It might sound crazy in a high-tech world, but it is damn hard to make a quality watch under $250. Watchmakers seeking to produce a quality timepiece at this low of a price inevitable have to make some sacrifices. You might not be able to get everything at this price but there are some simply amazing watches available. Below we have highlighted our top picks and our reasons why. We love mechanical movements, storied heritage, quality that is built to last and beautiful design and even at this budget price point great pieces can be found that exhibiting one or more of these features. In no particular order our top picks for the 10 best watches available under $250 are listed below.
Many consider the SKX007 to be the best value in watch making period. It's not hard to see why. The Seiko Diver line goes back many years with the 150m, 200m, 300m, 600m and even 1000m models, all gaining an admirable reputation for ruggedness and longevity. The history of the 007 can be traced back to 1965 with the introduction of the first mechanical Seiko diver, 6217-8000. Over the years, more and more variations were produced that led to the creation of the iconic 007.
The SKX007 is a highly functional, well-constructed timekeeping handset that has gained an enviable record of reliability. This watch is an ISO certified diver watch, which means its features have met the IOS standards for certified scuba diving watches. This sets a clear demarcation of the 007 from other dive watches available in the market. It’s incredible value for money.
The SKX007 shares some common components with other similar models in the Seiko line, noticeably the hardlex crystal, rubber strap, and the hands. The watch is designed with large hands and markers for easy visibility underwater, a unidirectional bezel for safe gauging underwater, a water resistant bracelet supple enough to fit over a wet suit, and a very tough case to withstand the rigors of working in a salt water environment without breaking.
- Case: round Stainless Steel with 200m water resistance
- Diameter: 42.5 x 46mm
- Thickness: 13.25mm
- Crown: Screw down
- Water Resistant: 30m
- Crystal: Hardlex
- Bracelet: Rubber
- Movement: Seiko 7S26
The 42.5 mm case is protected by a flat hardlex crystal and houses 7S26 caliber that runs at 21, 600bph. The 7S26 is well regarded as a very robust automatic movement. It is a strong and reliable workhorse which is capable of good accuracy and steady rates over long periods of time. The case very well proportioned, and is rather unique to a Seiko dive watch; this shows the design progression of Seiko’s dive watch lineage. Going along with the case is a 22mm bracelet that tapers down to 20mm at the clasp.
The dial has a black matte base and day-date indicators on a white background. On the dial are silver-outlined spherical hour markers with neat small bar markers that encircle around the dial to form the minute ring. The hours and minutes hands are classic Seiko, with a sword-shaped hour hand and a stylized arrow for the minute hand. Both of the hands and markers are inserted with LumiBrite. While conventional lumes provide short-lived glow, the LumiBrite on the other hand, offers superior light intensity and longevity.
With any serious dive watch, the bezel is of great importance; the standard for a diver’s bezel is unidirectional. The 007 incorporates this feature and is a one piece steel construction with a black insert and oversize white markers. The serrations on the bezel edge are deep, giving an ease to turn it underwater.
At 4 o’clock is the guarded screw-down crown; another trademark of Seiko’s automatic dive watches. The crown features a day-date adjustment function as well as time setting, however, it does not have a hand winding mechanism as the caliber inside is self-winding.
From humble beginnings, Seiko have steadily progressed to make highly desirable technologically advanced watches. There is such an impressive array of Seiko dive watches that is available in the market, however, the 007 has the upper hand in technical diver’s function. The external parts are tested, and immediately recognizable. The internals are also dependable and efficient, although somehow lack that cachet of the luxury brand. For a price tag of less than $250, the Seiko 007 simply an incredible watch.
The Orient Mako is a stunning entry-level dive watch. Time and time again, the Mako is associated with the Seiko 007, as the ones of the best entry-level dive tool. The Orient Mako is a throwback to the late 1990s dive watches: the sword hands, the cursive writing and the steel-bordered calendar apertures. For its design and aesthetics, the Orient has some similarities to the SKX007 but the tapered bezel give a slightly more dressy feel. If you're after a more subtle design aesthetic in a budget dive watch, its hard to go wrong with the Orient Mako.
- Case: Stainless Steel
- Diameter & thickness: 41.5mm & 13 mm
- Water Resistant: 200m
- Crystal: Raised mineral glass
- Bracelet: Nylon
- Movement: Orient Cal. 46943
The case is generously proportioned; 42 mm diameter suggests quite a large timepiece. The brushing on the case is almost satin-like giving the watch a pleasant sheen. Inside the case is the workhorse Orient caliber self -winding mechanical, non- manual, and non-hacking. The caliber 46943 is well-structured with 21 jewels and a frequency of 21 000 beats per hour.
Dial color choices is available in 5 colors: black, blue, orange, yellow and ‘pepsi’, a blue and red colorway. The black and the blue are the most grabbed, and well, most that are written about in reviews. The blue dial is coated with lacquer coating that adds an attractive shimmer as the light shines upon it. The dial is superbly executed; the beautiful finish accentuates the curvature incorporated into the case design. The rest of the dial colors is matte based, and do not have iridescent property present on the blue one, but still are very charming and visually striking in their own way.
The dial lettering is neatly executed. On the dial is the day-date window with a finished steel frame, but at times, the day and date indicators does not line up perfectly after each leisurely change. The dial face is nicely done with the steel framed markers and arrow-shaped hands. Recessed at 3 o’clock is the screw-down, and at 2 o’clock is the pusher with a screw down collar.
While the Mako is a versatile watch, there are areas where the Mako fails to compare to Seiko’s 007. Firstly, it did not get an ISO certification like Seiko did. Next up is the raised mineral crystal that will accumulate more scratches compared to the 007’s hardlex crystal. The hands are the Lume is also not a strong point for Orient. The glow lasts for most of the night but certainly not much brighter than on the 007.
Without doubt, the Mako is a timepiece that can be judged on its own merits; it has been built with aforethought for which it has achieved its iconic status. It captures the spirit of a bygone age to a degree that many other dive watches can’t match. If you are looking for a technically, aesthetically, visually effective watch, then the Mako hits the spot.
Seiko 5 SNK
The introduction of the 7S26 movement from Seiko brought with it a large tide of new models in the Seiko 5 line. Most notably the much loved, flieger inspired SNK80x series. This watch is no secret, Its a favourite on many a watch forum, it looks amazing dressed up or dressed down. At first glance, the SNK80x looks to be relatively nondescript, but a closer inspection highlights it's flieger charm. Pair it with just about any aftermarket stap and it makes for some simply stunning combinations.
- Case: round Stainless Steel
- Diameter & thickness: 37 mm & 11mm
- Crown: Non screw down
- Case Back: Display back
- Water Resistant: 30m
- Crystal: Hardlex
- Bracelet: Nylon
- Movement: Seiko 7S26, automatic, hacking, 21 jewels at 21600 bph
- Feature: quickset day/date can be set to English or Spanish
The case is of classic military form, a bit larger in diameter at 37 mm as opposed to the more usual 35mm of the old-school military watches. Ticking inside the watch is Seiko’s 7S26C, 21 jewel automatic movement. This caliber is well regarded as a very robust automatic movement. The case has a sandblasted finish which extends to both the bezel and the case back ring. It is covered with a flat hardlex crystal which sits just slightly below the bezel. The side profile of the watch typifies military and features the curved lugs. On the subject of lugs, the lug ends and lug flats are well-machined into symmetry and gives the watch pleasing proportions.
The dial is produced in 4 colorways: beige dial with black-framed hands, green dial with silver-framed hands, blue dial base with silver-framed hands and black dial base with silver-framed hands. The style of the dial has long been admired for its clarity. In keeping with the overall theme, the Seiko 5 SNK presents two sets of concentric tracks on its dial: the inner 12-hour marker and outer 60-minute marker. The clever placement of the two rings effectively makes the dial uncluttered but not empty. Quite obviously, the dial design is not original to this watch, it stems from B-Uhr Type B. It is important to note that Seiko designers changed the ratio between the radius of the plate and the radius of the inner circle resulting in a more aesthetically modern watch.
The bezel forms part of the case itself and is a little wide. It features a fine and well executed satin-like finish. The Arabic numerals are luminous as is the small triangle below the 12. The hour hand sword-styled the minute hand is also of the same style. The seconds hand is finished in a gloss white with a red accent at the tip.
As a wristwatch, the Seiko5 SNK is practical, attractive, and undoubtedly robust. Benefitting from good attention to detail and excellent finish, it would certainly seem to punch above its price point. There appears to be no compromises made in executing a watch that is designed to be a serious tool as well as an everyday wear watch.
Hamilton Khaki Field
Hamilton, the company, can trace its roots back to 1892 and boasts a long and diverse history. The company had supplied the armed forces with timepieces since the early stages of the Second World War with watches that now inform the design of the very popular Khaki brand. Years later, the classic Hamilton Khaki Field military watch which takes inspiration from many of the old military issues is available to purchase brand new. It's a classic clean military style watch with a genuine miliatry pedegree. Truth be told we are kind of cheating witht his one as most of the models are well over the $250 limit of this article. However our favourite design the Hamilton HML-H69419363 (pictured) is only slightly more at $267.
- Case: round Stainless Steel
- Diameter & thickness: 38 mm and 7.8 mm
- Crown: Non screw down
- Case Back:
- Water Resistant: 300m
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Bracelet: Inhouse Nato
- Movement: ETA 2804-2
- Function: Date
The case is two piece, that is, the case body itself and the case back. The raised bezel forms part of the main case. The case is 38 mm diameter which allows all important curvature to follow all the way through. The brushing to the case sides is accurate and uniform; very fine finishing that glow like a frosted finish under strong light. The case and crystal combination are a perfect match. In the case of the 38 mm, a sapphire crystal is fittingly used, as it adds nicely to the feeling of solidity of the watch.
The heart of the Khaki Field is an ETA 2804-2 at 28,800 beats per hour. The ETA 2804-2 offers automatic winding, hacking seconds, hand winding and a quickset date function. One desirable aspect of the ETA is the direct seconds arrangement.
The watch is produced in four variations: a green dial with a canvas strap, black dial with a calfskin strap, black dial with a stainless steel strap, and an all black titanium watch.
Design wise, like many other military themed watch, the dial has two chapters: an inner 24 hr and outer 12 hr track. On the outer periphery of the dial is a 60 minute scale that is accented by luminous pips at every five minute increment. The dial lettering is legible with the main arabic hour markers and hands offering a luminous treatment. The leaf-style hour and minute hands aren't just painted white; they are steel framed. The second hand is emphasized with a red arrow tip, and points accurately on the minute chapter.
The case displays the signed rotor and inner workings of the caliber. Six case opening slots are present which can be associated with the other Hamilton brand.
What makes a good military style watch? Reliability, accuracy, legibility and utility. The Khaki Field fits the bill perfectly with respect to these qualities and at a great price. This is a fine wristwatch, from specification through to execution.
Citizen has continued to evolve with advanced functions, construction and design throughout the years. As part of its progression, Citizen has pioneered an engineered innovation well ahead of other watch manufacturers as early as 1976, which in turn resulted in the start of the highly commended Eco-Drive in 1995. The eco-drive function is the real star here, this technological breakthrough removed the necessity to ever substitute electric batteries, and changed the way watches are powered; to utilize electrical power converted from virtually any light source. Truth be told we love many of the eco-drive watches especially the well regarded professional diver series such as the Citizen BJ8050-08E Eco-Drive Professional Diver known affectionally as the eco Dive. But many fall outside of the price range of this article. The pictured Citizen BM7170-53L Titanium eco-drive is a stunning piece packed with tech at a great price.
- Case: Silver-Tone Titanium
- Diameter & thickness: 43 mm & 12 mm
- Crown: Non screw down
- Water Resistant: 330 ft
- Crystal: Anti reflective sapphire
- Bracelet: Titanium
- Movement: Eco-Drive E111
- Function: Date
The watch is proportionally large, but the curves incorporated to the side of case shows that thought has been put into the whole project. It features a finished titanium case which some refer to as sandblasted. The quality of finish is without doubt better than your everyday Citizen watch, in terms of the polished areas. For an exquisite case polish, this watch can’t be compared to high-end brands but nonetheless is endowed with a remarkable effort in this regard, particularly when one considers its price point. The case is protected by an anti-reflective sapphire crystal,
In terms of execution, the dial is excellent for its price point. The BM7170-53L has a very distinct face, it features a blue honeycomb inner base, a radial pattern around the minute chapter and seconds bars that sits on the banked outer periphery of the dial.
The bezel is not an integral part of the case, it is a separate affair, precisely machined and set into the case atop a gasket to ensure the stated 100m water resistance. The polished bezel is curved at the right angle and has a width to complement the case diameter perfectly. Turning the watch over what is immediately striking is that this watch has an almost perfectly flat case back with laser etched engravings; the only external depth is to allow for the six removal key slots.
The BM7170-53L is a great choice for an everyday watch which will never need batteries This watch caters for more than one requirement a purchaser is looking for in an everyday watch. The watch strikes with something like a cachet of a luxury brand. Benefitting from good attention to detail and excellent fit and finish, it would certainly seem to seal the deal.
Citizen BM7170-53L Titanium eco-drive - $281 (currently over our $250 budget but keep an eye on this as it frequently dips below)
G-Shock Mudman G9300-1
G-Shock watches are certainly not for everyone with their bulky plastic case and electronic displays. However for many, the G-shock is the ultimate tool watch. The G-Shock G9300-1 Mudman delivers much of the utilitarian function of the higher end models for a fraction of the price. As the name indicates, this watch is all about ruggedness the Mudman designed to be able to withstand a lot of abuse, be it physical or environmental. Since the revival of the Master of G series in 2006, Casio started releasing iterations of this line of watch, one after the other. The Mudman embodies the old and the new Master of G in terms of name, functionality and design. In our opinion the G9300-1 is an improvement over the original from an aesthetic perspective, and improvement from a functional standpoint due to the addition of compass, thermometer and moon phase displays.
- Case: Resin/Aluminum
- Display type: digital
- Diameter & thickness: 53.0mm & 50.8mm
- Water Resistant: 200m
- Crystal: Mineral
- Bracelet: Resin band
- Movement: Module 3261
- Function: Digital Compass, thermometer, Moon data, World time, auto calendar
The Mudman is a solid, well-crafted piece of equipment; the watch is constructed to keep dust and mud out of the watch. It's built for a purpose, and that purpose is to be used in harsh environment like deserts and jungles. The G-Shock brand has established a name for itself as a compact watch, formed up of unique electronic technologies for sensor operations and digital display.
This watch is powered by Casio’s proprietary Tough Solar power system for charging. The case is generously proportioned at 5.3 cm, and may look over-sized and clunky but weighs lightly. The G9300-1 has a handful of features: the compass bearing is seated at 3 o’clock, and can be used whichever functional mode the user may be. In remote environments like deserts, the compass immediately confirms the user’s orientation. In compass mode, you can also read the temperature. It can show temperature changes that occur during day and night, in extreme environment conditions. At 9 o’clock is a moon phase indicator, the moon data display indicates the current phase of the moon. The G-9300 also provides a 1/100-second stopwatch that runs up to 1000 hours, a function provided for rally racing. Even while measuring elapsed time over long periods, the Mudman can still determine compass bearing and measure temperature.
Coupled with the compass, thermometer and moon phase display are the standard time and world times, stopwatch, timer and alarms. Add in the shock, water and mud resistance, atomic timekeeping, anti-magnetic sensor alloy and the tough solar charging; this result to a tough watch that offers superior performance and high degree of reliability. Considering the bunch of new technologies this watch provides, this timepiece comes at an affordable price.
Vostok’s reputation for building rugged and reliable watches received a tremendous boost in 1967, when the Amphibia was issued to the USSR. The Vostok Amphibia was originally designed to the specifications from the Soviet Defence Department who needed an affordable, rugged watch that would be reliable to great depths. The Amphibia was to be an AK-47 of watches. With limited resources on hand, the Amphibia was designed very differently from many other dive watches utilizing some tricky caseback technology that allowed the Soviets to build dive rugged watches at a fraction of the cost of their swiss made counterparts. The Amphibia comes with many dials (we like the "scuba dude" dial). Sure some people think the movement is crude and admittedly the movement does not keep great time even for watches in this price rage. But a watch with such an interesting backstory and genuine military background at this price range is unheard of. In our books the Amphibia is a super cool military diver available for a great price.
- Case: Stainless steel
- Diameter & thickness: 40 mm & 12 mm
- Crown: Screw down
- Case Back:
- Water Resistant: 200 m
- Crystal: Domed Mineral
- Movement: 2416b
- Function: Date
The Amphibia is available in numerous colors, face designs, as well as commemorative editions. Some of the Amphibia is produced in commemorative editions and follows a certain theme in regard to the celebration. The dial of the watch is without doubt all about functionality. The large size of the Arabic numerals is a concession to standard trend, however, this makes timekeeping very legible at a quick glance.
There are several different cases available, all of which are stainless steel and measures to 40mm. The case is finely polished on all sides, rated at 200m water resistance, and has a robust case back.
The Amphibia has it all and makes no pretensions to be anything but functional. This functionality is aided by the use of the venerable Vostok 2416b, a 31 jewel hand winding automatic movement, which itself is generally considered to be a rugged and reliable unit , and is rather accurately described as being "tougher than Russian steak." There are also variations like the 2415 with no date movement in the 1967 Amphibia and the 2432 movement with a day-night indicator.
A timekeeping of this example is a treat. While the watch may have some aesthetic downside, such as its battery and crummy lume, it still has pleasant surprises for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on a watch but want something that is different, rugged, and reliable. For anyone on a budget who wants a watch that has functionality, the Amphibia seals the deal.
The Swatch Sistem 51 is the company’s innovation marvel designed to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The watch is an example of what can be done when some of the greatest swiss engineering and manufacturing minds are applied to inovating modern automatic movements. Like the original Swatch quartz watch released in 1983, which was comprised of 51 components, Swatch took up the challenge to make a mechanical watch with the same exact number of parts. The genius of the Sistem51 is that it is made of only 51 parts, making it the least complex automatic watch ever made. The development to accomplish this watchmaking took two years of substantial engineering efforts from ETA, Swatch R&D, Nivarox and Comadur, including developing the manufacturing machinery. The Swatch Sistem 51 has garnered respect from collectors at all levels. Kevin Rose and Brad Farmerie both featured the watch on Hodinkee's talking watches series alongside watches worth many thousands of dollars more. Its some seriously cool tech for the price. Swiss made automatic watches are simply not available in this price range and we strongly believe this will be an iconic piece for many years to come.
- Case: Molded translucent plastic, hermetically sealed
- Diameter & thickness: 42 millimeters
- Water Resistant: 30ft
- Bracelet: Silicone
- Movement: Swatch Automatic Sistem51, 19 jewels at 21,600 bph
- Functions: Date
The Swatch Sistem 51's self-winding parts, combined in five modules, are all held together with a single screw. The Copernican-themed Sistem 51 has an exhibition case back that allows the user to peer into its remarkable industrial achievement, a 19-jewel self-winding mechanical movement inside which is entirely machine assembled. The bidirectional transparent rotor winds the single barrel giving the movement an impressive 90 hours of power reserve. The Swatch Sistem51 comes with not just its incredible simple movement, but also with several other innovations, such as the use of ARCAP in its bridges and plates, a material that is anti-magnetic and non-sensitive to temperature changes.
The translucent case is very much alike of the quartz Swatch; a plastic case, well-finished with a fine-grained texture. It is released in 4 colorways: blue case with a black dial, red case with a black dial, a full black edition and a full white edition. At 42mm the watch is generously proportioned, and fits perfectly on different wrist sizes. The various versions of the Swatch Sistem 51 come on various styles, some of which are funky, but most are elegant and refined.
One of the biggest selling points of the Sistem 51 is the notion of innovation, separating other watch manufacturers from the hand-crafted traditions and creating a revolution of machined mechanical timepiece. Despite all the attention shifting towards smartwatches, the Sistem 51 brags an amazing intelligence in its conception. It brings in more innovations, technology and content to the table, than any other inexpensive mechanical watch.
The Timex weekender is probably more at home on a casual wrist than on a watch nerds. This is a very popular watch for two good reasons. It's super cheap, and it looks great. It has much of the great minimalist military vibes has the Seiko SKN looking so great and similarly looks great on aftermarket Nato straps. The Timex might not have the quality, the manual movement or the watchmaking pedigree of the Seiko but it looks amazing for less than half the price it's tough to complain. It's a watch that's probably more at home on r/malefashionadvice/ than /r watches but don't hold that against it too much. This might not be for the snobs but there's definitely a place in every budget watch lovers collection for the convenience and reliability of Quartz. Timex has been around for a long time. The brand has become synonymous with inexpensive, durable and reliable quartz timepieces. The Timex Weekender demonstrates extreme clarity of design. There are many conservative casual watches out there that come off as plain or boring, but the Weekender, despite its minimalist nature certainly does not.
- Case: Round Brass
- Diameter & thickness: 40mm & 9 mm
- Water Resistant: 99 ft.
- Crystal: Mineral
- Bracelet: Nylon
- Movement: Quartz
Timex produces no-nonsense wristwatches-- the Weekender, for one, exemplify this sensibility. It brings an element of refinement and style to an everyday watch. In terms of styling, the watch lies somewhere between a minimal and traditional approach. The watch is produced in both black and cream dials, the cream dial with green, maroon and light green nylon straps and the black dial with of course, black nylon strap.
The face of the Weekender is cream-based, and is military inspired. This style of dial has long been admired as it provides a strong contrast to the large black numerals that are traditionally placed at five minute intervals. In keeping with the military theme, small but legible numerals are set inside the primary numerals, which forms the 24 hour chapter. The stainless steel case continues the minimal approach. It measures 40mm, well-polished on all sides, and is protected by a flat-topped acrylic crystal. The crystal is surrounded by a thin bezel that wraps the dial and descends straight down in a short cylinder. This case combined with the elegant cream dial creates a sharp look that is a step or two above most affordable quartz military inspired watches.
The end result is a watch that achieves on entry-level. Nowhere else will you find a watch that is understated, and well-made at such an affordable price. The weekender is a watch anyone really needs for an everyday beater. The only deal breaker with this watch is the loud-ticking, but overall with its great value, solid design, and impressive array of variations it brings to the table, the Timex Weekender has marked its name as a favorite.
Tisell Bauhaus Automatic
The Tisell Bauhaus Automatic is another homage to the Nomos flagship, Tangomat series. The watch is manufactured by Tisell, a Korean company, but is designed in Germany. Given the similarity of all Bauhaus designs, the lack of authentic, creative design roots here does not really bother us too much with this particular piece. Nomos is known for its strict adherence to the Bauhaus style and certainly is a better option than the Tisell if you can afford it. The Tisell may lack the pedigree, but still is a beautiful substitute. The balance and minimalism of this watch makes it perfect for both formal and casual settings.
- Case: Round stainless steel
- Diameter & thickness: 38mm & 10mm
- Crown: Non screw down
- Water Resistant: 50m
- Crystal: Anti-reflective Sapphire
- Movement: Miyota 9015 Automatic Movement, 21 jewels at 28,800
- Hands: Heat-treated blue hands
The Tisell automatic utilizes a 38mm case perfectly in keeping with the bauhaus theme. The angular lugs complements the diameter of the watch ideally and, is once again keeping with the watch to which it is paying homage; the Nomos Tangomat. Being mid-size and of light weight, this watch looks good on both formal and informal occasions.
The watch design was revamped recently with noticeable changes. The dial was a pearlescent silver-white, but is changed into plain white. Unlike the Rodina homage, the Tisell Bauhaus left out the second subregister at 6 o'clock; this gave way for the company to later on give a touch of their own design. On the old version of the watch, the date window is seated at 3 o'clock, but is now recessed at 6 o'clock, creating more visual balance to the dial.
The Tisell shares an identical font used for the hour markers as the Nomos Tangomat, and most certainly again ‘catches the spirit’of the Tangomat. The application of the dial lettering is in black and has an alternating Arabic numeral and batons markers for the hour chapter. This is intended it is very easy to see the time at a quick glance. The hands are tempered blue, which again is not an original feature as it is from the Nomos Tangomat, nevertheless adds a pleasant touch the overall design.
Turning the watch over, the display case back reveals the movement ticking inside. The Miyota 9015 Automatic Movement is well-regarded to be dependable and cost-effective automatic movement. It runs at 28, 800 bph, equating to 6 ticks per second. The movement has hand wind functionality, but lacks the hacking mechanism. The first version of this watch read “Designed by Germany’, but was revised to ‘German Design’ on the new version.
The word that describes the Tisell Bauhaus Automatic overall might be presence, as it oozes presence in every way and is a pleasure to handle and more importantly to wear. From an aesthetic perspective it all works well - the sum of all its minimalist elements is certainly more than the equal of them.