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There’s an ongoing debate in the watch world that never seems to settle down, and it’s got to do with what really makes your watch tick, the movement itself. That’s why we’re here today to help you find the best mechanical watch to suit your every need. The debate boils down to the use of an automatic, or mechanical movement, versus a battery-powered quartz movement.
Befitting the name, the best mechanical watch is going to run its movement through the movement itself of your wrist and arm, and is thus more precise and frequently, more expensive. Mechanical watches are either manual-winding or automatic-winding, but plenty of brands use the term “automatic” (and automatic-winding watches are frequently more affordable than manual-winding mechanical watches) when referring to non-battery-powered watches. Manually-wound watches mean they need to be wound every day, or after periods without wear, of course.
A quartz watch, which is battery powered, however, is easier to develop and craft, thus the lower price tag compared to any type of mechanical watch. Both types of watches might look the same on the surface, sure, but there’s something to be said for the precision, the attention to detail and the oft-stellar looks that the best mechanical watch can bring to your wrist game.
Mechanical vs. Quartz Watches
In fact, there are some even cooler differences beyond just aesthetics — the movement of a mechanical watch is smoother and tends to “sweep,” while a quartz movement is often jumpier by the second, so to speak.
The difference is in the details in matters of style, especially as far as the best men’s watches are concerned — and when it comes to the most expensive watches in the world, the movements and small design features get even more complex. But you can get a relatively affordable, high-quality mechanical watch if you know where to look. Start with our favorite picks now.
1. Shinola Runwell Automatic
We can’t help but sing the praises of Detroit-based lifestyle brand and watchmaker Shinola, and we think you’ll feel the same way. The Runwell is a fan favorite (and a favorite of ours), offering a dressy-meets-rugged look on a leather band that will patina handsomely over time. The company calls the Runwell Automatic a “major evolutionary moment” for the brand, and it’s hard not to agree with that sentiment. You can dress it up, you can dress it down, it looks great at the office or at home, and it’ll run you a pretty fair price for an amazing everyday watch.
2. Timex Marlin Automatic Watch
Timex is all about value, and while its quartz watches will frequently set you back less than $100 while providing significant toughness, they’ve leveled things up with an automatic movement at a terrific value. The Marlin is dressy and subtle in terms of looks, yet suitable for casual ensembles, and it’s all built on a handsome leather strap with a contrasting dial. The real key here is the nicely sized 40mm case diameter, which looks great on most wrists. Best of all is the sub-$260 price tag.
3. Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Sports Watch
BEST STAINLESS STEEL
Stainless steel watches have a sporty, rugged appeal, with the ability to go into the depths of the ocean (or at least get a bit wet), while also providing a touch of long-lasting durability. A stainless steel watch is easy to wear from day to night, especially if you’d prefer not to wear a leather strap watch in the heat of the spring or under the summer sun. And beyond that, Seiko’s history of reliability and longevity in crafting standout watches at agreeable prices is nearly unmatched. This watch is the total package for guys who favor casual to “biz casual” style.
4. Fossil Privateer Sport Mechanical Leather Watch
BEST LEATHER WATCH
Although it really comes down to what’s inside your watch, it’s nice to know that brands are combining the sporty precision of a mechanical watch with the eye-catching looks and dress-ready potential that a leather watch brings to your wrist. Here, Fossil lets you in on its secrets, so to speak, with a look at the mechanical automatic movement right on the dial itself. The case diameter is sized at 45mm to really let the movement shine, while the black case contrasts nicely with the rich brown leather strap.
5. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze Watch
BEST FIELD MECHANICAL WATCH
Hamilton has hung its hat on making timepieces that quite literally stand the test of time, with a particular focus on field watches that can take a serious beating on camping trips, day hikes or long days on the road. There’s a reason they were trusted decades back by stylish guys in your family (and everywhere, for that matter).
The Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze uses a smaller case size (38mm) than other options here, while both the eye-catching bronze case and brown leather strap will only get better with age. The hand-wound H-50 mechanical movement is another brand signature that places this squarely in the camp of manual-winding mechanical watches — it could be the best mechanical watch you buy today.
6. Invicta Specialty Mechanical Watch
BEST EYE-CATCHING DESIGN
The point of the best mechanical watch is, at times, to really get a glimpse of the precision that goes into making such a delicate watch movement. Some brands do this by showcasing the movement in a clear caseback, but Invicta does so by using a front cut-out, or “skeleton” design. It’s incredibly affordable, it’s extremely cool to look at and it’s another hand-wound mechanical watch that adds quite the change of pace from your more traditional dive or leather dress watches. You can’t go wrong with that combination, in our book.
7. Tissot Heritage Stainless Steel Mechanical Watch
A great watch deserves to be worn on the daily, or at least, as often as possible. If your wardrobe tends toward, say, black dress shoes, grey loafers, tan suede shoes or anything besides brown leather boots, then this Tissot mechanical watch is the sleek, classic and slightly refined option to pick up now. The case is made from hard-wearing stainless steel, but the dial design is surprisingly crisp. The sub-dial at the 6-o-clock mark is a nice design touch, too, giving you a different way to watch the seconds tick by.
8. Montblanc Black 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Watch
BEST RUBBER STRAP WATCH
As you climb the ladder in the world of watchmaking, prices can get out of control quickly. And it can be tough to find watches that you can actually wear at high price points (in the thousands). Montblanc solves this problem with an outstanding watch on a tough-as-can-be rubber strap, the kind you can wear to crisscross the globe with ease. It clocks in at under $3,000, and again, it’s a highly useful, surprisingly elegant yet impossibly rugged watch you really can wear for days on end. The precise automatic movement is icing on the cake.
9. Bulova Hack Automatic Watch
BEST CANVAS STRAP WATCH
A well-rounded watch collection runs the gamut from stainless steel watches to dress watches to everyday, hard-working timepiece like this canvas strap watch from Bulova. It’s a nod to the company’s military heritage, celebrating durability and iconic styles, and it’s powered by a Miyota 8S20-43A three-hand 21-jewel automatic movement. What that means is that this mechanical watch is built to last, and it’s going to be able to stand up to any and all of your adventures.
9. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical NATO Strap Watch
BEST FOR ADVENTURE
Another day, another Hamilton watch? Absolutely. The Field Mechanical series is a tried-and-true move in a less luxe option than the Bronze build featured earlier, and it’s delivered on a much more outdoor-ready NATO strap that can readily take on day hikes and camping trips. In fact, wherever you go, this durable Hamilton watch provides both precision and toughness, a hallmark of Hamilton’s mechanical watches. The dial design is clean and easy to read, and the Swiss mechanical movement delivers on all fronts.
10. Tom Ford 002 Ocean Sport Automatic Watch
When Tom Ford sets his mind to do something, be it getting into denim or making sunglasses worn by James Bond, he gives it his all. That’s the case with this remarkable, sustainable and stylish mechanical watch, available with a visually striking strap and a bold dial calling out the designer’s name himself. The best part? It’s made from sustainable ocean plastic repurposed into quite the lightweight, stylish and well-made watch. Wear it as often as you can: It’s what Tom Ford himself would want.
11. IWC Schaffhausen Mechanical TOP GUN Pilot’s Watch
Granted, every watch worth its purchase price should be the kind you can take out into the real world, but it’s rare to find a pilot’s watch made with such a luxurious approach, right on down to the durable design and the remarkable mechanical movement. They’ve cut no corners with this mechanical watch, using a ceramic case and a rugged NATO strap. Within, you’ll find the highly impressive Swiss-made calibre 32110 automatic movement, the kind IWC specializes in. The ultimate effect is the right blend of rugged luxury and timeless style — and you can wear it from date to night, rather than keeping it in a display case.
12. Nixon Supremacy Mechanical Watch
If affordability is what you seek — plus a blend of hard-wearing style and an accessible, luxurious look — Nixon is where you need to be. This mechanical watch is the rare Nixon watch that retails for over $1,000, with the specs to back it up. The dial design is eye-catching, the Swiss-made automatic movement is as good as it gets, and the slimmed-down steel link bracelet is surprisingly sporty and distinctive. If you want to add some color to your rotation, this is one of the best mechanical watches to buy right now.