Year after year, there are more and more options for all types of watches throughout all price ranges. The growing amount of informational resources available for newcomers can be helpful, though a bit overwhelming.
That’s why I’ve made a video outlining what I believe to be currently some of the best entry-level affordable mechanical watches ($~200) for someone new to the hobby. These are just my suggestions, and I’m sure there are some I’ve missed – please let me know if there are any other awesome mechanical watches you can get for around $200.
Seiko 5 (Seiko 5 SNK809, SNXS79, SNKL23, etc.)
The Seiko 5 is Seiko’s entry-level mechanical watch lineup. Although the original Seiko 5s are starting to fall behind in specifications compared to modern, slightly more expensive watches, they are still offering some of the most bang for the buck. These are often priced around $100, making them some of the most affordable automatic watches you can buy.
Further, their massive variety of styles, from dress to tool watches, and everything in between, makes it very easy to find one that suits you. Many tend to have smaller than-average dimensions by modern standards, often coming in at around 37mm in diameter, but some may appreciate these dimensions, as they are becoming harder and harder to come by.
Despite the lack of modernized features like hacking and hand winding, these make an excellent entry point for someone who may be unsure if they even want a mechanical watch at all. Given their price point, reliability, and simple style, they’re a fantastic value.
Seiko 5 Sports (Seiko 5 Sports SRPD, SRPH, SRPE, etc.)
Seiko has recently refreshed the lineup with modernized, upgraded 4R35/4R36 movements that now have hacking and hand-winding, which the original generation of Seiko 5s lacked. They’re often a bit pricier than the older Seiko 5s, coming in a bit closer to the $150 – $200 mark, but with that jump in price also comes a jump in quality.
Like the originals, Seiko produces a wide variety of different Seiko 5 Sports styles to choose from, including dress, dive, field, and even pilot watches. These are excellent for someone who knows they want a mechanical watch and is willing to splurge just a bit more to get a bump in build quality, and a handsome timepiece that will last for years to come.
The Orient Bambino is simply an amazingly elegant and classic dress watch that cannot be beaten. For around $150 you’ll pick up one of the most refined-looking affordable dress watches. My only gripe with this watch is the odd 21mm lug width that can make finding replacement straps a bit more difficult than usual, but ultimately the watch makes a worthy tradeoff.
Orient Kamasu, Ray & Mako
In my eyes, Orient is overtaking Seiko as the new king of the entry-level value watches, specifically when it comes to diving watches. Their Kamasu (full review), Ray, and Mako all feature 200m water resistance, hacking and hand winding, and look quite handsome.
The Kamasu is the most expensive of the bunch, but also has a sapphire crystal that is pretty rare to be seen in watches around $200. The Ray and Mako are slightly more affordable, and each offers their own distinct look. The Ray is a bit more traditional looking, while the Mako looks quite different from most other dive watches on the market thanks to its unique hour marker layout. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with an Orient diver.
Orient Tri Star
The Orient Tri-Star is Orient’s answer to the original Seiko 5s. The Orient Tri Star is a no-frills basic automatic watch that comes in at around $100, and simply gets the job done. The Tri Star does not choose to impress with unique designs or overly impressive build quality, rather its affordable price point and pure variety, making a great gateway automatic for kicking off one’s collection.
Invicta Pro Diver & 1953
Yes, yes, Invicta. The brand that makes the giant yellow dinner-plate-sized watches. Despite their reputation for having some watches that are overly large and a bit over-the-top, they also have a lineup of affordable automatic divers coming it at around $100; the Invicta Pro Diver series, and more recently, their 1953 divers.
Invicta’s divers have surprisingly solid specifications for the price. They house a Seiko-built NH35 movement which is highly regarded, and rare to find in watches in the $100 range, even Seiko’s own. Further, they sport a 200m water resistance, which is quite substantial, again, when considering the rather ent
The Invicta Pro Diver series pay homage the Rolex Submariner very closely, so that may be a pro or a con for some, depending on how much you value originality in a watch you own.
The newer Invicta 1953 divers, on the other hand, are simple and tasteful perfection in my eyes, with just enough originality to become a welcome addition to even an already existing and growing watch collection.
Overall, the automatic Invicta dive watches are affordable and well-built timepieces that stand proudly above the rest of their offerings.
Vostok Amphibia & Komandirskie
I am slightly hesitant to suggest these to newcomers to the hobby as their build quality is almost purposefully questionable. Some of the cheaper Komandirskie Classic models, for instance, use a chrome-plated case instead of stainless steel, and the intentionally wobbly crown may turn off newcomers who may think that affordable watches are simply lemons.
Most of their new models are more well-built, however, and now use stainless steel cases and etc.
With that said, they offer some of the most colorful and fun timepieces you can get, often for around $100, and have a wealth of options to choose from.
8. Citizen Promaster
The Citizen Promaster is yet another reputable affordable JDM diver workhorse with a 200m water resistance rating. Though the automatic versions can typically be had for just above the $200 price threshold, the Eco-Drive versions can typically be found cheaper.
9. Islander Automatic Watches
Islander watches are custom watches designed for and sold by, the watch shop Long Island Watch. Originally, they started as spins on tried and true Seiko designs, many of which are on this list, but using upgraded aftermarket parts to take their build quality to the next level. This includes sapphire crystals, ceramic bezel inserts, and upgraded movements where possible.
No longer are Islander watches strictly based on Seiko’s designs, however, as they’ve since expanded their lineups to some more original styles.
Their build quality for the price is so phenomenal that, even attempting to assemble a watch with similar specifications yourself using third-party parts, you will often pay more in purchasing the individual parts themselves than purchasing an already assembled Islander.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Automatic Watch?
An automatic watch is a watch with a self-winding mechanical movement. The movement is powered through motion, either when worn on the wrist, or when shaken, or through handwinding the mainspring using the crown.
What’s the Difference Between an Automatic vs. Mechanical Watch?
An automatic watch is simply a mechanical watch (a watch that runs purely on its mechanical build, with no electronics or batteries) with the addition of an “automatic” component that winds the mechanical movement automatically.
What’s the Difference Between an Automatic and Quartz?
An automatic watch uses a mechanical movement without any electronics or batteries. A quartz watch uses a battery-powered electronic movement.
Are Automatic Watches Better than Quartz?
Not necessarily. Quartz watches tend to be more precise and accurate than their automatic counterparts, and generally require less upkeep, as they can run for years without needing any maintenance. With that said, automatic watches have the intangible benefit of being purely mechanical, and this unique mechanical mechanism is fascinating for some, in the same way, that some may prefer film photography over digital, despite modern digital cameras being technically superior.
How Long do Automatic Watches Last?
Automatic watches each have a different runtime depending on their power reserve, which determines their maximum amount of runtime when fully wound. An average automatic watch has a power reserve between 40-50 hours, however, some watches can have much larger power reserve
Do I need to Wind an Automatic Watch Every Day?
No, you do not need to keep an automatic watch wound every day. When the power reserve depletes, the watch will temporarily stop running until you give it another wind, or continue wearing it on your wrist.
Are Automatic Watches Expensive to Maintain?
Some automatic watch movements are more expensive to maintain than others, specifically those from higher-end brands that use more specific, or higher-end parts. Some vintage automatic watches also might have obsolete movements making it difficult and costly to source parts. Ultimately, an automatic watch may require a service every 4-7 years on average, which can vary in cost depending on the movement being serviced, and the watchmaker performing the service.
With so many options, finding a solid affordable automatic watch under $200 is no longer a difficult task. Simply choose the one that suits your style the best, and wear it as your only watch for eternity, or until you’re ready for an upgrade.
I hope this article was helpful, please let me know in the comments below if there are any other affordable automatic watches you think may be a good value under $200!