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When you can see the time clearly on virtually every device in your home or office, what’s the point of wearing a watch? There’s plenty to be said for adorning your wrist with one of the best men’s watches, from an added dash of style points to the ability to manage your time without being glued to your devices. When you perfectly match your watch to your outfit, you instantly signal that you’re a sophisticated man worth taking seriously.
There’s a reason clotheshorses obsess over the best men’s watches at all price points, from timepieces worn by screen legends like Daniel Craig (*ahem* Bond, James Bond) to affordable, everyday watches for the modern man. For our money’s worth (and yours), there are plenty of reasonably priced, stylish watches in the under $500 and under $2,000 price ranges. Because as much as we might like to drool over the most expensive watches in the world, we know that most guys are more likely to spend $250 on a Citizen watch than drop $25,000 on a luxury watch from Rolex or Patek Philippe.
To help guide your search, we caught up with a trusted watch expert to help steer you toward stylish timepiece heaven.
What To Look for When Buying a New Watch
There are several keys that stylish men everywhere should keep in mind when looking to upgrade their watch collection, especially in the sub-$500 category. Guys should shop closely and carefully, Blake Buettner, a watch expert and managing editor of the watch news site Worn and Wound, told SPY.
“Under $500, I’d be looking for something original, stylish and ergonomic,” he said, urging buyers to avoid knock-off watches. Buettner also encouraged buyers not to fuss over whether they’re buying quartz or mechanical movement (more on the differences below).
Buettner also said watch enthusiasts should look for “something that isn’t jumping on the latest style trend, so you know it will have some staying power in your collection.”
He explained that you could customize the watch further, noting that you can even swap out watch bracelets and straps with relative ease.
As watches climb in price — say, between $1,000 and $5,000 — Buettner also noted that enthusiasts and newfound watch fans should tread carefully and with a clear goal in mind. “Buy it for your lifestyle, not the one advertised to you. Buy to use, wear, and build experiences in rather than to merely collect.”
The beauty of the men’s watch world is options exist for every taste, purpose and budget. So whether you seek a sharp dress watch, a go-anywhere military watch or even a tried-and-true vintage watch, we’ve collected the best men’s watches for every type of guy below.
The Top Watch Trends of 2022
While great options abound in every category of watchmaking and at every price point, it’s helpful to know where the market is going before you invest in a new timepiece. Is it worth it to follow a trend or opt for the classics?
The watch world these days is about more than just traditional timepiece companies. Be it a fashion-forward clothing brand like Rowing Blazers teaming with Seiko or the ongoing partnership between menswear designer Todd Snyder and Timex, traditional menswear brands dip their toes (wrists?) into the world of horology.
In addition, we’re also seeing a lot of interest in vintage watches. Rowing Blazers now has a vintage watch section on their website, while sites like 1st Dibs have a vast selection of restored watches. Even J. Crew has a vintage watch shop stocked with enviable pieces. Elsewhere, we’re seeing more monochromatic timepieces hit digital and physical shelves (although shopping for watches online, primarily used and vintage watches, is another trend all its own).
A few years ago, bright colors and synthetic materials dominated the watch world as minimalist brands like Skagen, but in 2022, classic and darker colors were the most popular. Classic silver and brown-leather bands were everywhere. In addition, all-black watches were one of the biggest trends in the men’s watch world. Basically, as smartwatches become more ubiquitous, we’re simultaneously seeing a return to traditional styles and materials in the watch world.
Just check out these watches from SPY-favorite Timex. As a part of the Todd Snyder x Timex collaboration, this pick features retro Art-Deco styling. The second features an ultra-cool all-black design, which will go with pretty much any outfit or occasion.
The choice is all yours, but if you play your cards right, you’ll have a timepiece that’s both of the moment and built to last. Keep scrolling to find our picks for the best men’s watches of 2022, sorted by category and affordability.
For this list, we tried to select watches we think most men can afford, so most of our picks cost under $500, although we couldn’t resist including a few more expensive yet worthy options.
The Best Men’s Automatic Watches
If you’ve spent any time on watch forums, perhaps you’ve come across the debate regarding automatic versus quartz, or battery-powered, watches. Automatic watches harness energy from the wrist movements of the wearer, translating this into an internal watch movement that keeps your timepiece running smoothly and accurately.
It’s this mechanism that makes an automatic watch pricier than a quartz watch, and some swear only by automatic watches. It all comes down to personal preference, though. An automatic watch should be built with the proper movement (and most watch movements are shrouded in secrecy), all the better to maximize its longevity and wearability. The more you wear your automatic watch, the more accurate it’ll be. Here are some of the best automatic watches of the moment.
1. Tissot V8 Swissmatic Stainless Steel Watch
BEST AUTOMATIC WATCH OVERALL
Buying a Swiss watch doesn’t have to destroy your budget; it doesn’t have to be cumbersome or confusing; it doesn’t have to take all that long. If you want a no-fuss automatic watch at an agreeable price, the kind you can wear with everything from your best T-shirt and most comfortable jeans to a dress shirt, knit tie and soft-shouldered suit, look no further than long-running watch purveyor Tissot. This watch boasts durable, sporty and yet dressed-up stainless steel construction, plus a clean and crisp dial that gives it a more tailored look and feel. It’s also water-resistant up to 330 feet — suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not for intensive diving — so you can get plenty of real-world use out of it.
2. Seiko Automatic 5 Stainless Steel Watch
BEST EVERYDAY AUTOMATIC WATCH
Seiko hits on three key points we love when looking for our next best men’s watches. Affordability is crucial, for starters, and this stainless steel watch (which clocks in at around $200) is mighty affordable. There’s a reliability factor we appreciate, too. The stainless steel build should prove durable day in and day out. And there’s that all-important automatic movement, which should also prove long-lasting. Of course, the fact that you can wear a stainless steel watch with just about everything is just a bonus.
3. Vincero Icon Automatic Watch
MOST STYLISH AUTOMATIC WATCH
From watches to sunglasses, Vincero has a lot to offer. If you need an accessories refresh, they’re the place to go, especially if you want to save some dough. Enter the aptly named Icon Automatic Watch, which blends crisp lines with a striking green dial and a dependable stainless steel bracelet. Watch diameter is another important factor to keep in mind when browsing the best men’s watches, and at 41mm, this timepiece should stand out subtly and stylishly on most wrists without ever looking too big or too small should trends change.
4. Timex + Todd Snyder Marlin Date Watch
BEST CLASSIC AUTOMATIC WATCH
As promised, any time Todd Snyder works with one of his favorite brands, the results will be seriously stylish and worth checking out. If you know Snyder, you know that he’s tried his hand at working with legendary companies like Champion and Connecticut watchmaker Timex in recent years. The resulting collection never fails to impress us, especially when it comes to retro-inspired leather watches like the Marlin. This subtle, sophisticated timepiece has quite a few features under the hood, from a dressy 38mm diameter to a 21-jewel automatic movement.
5. Shinola Men’s Runwell Automatic Watch
BEST LUXURY AUTOMATIC WATCH
There’s a reason (well, more than one reason) that we anointed Shinola our selection for the best men’s accessories brand in The 2021 Man, our end-of-year men’s product awards. The Detroit-based brand focuses on fine craftsmanship and a perfect balance of rugged yet refined luxury. This attention to detail is best exemplified in lovely leather goods and even accessories for the home. But Shinola’s true calling card is the skillful art of watchmaking, which they get right every time. The Runwell Automatic is a signature timepiece for the company, with a dial design that’s versatile enough to wear out on Saturday, errands on Sunday and to the office on Monday. Because it’s an automatic movement, it’s pricier than some of the brand’s other offerings but worth it just the same.
6. Alpina Startimer Automatic Pilot’s Watch
BEST AUTOMATIC PILOT’S WATCH
The great thing about the best automatic watches across the board is that they can apply a precise, wearer-driven movement to just about any watch style. Take Alpina’s Startimer Watch, modeled after old-school pilot watches and now applicable and wearable in the wardrobe of any modern gentlemen on the move. The Swiss-made movement is among the best of the best, while the legible dial makes this an ideal adventure watch. The deep black dial and stainless steel and titanium band are also neat design touches that fall perfectly in line with 2022’s best watch trends.
The Best Men’s Dress Watches
Some watches are fit for work, others are fit for play, and some are best suited for when you’re dressed up sipping on an Old Fashioned. The best men’s dress watches are different from dive watches or military watches built for purpose and made to stand up to harsh conditions. Ideally, your dress watch of choice features a slim, not overly large or flashy, dial design and case.
Most dress watches also have a smaller case diameter, the better to stand out quietly and stylishly when peeking out from beneath the sleeve of your shirt cuff. Dress watches also possess an elegance in terms of the dial itself: Think clean lines or Roman numeral dial markings, the kind of small design flourishes that show you mean business. Additionally, most dress watches feature leather straps in either black or brown, so to nail the sartorial details that stand out to those in the know, match your belt and dress shoes (or your best boots) to the leather of your watch strap. Fear not, though; just because your dress watch looks expensive doesn’t mean you need to take out a bank loan to buy it. Shop now, accessorize accordingly and thank us later.
7. Bulova American Clipper Black Leather Strap Watch
BEST ICONIC LEATHER DRESS WATCH FOR MEN
Who better to take timepiece inspiration from than the suave and iconic Frank Sinatra? Bulova was his watch brand of choice back in the day (and he favored Jack Daniels whiskey, the classy guy), so you can’t go wrong with a clean, classic black leather strap watch for your most formal occasions. Like the watches we wrote about earlier, this timepiece features an automatic movement, which you can view through the open caseback. Best of all, it retails for under $300, allowing you to splurge on a cocktail or a steak dinner on date night (suited up accordingly, no doubt).
8. Citizen Eco-Drive Corso Leather Watch
BEST REFINED LEATHER DRESS WATCH
Bold elegance is the name of the game with Citizen Eco-Drive’s Corso Watch, right down to the embossed leather strap and contrasting rose gold dial markings. A small date window and Roman numeral markings at 6 and 12 o’clock provide a nice touch of upscale, contrasting design for subtle style. However, the real standout of this finely crafted dress watch might be Citizen’s famed Eco-Drive technology, which harnesses light from any source to power the movement within. It’ll be the talk of the town (or at least your next formal affair) if you decide to adorn your wrist with it.
9. Shinola Guardian Dress Watch
BEST MODERN DRESS WATCH FOR MEN
Shinola strikes again with one of the best watches for men to wear in 2022. With this Detroit-inspired dress watch on your wrist, you’re sure to make an excellent first impression. This watch is truly timeless (in terms of style, not utility). The eye-catching rounded square dial design stands apart in a crowded field of the best men’s dress watches, as does the visually engaging Dark Forest dial and British tan leather strap. So named for Detroit’s historic Guardian Building, it’s also a must-have for any major fan of the American watchmaker. Taken altogether, it’s a watch worthy of wearing to big meetings, date nights, elegant seasonal gatherings and nearly any time at all in between.
10. Daniel Wellington St. Mawes Rose Gold Watch
BEST MINIMAL DRESS WATCH FOR MEN
Daniel Wellington’s watches have been everywhere the past few years — and we don’t mean that negatively. Accessible style and luxury can be yours for under $300 with this understated, crisp, clean dress watch, and the rose gold-brown leather combination is one we especially love. When worn with a navy or charcoal suit, the watch is a statement all its own. Select from either the more old-school 36mm case diameter (about the size of a watch Don Draper might have worn) or the slightly larger (but not over-the-top) 40mm case diameter.
11. MVMT Rise Watch in Hustle Gold
BEST VALUE DRESS WATCH
We commonly think of dress watches as leaning more towards classic black or brown leather strap designs, but when done right — not too flashy, not too pricey — the best dress watches can offer a nice change of pace from the ordinary. Take this yellow gold ionic-plated stainless steel watch: Sure, it’s not 18-karat gold, but it provides a stylish, visually striking change of pace from your traditional leather dress watch. After all, leather watches sometimes aren’t the easiest to wear if it gets hot out. This watch offers just a bit of flair alongside other warm-weather looks in particular, like your best navy polo shirt and off-white jeans.
The Best Men’s Military Watches
Military watches are a fascinating addition to the modern world of horology, particularly given that they were first developed for the battlefield and eventually made their way into civilian life. They’re rooted in a history of functionality and duty, like men’s chinos and even the white T-shirt. These days though, the best military watches add a bit of rugged style appeal and that same spirited utility you need for days on the job and casual affairs.
Military watches usually boast a smaller case diameter and are accompanied by a fabric strap, typically made of tough nylon or similar materials. Military watches are also set apart by the fact that, in most cases, you can slip the watch strap through the underside of the watch, giving you more customization options with the same dial. This style is also known as a NATO strap watch, initially worn by NATO troops. There’s that field-ready history at play again. We would also consider the pilot’s watch a different kind of military watch, so we included one of our favorites below.
Get a military watch when you want a durable timepiece ready for action.
12. Timex Men’s Expedition Scout 40 Watch
BEST UNDER $100
Unless you want to dive into the luxury watch category, many of the best men’s watches come from a familiar brand: Timex. This no-frills tactical watch merges the fundamental elements of past army watches into a rugged design. Build quality is official with a brushed stainless-steel case, a hardened mineral crystal display, and one hell of a resilient nylon canvas strap. The quartz movement inside is trustworthy to keep you on track for appointments and other time-sensitive engagements. Unique details like the big numerals, large indices, and an Indiglo illumination make telling time simpler in dark settings.
When putting together the best watches for men, there weren’t many options at this price point. There are 23 other colors and styles currently available for under $100 on Amazon (with many options under $50) if you act fast.
Read More: Our Favorite Timex Watches for Men
Courtesy of Amazon
13. Jack Mason Pursuit Watch
BEST MILITARY WATCH UNDER $250
We’d also consider the pilot’s watch a worthy entry within the pantheon of military watches. They feature a history that takes flight, literally, as worn by pilots (like the best bomber jackets, for instance), but they’re now a valuable part of many a rugged, modern and stylish wardrobe. The best pilot’s watches are defined by their easy-to-read dials, sturdy construction — including, in this case, a stainless steel build — and pricing that’s more than affordable. Add a pilot’s watch to your rotation of the best men’s watches for the perfect blend of performance, substance, and utility.
14. VAER S5 Calendar Field Watch
BEST VINTAGE-STYLE MILITARY WATCH
If you’re seeking a modern service watch, then VAER is but one standout option in a crowded field. This particular timepiece nods to A-11 service watches worn in World War II and is characterized today by its clean, distinct dial design and a battery-powered movement that should last up to 5 years. It’s also suited for diving, with a water rating of 100 meters. On sea or land, this tough-as-nails watch is nearly unstoppable.
15. Bulova VWI Special Edition Watch
BEST HISTORIC MILITARY WATCH
Bulova takes it back a century with this homage to World War I watches, but this isn’t a piece you’d find in a museum. Instead, it’s an elegant yet dependable watch you wear in the real world, especially with a denim shirt and your best field jacket. The numerals and lettering on the dial are perfectly suited for the era, and the olive fabric strap also falls right in line with traditional military watches.
The Best Men’s Dive Watches
Are you hitting the water any time soon? Planning a tropical getaway or a more adventurous excursion? You need a dive watch on your wrist, simple as that. Dive watches are wearable in multiple situations, seeing as the (typical) use of a stainless steel bracelet and dial makes them more durable than most. But of course, dive watches are built with specific functionality in mind: Standing up to the pressures of the deep sea, mainly when worn for snorkeling, boating or, yes, diving.
Dive watches feature design details that’ll help you keep track of your depth relative to time (the rotating outer ring on the dial, known as a bezel, helps with this). Beyond that, the oversized links usually make it easier to strap on over a wetsuit if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty. But because this is 2022 we’re talking about, you’ll also see the one and only James Bond sporting a dive-style watch (albeit an Omega) with a suit.
How you wear your dive watch is up to you because these can handle just about anything you throw their way.
16. Invicta 8926 Pro Diver Automatic Watch
BEST DIVE WATCH UNDER $100
The Invicta 8926 spoils owners with the braggadocio that comes with sporting a luxury Swiss watch, sans the $1,000+ cost. Powering the watch is a Swiss automatic movement, which, if you know your horology, practically sets the bar for precision and performance. Even some of its unique details like the luminous silver-tone hands and markers and fluted crown contribute to the dive watch’s graceful presence. It’s also water-resistant up to 200 meters. Overall, it’s an inexpensive option you can comfortably sport at either a pool party or wedding.
17. Alsta Nautoscaph IV
Recognize the design of this watch? If you want to talk dive watches, it’s best to retrace your steps back to the iconic film Jaws since this timepiece is an update of the watch worn by Richard Dreyfuss. The watch bracelet is slimmed down compared to other dive watches, which feature horizontal links rather than the vertical bracelet link design. Remember the automatic watches we talked about earlier? This one features the very same type of movement. You could certainly say it’s the whole package.
18. Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver
BEST PERFORMANCE DIVE WATCH
Citizen’s Eco-Drive line has been innovative since its debut, converting any light into the ability to power its durable watches. These watches are naturally sporty and rugged, and this rubber-strap dive watch is no exception. A dive watch is convenient to wear while in the water since the rubber dries quickly once on land and can withstand submersion for long periods. Plus, Citizen has made sure this watch is ISO-compliant (suitable for diving), and it helps that the brand’s signature touches, like oversized hours and minutes hands, are easy to read beneath the surface.
The Best Men’s Smartwatches
Smartwatches might seem like an anomaly in your timepiece rotation, especially if you’re usually all about traditional watches. But bear with us here because the best smartwatches have become nearly ubiquitous, right alongside your iPhone and your iMac. (You know the brand you have to thank for that, right?) Today, plenty of old-school and time-tested brands are making smartwatches.
And it is like wearing a computer on your wrist, what with the ability to track health data, communication, E-mail and more. If you’re a busy guy on the go, the point is that a smartwatch can help keep you in line while looking great. Yes, surprisingly great. And lest you think you have to spend an arm and a leg, we’re also here to tell you that this year’s new crop of smartwatches is not quite the case. These are some of our favorites at the moment.
19. Apple Watch Series 7
BEST SMARTWATCH OVERALL
As much as it might pain Android lovers to admit, Apple clearly makes the best smartwatches in the world right now, and that’s been true since the company brought smartwatches into the mainstream. The newest Apple Watch, the Series 7, is a work of art you can wear on your wrist, with a ton of high-tech, smart features. Not only is this the best men’s smartwatch of 2022, but it’s also one of the best fitness trackers, too. The newly improved Apple Watch can take an EKG, monitor your heart rate and measure your blood oxygen levels.
20. Fossil Sport Smartwatch (Gen 4)
BEST SMARTWATCH UNDER $200
Since entering the smartwatch space, we’ve seen Fossil drop some chic, high-tech selections. Despite receiving a generous price drop, the Sport Smartwatch is still a capable smartwatch that offers a lot of bang for the buck. It works with iOS and Android devices, so users can stay connected to their smartphones and receive notification alerts via gentle buzz. Powering the watch is a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip that delivers lag-free performance. What you’re really paying for is its sporty look, as illustrated by the aluminum bezel and swim-proof silicone band. You can kit it out with different straps to personalize your look.
21. Timex Metropolitan Leather and Silicone Watch
BEST VALUE SMARTWATCH
Smartwatches don’t have to look like something too futuristic or out of this world. Sometimes, a great smartwatch blends the best of both worlds, as in this surprisingly stylish leather and silicone watch from affordable watch purveyors Timex. The key is the strap, which looks on the surface like a smart leather strap but is, in fact, overlaid atop a more customary silicone strap. The rest of the watch is as performance-minded as it gets. The Timex Smart design system provides a wide range of capabilities, including activity tracking, GPS, and multiple workout modes.
22. Citizen CZ Smart HR Stainless Steel Smartwatch
BEST STAINLESS STEEL SMARTWATCH
If your first thought in terms of smartwatches was the Apple Watch and not necessarily a timepiece with a more traditional design, think again. Citizen turns its watchmaking prowess towards the tech-heavy category with a timepiece that replaces dual chronographs (like mini-clocks to count smaller time units) with two activity tracker dials. It’s an elegant touch and gets even better when you realize the watch includes touchscreen capability and a cool all-black design.
23. Skagen Connected Smartwatch
MOST STYLISH SMARTWATCH
Skagen dove into the world of style and smartwatches headfirst, adding a tech-savvy focus to its collection of minimal, cleanly designed watches for the modern man. The Connected Smartwatch tracks your heart rate and activity, of course, but also features a genuine leather strap backed by silicone. It’s a nice gesture at the intersection of modern technology and classic style, and you get it all for well under $250. It was an easy choice with a sleek and contemporary design when selecting the best men’s watches of 2022.
Also Consider: Men’s Vintage Watches (And One We Love Now)
There’s something special about a timepiece to call your own, one that you buy new and turn into an admired piece of your daily routine and your daily ensemble (and life’s special moments, of course). And there’s also something pretty cool about coming across a watch that already has that history and heritage built right in (think of the watch your father or grandfather cherished). Just as the market for online watches has boomed, so has the demand for distinctly vintage, pre-owned watches.
We mentioned earlier that shops like J. Crew are now stocking vintage watches, and they’re not the only location. If you happen to visit Todd Snyder’s New York City store (and visit it, you should), you’ll find a selection of covetable, drool-worthy vintage watches alongside the designer’s polished, rugged menswear goods. If it’s a vintage watch you seek, you’ve got plenty of places to find one.
Here’s the catch: Vintage watches are pricey, so it’s tough to find an affordable option. Without shelling out an obscene amount of dough, you might want to snag the below option. You can also check out our guide to Buying Vintage Watches Online.
Analog: Shift Vintage Elvia Watch at J. Crew
It makes perfect sense that the good folks at J. Crew would curate an impossibly cool, classic selection of vintage watches. After all, the brand’s wares have a timeless quality that never really seems to go out of style (look at its wide range of chinos in slouchy or slim fits, or its chambray shirts and henleys). A classic vintage leather watch is always a safe bet for pairing up with those style staples and for wearing anything else in your wardrobe. This rare 1970s watch from underrated watchmaker Elvia features a bold, rugged case design and a well-worn (yet still high-quality) look and feel. The key is the oversized steel cushion case, elevating the watch dial and bezel while providing sporty functionality. It’s worth investing in this one (or any vintage watch at J. Crew) ASAP.
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