Watch collecting can be an expensive hobby, especially if you’re into automatic watches from reputable brands. That said, when I bought my first automatic watch six years ago, I didn’t spend thousands of dollars on it. Instead, as with any hobby, I started small and worked my way up to my three watches now.
So in this post, I want to give hope to any aspiring automatic watch collectors out there that there exist quality timepieces that don’t require you to break the bank to buy them. Here are three automatic watches under $250 that are a great value and would make great additions to anyone’s collection.
Best Diver: Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver
What it is: This Seiko is one of the newer lines of dive watches by the company, and is an upgrade from the classic Seiko Diver Automatic that has been popular throughout the years. The main reason I recommend the Prospex over the original Seiko Diver is its movement. The Seiko Caliber 4R36 (the watch linked below specifically has the Turtle SRP773 movement) was recently developed in 2011 and has two notable improvements over the Caliber 7S26 from 1996 that is in the original Diver. First, the 4R36 allows hand-winding, which most automatic watches have these days. Second, the new movement “hacks”, which means that the second hand halts when you pull out the crown, making the watch easier to adjust.
The brand: The Japanese brand Seiko has been making reputable watches for decades now, and its affordable automatic diver watches are especially well-received in the watch community. Despite its consumer-friendly price point, Seiko’s watches are known to be among the most reliable in (and even beyond) its price range.
Price: $244.38 at Walmart
Best Casual: Tissot Everytime Swissmatic
What it is: The Tissot Everytime Swissmatic is a new offering by the Swiss brand in late 2017 that is a clear attempt by the Swatch Group (owns Tissot and many other high-end watch brands) to send a message to the public that Swiss automatic watches can be affordable. While exact details are sparse on the Swissmatic’s movement, we know that it is Swiss-made and probably a variant of the Swatch Sistem51, and that makes it one of the very few automatic watches under $250 (trust me, I tried to find others) that can claim to be actually made in Switzerland. That fact alone puts it on this list, but its simple yet beautiful face plus its transparent case back (see picture at top of page) that allows you to look into the movement further adds to its value. The bracelet allows for a more casual look, but I prefer the leather strap for a more versatile and classy style.
The brand: Tissot is one of the many watch companies owned by the Swatch Group, and it stands alongside brands like Hamilton, Mido, and Certina in Swatch’s “Middle Range” selection. I’ve owned a Tissot before, and can only say good things about it. It’s also well-known due to the brand’s recent marketing efforts, and is the official timekeeper for many different sports around the world. This Swiss manufacturer is my most recommended watch brand for the next tier of automatic watches between $250 and $500.
Price: $249.99 on Jomashop
Best Dress/Semi-formal: Orient Executive Sun and Moon 2
What it is: This is an incredibly complicated watch for its low price point. With day of the week, date, and day/night indicators, it has nearly as many complications as my recent Longines that cost over ten times more! The Orient Calibre 46B40 movement, like many others by the brand, is durable and reliable. While it doesn’t include hacking or hand-winding, the exceptionally beautiful and well-designed dial make up for this minor short-coming at this incredibly affordable price point.
The brand: Orient is another Japanese company that is actually a subsidiary of Seiko. Their movements are exclusively in-house, and despite the fact that most other brands that do this are on the higher-end of the price spectrum, Orient watches cost a fraction of the price of these other brands. Many watch enthusiasts believe that Orient movements are comparable or even better quality than many Swiss movements at higher price points.
Price: $219.99 on Jomashop
I’m sure there are other high-value low-price watches I’ve missed in this sub-$250 category, so please let me know if you think another watch should be included here!