Finding The Best Watches Under €500 — Thomas’s Picks From Tissot And Lorier
The price segment in question today is extremely interesting to me. It is where most budding aficionados find their entry into the hobby, seeking the best options under €500. Perhaps coming from fashion watches, the stretch to a “more serious” watch at this price seems logical and manageable. But don’t get me wrong, it is a ton of money, and anyone is fortunate to be able to drop it on a watch. So naturally, you expect something significantly nicer than those fashion watches. Ideally, your pick will be something that you will enjoy for a lifetime without feeling the urge to “graduate” to higher segments.
So let’s have a look at two watches that have struck me recently. Two very different watches that I found punch way above their weight, and they are of interest not just to newcomers but to seasoned collectors as well.
Sorely missed as the best watches under €500
Before we do, I feel I have to mention three watches that used to dominate the segment. Seiko used to have the SARB033, an automatic do-it-all watch on a bracelet. It is a classical 38mm beauty that has garnered cult status since its discontinuation. In fact, you can find one pre-owned for between €600 and €800 nowadays. Who would have thought that an entry-level Seiko would turn out to be an investment watch? Well, it is not the only one, actually.
Possibly the most popular gateway watch of all time is the Seiko SKX. I talked about it in detail in the latest Sunday Morning Showdown with Daan. It has been the first mechanical watch for an entire generation of aficionados. And to many, like me, it has not lost its charm. It sits proudly between later arrivals from Rolex and Omega in my watch case, and it possibly gets more wrist time than both. Unfortunately, the line has been discontinued, and you need unreasonably deep pockets to snap one up now.
Lastly, a watch that instantly sprung to my mind was the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. It is a very popular military-inspired watch that used to be under €500. Unfortunately, it is now €625, putting it out of reach for this article.
The best watches under €500 — My mainstream candidate
Let us have a moment of silence to remember the three watches above. But then let’s quickly jump back to 2023 because there are new players on the field, and they are no slouches. Let me start with my favorite “mainstream” option. By that, I mean a watch from a big Swatch Group brand that you will surely spot on people’s wrists regularly. It is the Tissot PRX Quartz.
I get that you might want something mechanical, especially if it is your first move up-market. Bear with me, though; there is plenty to love here. The PRX is a design-first kind of watch. But what a design! Based on an earlier model from the ’70s, it captures that magical vibe of the integrated-bracelet sports watch perfectly. If a mechanical caliber is an absolute prerequisite for you, there is the Powermatic version. At €745, however, that one does not qualify as a potential best watch under €500.
But the quartz model is cool in its own right. The case and integrated bracelet are finished to a level that is far beyond what you might expect. The PRX feels, dare I say, close to luxurious. The quartz variants come with either sunburst or brushed dials in a range of colors. My favorites are the blue and mint ones. You will blow your entire budget, though, at €495. Well, you could still get a coffee with the remainder if you do not live in a city center.
The “off the beaten track” candidate
You might consider the Tissot PRX quartz a safe option as the best watch for under €500. But maybe you do not want something you might find on every street corner. Maybe you are an admirer of rare vintage watches, and you want something in that spirit. Well, there is something like that out there.
I recently reviewed a trio of Lorier watches, and I was pleasantly surprised. The young New York brand manages to capture a lot of the soul of vintage watches at a great price. My pick as the best watch under €500 would be the Lorier Neptune. It is a slender diver with tons of vintage charm. From the domed acrylic crystal to the gilt-toned accents, it is just a very well-considered package.
You get a reliable automatic Miyota 90S5 caliber, water resistance to 200 meters, and a proper bracelet. It is a breeze to size with the included screwdriver and micro-adjust in the clasp. Once on the wrist, the Lorier Neptune truly does feel like a vintage watch, and you are unlikely to run into someone wearing the same watch anytime soon. It is too much of a connoisseur’s choice for that. Again, I am not leaving much of your budget since the Neptune comes in at approximately €465 (US$499). But unless you drink ultra-premium coffee made from beans grown on Mars, you should have enough left over for at least two cups!
When asked for my opinion on the best watches under €500, I would confidently recommend the PRX and the Neptune. They represent different sides of our shared hobby, and they do it well. I particularly like that both are genuinely good watches, not just good for the money. I am confident you will continue to enjoy these, even if you end up buying higher-end watches as well. That, to me, is a prerequisite for something to be labeled the best watch under €500.
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