I often have people asking me for my opinion on watches. More often than not it’s about a particular brand or model, in fact I was discussing Panerai with an associate yesterday. I don’t attest to know a lot about Panerai and I’m quick to point that out always when I’m discussing watches with people. If I don’t know, I never pretend to know and that’s a piece of advice you should all take with you. It’s much better to listen to someone discuss a brand, with intent to understand, than to have that person call you out for an unauthenticated fact and make you look like a moron.
If I’m not offering my personal opinion on a make or model it’s almost always budget related. “What would you recommend I get for this price?” In 95% of those cases the budget is far less than I’d recommend spending on a watch but everyone is different and I thought it was time to share my top 5 worthy watches under $500 so I can redirect people here when I’m asked. Let me preface this with one quick note. In the sub $500 bracket I personally would always look to buy vintage and that’s my recommendation to everyone. However, if you’re just after a nice watch that comes with a warranty, that you don’t need to worry about winding and servicing every 6-12 months and one that is somewhat water-resistant, then perhaps brand new is for you.
Below are my top picks for worthy watches under $500. You won’t have seen them on other average ‘Best Watches Under $500’ lists spotted around the internet because TVG isn’t average – when it comes to watches we’re constantly striving to educate you on the best way to spend your money. These watches are the little rays of sunshine poking through a thick rainforest canopy of repugnant junk that makes up the majority of this sub $500 category.
I featured this watch only a few weeks ago and am very much looking forward to getting my hands on one when they arrive in the country. I find this watch very attractive and love that it’s Australian designed and owned. Powering the Flinders is a perfectly capable Miyota Cal.9015 movement with a 42 hour power reserve, but I think the real beauty of this watch lies in the dial. For a limited time you can grab one for $395 instead of $525 which is certainly a saving worth capitalising on.
I’ve long been a fan of the Grand Seiko and whilst this isn’t remotely on the same level I feel it shares a lot of the marque’s pedigree. Those looking to find a Rolex Explorer alternative at a far more achievable price need look no further. Seiko advertises this watch with an ‘in-house’ movement however there is some debate about whether this is entirely true with speculation that the movements are built by a subsidiary Seiko company, not Seiko Watch Company. Nevertheless this watch is a great package offering a gorgeous dial, well made case and unbeatable performance in this price range.
Laco 1925 have ties to German Luftwaffe pilots in World War II so you get a bit of heritage with this brand name. The reason you may not have heard of them is because they were somewhat overshadowed by the more favoured Pilot’s watches of the time; IWC, and to a lesser extent Stowa. Luckily for you thats kept the prices down, delivering you an understated, classic looking Pilot with a reliable ETA automatic movement, exhibition case-back and luminescent numbers and markers.
I think this is a very handsome watch but that might be because it’s styled in a very similar fashion to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Collection (which I love). The best thing about going with Orient is you’re getting brand heritage (founded in 1950) and an ‘in-house’ movement. Yep that’s right an ‘in-house’ movement. Orient is a very unique brand in this category and in my opinion a fairly underrated watch maker. Orient manufacture their own movements that use fewer parts than Swiss ETA movements and ball bearings for a higher conversion of kinetic energy allowing the rotor to wind the watch more efficiently.
My apologies on the $5 budget blowout. You may remember this from our ‘Best watches under $1000 post‘, I just couldn’t help adding it to this list as well. For me this is the undisputed champ of the Tissot range, I like the Le Locle but the Visodate just nudges it off the top spot for me. This model is a contemporary interpretation of Tissot’s first automatic watch to feature a date window featuring the sturdy ETA 2836-2 movement.
Another Pilot that ticks all the boxes. The Flyboy is a handsome modern Pilot’s watch featuring the Miyota Cal.8215 movement. Unlike the historically designed Pilot’s watches it does away with the iconic 12 o’clock triangle with the two dots and adds a cross hair which I personally think looks great. The Flyboy comes on a leather Nato which adds to its current appeal – there’s not much to dislike here!
Shinola have recently opened up a flagship store in Tribeca in New York and offer a variety of ‘TVG’ style products including bicycles, watches and leather goods. I wanted to include this for any Panerai fans out there because I think it’s bang on. This American made watch features a Quartz movement built by Shinola in Detroit, housed in a tasty matte black case. For me this watch delivers the entire package, every detail has been thought out, from the touches of red on the hands and dial to the Hadley-Roma strap.