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Best watches under £500 2024: Seiko, Orient, Citizen and more

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Timepieces can be notoriously expensive, but it is possible to get a great watch for under £500

The best watches under £500 are the ones that offer good looks, functionality and durability while still maintaining a relatively modest price point. In this price bracket, there exists everything from high-performance smartwatches to entry-level automatics, so it’s a good place to aim if you’re looking for a solid everyday watch but don’t fancy spending a small fortune. Bearing in mind that, although £500 is by no means pocket change, it’s still relatively cheap in terms of timepieces.

It is entirely possible to garnish your wrist with a watch from a respected brand for less than £500. The likes of Seiko, Orient and Citizen are known for offering excellent watches in this price range, with the all-important heritage factor that watch enthusiasts love to talk about. Whether you’re looking for a dive watch or a dress watch, a cheap-as-chips beater or a state-of-the-art smartwatch, there’s something in the sub-£500 category to meet your requirements.

The real problem is that there are plenty of terrible watches in this category too and, if you’re not careful, you can all too easily end up with a poorly made, cheap-looking watch that won’t last five minutes. In order to save you from that fate, we’ve rounded up what we believe are some of the finest options for under £500, with something to suit every taste and budget.

How to choose the best watch under £500 for you

Should I buy a quartz watch or an automatic watch?

‘Quartz’ and ‘automatic’ are the two main types of ‘movements’ that most watches use. For the uninitiated, the movement is the name for the internal system that makes a timepiece tick. Quartz watches are powered by batteries, whereas automatic watches are powered by the kinetic energy they store from the motion of their wearer’s wrist.

Quartz watches will keep time regardless of whether they’re moving – they won’t die and need to be reset if you take them off and leave them lying around – but the battery will, at some point, need to be replaced. On the plus side, a quartz movement takes up less space than an automatic movement, which means quartz watches can be much slimmer than their automatic counterparts.

Automatic watches don’t need a battery to run. Motion charges these watches, so if they stop moving they will eventually run out of juice, at least until the next time they’re worn. Automatic watches generally command much higher prices because of the intricate mechanisms they use, and that they can potentially keep working indefinitely. That said, nothing lasts forever, so to keep an automatic running it’s wise to get them serviced occasionally – oiling the mechanisms and replacing any parts that have worn out – and watchmakers tend to recommend a service every three to five years.

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What type of watch strap is best?

That really depends. There are two elements to consider: aesthetics and performance. You need to think about when and where you’re going to be wearing your watch. If it’s a sporty smartwatch, you’ll probably want a rubber strap, as it will be comfortable and won’t absorb sweat from your wrist. On the other hand, if you need a watch for special occasions, a smart leather strap or a metal bracelet will look far more presentable. For everyday watches, a nylon ‘NATO’ strap is casual, inexpensive and durable enough to stand the rigour of daily use.

What style of watch should I choose?

There are many different watch styles on the market, but they generally fall into one of a few main categories. Sports watches, like divers and chronographs, are frequently chunky timepieces reflecting their utilitarian approach; however, they are still great for general day-to-day use, making them a good option if you’re looking for one watch to do it all. There are also dress watches, which tend to be slim affairs featuring simple, elegant styling, making them ideal for formal occasions. Then there are performance watches, designed to give you detailed feedback for fitness activities, like running, hiking and swimming.

The key is to think about your lifestyle and what you want from your watch before settling on any one particular style.

READ NEXT: Best dive watch

The best watches under £500 you can buy in 2024

1. Citizen Tsuyosa: Best everyday watch under £500

Price when reviewed: £299 | Check price at Goldsmiths

Good-looking, well-made automatic watches often cost unfathomably large sums of money, so you might be surprised to learn that you can own one for as little as £299. Citizen has a long record of delivering beautiful but accessible timepieces in the sub-£500 category, and this understated bracelet option is a prime example.

The Tsuyosa (Japanese for ‘strength’) is an excellent everyday watch that’s dressy enough to wear with tailoring, but not so fancy that it will upstage your weekend wardrobe. This makes it highly versatile, and a solid option for anyone looking to limit themselves to a one-watch collection.

The 40mm diameter case is a moderate size that will wear well on most wrists, and the 50m water resistance means it can be worn in the sea, shower or pool without worry. There are a number of vibrant coloured dials to choose from – including yellow and green – but for versatility, it’s hard to beat classic black.

Key specs – Case diameter: 40mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement type: Automatic

Check price at Goldsmiths

2. Casio Digital Stainless Steel Bracelet Watch: Best budget watch under £500

Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Amazonbest watch under £500 Casio digital

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s a reason this modest little digital watch from Casio has remained basically unchanged, yet consistently popular, since the 1980s. It’s a stylish accessory that brings a little extra something to casual outfits and keeps accurate time while doing so. OK, it’s not exactly a Rolex, but does it need to be? The watches out there that cost a hundred times the price do the exact same thing so, for the frugal shopper, this is a no-brainer.

The watch itself is fairly small and sits close to the wrist with its low-profile design, making it nice and subtle, as well as versatile enough to wear with all sorts of casual outfits. Granted, it’s probably not the type of timepiece that’s going to cut it for formal wear, but for the price, who cares?

The digital display is clear, easy to read and can be illuminated at the touch of a button, while the strap is light and comfortable for all-day wear. Buy this watch if you want a no-frills timepiece you can run into the ground without worrying about the odd scuff, scrape or ding.

Key specs – Case diameter: 33mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement type: Quartz

3. Seiko 5 Sports SKX Re-Interpretation: Best dive watch under £500

Price when reviewed: £420 | Check price at Goldsmithsbest watch under £500 Seiko 5 Sports SKX Reinterpretation

Japanese brand Seiko’s watches run the gamut from the cheap-and-cheerful to the high-end, but the affordable mid-range automatics are what it has always done best. Seiko’s diving watches have a reputation among watch aficionados as some of the best entry-level options money can buy. Unfortunately, their legendary SKX line of divers has now been discontinued, but this special version of the Seiko 5 gives a nod to those watches through details like its off-centre crown and jubilee-style bracelet.

Given that the much-loved SKX watches, that this timepiece is based upon, are now rather difficult to come by new, this is a great way to buy into the concept and style for those who missed the boat. It features a rotating 24-hour bezel and a screw-in crown with a depth rating of 100m, and the dial is available in a choice of colours – we’ve picked this tasteful ‘blueberry’, but you can also find it in ‘black grape’ and ‘mikan orange’. If you’re after a versatile, well-built dive watch for under £500, this is about as good as it gets.

Key specs – Case diameter: 42.5mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic

Check price at Goldsmiths

4. Orient Bambino: Best dress watch under £500

Price when reviewed: £191 | Check price at WatchNationbest watch under £500 Orient Bambino

We would go as far as to say that the Orient Bambino is the best watch you can buy for under £200. It’s gorgeous to look at and will wear well on most sizes of wrists, it keeps reliable time and can happily breeze between formal outfits and casual weekend wear. So, whether you’re in jeans and a tee or your finest tailored jacket, this watch will slot into the picture seamlessly.

With its 40.5mm case, date window, subtle sunburst white dial and crisp numeral markers, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at a watch costing somewhere around the £1,000 mark. Certainly, there are watches twice the price that don’t look half as smart as this one, which is a big part of its appeal. We think this watch would suit anyone looking for a dressy, elegant watch without a premium price tag.

Key specs – Case diameter: 40.5mm; Case material: Stainless steel; Movement: Automatic

Check price at WatchNation

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