Best Affordable Mechanical Watch Reviews

Updated February 2, 2021

Watches with a mechanical movement are desired by many watch collectors and enthusiasts.

The art of watchmaking was developed using mechanical movements and their production still requires craftsmanship and precision which is not matched by modern, mass produced quartz movements.

This level of quality and attention to detail does come at a price, which you can fully understand given the more sophisticated internal workings.

However, although the sky’s the limit when it comes to luxury timepieces, it’s now possible to find an inexpensive mechanical watch if you have a more modest budget.

We researched budget mechanical watches and were impressed by the range and quality on offer, from lesser-known brands as well as the well-established companies such as Timex, Tissot and Seiko.

A mechanical watch may use an automatic or manual movement, and whilst we’ve focused on automatic options for their convenience, there are also affordable manual wind watches available.

Read on for our budget mechanical watch round-up, and our choice of the best value mechanical watch.

See Our Best Cheap Mechanical Watches

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1 Timex - Men's Marlin Automatic 40mm Watch
Best Overall
Timex Men's Marlin Mechanical Watch
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2
Best For Higher Budgets
2Seiko SRP777 Prospex Mechanical Watch
Seiko - SRP777 Prospex Mechanical Watch
Best For Higher Budgets
Seiko SRP777 Prospex Mechanical Watch
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3 Orient - Men's 'Sun and Moon Version 2' Japanese Automatic Watch
Best For Low Budgets
Orient Sun and Moon Version 2 Mechanical Watch
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4 Tissot - Men's Gentleman Swissmatic Tissot Gentleman Swissmatic Mechanic Watch
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5 Dan Henry - 1970 Diver Mechanical Watch Dan Henry 1970 Diver Mechanical Watch
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1. Timex Men's Marlin Mechanical Watch

Highlights
  • Classic, timeless design
  • Exhibition back
  • 40-hour power reserve
  • 21 jewel automatic movement
Best Overall
Timex - Men's Marlin Automatic 40mm Watch

There is a classic feel to this timepiece, which is a refresh of a design developed by Timex in the 1960s.

Inside the case is a 21 jewel automatic movement, which can store up to 40 hours of energy (the power reserve).

Part of this movement can be viewed through the exhibition back, so you can admire the craftsmanship up close.

The face of the watch is simple and elegant, with a black dial framed by a gold bezel. The dial continues the gold accents with gold hour markers and hour, minute and second hands.

There is also a small date display window at the 3 o’clock position.

Thin luminescent strips within the hour and minute hands provide just enough illumination to read the time in darkness or low light.

The domed face is in keeping with the style, although we did find the acrylic crystal prone to scratches and thought mineral glass would have been a more suitable choice.

However, this isn’t likely to be a huge problem unless you expose this watch to some serious wear and tear.

Overall we thought this was a solid choice of mechanical watch for an affordable price, with the added prestige that it’s from a quality watchmaker.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 13 mm
Movement:
Automatic
Case Diameter:
40 mm
Watch Strap:
20 mm, Leather

Pros

  • Leather strap
  • Date display
  • Water resistant to 30m
  • Gold bezel, hour markers and hour, minute and second hands

Cons

  • Domed acrylic crystal face is prone to scratches
  • Fairly loud - but this is typical for an automatic movement

2. Seiko SRP777 Prospex Mechanical Watch

Highlights
  • Durable silicone strap
  • Unidirectional rotating bezel 
  • Day and date display
  • 41-hour power reserve
Best For Higher Budgets
Seiko - SRP777 Prospex Mechanical Watch

This watch is based on the design of a past Seiko classic, the ‘Seiko Turtle’, which was launched in the 1970s.

This modern incarnation has the same cushion shaped case as its predecessor, resulting in a chunky style with thick case and bezel.

The dial is black with simple stick hour markers, wide hour and minute hands and a slim second hand.

A generous amount of Seiko’s Lumibrite paint on the hands and next to each hour marker gives vibrant illumination if you need to read the time in the dark.

The illumination brightness is probably the best we found. The dial also has a day and date display at the 3 o’clock position.

The bezel has a black background with bold font marking the second intervals. A screw down crown in the 4 o’clock position is recessed into the bezel meaning it won’t snag.

You can manually wind the watch if it runs down beyond the 41 hour power reserve period, which is a more convenient option as you can wind it and set it before starting to wear it again.

As this is a diver’s watch, it’s fitting that the strap is made in a durable and robust silicone strap that suits an active lifestyle.

The watch is also water resistant to 200mm.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 13.4 mm
Movement:
Automatic
Case Diameter:
45 mm
Watch Strap:
Silicone

Pros

  • Lumibrite hands and indexes make it easy to read the time in low or no light
  • Water resistant to 200m
  • Screw down crown
  • Manual winding capacity

Cons

  • Case may look too chunky on smaller wrists
  • Some examples have misalignment of the bezel and hour markers

3. Orient Sun and Moon Version 2 Mechanical Watch

Highlights
  • Sun and Moon indicator
  • Separate day indicator and date subdial
  • 21 jewel movement
  • Face has a luxurious, layered effect
Best For Low Budgets
Orient - Men's 'Sun and Moon Version 2' Japanese Automatic Watch

You may not be familiar with the watchmaker Orient, but it has been making watches for over 65 years.

This Sun and Moon model shows that the brand produces intricately designed watches which offer something a little different.

The most unusual feature of the dial of this watch is the sun and moon indicator, positioned on the left of the face, which is recessed giving the face a three dimensional appearance.

The illustrations within the sun and moon indicator are elegant and a pleasure to look at. To the right sits a simple recessed day subdial, and finally at the 7 o’clock position is a date indicator.

It’s worth noting that we did find the day display a little fiddly to set up but the instructions will guide you through the process.

The face is a synthetic sapphire crystal which should be scratch resistant, although we’d not recommend using this dress watch for sports (or swimming, as the water resistance is 50m).

Fans of automatic watches may be disappointed that there is no hand wind option, but for the price this is an attractive and eye-catching piece.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 15 mm
Movement:
Automatic
Case Diameter:
42.5 mm
Watch Strap:
22 mm, Leather

Pros

  • Leather strap
  • Synthetic sapphire crystal face
  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Deployment clasp

Cons

  • No hand winding option
  • Day display can be fiddly to set up

4. Tissot Gentleman Swissmatic Mechanic Watch

Highlights
  • Made by Swiss watchmaker Tissot
  • Textured dial
  • Exhibition back
  • 19 jewel movement

Swiss brands such as Tissot have a long history of making automatic watches, and Tissot have themselves been watchmakers since the 1850s.

Their Gentleman Swissmatch is a simple and classic design, with a round case set on a black leather strap with buckle clasp.

Both the dial and bezel feature Clous de Paris, a pattern of raised squares that give a hobnail effect for added texture and interest.

The dial is black and uncluttered, with Arabic numeral hour markers and silver hour, minute and second hands.

A central luminescent strip on the hour and minute hands helps with reading the time in low light.

The numerals are quite dark, although in normal light they are clear and legible and the colour does help to simplify the face.

The only other feature on the dial is a small date display at the 3 o’clock position. The power reserve of 72 hours is one of the best we have found.

If you are searching for a Swiss-made automatic watch at an affordable price, this is a strong contender.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 12 mm
Movement:
Automatic
Case Diameter:
44 mm
Watch Strap:
21 mm, Leather

Pros

  • Scratch resistant sapphire crystal face
  • Water resistant to 100m
  • Date display
  • 72 hour power reserve

Cons

  • No features beyond the date display
  • Hour marker numerals are quite dark

5. Dan Henry 1970 Diver Mechanical Watch

Highlights
  • Inner rotating bezel
  • Black and orange minutes chapter ring
  • Limited edition (pieces are numbered)
  • Supplied with canvas and leather watch roll

The Dan Henry brand was established by an enthusiastic watch collector, which explains the vintage designs in their range.

This diver’s watch is, as the name suggests, inspired by the 1970s. It’s a limited edition piece, with the number of each piece engraved on the screw down case back.

Whilst we are talking about the back, you’ll also notice the unique embossed octopus.

On the face, the dial is simple at the centre, with blocky hour markers and chunky hour and minute hands, all of which are luminescent.

Even the slimline second hand has a small luminescent rectangle so it’s visible in the dark.

Then we come to the more unusual features, such as a black and orange minutes chapter ring and a 60-minute inner rotating bezel, which is controlled by the crown in the 2 o’clock position.

Our only complaint about that inner bezel and crown is that the crown isn’t screw down, so the bezel can move sometimes after being set in position.

The second crown, at 4 o’clock, is screw down and the watch is water resistant to 200m.

We weren’t too keen on the rubber strap, but this could be replaced, and we liked the canvas and leather watch roll supplied.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 14.8 mm
Movement:
Automatic
Case Diameter:
44 mm
Watch Strap:
24 mm, Rubber

Pros

  • Water resistant to 200m
  • 41 hours power reserve
  • Luminescent hands and hour markers
  • Screw back case with embossed octopus

Cons

  • Crown which controls the inner bezel can move slightly after adjustment
  • We would like to see a leather strap option

Cheap Mechanical Watch Buying Guide

Mechanical Watch Movement

A mechanical watch movement is a more traditional option than a quartz watch, which uses a battery. 

The production of a mechanical watch requires skill and craftsmanship, meaning that they are more expensive, but sought after by watch enthusiasts. 

A mechanical watch uses energy from a wound spring to power the watch. 

The energy stored in the spring is transferred through a series of tiny and intricate gears and springs, keeping the supply of energy constant. 

There are a few different ways that energy is created to power a mechanical movement. The oldest of these is a manual movement, where the spring is wound by hand. 

This requires the user to wind the spring at regular intervals. 

An alternative is an automatic movement. This option harnesses energy from the wearer, so the individual wearing the watch is providing the power for it to run. 

The mechanism inside the watch is very similar to one which needs to be wound, except that it has a rotor added. As the wearer moves around, the rotor spins and winds the spring. 

Materials

As watches with mechanical movements are more expensive, the most prestigious watchmakers can often use very luxurious materials such as platinum and gold, like a gold watch

However, we focused on the best affordable mechanical watches so the examples which came up in our research used the same types of materials which you’d expect with an affordable quartz watch.

Stainless steel is often a popular choice as it’s durable and hypoallergenic, and can be used for both sports and dress watches. 

If you are looking for a sports watch for an active lifestyle, you might prefer a material such as rubber or silicone. 

These can withstand knocks, are suitable to wear swimming and you don’t need to worry about scratches. 

Power Reserve

As we mentioned above, a mechanical watch works by transferring energy stored in the spring to power the movement. 

The majority of the pieces we reviewed had an automatic movement, which harness energy from the wearer. 

Of course, if you don’t move much whilst wearing the watch, the energy you’re feeding the watch drops. It also means that if you take the watch off, the watch has effectively lost its energy source. 

This is where the power reserve of a watch is important. The power reserve dictates how long a watch can keep functioning with a fully wound spring before it needs an energy top up. 

You can think of it in the same way as the gas tank for your car – once the tank is empty you’ll need to refill it to get the car running again.

The power reserve of a mechanical watch can vary significantly between different models. Generally, the longer the power reserve the better. 

If the watch stops completely, you’ll need to reset the time and possibly the day and date displays if your watch has them. 

It’s not a huge deal, but it’s easier if you don’t need to do it too often. 

Pricing Range

Watches with a mechanical movement can come with a considerable price tag. 

At the top end of the market, they can stretch to thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. There is a level of detail in the production that prevents a mechanical watch from being as cheap as a quartz watch, but there are affordable options out there if you have your eyes set on a mechanical choice.

In our search, the lowest priced options were around $200, though it may be possible to find the odd bargain for less. 

When you move up to $300 the options widen, and you can definitely find a good model from a well-regarded watch makers for under $500.

Our Verdict

Our research revealed an encouraging variety of mechanical watches at an affordable price point, meaning that whatever your taste, you should be able to find a watch to suit you.

Our Best Entry Level choice is from a lesser-known maker; Orient. The Orient Sun and Moon Version 2 Mechanical Watch blends an attractive and unique design with a solid performance.

The layered dial with a sun and moon indicator, day subdial and date indicator feels far more luxurious than the modest price tag.

The Best Top of the Range choice is produced by Seiko, a more recognised brand. Their Seiko SRP777 Prospex Mechanical Watch updates their design classic, the Seiko Turtle, and features well-considered details such as a unidirectional rotating bezel, Lumibrite markers and hands and a 41-hour power reserve.

Also offering a refresh on a classic design, our Best Value choice is from Swiss watchmaker, Timex. Their Timex Men’s Marlin Mechanical Watch has a timeless look with a leather strap and gold bezel and detailing.

The fact that this watch was first designed in the 1960s proves the enduring appeal of the design.

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