Our Pick of The Best Automatic Watches Under $300 
James Elliott19 November 2020 | 7 min read
When it comes to owning watches, the engineering magic of owning an automatic watch has excited watch fanss for generations! Whilst a battery-powered quartz movement is not to be sniffed at, there’s something about the mechanics of an automatic watch that sets it apart.
Most automatic watches aren’t unnecessarily difficult to maintain either, with the simple task of a daily wind, coupled with the natural movement of the arm, all that’s needed to keep them going. You may think that this higher tier of engineering is reserved for luxury watches, but luckily, that isn’t the case.
In recent time, automatic watches have become accessible to every budget, with many manufacturers priding themselves on creating automatic watches which are highly accurate and feature premium specs without needing to spend big.
So, let us run you through some of our favourite automatic watches under the $300 mark and help you find the perfect automatic watch for you, without the need to break the bank!
- Fossil Men’s Townsman Automatic
- Seiko Men’s Seiko 5 Automatic
- Bulova Automatic Watch
- Orient Bambino “Small Seconds”
- Tissot Men’s T-One Day-Date
- Filippo Loreti Rome Rose Gold Blue Automatic
- Stauer Automatic Graves ’33
We start this roundup with a specialist brand in the budget market and that’s Fossil. Founded in 1984, Fossil were one of the first brands to rise to the top of the ‘fashion watch’ market but over the past 35 years have cemented themselves as a reputable watch brand in the budget market.
The Townsman range perfectly balances high quality specs and classic design to create arguably the perfect dress watch for those just starting out in the automatic world. Luckily, the range is very broad with over 10 different style options meaning there’s something for everyone.
The watch sits at 44mm, so quite large for a dress watch, and incorporates some great features such as small second and 12/24 hour indicators. But arguably the best part of this watch for anyone loving an automatic movement is the ‘open heart’ design. This gives a day-to-day glimpse at the wonders of the automatic movement in action.
If sports watches are more your thing, there aren’t many better known ranges in this price bracket than the Seiko 5 Sports. Seiko have a great reputation for making top-notch watches in the budget market, and the Seiko 5 Sports is the perfect one for you if you’re after an automatic.
This model comes in at 41.8mm, utilises a hardlex crystal and incorporates a day-date window into a simple sports watch design. The matte black dial works really well with the silver, digital style numbering and is all brought together by the lume-covered spear style hands.
As an automatic movement, it’s fairly comprehensive for the price, offering accuracy to -20 to +49 seconds per day, 40 hours of power reserve whilst beating at 21,600 bph. Whilst you can’t see the movement itself, it’s a solid addition to a sports watch that has everything you could want for under $300.
If you liked the look of the open heart Fossil earlier in the roundup you’re going to love this! The Bulova Automatic series are not only another fantastic budget automatic watch, but this particular model, 98A214, brings a fully transparent skeleton design to the watch dial!
And you’ll see from the picture below, this is going to allow you to see each and every turn of the movement inside the gorgeous gold/silver design combination of this watch! Many reviews love just marveling at this 43mm’s beauty both on and off the wrist.
Specs wise the watch also holds up in other areas too with a high quality mineral crystal protecting the intricacies of Bulova’s design! With this watch not needing to power any additional date or chronograph features, there’s a whopping 42 hour power reserve to ensure you’re keeping great time for longer.
For those of you who frequent the Watch & Bullion blog, you’ll know that when we’re exploring the budget market, we’re big fans of Orient. The Japanese brand have a massive reputation for making high quality automatic watches at bargain prices and this time is no different!
The Bambino is one of Orient’s most well known ranges, with the small dress watch, and it’s many variants, popular across the globe. Today we’ve picked out the Small Seconds model which takes the standard clean and simple Bambino design and adds a classy small seconds dial at 6 o’clock.
The 40.5mm watch also comes equipped with a leather strap and mineral crystal with the F6222 calibre movement delivering just shy of 48 hours power reserve whilst also powering a date window at the 3 o’clock position. We’d recommend checking out any of the Bambino range for a great sub-$300 automatic dress watch, but the Small Seconds gets the nod from us, and by many others too, as the best affordable dress watch on the market.
Whilst many watch fans will admire brands from across the globe, there’s something special about a Swiss watch. Whether that’s the assurance of high quality or just knowing that your watch comes from the birthplace of watchmaking, brands such as Tissot have the edge in many watch fans’ minds.
If you’re thinking the same, we’d absolutely recommend taking a look at the Tissot T-One Day Date. This watch sits right at the top of the sub-$300 range but is worth every penny! This is mostly due to the ETA Caliber 2834-2 movement which beats at 28,800 bph, has a 30 hours power reserve and whilst not quite a chronometer only has a daily variance of +/- 15 seconds.
Design wise, the watch comes with either a black of white dial and combines a patterned inner circle dial with an outer matte ring. It features day/date functionality, with full day shown across the top at 12 o’clock and the date window housed just above the 6 mimicking luxury watches such as the Hamilton Jazzmaster and the Breitling Aviator!
Filippo Loreti are a new Italian inspired brand we’ve been following in recent months due to their range of watches pairing high quality and low prices! They have some great automatic watches as part of their range, and we personally really like the Rose Gold Rome model.
The watch utilises the Miyota 8215 automatic movement alongside other premium features such as a sapphire crystal, date window at 3 o’clock and a genuine italian leather strap! The best part of this watch though has to be the design!
Combining a rose gold case with a deep royal blue strap and dial ensures this watch has all the Italian luxury you’d expect! Those who review the watch particularly love the central part of the dial which incorporates a lovely alligator-like pattern with the slender rose gold hands looking great over the top!
Note – As this is a special edition piece from Filippo Loreti, prices do vary depending on any sales which are being run. Prices do often dip below $300, but standard retail will sit slightly above.
Stauer are a brand not known by many, but they’re completely unique in what they do! Each and every one of their watches has a story and if you put a Stauer on your wrist, you can almost guarantee no one around you will have a more interesting watch.
The Gaves ‘33 is no different in that this unique and classic dress watch is steeped in history. Back in 1933, millionaire Henry Graves commissioned an 8 year long project to create the most advanced watch of the time. It later sold for $11m and then a whopping $23m at modern auction. With fear of this watch ending up in a private collection, Stauer modelled their Graves ‘33 as a homage to the classic piece.
It’s unique, rose gold oval face case, classically designed dial and functionalities for tracking day, date, month and day/night make it a really quite complicated piece for something well below the $300 mark! If you’re after a completely unique automatic dress watch, we can’t really recommend anything except the Graves ‘33.
That completes our roundup of the automatic watches we think are the top picks on the market today for under $300.
In truth, the range of watches from well known brands can be slim at this price point, with many more found if your budget can stretch up to $500. But, the ones which are here give buyers the opportunity to get their hands on some amazing, luxury inspired watches at an absolute bargain price!
And with that, we wish you happy watch hunting and we hope to see you back on our blog again soon for another article from Watch & Bullion.