moon Automatic
The Orient Sun & Moon Automatic is another great watch from Orient, featuring a delightful day/night indicator, and a day and date complication as well.
The watch is powered by an Orient 46B40 automatic movement, housed inside a 42.5 mm case with a 50 m water resistance rating.
It’s a good watch with an intriguing dial, with large Roman numerals, and a wonderful way to present all the sub-dials we mentioned above.
The even greater thing about it is that it costs only around $340.
11. Bulova Hack Watch
The Bulova Hack Watch brings back the military/field watch design in a $340 timepiece.
The watch follows in the footsteps of its past brother, the A-11, a piece made for the soldiers that fought in the Second World War, one that required the seconds hand to be stopped when setting the time, for accurately syncing the watch with those of fellow soldiers.
The modern variant available today comes with a Miyota 82S0 automatic, encased in 38mm case, and with a water resistance of 30 meters.
So if you want a quality field watch that honors that rich heritage, this is one of the most affordable.
10. Orient Kamasu
The Orient Kamasu is a worthy diver watch, bringing some impressive features for less than $300. The sapphire crystal glass for example, is a rare feature on affordable watches.
Then there’s the rugged stainless steel case that is depth rated for 200m, another feature that usually comes with higher price tags.
When it comes to appearance, the Kamasu boasts a stunning black, blue, red or green sunburst dial, complimented by the rotating bezel finished in the same color.
Under the dial, there’s an automatic Orient Caliber F6922, a movement that’s said to be as reliable and accurate as the Seiko movements.
Overall, the Orient Kamasu offers a lot for a very humble price.
9. Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver
Remaining in the diving watch world, there’s the Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver, a tribute to the compressor-cased dive watches that were the thing back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It comes with a Seiko NH35 automatic movement, water resistance of 200 meters, and in two case sizes, 40mm and 44mm.
What we’re most impressed with is the beautiful and refreshing dial. It’s a classic, but it’s also one that departs from the similar designs that most divers have.
8. Invicta Pro Diver
You dream of a Rolex Submariner but don’t have that hefty budget? Maybe it’s time to turn your attention to the Invicta Pro Diver, which is known to be the most affordable alternative to your dream.
Costing below $100, and featuring a 40mm stainless steel case with a water resistance of 200 meters, plus the Seiko NH35A movement ticking inside, this is plenty of watch for such a low price.
7. Orient Tristar
With a Japanese automatic movement, classy and elegant looking, sleek stainless steel 37mm case and stainless steel bracelet, and a price tag around the $150 mark, the Orient Tristar is a worthy mechanical timepiece.
There’s several variants of this watch, and some may cost you a little bit more, but still well into the affordable range.
6. Swatch Sistem51
The Sistem51 range from Swatch is a very modern interpretation of mechanical watches. It’s well known for being the first ever watch assembled entirely automatic, by robots.
It’s powered by an automatic movement comprised of 51 components, and comes with a whooping 90 hour power reserve.
The Sistem51 range is varied, but our eyes were set on the Sistem51 Boreal, impressing us with its celestial dial, encased in a stainless steel case, paired with a matching stainless steel bracelet.
5. Timex Marlin Automatic California Dial
The Timex Marlin range is a very popular one, but the best of all, in our opinion, is the intriguing California Dial, split in half by having Roman numerals on the top half and Arabic numerals on the bottom half.
It’s a rarity in the watchmaking world, and it’s why we’ve chosen it.
But it also fits what we’re looking for in an affordable mechanical watch, which is a Miyota 8215 automatic movement, luxurious looking 40mm rose gold hued case, and under $250 price tag.
4. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical
The Marathon General Purpose Mechanical, or GPM, is a proper field watch coming in at an affordable price of around $360.
It’s small and sleek, with a 34mm high impact composite fiber-shell case, inside which ticks a self winding Seiko NH35. It’s got a power reserve of 41 hours, and features a sapphire crystal glass.
The watch is manufactured according to military specifications, the MIL-PRF-46374G to be more exact, and due to the case material and size, it’s ultra light.
3. Laco Augsburg
Coming from the German company Laco, with its rich heritage in making pilot watches, we’ve got the Augsburg, a simple, yet astonishing timepiece.
Coming in 39mm and 42mm case sizes, the Laco Augsburg brings the traditional high visibility dial with easy to read Arabic numerals, leaf style hands, and plenty of lume.
It’s powered by the Laco 21 automatic movement with manual hacking, which can be admired through the display case-back.
Though it’s an entry level pilot watch at $400, it’s among the best affordable mechanical watches out there, a top option for anyone who loves the pilot watch aesthetic.
2. Seiko 5 SNK805
Part of an older Seiko 5 collection, the SNK805 is a military inspired timepiece that boasts all the practical features you could want in a field watch, while selling for around $100.
It features a matte finish green dial with an inner ring for hour markers, and the outer one for minutes and seconds, day and date complication at the 3 o’clock position, all housed in a 38mm stainless steel case, and powered by a reliable 7S26C mechanical movement.
There’s simply more than you’d expect for a mechanical watch at this price.
1. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
In our opinion, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is hands-down the best affordable mechanical watch that you could buy right now.
It costs just slightly under $500, it features a very reliable Swiss movement, the hand-wound Hamilton H-50 – based on the Swiss ETA 2801-2, and comes with an 80 hour power reserve and sapphire crystal glass.
The 24 hour dial clearly draws its cues from the military past, with highly legible markings, luminous hands and hour markers, and of course, a sturdy NATO strap to match the overall aesthetic.
The water resistance is only 50 meters, but that should be just enough for most people.
And if you’re looking specifically for a field watch and have the budget, there’s nothing better than the Khaki Field.
Choosing an affordable watch isn’t an easy task, especially when you want a mechanical one. There are several things to keep in mind, starting from the reliability of the movement inside, and continuing with the other features.
That’s why we decided to round up some of the best options that you can find right now, in the hope that we could shed some light on what are some of the best affordable mechanical watches out there.