Best Mechanical Watches For Men Priced Under $1,500

Best Mechanical Watches For Men Priced Under $1,500

In the World of Wristwatches, There’s Nothing That Replaces a Mechanical Movement

Updated July 7, 2018

A common question we get on our Facebook and YouTube channels is “what are the best mechanical/automatic watches under $X”. The $X changes, but the sentiment in the question does not. It’s a good question, too, as there’s never been a broader selection of mechanically-powered watches than what’s available today.

In this list, I’ve called out my favorite automatic or mechanical watches priced under $1,500. A notable caveat: if the watch is an automatic, the movement must be able to be hand-wound like a non-automatic mechanical movement.

Alright, let’s check out some watches!

Update History

July 7, 2018




Criteria

We’re only calling out watches worth wearing, and of course, all watches here have been tested hands-on by us.

Affordability

Maximum grey market price of $1,500. It’s up to you if you want to buy grey market, but we’re calling out what the street price is vs MSRP.

Quality

No junk, full stop. Mainstream and microbrands are present in this list, but random/ripoff brands, or brands with poor service/quality, are not.

Movement

The focus here is on a purebred mechanical movement (hand-wind only), or an automatic movement that can be hand-wound. Non-hacking automatics are not included in this list.

Tissot T-Complication Squelette

Tissot T-Complication Squelette

When Gem By Carati loaned me the Squelette to shoot and review, I fell in love with its incredible industrial design, pure skeleton aesthetic (front and back), and quality of build. I called it a mechanical marvel because it does such an incredible job showcasing the movement without making the watch 100% about the movement.

Powering the T-Complication Squelette is the ETA 6497 mechanical movement, a robust Swiss-made movement that affords the Squellete a 46-hour power reserve and its unmistakable gorgeous good looks.

The Squelette comes with all the usual trimmings associated with a Swatch Group entry-level luxury watch: leather strap with deployant clasp, sapphire front and back, and acceptable water resistance.

If you want a mechanical that you (and everyone else) will spend oodles of times ogling, the T-Complication Squelette is the one to buy.

See also:

Movement

Mechanical, ETA 6497

Water Resistance

50 m / 165ft

Model Number

T0704051641100

Price

$1,250 ish

Size

43mm

Crystal Material

Sapphire

Tissot Chemin Des Tourelles Squelette

The sister watch to the T-Complication Squelette, the Chemin Des Tourelles Squelette is a more posh and upscale version of the same. Both watches feature the ETA 6497 mechanical movement and the same skeleton-dial design that I love so much.

Compared to the T-Complication, the Chemin des Tourelles is 1mm smaller (at 42mm) and more “conservatively” styled, if such a descriptor could be used on a skeleton watch. Where the T-Complication shows off an edgy, turbine-inspired dial, the Chemin is more subdued, with more items on the dial to draw the eye vs. relying solely on the movement to do so.

Both are excellent watches, and both are worthy of your wrist. If you’re torn between the two, I’m inclined to recommend the Chemin of the T-Complication, if only because it’s slightly smaller size makes it less ostentatious.

See also:

Movement

Mechanical, ETA 6497

Water Resistance

50 m / 165ft

Model Number

T0704051641100

Price

$1,250 ish

Size

42mm

Crystal Material

Sapphire

Bulova 97A121

Bulova 97A121

This inexpensive automatic from Bulova is a real gem. Aside from being gorgeous (seriously, look at it), it’s also well-sized and sporting a decent movement in the Miyota 82S7. Bulova has actually got a few versions of this design, so if all-gold isn’t your thing, there are also steel, rose gold, and brown versions available. The leather strap is pretty good quality, and it comes with a gilded deployant clasp.

The MSRP is just under $500, but it’s found on Amazon for around $280- a good buy at that price.

When I reviewed the 97A121, I was so impressed with it that I wound up buying the matching rose gold version and giving the 97A121 to a good friend of mine for his wedding. He loved it (of course), and you will too.

The Miyota 82S7 movement isn’t the most accurate out there (standard deviation is anywhere from -20 to +40 seconds per day), but I wouldn’t let that detract from it. It’s got a 42-hour power reserve, beats at 21,600 bph, and hand-winds… but it doesn’t hack. Still, a decent movement that separates this inexpensive dress watch from its quartz-powered competition.

See also:

Movement

Automatic, Miyota 82S7

Water Resistance

30m / 99ft

Model Number

97A121

Price

$275 ish

Size

41mm

Crystal Material

Mineral

Raymond Weil Freelancer Chronograph

My first experience with Raymond Weil was in January of this year when I reviewed the Freelancer Chronograph. I quite like its racey design, which has a primarily monochromatic color scheme save for the red accents used on the seconds hand and 12 and 6 o’clock subdials. This splash of color works well with the otherwise subued color scheme and has the benefit of making the Freelancer a understated presence on the wrist.

As you would expect from a Swiss brand like Raymond Weil, the Freelancer is built quite well and the movement – a customized Valjoux 7750 dubbed the RW Caliber 500 – is both accurate and feature rich. A 46-hour power reserve isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s sufficient for a day or two of regular wear with no issues.

Notably, the Freelancer I tested was incredibly accurate, with a deviation of just +0.8 seconds. I’m not sure if this number is representative of every Freelancer out there, but it was what the one I was testing demonstrated. Very impressive.

See also:

Movement

Automatic, RW Caliber 500

Water Resistance

100m / 330ft

Model Number

7730-STC-60112

Price

$1,200 ish

Size

42mm

Crystal Material

Sapphire

Hamilton Jazzmaster Open Heart in Rose Gold

Hamilton Jazzmaster Open Heart

The first Jazzmaster Open Heart I reviewed was a competent piece, but with a color scheme (black on silver) that I wasn’t in love with. The cream-beige and rose gold version shown here (and now present in my personal collection) is a vastly superior looking version of the same watch.

Powering the open heart is an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement which is certainly nothing exceptional, but given the Open Heart’s street price of $575, is definitely price appropriately. It’s also a perfectly fine movement, with a 38-hour power reserve and all the features you’d expect of a Swiss-made automatic (including hand winding).

I wear the Open Heart whenever I get the chance. Due to the dial, which is attention-getting thanks to its open heart motif, I tend to reserve this Jazzmaster for more dressy affairs where the Jazzmaster can tuck underneath a cuff when appropriate.

See also:

Movement

Automatic, ETA 2824-2

Water Resistance

50m / 165ft

Model Number

H32565555

Price

$575 ish

Size

40mm

Crystal Material

Sapphire

Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80

Okay, so while I haven’t tested the Powermatic 80 version of the Le Locle, I have reviewed the older version (with the ETA 2824-2) and quite liked it. The Powermatic 80 is the updated version which, aside from the movement used, is more or less identical.

The movement is also a bit of an upgrade, with an 80-hour power reserve which is quite monstrous (especially considering the price). As of today, this one is available for just under $400 on Amazon which is a stellar price for a watch with a Swiss-made automatic and a sapphire crystal.

The Le Locle is a stylish dress watch that is sized right and built well. I have no qualms recommending it to people.

See also:

Movement

Automatic, Powermatic 80

Water Resistance

30m / 165ft

Model Number

T0064071105300

Price

$400 ish

Size

40mm

Crystal Material

Sapphire

Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time

Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time

Now discontinued, the SARB065 version of the Cocktail Time is one of the only watches on this list – or any “best of” list, really – that’s likely to appreciate in value. The Cocktail Time isn’t dead, but the SARB065 version – powered by Seiko’s 6R15 automatic – is. That’s a shame, too, as the updated model (SRPB43J1) uses the 4R35 automatic that sheds considerable power reserve.

As you can plainly see, the Cocktail Time (in either of its trims) is a stunning-looking watch. The photos don’t do it justice, either: the dial is really a work of art, and the quality of build is excellent as well. I purchased a SARB065 to review and absolutely regret sending it back once I was done. Sigh, with 51 pieces in the collection some hard decisions have to be made…

The leather strap looks electric thanks to the blue contrast stitching, and the strap is quite comfortable. It molded to my wrist shortly after the first wear.

This is easily my favorite watch on this list.

See also:

Movement

Automatic, Seiko 6R15

Water Resistance

50m / 165ft

Model Number

SARB065

Price

$500 ish

Size

40mm

Crystal Material

Hardlex

Seiko SARB017 Alpinist

Okay, so the Alpinist might be the only other watch listed here that will appreciate as well. Also discontinued, the Alpinist is one of those rare horological gems that you won’t come across twice. If you have the chance to grab an Alpinist I strongly advocate that you to so. It’s just a stellar watch.

With 200m of water resistance and a 50-hour power reserve, the Alpinist offers substantial utility and is the best suited to be a daily wearer out of any watch listed on this list so far.

The green and gold dial is polarizing, but I really jive with it. The stock leather strap is mediocre at best, but that’s an easy swap out and once you’ve got the right strap this watch is very-nearly perfect. Of all 51 watches in my collection, the Alpinist is one that I wear often.

I love it and so will you.

See also:

Movement

Automatic, Seiko 6R15

Water Resistance

200m / 660ft

Model Number

SARB017

Price

$500 ish

Size

38.5mm

Crystal Material

Sapphire

Orient Monarch FDD03003Y0

Orient Monarch

With an MSRP of just $335, the Orient Monarch is one of the most affordable mechanical watches available from a reputable brand. In fact, if you want a strictly mechanical (non-automatic) movement watch that isn’t made by a no-name Chinese manufacturer, the Monarch is likely your best option.

With a power reserve display at 12 o’clock, the Monarch is otherwise uncomplicated and relies on traditional dress style and sizing. At 40mm, it’s appropriate for most men and almost certain to look excellent on your wrist.

Blue hands and applied hour markers help the dial stand out, though the font used for the hour markers won’t resonate with everyone.

See also:

Movement

Mechanical, Orient 48C40

Water Resistance

50m / 165ft

Model Number

FDD03003Y0

Price

$335 ish

Size

40mm

Crystal Material

Mineral

About The Author

If it ticks or tocks, I want it on my wrist. I'm a fan of all things that keep good time, and I can't resist a great looking watch. WYCA is my way of appreciating the engineering and artistry that goes into affordable watches. My favorite watch is my Jazzmaster Auto Chrono, and the watch I wear the most is my Weekender Chronograph. I currently have 33 watches in my collection.

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