Finding The Best Japanese Watches Under €500 — Thor’s Picks From Citizen, Seiko, And G-Shock
That’s right, I changed the series title to include the word “Japanese” to suit my own agenda. Well, that’s not quite true. I freely admit to having a few faves on both Jorg’s and Thomas’s lists, so I focused on my own watch-collecting origins. After fashion watches and vintage divers, my first new big-brand mechanical watch was a Seiko, and I was blown away. So this pivoting story is about finding the best Japanese watch under €500.
Yes, the Swiss are amazing watchmakers, but starting out, you can’t go wrong with Seiko, Casio, and Citizen. Sure, microbrands are equally cool, but for peace of mind and full factory guarantees, not much can beat Japanese watches at under €500. This is especially true when you consider that they were staunch advocates of the hallowed term “in-house” before it became de rigueur for the mid-range and high-end Swiss brands. And yes, I have included a digital G-Shock (shocking!) because turning hands are not a prerequisite. Coolness on a budget, however, sure is. Here are my top three choices for what could even be a pretty good three-watch collection of dressy, sports, and street-cool wristwear.
The dressy option — Seiko SRPE43J1
A deep blue guilloché-relief stamped dial and an in-house movement for €449? Yes! Seiko has moved decidedly upmarket, and it’s no secret that we have to search deeper for golden nuggets in the catalog. At best, the Presage range is real Baby Grand Seiko material, and the range in Europe goes from around €400 up to nearly €4,000. The watches under €1,000 are fewer these days, and Jorg beat me to mentioning the cool SRPG07J1. This, however, is a sweet-sized 39mm piece of glitz. I owned a 40.5mm Presage in the past, and with its big dial space, it felt like a whopping 42mm. The 39mm diameter of this SRPE43J1 makes it pretty perfect, while the busy dial with big silver numerals keeps it true to its size. For another great choice at under €500, check out the still-cool Turtle, a monochrome diver and all the tool watch you need.
Integrated-bracelet sports chic — Citizen NJ0150
The notion of a quality Japanese watch with a nice bracelet and an in-house movement for under €300 is not new, but times are changing. Fan-favorite Seiko has moved up a notch or three price-wise, and you’ll have to stick with quartz or rubber straps. This, however, has haunted me ever since RJ’s story last year, where the pictures got me hooked on the Rolex Oysterquartz style. Granted, if you’re a fan of the Coronet, you’ll also see a President-style bracelet and OP-style dial first, but that’s where the similarities end. With its tonneau case and crown nestled in at 4 o’clock, this 40mm steel watch is a budget-glamour proposal.
Sure, you can choose a safe black or blue dial, but the sunny yellow-orange tone? It’s summer fresh while speaking to my love of colors (in a pretty loud voice). For lovers of ’70s grail watches without the budget, this is the best way to get an integrated steel bracelet while avoiding the big Tissot PRX trend. The case is classically angular with very sharp brushwork for the money. The scarcely believable €279 will get you a slim (11.7mm) dressy sports watch with an in-house 8210 automatic movement, and that, my friends, is pretty impressive.
Digital cool — Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000D-1
I know, many expected only analog watches on this list, but finding the best Japanese watch on a €500 budget needs to include something from G-Shock. The Casio sub-brand has a huge following for a reason. You might also think that €500 is expensive for a G, but the brand today also makes plenty of watches in the €1,000–5,000 range. Yes, just like Seiko, Casio is moving upmarket, while staying true to their fans of €50-100 watches. This story could also be titled “A Great First Watch For €500,” and a digital watch might be a more natural choice for a smartwatch fan. But let’s get back to this great classic shape, now rendered in steel.
This watch has all the recognizably odd Japanese shapes and the cool octagonal bezel of the original square G but with a weighty presence. I have the red version, and I would happily admit that it was probably my most worn everyday piece of 2022. The Multi Band 6 radio control and Bluetooth makes it instantly accurate, while the Tough Solar module makes it rather sustainable to boot. The GMW-B5000D-1 is simply a great, everyday sports watch that just happens to be digital. And yes, it looks even better a bit beat up and scratched up. It’s well worth going over the budget at €549.
Fratelli, did I catch your attention, or would you spend your €500 on a microbrand watch or Swiss quartz perhaps? Let me know in the comments, but I’m pretty sure some of these caught your eye.
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