If you’ve ever owned a traditional quartz watch for long enough, you’ve likely had to deal with the hassle of changing the watch battery.
Worse, the watch battery always seems to die when you need it most. Plus, taking it to the jeweler to have the battery replaced is usually an additional cost.
Well, what if there were watches that don’t need batteries?
Good news… There are!
There are also Kinetic and Eco-Drive watches that use a solar-powered battery, so to say they operate completely without a battery would be disingenuous. But their batteries can be recharged and do not need to be replaced, so they can make a good option for someone who just doesn’t want to deal with replacing a watch battery altogether.
Automatic watches are powered when worn, and mechanical watches are powered by winding.
Later in this article, I’ll go over each of these watch types in greater detail. But first, we’ll cover some of the best automatic watches that run without batteries.
I spent years wearing, testing and reviewing batteryless watches. Here are some of my personal favorites, spanning various watch styles and budgets.
Seiko 5 SNXS79
The Seiko 5 is not just one watch, but an entire lineup of affordable Seiko watches that all use automatic mechanical movements instead of batteries.
My personal favorite is the SNXS79. The watch is finished very well, and the dark charcoal dial adds a luxurious look that makes the watch feel way more expensive than it really is. It’s one of the first mechanical watches I’ve ever owned, and I can see it lasting in my collection forever.
The Seiko-built 7S26 movement inside is completely automatic and powered by the motion of your wrist when you wear the watch; no battery is needed. And the mechanical movement results in a smooth sweeping second hand instead of tick-tocking like on a battery-powered watch.
Being so affordable, Seiko 5 watches are some of the best entry-level automatic or mechanical watches anyone can buy. I recommend them to just about anyone looking to pick up their first real watch—a mechanical watch with heart and soul, and best of all, no battery.
Despite owning over 30+ watches, the Seiko 5s in my collection are some of my most worn watches, and for good reason.
They’re comfortable, affordable, extremely durable, and look way more expensive than they really are. Put them side by side next to a luxury watch, and you’d be amazed at how well they compare.
The Seiko 5 SNXS79 is a great choice for a batteryless watch and a great gateway to the wonderful world of mechanical watches.
Read my full review of the SNXS79 here.
Hamilton Khaki Field
The Hamilton Khaki Field is simply one of the best affordable everyday watches. It’s my personal everyday wear, one that I know I can always throw on, no matter the occasion, and it will never look out of place.
The mechanical variant uses a hand-wound movement that is powered by winding and rotating the crown, while the automatic variation can also be charged by simply wearing it on your wrist.
It houses a high-tier Swiss mechanical movement, which is typically not seen in such affordable watches. The movement inside the Khaki Field is fully automatic, meaning no batteries are needed to charge it.
It’s a simple and classic, military field watch design that pairs well with just about any outfit.
The sapphire crystal is highly scratch resistant. Wear and tear doesn’t show easily on this watch. This is great if you’re somebody who is active, works with their hands, or often participates in recreational athletic activities.
Thanks to its Swiss movement, brand heritage, and overall build quality, the Hamilton Khaki Field is a watch that competes with watches that costs thousands of dollars. But you can often find it for a fraction of that cost. Best of all, it will never need a battery.
Check out the Hamilton Khaki Field on Amazon.
If you’re someone who prefers a more simple and elegant dress watch, the Orient Bambino is the one for you.
It uses an Orient Caliber 48743 automatic movement that doesn’t use any batteries and is built by Orient themselves. It’s unusual for a brand to design and manufacture its own movements, especially at this price point!
It has a classic and timeless design with a bit of a dressy appeal, making it a great watch if you’re someone who works in an office. But it still looks great on the weekend with a t-shirt and jeans.
It has a domed acrylic crystal that isn’t the most scratch resistant (the sapphire crystal on the Hamilton Khaki Field is better for that), but the distortion that the domed acrylic crystal provides adds an interesting visual element and is reminiscent of vintage watches.
It’s a slightly larger dress watch, measuring 41 mm, which gives it a bit more wrist presence and looks a bit more modern than some smaller watches. Still, it looks great on a variety of wrists.
The Orient Bambino is one of the best affordable dress watches. simple, sleek, and one of the cheapest watches on this list. Don’t let the low price fool you—this is one heck of a watch. And because of its automatic movement, it can operate completely without a battery.
There are a wide variety of styles and colors to choose from. Check out the Orient Bambino on Amazon.
Tissot PRX Powermatic 80
Tissot took the watch world by storm when they released the PRX Powermatic. The watch has an industrial look that is extremely popular in luxury watches from some of the top watchmakers such as Patak Philippe and Audemars Piguet. But, the PRX is a fraction of the price.
Under the hood is the impressive automatic Powermatic 80 movement. While other affordable watches tend to ignore how the movement looks to cut costs, this one is surprisingly well decorated and can be seen through the see-through case back. It’s a bit of a novelty, but an enjoyable one, to be able to see how your watch is being powered without a battery. Best of all, this one can run for up to 80 hours when fully wound.
The watch has a retro, geometric styling throughout the case and an integrated bracelet. Speaking of which, it’s rare to find a solid metal bracelet at this price point, but I find this one to be extremely lightweight and comfortable, thanks to the way it tapers toward the clasp. You can tell Tissot put lots of thought into the design, and for good reason, the bracelet is designed to perfectly match the case, so you likely won’t be swapping it out any time soon.
Note: There is a different version of the PRX that is powered by a battery, so be sure to pick the Powermatic version if you want one that isn’t. You can easily tell them apart since the batteryless version has the waffle dial, and the quartz version does not. Sure, the Powermatic is a bit more expensive but well worth it.
Seiko 5 Sports GMT
Seiko changed the game when they released the Seiko 5 GMTs, some of the most affordable, batteryless GMT watches ever made.
A GMT watch has an extra hand, and a 24-hour bezel to track another time zone simultaneously while tracking your own. This is perfect for travelers, or those who have family or coworkers in another time zone.
Watches this complicated are typically much more expensive, but Seiko invented their very own movement, the 4R34 for this watch. It’s an automatic movement with an extra module added for the GMT.
But the watch isn’t just a functional tool. It also looks and feels great on the wrist. My personal favorite is the SSK003 I own, nicknamed the blueberry for its blue/black dial and bezel. There are two other variations, an orange and black/grey, so there’s certainly one to fit your style.
The Orient Kamasu is a gorgeous-looking Japanese dive watch that punches way above its price point.
With a sunburst dial that changes based on the lighting conditions you’re in, the watch always keeps your attention, and looks like a slightly different color each time you look at it.
Being a dive watch, the Kamasu is nearly waterproof dive watch with 200m water resistance. Shower, swim, or even dive with it, without water getting inside of it.
Further, the dive bezel allows you to time just about anything in up to 60 minute increments. Perfect for timing that pizza you just threw in the oven, or for timing how much Chronometer Check you read today (I appreciate your support 😉).
It has a sapphire crystal that is nearly scratchproof, so no need to stress over wear and tear on this watch.
The Orient Kamasu comes in a wide range of interesting color schemes that you don’t typically see in automatic watches, such as blue/gold, red, black/gold, and teal.
This is the perfect everyday watch for someone who wants something interesting looking, yet durable and tough enough for everyday situations, making the Kamasu the perfect affordable one-watch collection.
Seiko 5 Sports “5KX”
The Seiko 5 Sports divers are affordable automatic watches with 100 meters of water resistance. This makes them great everyday watches, more than suitable for swimming in a pool, or at the beach. Based on one of Seiko’s most legendary dive watches, the SKX, these new models, nicknamed the “5KX” as a result, have modernized their styling.
The movement inside is Seiko’s 4R36, an automatic movement that doesn’t require a battery to run, and has a few nice bells and whistles. Hacking allows you to pull the oversized crown out to stop the second hand, so you can more accurately set the time. Hand-winding allows you to wind the mechanical movement by hand when you want to quickly give it some extra juice, without having to flail your wrist around like you’re doing a new Fortnite dance.
At 42mm they have some nice wrist presence, but their condensed lug-to-lug makes them still a suitable size for just about any wrist.
The Citizen Promaster is an amazing dive watch. It has a 200-meter water resistance, which means it is suitable for swimming, showering, or even diving without water damage.
The Promaster uses an automatic movement that doesn’t need a battery to function. There is also an Eco-Drive version that is solar-powered.
It’s made of high-quality 316L stainless steel and is extremely durable. This is a great outdoors and physical activity watch.
It also has a “dive bezel” which is the ring around the watch. Traditionally, this was used by divers to time the amount of oxygen left in their air tanks. However, you can really use this to time anything you want in your day-to-day.
I use the dive bezel on my dive watches to time a variety of things, including cooking, workouts, etc. It’s extremely functional, and I find myself missing it when I’m wearing a watch that doesn’t have this feature.
The Promaster comes in a wide variety of colors to suit your preferences. Green, Black, Pepsi (red/blue), you name it.
If you want a batteryless dive watch that has been around for a long time and holds up to the test of time, the Citizen Promaster is a classic choice for athletic or casual wear.
Check out the Citizen Promaster on Amazon.
The Vostok Amphibia is a tough Russian watch that was once issued to the Russian military.
Featuring an automatic mechanical movement, you can power this watch by wearing it on your wrist, or simply by winding it.
It has 200 meters of water resistance and is a dive watch. It’s rare to find a watch with such strong water resistance at this price. Other watches usually have 100 meters, or less, which may not be as suitable for taking in the water.
The domed acrylic crystal on the Vostok Amphibians is one of their coolest features. It comes up and above the watch to form a “dome” and distorts your view of the watch just enough to add an interesting visual dynamic.
While not the most scratch-resistant type of crystal, they certainly look the best, in my opinion. Any scratches are also very easily buffed out with a bit of Polywatch, or even a little dab of toothpaste.
Domed acrylic crystals are typically seen in vintage watches, or dress watches, so it’s cool to see it in a modern (vintage-inspired) diver.
Vostok Amphibias come in a wide variety of unique and interesting designs. The Vostok Amphibia I own has a “scuba dude” on it. Other variations of the Amphibia have boats, military ships, parachutes, etc. Where else can you find such quirky and interesting designs on a watch for under $100?
My Amphibia has been on so many adventures with me. It’s my go-to beach watch. It has taken so much abuse, and has nothing but a few scuffs and scratches to show for it. I’m convinced it’s actually indestructible.
If you want a retro-looking dive watch that was once used by the Russian Military and is built like a tank, the Vostok Amphibia is for you.
Check the Vostok Amphibia out on Amazon here.
Famously featured in the movie Interstellar, the Hamilton Murph has always been a hit with both the movie crowd and watch enthusiasts. The original version, however, at 42mm in diameter, felt a bit too large for most. The dial had too much negative space and felt disproportionate. Many loved the idea of the watch more than they enjoyed wearing it.
That all changed when, recently, Hamilton released a 38mm version of the Murph!
Now in a much more wearable package, the Murph has an impressive H-10 Swiss automatic movement which can be powered for up to 80 hours when fully wound. The watch also has a sapphire crystal which is extremely scratch resistant, and 100 meters of water resistance, making this a great daily wear.
Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80
Tissot is often brought up in conversations regarding the best entry-level Swiss watch brands. Swiss-made watches are typically seen as the “best of the best”.
While that’s not always the case, Tissot is certainly one of the great brands of our time.
The Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 is an automatic watch that looks simply stunning.
It has a subtle texturing on the dial that adds some visual interest to a relatively simple watch. The roman numeral hour markings really give the watch an elegant look and feel.
It’s a great dress watch. Perfect for the office, interviews, holidays, weddings, or any other special occasions you can think of.
Of course, you can also wear it with jeans and a T-Shirt, and it will still look just as sharp.
The Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 is a great swiss watch on a budget. While swiss watches this affordable are often hard to come by, the Le Locle comes at an affordable price tag without sacrificing in quality. Best of all, the automatic movement does not require a battery.
Check out the Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 on Amazon.
Ahhh, the Tissot Visodate. Whenever I see one, I instantly think of cool sunglasses and muscle cars. Probably due to the racing-inspired font that the “Tissot” branding reads on this watch.
The Visodate is a very simplistic and subdued watch. Featuring a glossy all black or white dial, depending on which version you pick. I like that the minimal dial doesn’t try to impress you with fancy gimmicks, textures you’ll get sick of, or overly complicated complications, just for the sake of adding complications to bolster the specifications. Rather, the beauty of the Visodate is in the details and build quality.
From the way the hour markers are beveled to bounce the light just perfectly, to the twisted lugs at the end of the watch adding just a little extra bit of sparkle and character, that add some visual interest. This is a watch that might not instantly grab you with a “wow” factor, but one that you begin to appreciate more and more, the more you wear it. It can make other watches look like they’re trying too hard in comparison.
The Tissot Visodate is a dressy yet sporty watch that’s simple, legible, and pays attention to the finer details in watchmaking. This is the watch for someone who just wants a timepiece that you can wear every day, is subtle from afar, and yet rather impressive once you actually look at it up-close.
Check out the Tissot Visodate on Amazon.
Seiko 5 SNK809
The Seiko 5 SNK809 (full review) is a more rugged and tough field-watch variation of the slightly dressier Seiko 5 SNXS79 we took a look at earlier in this list.
It has bold legible markings for the hour and minute tracks, as well as a bright white set of hands that you just can’t miss.
This is a watch that is extremely legible, and easy to read, despite its rather compact 37mm size. In fact, this watch is so compact, this is the perfect watch for those with smaller wrists, or someone who just prefers a more traditionally sized watch.
Personally, I feel many modern watches have simply gotten too big. Nobody wants to wear a dinner plate on their wrist. The SNK, however, is perfect.
The Seiko 5 SNK series is the perfect size for my liking and will wear comfortably on just about any wrist, while still being easy to read.
All Seiko 5s run on an automatic movement with no battery. They’re all very durable, have a great in-house movement that Seiko makes themselves, and are known to last for a very long time.
The Seiko 5 SNK series comes in 4 different color variations, the SNK803, SNK805, SNK806, and SNK807 so you can add a bit of color to your watch box that might currently be lacking. The cream dial SNK803 is a personal favorite, but the SNK809 is a more versatile piece.
Check out the Seiko 5 SNK809 on Amazon.
Seiko Presage Cocktail Time
In fact, it seems Seiko has lately been shifting their prices away from such affordable models, charging more and more for watches without much improvement.
The Seiko Presage Cocktail time, however, is still a relatively “hidden gem” in that the price of this model hasn’t changed too much in the past couple of years.
It features an amazingly gorgeous and unique lacquered dial that is layered with multiple layers of paint to give it a unique shine that you just won’t find in any other watch.
While there is a version with a “power reserve” indicator, which lets you know how much charge your watch has left, I prefer the cleaner dial of the version without it.
Seiko’s automatic movement is built in-house, and is a really solid one. The 4R15 movement used in this watch is known to take a licking and keep on ticking.
It’s an automatic movement that is powered by motion, either wearing it, or shaking it. You can also hand-wind it if you choose. Don’t worry about over winding it either. You can’t overwind an automatic watch.
The Seiko Presage Cocktail Time is one of the most unique and best-looking dress watches on any budget. It just so happens to be extremely affordable, too. Best of all, Seiko makes very reliable automatic movements that don’t need a battery to function.
The Seiko Alpinist is another of Seiko’s not-so-hidden gems and is my personal favorite in my collection, bar none.
This watch is designed for mountaineering. It’s built tough for the elements, but it’s dressy enough for going out when paired with the right strap, such as leather. This makes it a great everyday watch, and one-watch collection.
The older Alpinist models were 38mm, but the newer models, such as the SPB197 I own, have been upgraded to a crowd-pleasing 40mm which I’d argue is the sweet spot for just about any wrist.
The movement inside is Seiko’s upgraded 6R35 which is one of Seiko’s better automatic movements, as it is more accurate than their entry-level movements, and has an impressive 70-hour power reserve.
The emerald green dial, as I mentioned earlier, is really something else. It’s a sunburst dial, meaning it changes color ever so slightly depending on how the light hits it, making it a very interesting-looking watch to wear.
It has an internal rotating compass that is traditionally used for navigating the mountains, but in everyday use is just a fun fidget toy. It has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and a 200-meter water resistance that makes the watch waterproof for swimming or diving. This watch is built tough and will survive just about anything you throw at it. It’s rare to find a watch that is built to these specifications, yet is still refined-looking enough to dress up when you need it to.
The Seiko Alpinist is one of Seiko’s most legendary watches ever made. If you want a watch that is built for the outdoors, has a unique backstory, and even has a unique color scheme, the Seiko Alpinist is for you.
How do Watches Run Without Batteries?
Mechanical watches run without a battery and are instead powered by winding the crown.
When you wind the crown of a mechanical watch, it tightens the ‘mainspring’, which slowly releases energy and power to the rest of the movement over time.
Automatic watches are simply mechanical watches that have an additional automatic winding mechanism added.
This automatic winding mechanism is powered by a weighted rotor attached to the mechanical movement. This rotor spins and tilts as you move the watch, either on your wrist, on a watch winder, or even shaking it in your hand.
The rotor then tightens the mainspring, just like if you were hand winding the watch yourself, except the weighted rotor does the work for you.
Automatic watches are very “set it and forget it”. You can throw it on your wrist without having to wind it up, and it will change throughout the day as you walk.
While all automatic watches are mechanical watches, not all mechanical watches are automatic. Though sometimes in the watch industry, the terms are incorrectly used interchangeably.
Kinetic watches are Seiko’s lineup of “self-powered” watches. For full transparency, Kinetic watches actually do have a battery. They are charged similarly to an automatic watch, powered by motion, except the kinetic watch produces electric energy instead of mechanical energy.
This electric energy is delivered to the battery and is essentially self-charged. The reason I included kinetic watches on this list, is because, while it technically does have a battery, they are self-charging and need to be replaced much less often than a battery in a traditional quartz watch. They are also not disposable batteries that you’d typically see in a watch. These batteries are meant to be changed a lot less frequently.
This is a great alternative to a quartz watch if you want something that requires a bit less maintenance.
Eco-Drive is Citizen’s solar-powered lineup. Charged by the light and the sun, Eco-Drive watches can be powered for up to 24 hours of use by wearing it for just 2 minutes on a sunny day.
Eco-Drive, like Kinetic watches, does have a battery. However, these batteries are meant to be charged and reused and are not traditional disposable batteries.
These are a great alternative to Kinetic watches if you’re often outside, in sunlight.
The one issue with Eco-Drive watches is that they can lose their charge if stored for up to 6 months in a dark environment. This will be quickly fixed when you take it out in the sun again, however.
The Final Verdict
Nothing is worse than opening your watch box for that special occasion, ready to pull out your favorite quartz watch, only to realize your battery is dead and needs to be replaced.
This is why watches that don’t need a battery are often worth considering. Mechanical and automatic watches run completely on power delivered through winding the watch, or wearing it on your wrist, respectively.
Kinetic and eco-drive watches have a special type of battery that doesn’t need to be replaced like a traditional battery in a quartz watch and are often worth considering.
Need help picking the right watch for you? Drop me a comment down below, and I’ll be happy to help!