Welcome to the first entry in our newest series at Watch Clicker, Watch Clicker Recommends. Although we have tons of experience reviewing watches, and Andrew and I regularly smash together the best X-watch-for-Y-dollars in the podcast, we have generally stayed away from written rankings – until now. You have asked for it and we’re providing it, because who doesn’t love a good listicle?
After taking recommendations from our readers and listeners, followed by a heated debate amongst our editorial staff, we have distilled what we think are the 10 best watches that you can buy (right now!). The criteria were simple: each watch had to be easily available at the time of publishing, through normal channels, and had to be regularly available for under $500. From there, we voted. Here are the best watches under $500:
10. EMG Nemo
Anyone who has listened to any amount of 40&20 will already know that the Nemo is one of Andrew and Everett’s favorite watches of all time. With near perfect dimensions, a fantastic movement, and a truly excellent bracelet that preceded the current BoR craze, the Nemo is one of the best watches you can get for under $500.
Read our full review here.
Buy one, here ($450 – emgwatches.com).
9. Bulova Lunar Pilot
Just about everyone who has seen this watch in person agrees on two things: (1) it’s awesome, and (2) it’s (really) big. Coming in at 45mm x 52mm, it’s hard to argue that the Lunar Pilot doesn’t pack some serious wrist presence. With that said, the modern Lunar Pilot makes up for any size objections with an awesome movement, a wonderful case, and tons of swagger. Considering its roots as one of the first moon watches (David Scott famously wore a prototype of the Lunar Pilot on the Apollo 15 mission), the Lunar Pilot has an enviable resume. Although you may be inclined to dismiss many of the details on the Lunar Pilot as imitation, it’s important to note that Bulova was involved in both the 1965 and 1972 NASA submittals. Where the Bulova differs from its more famous frenemy, it does so with style; between its excellent 1960s-modern pushers and its relatively compact cushion case, the Lunar Pilot is as appealing as its lineage.
$350-ish on a strap (Although you can buy the Lunar Pilot direct from Bulova, we recommend a simple Google search, as they are nearly always available for MUCH less from third parties.)
8. Q Timex
We think that most watch enthusiasts would agree: Timex has been on an absolute roll in the last few years, chalking up more hits than misses. No longer satisfied to offer only plastic or plated brass jobs, Timex has spent the last several years pushing releases for the enthusiast and the more discerning buyer. Announced in summer 2019, the Q Timex, a reissue of Timex’s very first 1979 quartz watch, has been a smash success. And now being sold in 472 different colors, almost all under $200, odds are there is a Q for you.
Check out our review of the Todd Snyder Q here.
Pick one up here ($179 – timex.com).
7. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
If you ask anyone at Watch Clicker what the best field watch under $500 is, they are going to tell you the same thing: the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. It’s the right size (for a modern field watch), it wears well, it looks good, and it has bona fides. Hamilton redesigned the dial and handset of the HKFM in 2018, to more closely resemble the OG 34mm milspec version, but the pre-2018 version (my preference), with the same exact case, and a more modern font and markers, is still widely available. Coming in at 38mm, with 20mm lugs, the current HKFM has Hamilton’s pretty special H50 movement, an 80-hour hand-cranker, and comes in a perfectly bead-blasted case.
Read about the HKFM here.
Pick one up here ($495 – hamiltonwatch.com)
6. Traska Freediver
Ok – so this one might be a bit of a cheat. As I write this, all versions of the Freediver are sold out (but Traska promises they are coming back). So… Sue me. We can’t leave it off because Traska absolutely hit this one out of the park. 40mm x 48mm x 12.5 mm; 20mm lugs, ceramic insert, sapphire, best finishing in class and Traska’s magic scratch resistant coating. Did I mention it looks awesome?
Check out our full review here.
Pick one up here ($400 (ceramic); $375 (steel) – traskawatch.com)
5. Dan Henry 19XX
This will be the first of two entries on this list that are not an individual watch, but a full catalog and anyone who stalks the more affordable corners of the watch world will understand why. Known primarily for his vintage inspired quartz chronographs, Dan Henry plays the homage game better than anyone else in the business. Each of his watches harkens back to a specific silhouette, from a specific time, that is, for all intents and purposes, unobtanium in its original form. Oh(!)… did I mention that there is not a milsub in sight? Although my personal favorite is the Porsche-Orfina/Top-Gun inspired 1972, each of the watches in the Dan Henry catalog is a winner and come in at well under $500.
Check out Dan Henry here ($200-$350 – danhenrywatches.com)
4. Brew Retromatic
The newest watch on our list, the Brew Retromatic is the triumphant culmination of owner Jonathan Ferrer’s enigmatic approach to coffee-inspired watch design. Never one to ape a pre-existing silhouette or to recycle a tired design cliché, Brew has distilled its TV-dial platform (previously seen in the Retrograph and Mastergraph) to a simple and compelling set of instantly recognizable, but totally fresh elements, all in a more compact but very modern package and now with 100% more automatic. We love it, and think you should too.
Read our review of the Retromatic here.
Pick one up here ($424 (Seiko); $495 (Sellita) – brew-watches.com)
3. Lorier (Anything)
Like Dan Henry, Lorier makes this list not for any one watch. Born out of a fogged up vintage Omega (listen to Episode 87 of 40&20 to hear more about that), Lauren and Lorenzo Ortega have created an homage not to any specific watch, but to an entire era of horology. Each Lorier watch is tough, capable, comfortable and beautiful with a healthy dose of vintage charm. AND(!), they have managed to do it all without the derivative baggage that is so common in the microbrand watch scene.
Get your Lorier watch here ($495 – lorierwatches.com).
2. Seiko SRPE “5 Sports”
Released in 2020, with this new version of the iconic SKX silhouette, Seiko has given us another iteration of that beautiful curvy SKX case, but in a watch suited for everyday wear. I say again, this is a smaller SKX case, with a super clean polished bezel, in a size that can pass as a modern dress/sport watch! Coming in at 40mm and pleasantly thinned down, this is an extremely well-thought-out watch and one of our favorite releases of the year
Read our full review here.
Pick yours up here ($275 – longislandwatch.com).
1. Casio Square G Shock
What? What did you expect?
Look – a G Shock is actually just the best watch on earth. Specifically, a square G – whether it’s the obnoxiously affordable DW5600 (that is quite honestly all the watch you will ever need), or the only slightly more expensive GWM5610 (with solar charging and multi-band radio time-keeping). Worn by soldiers, law enforcement officers, dads, moms, kids, construction workers, business-people, engineers, doctors, and (even) lawyers, perhaps more than any other single item in any apparel/accessory category, a Square G maximizes utility, comfort, durability, and COOL, with no single category compromising the others.
A great guide to the Square G can be found here.
Get yours… really anywhere (starting at about $65).
Apple Watch / Samsung Galaxy Watch: It’s worthwhile to say that, for many of you, a smart watch (nay, gadget) might be the right choice. We don’t know much about them, but we would never judge you for loving the heck out of yours.
Seiko SARB03X/SARB017: While Seiko has discontinued The SARB03X and the 017 Alpinist, much like the SKX, they were made in numbers that suggest they will still be available for at least a bit longer. And, while they may not be the value they once were, at under $500, if you pick one up, you will almost certainly not regret it.
Orient Mako/Ray/Kamasu: We would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention this wonderful value. Available for anywhere from $140-$300, any watch from the Mako family is an excellent purchase.
What else: A list like this could never be complete, and we had no small amount of disagreement about what should make the list. If what you see above is not doing it for you, also check out: Nodus Sector Series; Glycine Combat Sub; Raven Solitude; Marathon General Purpose Quartz; Citizen NY0040 (or any of the Promaster series); Dryden Watches; Boldr Venture; and Obris Morgan.
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