In the intricate world of horology, time isn’t just measured—it’s cherished. A testament to craftsmanship and precision, automatic watches have enamored collectors and enthusiasts alike for generations. However, delving into this fascinating realm need not break the bank. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a beginner just starting your horological journey, finding the perfect timepiece that combines quality, durability, and affordability is no longer a dream—it’s a reality. This comprehensive guide to the best budget automatic watches will not only help you discover exceptional timepieces that embody the spirit of luxury at a fraction of the cost, but it will also serve as a window into a world where innovation meets timeless elegance. The clock is ticking, and a world of affordable automatic watches awaits your exploration. So, don’t wait—read on to uncover these hidden gems and embark on your journey through time today. To learn about watch types check our guide about Exploring Different Types of Watches.
Best Budget Automatic Watches
1. Laco Augsburg
- Case Diameters: 43 mm
- Automatic Miyota movement with hacking feature
- Price: Around $400
- German Brand with Historic Military Involvement
The Laco Augsburg is an excellent entry into the world of pilot watches. One of the original five brands to produce watches for the German Air Force during WWII, Laco has a genuine backstory that validates its designs. The Augsburg model, featuring a type A style dial, large leaf-style hands, and a hacking movement, preserves this rich history while ensuring modern functionality. Available in three sizes from 37 mm to 43 mm, this watch offers legibility, historical richness, and modern mechanics at a reasonable price point.
2. Timex Marlin Automatic
- Reissue from the 1960s
- 40 mm case size
- Priced less than $200
- 21-jewel automatic movement
- 40-hour power reserve
- Stainless steel case and silver-tone dial
- Excellent choice for formal attire
The Timex Marlin Auto is a reissue of an iconic timepiece from the 1960s, boasting a classic 40 mm case size. Its beauty lies in its history, honoring watchmaking traditions while blending them with the aesthetics of the modern era. The automatic 21-jewel movement ensures reliability and precision, powered by your motion as you wear the watch. This unique movement can store a maximum of 40 hours of energy. If motionless for over 40 hours, the watch can be easily wound using the crown until resistance is felt. This ensures it keeps on ticking with accuracy and consistency. The stainless steel case and silver-tone dial exude elegance, complemented by a classic brown leather strap crafted from the leather of the S.B. Foot Tanning Company. Furthermore, the iconic domed acrylic crystal adds a timeless charm to the watch, making it a stylish and reliable piece that suits formal attire perfectly.
3. Seiko 5 Sports
- 42.5 mm case
- 100 meters water resistance
- Mineral crystals
- Excellent lume
- Priced less than $200
- Fantastic everyday wear option
The Seiko 5 SRPD51 can be the watch for you if you’re looking for a sporty yet elegant dive watch with a timeless design and high durability.
Seiko introduced its new Seiko 5 range of timepieces with a diver-inspired design in 2019.
With the launch of the new SRDP Seiko 5 series, Seiko is able to preserve the essential design traits and components that consumers have grown to adore while also enhancing the collection’s reliability, build quality, and finish. Seiko was quite successful in accomplishing this and accurately recreating the philosophy and soul of the SKX predecessor, therefore the new Seiko 5 dive watch series has been favorably received. Seiko showcased 27 all-new watches when it introduced the new line. Seiko 5 SRPD51 is one of them.
4. Vostok Amphibia
- Various Case Diameters
- Movement: Vostok in-house automatic
- Water Resistance: 200 meters
- Priced around $150
A favorite among watch enthusiasts, the Vostok Amphibia offers a myriad of design options, each sporting a distinct character. Its value for money and rugged durability, along with its 200 meters water resistance and in-house movements, make it an excellent choice for those seeking a reliable, functional, and unique timepiece.
5. Hamilton Khaki Field Auto
- Case Diameter: 42 mm
- Water Resistance: 100 meters
- Movement: Hamilton H-10 (ETA C07.111 base)
- Different case materials and variations are available
- Has a history of producing watches for Allied Forces during World War II
The king of field watches is probably the thing for which Hamilton is most known. It has a wide selection of field watches to fit every taste in its Khaki field collection. This is partially due to Hamilton’s extensive history of producing field watches for the US military. The Khaki Field line, in the words of Hamilton, “Khaki Field collection includes classic army-style watches that have been tried and tested over time. Rugged, robust, and resilient, they’re ready for the outdoors and can compete with the best sport watches out there. Built for life’s adventurers, they’re guaranteed to be equal to your needs out in the field.”. There is a lot to explore in the Khaki Field Auto series. It includes timepieces with diameters 38, 40, 42, and 44 mm. Stainless steel is used in the majority of cases, but certain versions have polished bezels. Each watch, as its name suggests, is powered by an automated movement, specifically the ETA C07.111, sometimes known as the Hamilton H-10. This movement has a central hour, minute, and seconds hand, an 80-hour power reserve, and a date display at 3 o’clock.
6. Invicta Pro Diver
- Uses a reliable Seiko movement
- Rolex Submariner-inspired design
- Variety of colorways are available
- Priced at less than $100
- Affordable entry-level automatics
The Invicta Pro Diver is what you would class as a Rolex Submariner Homage. If you haven’t got the budget for a Rolex then this may well be worth looking into. It’s a Diver’s style watch with a 200m water resistance rating and a Swiss automatic movement so it’s still a high-quality watch.
I mentioned this model uses a Swiss movement, to be precise it’s the Seiko NH35. They are very similar to Swiss ETA movements and are known to be very reliable and accurate. So it’s good to see it included inside this watch. Automatic movements don’t require batteries as they power themselves via the movements of the wearer’s wrist.
7. Tissot PRX
- Priced around $600
- Case Size: 40.00 mm
- 100 meters water resistance
- Offers different dial colors
- Heritage from a late 1970s sea star model
- Versatile design, suitable for casual and formal wear
The Tissot PRX is a remarkable blend of modern design aesthetics with a touch of vintage elegance. This Swiss watch, valued around $600, is a nod to the late 1970s Sea Star model, blending an iconic heritage with contemporary watchmaking. The PRX is a versatile timepiece, designed to seamlessly transition from day to night, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a watch for everyday wear as well as for special occasions. The watch is water-resistant up to 100 meters, ensuring it withstands minor splashes and brief immersion in water, enhancing its durability and practicality. Furthermore, it offers a selection of different dial colors, allowing you to customize the watch to your style preference. If you’re looking for a watch that marries style, versatility, and a storied history, the Tissot PRX is a great choice.
8. Orient Bambino
- Exceptional value for money
- Timeless, vintage-inspired design
- Reliable entry-level automatic watch
- Elegant style
- Durable and reliable
The Orient Bambino is a hallmark of sophistication and value in the watch industry. This model is widely celebrated among watch enthusiasts for its affordability, exceptional quality, and timeless appeal, successfully merging a vintage aesthetic with the reliability of contemporary watchmaking. The Bambino, with its elegant style, serves as an excellent entry-level automatic watch, making it an attractive option for those beginning their journey into the world of horology or for seasoned collectors desiring an everyday timepiece with a classical touch. It is perfect for those seeking an elegant watch that adds a touch of refinement to any attire without breaking the bank. The timeless design of the Orient Bambino ensures that it never goes out of style and can be passed down through generations.
9. Seiko Turtle
- Iconic dive watch design
- Variety of style choices
- 4R series of movements
- 200 meters of water resistance
- Excellent lume: Provides superior visibility in low light conditions
- ISO 6425 compliance
The Seiko Turtle is not only a remarkable timepiece but also a symbol of the rich heritage of Seiko’s dive watches. With its iconic cushion-shaped design that resembles a turtle shell, hence the nickname, it’s a classic in the dive watch community. The Turtle showcases 200 meters of water resistance, making it a competent companion for underwater adventures. It employs the durable and reliable 4R series of movements, providing accuracy and dependability. The lume on the Turtle is top-notch, ensuring legibility in darker underwater conditions. Variations such as the Patty version and the SRP e99 offer choices for individual style preferences. Moreover, its compliance with ISO 6425 standards underpins its solid reputation as a dive watch. All these factors make the Seiko Turtle an excellent choice for both seasoned divers and watch enthusiasts who value reliability, performance, and a classic aesthetic in a dive watch.
10. Swatch Sistem 51
- Made of 51 components
- Automatic movement
- Acrylic crystal
- Not serviceable: While this means the watch can’t be repaired, it also results in a lower price point and uniformity in quality
- Offers a wide variety of case options and dial colors
The Swatch System 51 is a marvel in the world of watchmaking. This groundbreaking timepiece, comprised of exactly 51 components, revolutionized the industry by presenting an automatic movement in an affordable, fashion-forward package. One of its distinguishing features is its acrylic crystal, which adds a vintage flair and durability to the watch. With a broad spectrum of case options and dial colors, the System 51 provides an array of aesthetic choices, allowing individuals to express their unique style. It’s worth noting that while it is not serviceable due to its sealed construction, this design choice contributes to its affordability and consistency in performance. The Swatch System 51, thus, emerges as an exciting, stylish, and innovative choice for those seeking a casual yet intriguing watch.
11. Orient Kamasu
- Case Diameter: 41.8mm
- Sapphire Crystal
- 200 Meter Water Resistance
- Diverse Colorways
- Date and Day Function
The Orient Kamasu is a standout choice for those looking to venture into the world of dive watches. Its balance of affordability, durability, and elegance makes it a unique find in a saturated market. This watch features a high water resistance level, reliable automatic movement, and a stylish design that doesn’t sacrifice functionality for aesthetic appeal. The robust sapphire crystal ensures added durability, making it a perfect choice for active individuals who want a watch that can withstand a variety of environments. With a selection of vibrant dial colors and band materials, the Kamasu allows you to personalize your watch experience, thereby showcasing your unique style.
12. Bulova Hack
- The case measures 38mm in diameter and 13.45mm in thickness.
- A no-nonsense, military-inspired design
- 30 Meter Water Resistance
- It is powered by a Miyota Caliber 82S0 movement with a 42-hour power reserve.
The Bulova Hack Watch Archive Series effortlessly combines the vintage appeal of 60s and 70s military watches with contemporary functionality. It’s a watch that embodies an unpretentious, utilitarian design that’s surprisingly versatile. The timepiece offers a straightforward dial, with no additional complications, allowing for a focused and pure time-keeping experience. The watch is compact and robust, with a brushed, matte-finish stainless-steel case that’s waterproof to 30 meters and a scratch-resistant, double-domed mineral crystal face. The classic olive green leather NATO strap adds to its charm while ensuring comfort and durability. As for the internal workings, the watch uses a reliable Miyota Caliber 82S0 automatic movement and includes a hacking function that allows for precise time settings. For those who appreciate a functional design with a vintage military-inspired aesthetic, the Bulova Hack Watch Archive Series is a fantastic choice.
What is an automatic watch?
An automatic watch is a mechanical watch that is powered by the movement of the wearer’s wrist. It has a wound spring that stores energy and releases it at a consistent rate to power the watch. Automatic watches do not require a battery and are often considered to be more durable and reliable than quartz watches, which are powered by a battery.
What are some reputable brands that offer budget automatic watches?
Some reputable brands that offer budget automatic watches include Seiko, Orient, and Invicta. These brands offer a range of styles and price points, so it’s possible to find a budget automatic watch that fits your needs.
What should I consider when buying a budget automatic watch?
When buying a budget automatic watch, consider the materials used, the movement (mechanical or quartz), and the overall style and design. It’s also a good idea to read reviews and research the brand’s reputation to ensure you’re getting a quality product.
Are budget automatic watches durable?
Budget automatic watches are typically made with high-quality materials and are built to last, but they may not be as durable as higher-end automatic watches that are made with more expensive materials and more complex complications. It’s always a good idea to read reviews and do your research to ensure you’re getting a durable and reliable timepiece.
How do I care for my budget automatic watch?
To care for your budget automatic watch, make sure to keep it clean and dry, and store it in a safe place when not in use. It’s also a good idea to have it serviced regularly to ensure it is running smoothly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care and handling to ensure the longevity of your watch.