7 Of The Best Chronograph Watches For Under $500 in 2021
James Elliott18 November 2020 | 7 min read
The market is packed with many different types of watches, ranging from timepieces to help track time at the deepest depths or just to keep you looking sharp in a formal setting!
But since the early 1800’s people have been fascinated with chronograph watches. The ability to measure time is useful in a wide range of scenarios from racing sports cars to simply timing how long your evening meal takes to cook.
There’s also the added benefit that adding chronograph features to a watch simply makes it look cooler too! The great thing about modern day chronographs is that they are super affordable, with many many watches under the $500 mark sporting highly accurate chronograph features!
With that said, let’s run through some of the best Chronograph watches on the market, under that $500 price point, to give you an idea of what’s out there and where the best bargains exist.
- Citizen Men’s Military Eco-Drive Chronograph
- Bulova Marine Star
- Victorinox Fieldforce Chronograph
- Seiko Men’s Solar Diver Chronograph
- Orient Classic
- Tissot V8 Quartz Chronograph
- Filippo Loreti Ascari Riviera Blue
We start this roundup off by looking at a classic style of watch in a military field watch. Designed to be simple in design but robust in their construction, field watches are popular with those who value functionality and ruggedness.
At under $500, and in fact under $300, there aren’t many better than the Citizen Military Eco-Drive. Whilst this watch is only 38mm, the fact it combines a matte black dial with large white numbering makes it easy to read with very little fuss.
The chronograph records up to 60 minutes, with a 12/24 hour indicator and date window also thrown in for good measure! As with all field watches, this watch is durable with up to 100m of water resistance, a hardlex crystal and a rugged fabric strap!
Best of all, this watch also utilises Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology which harnesses the power of light to keep the battery charged and the watch running for longer!
If you like military field watches that last absolutely ages and have a great chronograph, this is definitely a watch for you!
Moving away from the military theme and into more of a traditional sports/dress watch hybrid, the Bulova Marine Star is another fantastic choice! The great thing about the Marine Star is that it looks absolutely fantastic, with variants in both white and blue offering a style choice for everyone!
At 43mm ,it’s a fairly large watch that whilst you’ll know it’s on your wrist, doesn’t look too overbearing when worn. Functionality wise, it has a date window, offers up to 100m of water resistance and has a really intuitive internal bi-directional rotating bezel, which is controlled by the crown found at the 10’oclock position.
From a chronograph perspective, there’s a large sweeping seconds hand accompanied by 1/10th second and minute windows – all of which come together to allow you to track time up to 60 minutes.
Many reviewers also swap out the strap and put this watch on leather where it looks equally impressive and of course, functions just as well in all aspects! As versatile chronograph watches go, the Marine Star is right up there!
The Victorinox Fieldforce combines the best elements of both the Citizen and Bulova above to create a sports watch which incorporates some underlying military themes. The Swiss brand loves combining simple design with robust specs, and the Fieldforce does just that whilst striking similarities with much more expensive watches, namely the Tag Heuer Formula 1.
The large black dial is simple in it’s design but alongside the large numbering and lume speared hands, gives an impression of sophistication. Significantly, this watch incorporates a Swiss quartz movement, date window and a sapphire crystal all of which is good down to 100m of water resistance.
The chronograph provides seconds, 30 minute and hour tracking functions which are all supported by a tachymeter on the bezel! It’s no surprise this watch offers multiple functions given it’s made by the same company famed for their versatile Swiss Army Knives.
When it comes to watches under $500 Seiko are right up there with some of the very best! Whilst they do a range of sports and dress watches in this price bracket, it’s their diving range that is most famous and their Chronograph Diver is one we’ve picked out for today.
This 43mm piece incorporates the classic pepsi stylings, made famous by the Rolex GMT range, to create a dive watch that’s as nice to look at as it is to use. It combines a mineral crystal with 200m of water resistance and a solar powered quartz movement that just keeps on going, year after year.
When it comes to measuring time, the chronograph delivers second and minute tracking all the way up to an hour, with the added bonus of a 12/24 hour indicator. Of course with dive watches, a rotation bezel comes as standard giving another method to keep track of time.
If you’re looking for a sub-$500 chronograph to take diving to the depths, this one from Seiko may be just right for you!
Some chronograph watches run the risk of having a crowded dial, so if it’s simplicity and clean design you’re after, we’d recommend checking out the Orient Classic. Especially in white, the combination of the large 42mm dial, slender markings and minimalist chronograph features make this watch the perfect understated companion for the wrist.
This watch is more of a dress/chronograph hybrid rather than a sport/chronograph mainly due to the clean design we’ve just mentioned but also the stainless steel, thin mesh bracelet. Don’t be fooled though, this watch still packs a punch with a hardy mineral crystal and a high-spec Orient quartz movement delivering solid functionality.
The chronograph itself will allow you to track seconds and up to 30 minutes, with the handy addition of a 12/24 hour dial alongside a date window found between the 4 and 5 o’clock markers.
All in all, if you’re looking for a simple and clean dress watch with the added bonus of a chronograph, look no further than the Orient Classic!
Tissot are often cited as the entryway into Swiss watchmaking with the brand ensuring high quality pieces despite their budget price tag. The V8 Quartz Chronograph is a great way to get your hands on some Swiss quartz without breaking the bank, and this black model (T1064173605100) is one of our favourites.
The black PVD case brings a darkness to the watch design but is perfectly accented by the white marking on both the dial and the tachymeter ring. At 42.5mm it’s a hardy piece with some premium features such as a sapphire crystal and a synthetic leather band rounding the whole thing off!
The chronographs track 1/10 seconds, seconds and up to 30 minutes making it a super accurate watch for tracking short time periods. The watch also includes a date window at the 6 o’clock position which again given the black/white design style, blends into the dial seamlessly.
Filippo Loreti Ascari Riviera Blue
We finish up on a brand that some may not have come across but are a rising star across the globe and that’s Filippo Loreti. The roman-inspired outfit pride themselves on bringing watches to that market that are affordable but don’t fall down on quality. They say they achieve this through reducing the mark-ups seen in the prices of luxury brands.
The Ascari Riviera Blue is a homage to legendary race driver Alberto Ascari, and combines all the smooth design styles you’d expect from a premium race car. At 42mm, it’s a fairly standard size for a sports watch, but incorporates a premium sapphire/mineral blended crystal and a hybrid mech-quartz movement.
Chronograph features come in the form of a sweeping seconds hand, minute tracking up to one hour and a tachymeter bezel. What we love even more about this watch is the use of a light blue/steel mix which not only looks icy cool, but makes the chronograph easy to read when in operation!
Just because you’re shopping in the sub-$500 market doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a luxurious and fully featured chronograph watch!
Big name brands offer many watches which combine the power of a chronograph, premium build quality and, gorgeous design, on a budget everyone can afford. Whilst you’re always in safe hands with names such as Seiko and Tissot, some smaller brands such as Filippo Loreti and Orient offer great alternatives which may also help you stand out from the crowd.
If you’d like to read more about the best brands in the sub-$500 market, read our budget brands guide here but in the meantime, we wish you all the best with your latest chronograph purchase!