When looking for an affordable timepiece, many people do not usually consider a mechanical watch. At least, they do not do so at first. More often than not, people would opt for a quartz wristwatch due to its price, which tends to be cheaper. To be sure, there are many high-quality quartz watches out there with great prices, but there are also numerous outstanding mechanical timepieces in the market that come with similar, affordable price tags. Despite being quite economical, each mechanical model is packed with complications and quality that you can trust. For this article, we will be taking a look at some of the best affordable mechanical watches available for the dashing enthusiast.
20 of the Best Affordable Mechanical Watches in the Market
Affordable mechanical watches are not the easiest things to come by. But do not fear, for we have you covered. Listed below are 20 of the best affordable mechanical watches in the market. Keep in mind that the models are listed in no particular order and each piece is an excellent choice in its own right.
1. Seiko 5 SNK805
Our list starts with the military-inspired Seiko SNK805 from the Seiko 5 line, which features a no-nonsense matte-finish green dial that keeps things simple, with an inner ring for hour markers. Its outer ring contains numerals for the minutes and seconds, and a day-and-date complication at 3 o’clock. The 38mm stainless steel case is modest, lightweight, and unassuming in the best possible sense. Inside the watch is a reliable 7S26C mechanical movement that performs beyond the watch’s approximate price point of $100 USD. Combined with a green nylon strap, this affordable Seiko mechanical watch is homey and constantly ready to go.
2. Orient TriStar
When people ask about an affordable mechanical watch from Orient, the response is usually the Bambino. And without a doubt, the Bambino is great. Its elegance and affordability are undeniable. But Orient also has another affordable mechanical timepiece, which many people argue is actually better than the Bambino: the Orient TriStar. Marked by the three stars applied on its watch face, the TriStar has a history that dates back to the 1970s. The brand states that the TriStar was originally meant to be an option for countries with less access to replaceable quartz watch batteries. Weighing in at 40mm in diameter, the TriStar possesses a timeless look with its stainless steel case and classy light brown nylon strap. While some TriStar models can reach up to $200 USD, other pieces will only cost you around $100 USD.
3. Invicta Pro Diver 8926
The Invicta Pro Diver is renowned in the watch community as one of the best affordable alternatives to the Rolex Submariner. In many respects, that statement does hold. First of all, an Invicta Pro Diver is worth around $100 USD. That affordability in itself should already be a point for consideration. The watch comes in a 40mm stainless steel case that has a water resistance capacity of 200m, and a matching, sleek stainless steel bracelet. Working behind the black dial is an NH35A mechanical movement, and you can view the caliber at work through an exhibition-style case back. In terms of looks and functionality, the Invicta Pro Diver is quite the selection. Sure, it’s not an actual Rolex, but it is definitely a great option as a mechanical watch, especially if you are working with a budget.
4. Citizen Promaster NY0040
While the Invicta Pro Diver is a great bargain, you can take a serious step up forward in terms of diver’s watches by shelling out a little more moolah for a Citizen Promaster. The Citizen NY0040 is an ISO-certified diver’s watch with a depth rating of 200m and a high-visibility black dial. Its 46mm stainless steel case features a blend of brushed and polished surfaces, giving it a rugged and super sporty appearance. Inside the case is an in-house 21-jewel Miyota 8200 movement. Truthfully, this is a watch that wants the attention, and if its specs are not enough to get yours, then maybe the under-$300 USD price tag will.
5. Timex Marlin Automatic California Dial
Timex describes the Marlin Automatic California as a watch inspired by vintage models during the 1930s to 1940s. With its classic looks and hand-wound movement, the Marlin Automatic California exudes sophistication and never fails to catch the eyes of on-lookers. Its rose gold-colored case is sleek in every sense of the word and gives the watch a luxurious feel. Beneath its alluring black dial is a tried-and-tested automatic movement equipped with 21 jewels and a 40-hour power reserve. Taking everything into account, it does come as quite the shocker that something this beautiful and reliable only costs around $250 USD.
6. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Hamilton is always a great choice when it comes to affordable automatic watches. The Khaki Field Mechanical is a piece of American watchmaking that pays homage to Hamilton’s rich heritage. Though the case leans towards the small side, measuring only 38mm in diameter, its brushed case, simple dial layout, and hacking capabilities allow this Hamilton to stand as a genuine American military field watch. Usually supplied with an ETA 2801-2 automatic movement, the Khaki Field Mechanical boasts a vintage military aesthetic and retails at under $500 USD.
7. Tissot Everytime Swissmatic
Coming in at around $400 USD, the Tissot Everytime Swissmatic is a stylish yet affordable piece from the T-Classic collection, and is one of Tissot’s best entry-level mechanical watches. This watch offers the best of Swiss watchmaking, with its clean and minimalistic aesthetics. Its stark black dial contrasts delightfully against its silver-toned indices, long hands, and slim stainless steel case. This elegant look is topped off with a classy black leather strap. Apart from its dressy looks, another impressive aspect of the Everytime Swissmatic is its movement. Its automatic movement boasts a power reserve that can last up to 70 hours and has an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per day. For such an affordable price, it would prove quite a challenge to find a mechanical caliber as capable as this one.
8. Bulova Aerojet 98A187
While tourbillon watches are beyond the budgets of many, Bulova has a budget-friendly open-heart timepiece that almost anyone can afford. Covered by a 41mm stainless steel case, the Aerojet 98A187 showcases a grey dial with rose gold-colored indices, dauphine hands, and a circular window at 6 o’clock to give the dial a faux-tourbillon aesthetic. The window puts the spotlight on the Miyota movement’s balance wheel, where you can see it oscillate back and forth. You can also view the Miyota in its entirety through the Aerojet’s exhibition-style case back. The Bulova Aerojet 98A187 can be purchased at just only $299 USD.
9. Seiko Prospex “Save the Ocean” Samurai SBDY019
The “Save the Ocean” Samurai is a Seiko timepiece that needs no introduction. Several aspects make this Prospex diver iconic, including its design, heritage, reliability, and its price. To be exact, the Seiko SBDY019, also known as the SRPC93, is priced around $500 USD. Made in collaboration with Fabien Cousteau, grandson of world-renowned marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the enigmatic SBDY019 comes in a 43.8mm stainless steel case paired with a dark matching sleek silver bracelet of the same material. Of course, the real star of the show is the watch’s dial. Its uneven blue gradient emulates the imagery of ocean waters, which is thematic on-point, considering this Seiko Samurai is a diver’s watch. The 4R35 movement that powers this mechanical watch is reliable and has manual winding and hacking capabilities.
10. Orient Kamasu
Image By: StufflerMike (Watchuseek)
It is pretty hard to find a mechanical watch under $300 USD. It is even more challenging to find one that also comes with protective sapphire glass, which is typically the most expensive of watch crystals. Fortunately, you can get all this and more with the Orient Kamasu. The Kamasu, formerly known as the Mako 3, is a diver’s watch that boasts a sturdy stainless steel case, 200m of water resistance, a layer of sapphire glass, and a cool blue rotating bezel. Inside the casing is a mesmerizing blue sunburst dial with outlined indices, hands, and a day-and-date window. This watch is powered by an automatic Orient Caliber F6922, which many say is able to match the reliability and accuracy of Seiko’s movements. Overall, this watch offers so much for so little, and is one of the best value-for-money mechanical timepieces you can get.
11. Vostok Amphibia Automatic
People who know about Vostok watches will definitely vouch for how great the Amphibia really is. As a brand, Vostok is the watch supplier for the Russian army. The Amphibia, in particular, is an affordable and robust watch made to withstand different environments. Costing around $90 USD, this Russian stainless steel mechanical watch with 200m of water resistance and a reliable Vostok automatic movement. This watch comes in a variety of colors and designs, meaning you certainly will not be limited by your options, and will easily be able to find a Vostok Amphibia that suits your specific tastes. Each Amphibia timepiece also has a power reserve that lasts for 31 hours when fully wound.
12. Nodus Sector Field
Sold at approximately $425 USD, the Nodus Sector Field is a mechanical field watch that comes with a variety of functions for your everyday needs. Its stainless steel case features a mix of bead-blasted and polished surfaces, a sapphire crystal, and a water resistance rating of 100m. The brown sunburst sector dial is beguiling, to say the least, and it comes with a sword-shaped handset that matches well with the overall design scheme of the watch. Underneath the watch face is a Seiko NH35 automatic movement, which Nodus regulated in four positions to achieve a precision rate of +/- 10 seconds per day.
13. Fossil Inscription Automatic
Oftentimes, wearers like to be able to see their watch’s movements in action. However, not all wristwatches come with a display case or skeleton dial. In this case, we have found an affordable watch with a suave skeleton dial that allows you to view its intricate mechanical movement at work. The Fossil Inscription can come in a smoke or gold-tone case and boasts an octagonal curvature with screws unusually placed at each end of its bezel. It has a case size of 42mm, but its short lugs make it look much slimmer. This watch only has a water resistance capacity of 50m, which is not surprising considering its beautiful skeleton dial. Still, the Fossil piece is attractive and makes for a trusty $250 USD timekeeper.
14. Swatch Sistem51 Irony Sistem Boreal
Even after years, the Swatch Sistem51 remains a fresh and modern take on mechanical watches. Assembled by an army of robots, each Sistem51 watch comes with an automatic movement equipped with 51 components, a central screw, and a 90-hour power reserve. There are many Sistem 51 timepieces to choose from, and they are all superb options. But one model that instantly catches our attention is the $215 USD Sistem51 Boreal. With its one-of-a-kind celestial dial, this Swatch watch comes in a finely-polished stainless steel case coupled with a matching stainless steel bracelet. Its beauty is magnificent and it is an affordable mechanical model that belongs in anybody’s collection.
15. Victorinox Swiss Army Alliance Mechanical
Retailing at approximately $650 USD, the Victorinox Swiss Army Alliance Mechanical stands as the highest-priced affordable mechanical watch on our list. From its looks alone, you can understand why this Victorinox timepiece fetches such a price. It is both classy and sporty, and fits snugly thanks to its 40mm diameter and 9.9mm height. Located underneath the gorgeous asphalt-like watch face is an authentic Swiss ETA 2892 automatic movement, which you can view clearly through the exhibition-style rear case. Equipped with triple-coated anti-reflective sapphire glass, 100m water resistance, and adequate lume, the Alliance Mechanical is an exceptional mechanical timepiece that instantly ups your class once you wear it.
16. Hamilton Khaki Field King Auto
Its moniker of “King” is not just for show. With its handsome looks, military heritage, sturdy structure, and 80-hour power reserve, the Hamilton Khaki Field King Auto rightfully earns its title as the king. If you have been looking for an affordable mechanical watch for a while now, you should know that it is not easy finding something this capable, worth around just $575 USD. This Hamilton Khaki Field watch boasts a 50m water-resistant stainless steel case that uses an anti-reflective sapphire crystal on top. Its H-40 movement has a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour and can be viewed through the open case back.
17. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical
The Marathon General Purpose Mechanical is a watch that leans on the small side, both in size and price. Worth around $360 USD, the General Purpose Mechanical sports a slender 34mm Fibershell case. Though the watch is quite slim in structure, its automatic movement packs a sizable punch. The timepiece uses a Seiko NH35 self-winding caliber, a kind of mechanical movement that winds itself through the natural motion of your wrist. After being fully wound, this Marathon wristwatch can last up to 41 hours. Sheltered by scratch-resistant sapphire glass, General Purpose Mechanical is dust-proof and water-resistant up to depths of 30m.
18. Laco Augsburg
Available in both 39mm and 42mm sizes, the Laco Augsburg boasts a highly legible dial with leaf-style hands and a generous amount of lume. Its Laco 21 automatic movement features manual hacking, which is a nice benefit to have on a $400 USD watch. Its case has some incredible profiling for an entry-level Flieger timepiece, and its case back provides a nice view of the mechanical movement in motion.
19. Tissot T-Classic Le Locle Powermatic 80
Another member of the T-Classic series, the Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 is an opulent yet luxurious mechanical watch that you will certainly want to try. Like the Khaki Field King Auto, the Le Locle Powermatic 80 costs around $575 USD. The model we have for this list is the Le Locle T006.407.16.053.00. This Powermatic 80 timepiece features a 39mm stainless steel case and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. Its sector dial sports a vintage design with a patterned black surface, silver-toned Roman numerals, and leaf-shaped hands. Running the watch is the Powermatic 80 movement renowned for its 80-hour power reserve.
20. Seiko Presage Cocktail Time “Blue Moon” SRPB41J1
The last watch on this list is this stunning Presage piece Seiko made in collaboration with renowned Japanese bartender Ishigaki Shinobu. Commonly known as the Blue Moon, the SRPB41J1 is a prime example of exceptional Japanese watchmaking. Without a doubt, the best part about this watch is its dark blue sunburst dial. Its overall design and how it plays with light makes the watch an outstanding yet affordable work of art. Protected by a 40.5mm stainless steel case, the Blue Moon utilizes an automatic 4R35 movement. Tried and tested, this movement exhibits reliable accuracy and a 41-hour power reserve. If you want a mechanical watch that looks captivating while only costing you around $440 USD, look no further than the SRPB41J1.
What is a Mechanical Watch?
Essentially, a mechanical watch is a timepiece that utilizes a clockwork mechanism to tell the passage of time. This differs from a quartz model, which functions electronically with the help of a small battery. There are two kinds of mechanical watches: hand-wound and automatic. Hand-wound models get their power from being manually wound on a regular basis. Automatic movements, on the other hand, can supply power to itself through a self-winding apparatus. Mechanical watches, both hand-wound and automatic, typically have five main components: a mainspring, a gear train or wheel train, a balance wheel, an escapement mechanism, and, of course, a dial.
The mainspring is a spiral torsion spring that acts as the power source of the timepiece. Generally, the mainspring must be wound regularly, either by hand or by a self-winding apparatus, to keep the watch functioning. The energy received from the mainspring transfers via the gear train to the balance wheel. As the balance wheel oscillates back and forth from the force, the escapement mechanism releases the gear train to move forward with each swing of the balance wheel. This, in turn, moves the watch hands forward at a steady rate, making the watch “tick”.
Now, when you buy a mechanical watch, you need to bear a few things in mind. These models are very different from the regular quartz watches you see every day. If you are new to the concept of mechanical timepieces or have never invested in one, doing a bit of research will save you from a lot of unwarranted stress and will ensure that you are ready for your first mechanical timekeeper.
Why Are Mechanical Watches So Expensive?
Most mechanical timepieces tend to be more expensive than their quartz counterparts. While not all mechanical watches come at prices that break the bank – hence the point of this guide – there are several reasons why mechanical watches tend to be pricey in general.
First and foremost is the quality. Compared to quartz movements, watchmakers craft their mechanical movements with materials of the highest quality. As a result, the parts in a mechanical watch tend to be more durable, reliable, and resilient. When put together expertly by a skillful watchmaker, each component makes up a clockwork mechanism movement that is built to last for a lifetime.
Next, we have the craftsmanship of the watchmaker. It is not easy to forge a mechanical movement. It takes years of experience and practice to master the art. There are hundreds of parts that form an intricate structure inside a timepiece. How a watchmaker puts them all together, without any component misaligning, is a testament to the watchmaker’s craft.
The third reason for the elevated prices of mechanical watches involves the watchmaker’s heritage. While there is a universal standard to making watches, each brand has its own method of creating a mechanical timepiece. A mechanical watch that is handmade traditionally is unique, as it highlights authenticity and exclusivity. Although the industry continues to dish out innovation after innovation, what remains true to every brand is the traditional values they personally imbue in their timepieces.
All things put together, a mechanical watch comes out as a horological work of art. And just like a work of art, its value increases as time passes. In general, mechanical watches always appreciate and have a higher value over time, and this is especially true of models from the most recognized brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet.
These mechanical watches are always fascinating to look at, especially when they come with a transparent case back that allows you to see their mechanical movements in all their glory. Seeing every component at work reminds you of the effort and expertise a watchmaker invests into their craft. Now, nobody is saying you should not splurge on a brand like Rolex or Omega, if you are able to. After all, luxury watches, including mechanical ones, come at a much more exorbitant cost due to their overall elevated value. That said, our list today is a reminder that you can still acquire an exceptional mechanical wristwatch without ever having to break the bank.
Looking for fine additions to your Classic Watch collection? Have a look at this article on 20 Classic Watches that also act as collectible pieces
Photo credits to WatchShopping.com unless otherwise stated.
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