We know just as well as you do, that the world of watches goes deep and it can be overwhelming to get into. Of course, the first step is showing interest, but even more tricky is the second step — picking out your very first mechanical timepiece. There are a few main types of movements: mechanical (automatic or hand-wound), quartz (powered by a battery) and digital (usually featuring an LCD display). While quartz and digital have their places, it’s hard to top the idea that you have a tiny precision machine strapped to your wrist that’s powered by the movement of your body. Mechanical movements are built to last a lifetime (with regular service) and can be simple as a three-handed movement (hours, minutes, seconds) or as complicated as a three register chronograph with a perpetual calendar with moon phase display. Today, we’re exploring five of our favorite picks that are ideal for your first mechanical watch — stylish, feature-packed, and sub-$500. Let’s dig in!
Citizen watches are a great place to start for beginners, and their new Tsuyosa model brings a ton of features to the table for just $450. This watch features an integrated stainless steel bracelet, a design in which the case and bracelet flow into each other as one. The watch has a Miyota 8210 automatic winding movement inside that will run for 42 hours when fully wound. You’ll appreciate the premium case finishing, with a mix of brushed and polished surfaces, along with the sunburst dial and lume-filled applied indices. Measuring in at 40mm, the case is well-suited for a wide range of wrist sizes too.
Timex Giorgio Galli S1 Automatic
If you’re looking for something a little different, the S1 from Timex is a great option to get into the world of automatic watches. The case features an almost architectural design, with cut outs in the lugs and along the side of the watch. Brushed and polished finishes highlight the design features of the case, while a subdued sunburst dial provides a handsome backdrop for the hands. On the right side of the 38mm case, a textured crown makes manipulating the time an easy task. Inside, an automatic winding Miyota 9039 keeps the time with a high degree of accuracy.
Laco Ausburg 39
Founded in 1925, Laco is one of the original manufacturers of German Flieger watches. Featuring a classic Flieger-style design with a bold, legible dial, the watch is easy to read in all conditions. A pair of sword-shaped hands points to the time and glows through the night thanks to a healthy application of luminous paint. The 39mm case is crafted from stainless steel and features 5 ATM of water resistance. Powering the watch is a Miyota 821A automatic winding movement that’s well-regarded for its reliability and rugged construction. If you want something with a little history behind it, the Laco is a great option.
Marathon General Purpose Mechanical
Built as a companion for infantry units in the field, Marathon’s General Purpose Mechanical watch is tough and straight to the point. A 34mm composite case houses the Seiko NH35 movement inside. Up top, a sapphire crystal protects the dial, which features gas tritium tubes on the hour markers and hands. These tubes hold a very small amount of radioactive gas that glow in the dark without needing exposure to light like traditional lume. The “dual winding” movement can be manually wound via the crown to get it started and topped off by the movement of your wrist.
Timex M79 Automatic
The M79 is an ideal candidate for a first automatic watch — it checks off so many boxes while remaining stylish all the way. Similar to the extremely popular “Q” model, the M79 borrows many of the features that made it so popular. The barrel-shaped case is an ideal candidate for a mixture of finishing techniques and sharp edges. Miyota’s automatic movement inside features 21 jewels, a 42-hour power reserve, and a quick set day/date feature. The M79 features a two-tone timing bezel and vintage-colored lume on the dial. It’s handsome, packed with features, and at just under $300, an excellent value as well.
Honorable Mention: Seiko Presage “Style60s”
Okay, we’re just $25 over budget, but the Seiko Presage Stlye60s is too good to not at least give a mention to. This watch from Seiko strikes the perfect balance between dress and sport. It features polished, applied markers that lean dressy, but feature luminous paint to add a touch of sportiness. The Style60s features 50 meters of water resistance and a timing bezel that’s great for keeping track of everyday tasks. Seiko’s own 4R35 movement inside winds up via an automatic rotor and will stay running for 40 hours on a single wind.