Hello everyone! Today, we’re going back to where Wah so Shiok first started – writing articles on the best watches under a certain price point. When I started this as a personal blog, way before all the review articles, my first article was about the best watches under $300. It’s been quite some time since I did an article like that, so I figured today I will go back to my roots, and write an article on the best watches that you can find under $500!
Brand you should avoid – “Fashion” brands like Armani, Michael Kors, etc
$500 is quite a significant sum of money. For that amount, you should be getting a well-made watch that’s built to last. Fashion brands like Armani, Michael Kors, etc aren’t one of them.
Build-quality wise, these watches tend to only be slightly better than the nondescript ones you can find on Aliexpress. Almost always, you’re gonna find a cheap quartz movement, mineral crystal, and a low-quality leather/metal strap. Let’s be honest – the only aspect that makes people buy the watch at $500 is the brand name on the dial. If you’re a superficial brand chaser, who love to boast that he has a Armani/Michael Kors/Gucci/Coach/Burberry watch, sure – go ahead and purchase one. If you have an ounce of depth and taste, there are far better options at $500 price range! (As I’m now going to show you below)
Best watches under $500
1) Orient Sun and Moon 3
Firstly, I recommend the Orient Sun and Moon 3. Orient has always been my go-to recommendation for affordable automatics (I think the Bambino is the best under $300 auto), and the Sun and Moon line is my favourite offering from them. Just look at the watch! Design-wise, it’s a showstopper. It features a center guilloche dial, outer indices ring that’s concentric, and a raised second track as well. You also have a day, date, and a 24-hour indicator shown through the beautiful “Sun and moon” face. I love the vintage vibe of the seconds hand too! All in all, this is a watch that’s full of contrast and depth, and it definitely punches above its weight. In addition, you also get an in-house hacking movement, sapphire crystal, and a alligator-grained deployant strap. Long Island Watch has it priced at $319 USD (~S$420) while you can also find Carousell listings of it in the low $400s.
2) Tissot Le Locle
If you find the Orient’s dial too messy, there’s always the Tissot Le Locle. A guilloche dial captures the eye, and those slender leaf hands are just so elegant. Perhaps what’s best about the Le Locle is it’s undeniable value. For less than $500, you get a Swiss-made watch from a reputable watch manufacturer (Tissot was founded in 1853!). Powering the Le Locle is Tissot’s Powermatic 80 movement, which is basically a lower frequency ETA 2824 that been modified to provide an astounding 80 hours of power reserve. A Swiss movement with 80 hours of power-reserve on a sub-$500 watch – that’s incredible value. Honestly, I find this a much better option than the majority of Kickstarter watch projects who flood this price range. Jomashop has the Tissot Le Locle listed for $339 USD (S$450), which in my opinion is a steal.
3) Apple Watch Series 3
Okay, okay, chill y’all. I can hear the watch enthusiasts yelling BLASPHEMY as they read this. Technology is disrupting every industry – watches included. The Apple Watch Series 3 alone outsold the ENTIRE of the Swiss watch industry (read about it here). Yes, Apple is now the biggest watch manufacturer, surpassing even the King himself – Rolex. There’s good reason why. The Apple Watch is probably the first smartwatch that gets a majority of its features right, and these features are arguable more useful than the majority of watch complications. Even for horological geeks, one cannot deny the benefits that a smartwatch offer. Just ask Ben Clymer of Hodinkee, or Jean Claude Bivet, President of LVMH watch division. For me, while the Apple Watch would not be my main watch, it definitely would be an useful addition to the collection. I can imagine myself picking it up when I want to go phoneless – out on a run, in the gym, or simply when my phone is dead. The smartwatch is definitely a trend that’s here to stay, and so far, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first one to get the most of its functionality right. Singaporean pricing start at $498, available from the Apple store.
For $500, there’s a lot of places where you can go wrong. Don’t be fooled by designer or “luxury” branded watches. Stick to traditional watch houses like Orient and Tissot that offer timeless design and solid build quality. The sole exception is Apple, who though not a traditional watch manufacturer, is today the biggest watch manufacturer by both sales and volume.
Let me know what you guys think of my picks, and if you enjoy reading such articles! If the reception is favorable, I’m planning to do a “Best-under” series all the way up to $100,000!
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