The Best Affordable Watches for Grads or Dads of 2023

Giftable timepieces for the Dad or Grad in your life. From cheap to pricey.

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Recent grads will probably be hooked to their phones and other various technology for the rest of their life. A watch is a ticket to disconnect. You can go off on your own but know when to be back. Dads could use some unplugged time as well. And seeing those seconds physically tick by on your/his wrist might be a good reminder to really appreciate every moment. Afterall, Father Time is undefeated. Congrats to the grads, and kudos to the dads who didn’t just procreate, but are also working hard to be great fathers.


Timex Weekender 38mm Watch – $35ish

Timex Weekender 38mm Watch

Simple, cheap, and versatile. The model that basically re-launched Timex as a more fashionable brand some 15 years ago. 38mm dial diameter with a 20mm strap width. Know that the Weekender models are infamous for making a louder than average “TICK” sound with each snap of their seconds hand. It drives some people absolutely bonkers. But if you’re good with that, then it’s a cheap (very cheap) winner. The Timex Weekender is light, fun, and does its one job well: It tells the time.


Casio 200m Diver in Black, Blue, Green, etc. – $50 – $65

Casio 200m Diver

Review can be found here. Shown above on an aftermarket strap. Mentioned a lot on this site, and for good reason. Rolex looks on a top-ramen budget. For about $50 you get 200m of water resistance, a stainless steel case, and a rotating bezel which feels much more expensive than many other watches in the under $100 category. Even the stock rubber strap that it comes on is decent (soft-ish, not rigid plastic). Beat it up. It can take it. Lots of color variations to pick from.


Invicta Pro Diver 1953 Automatic – $108.99

Invicta Pro Diver Automatic Black Dial Men’s Watch 31290

Full review here. The new entry-level automatic dive watch standard. 40mm diameter is wearable by the vast majority. Seiko NH35A automatic movement hacks/hand-winds. 200m water resistance, screw down crown, fully brushed bracelet, and an exhibition case-back. And unlike the previous entry-level go-to (Invicta’s Sumariner homage) there’s no tacky logo engraved on the side. (That was a huge compromise with their cheap-sub imitator.) This one looks clean, classy, and is nice and comfortable to wear. Versatile too, as it can be worn with everything from a t-shirt and shorts, to a suit and dress shoes.


Orient Ray II Automatic – $155ish

Orient Ray II Automatic

There might not be a better bang-for-the-buck diver on the market. Automatic movement that hacks and hand winds. 200m water resistance. 120 click bezel helps keep track of elapsed time. Classic dive-watch looks. Not everyone will like the shined up inserts on the bracelet, but it’s more subtle than many other competitors. Full review here.


Orient Bambino V3 “Bauhaus” Automatic – $195

Orient Bambino V3 “Bauhaus” Automatic

Full review here. Looks substantially more expensive than its accessible price point. Simplicity. Lots of clean space. Domed crystal. In-house, automatic movement. Maybe the best looking under-$200 dress watch on the market. There’s just one small problem (for some). It’s 41mm. Which will fit most wrists just fine, but for those with slimmer wrists or those who prefer more classically sized dress watches, it runs a little big. Also, the strap width is a rare/odd 21mm width, which can make sourcing after market straps a little difficult. But the matte brown leather band it comes on looks great, feels good, and wears just fine.


Timex MK1 Mechanical 36mm Archive Field Watch – $199

Timex MK1 Mechanical 36mm Archive Field Watch

Full review here. 36mm diameter and 18mm lugs. Sticking true to it’s roots, this thing is powered by a hand-wound (mechanical) movement. It’s not quartz. And it’s not an automatic. This thing should go with all kinds of casual wear, and quickly become a daily partner for those who spend most of their time dressed down.


Seiko 5 Sports SRPE Gray or Black Dial Automatic – $220ish (depending on sales)

Seiko 5 Sports SRPE

Well executed simplicity. Diameter is a sporty but not enormous 40mm. It has a nice wrist presence but should look proportional on most wrists. The lack of a rotating dive bezel gives it a more subtle, almost field-watch like look. Sides of the case are polished but the top facing areas are brushed, which keeps any unnecessary glare and gleam down. Nice dial, great hands and indices, and (obviously) an in-house Seiko automatic movement beating inside. Doesn’t look cheap. Doesn’t feel cheap. And all of the little details add up to an impressive package.


Seiko 5 Sports Dive Style Automatic – $225ish (depending on sales)

Seiko 5- Sports Dive Style Automatic

The Seiko 5 Sports dive-style is basically a baby Planet Ocean for a measly 3% of the P.O.’s price. It’s easy to read, it feels rugged and well built, and the 42.5mm case brings some tool-watch “presence”… yet should wear great for most. The exhibition caseback shows off the hacking, hand-winding, Japanese-made 4R36 movement. Bracelet is terrific with its comfortable, brushed links (just the edges are polished) which avoids the jangly/overly-intricate/shiny “jewelry” look. 100m resistance is plenty, and while the crown doesn’t screw down, it feels incredibly solid. You have to play the sale game, but Macy’s and Kohl’s will run codes and promos every so often that drops these watches down to $200 – $225. Full review can be found here, and you can see it featured in our double time series here as well as here.


Q Timex GMT 38mm Stainless Steel Watch – $229

Q Timex GMT 38mm Stainless Steel Watch

Full review here. Demand for the hottest Timex in recent memory has thankfully cooled. At post time these are actually in stock. Swiss Quartz GMT movement. Details obviously inspired by the golden age of air travel. Also available in a cool black and blue option.


Orient Bambino Small Seconds Automatic – $235

Orient Bambino Small Seconds Automatic

Probably the classiest design Orient has come out with. Everything you’d expect from a Bambino. Simple dial. Domed crystal. And here, that perfectly proportioned and placed small seconds sub dial. Full review of the champagne dial, which is shown above, can be found here.


Citizen Nighthawk Eco-Drive – $239

Citizen Nighthawk Eco-Drive

Classic pilot watch styling, a GMT hand (so you can tell the time across separate time zones), and an E6B circular slide rule. Yes, a slide rule. Movement is Citizen’s very popular, very accurate, solar powered quartz Eco-Drive movement. The Nighthawk also features one of the best bracelets you can find on a watch under $500. It has solid end-links, and a very secure precision machined clasp with a diver’s safety on it.


Orient Kamasu Automatic Diver – $250ish

Orient Kamasu Automatic Diver

Sleek, a little mean looking, and there’s some toothiness to it. All combined into a medium sized (41.8mm diameter) package and swimming at a price that’s nowhere near luxury-brand “whale” territory. In-house automatic movement. Available in multiple colors including cool-green shown above. Full review here.


Dan Henry 1937 Dress Chronograph – $270

Dan Henry 1937 Dress Chronograph

Dan Henry is a brand that takes the good looks of watches from the past, then re-packages those styles in affordable timepieces for today. And they nailed this 1937 chrono. Art Deco inspired looks. 38mm case size. Tachymeter around the outer edge of the dial. Quick change leather straps. Seiko VK61 mecha-quartz movement, so you get the snappy feel of a mechanical movement at the pushers, with the reliability and affordability of a quartz chronograph. Available in a few different color combos, but the silver shown above with the sub dials at 12 and 6 really is something. Also shown at the very, very top of this post.


Orient Bambino 38mm – $270

Orient Bambino 38mm

A long awaited, slightly sized down version of Orient’s hugely popular Bambino line of dress watches. Been tough to find, but they’re currently in stock if you shop directly through the brand on their US site. 38mm case diameter. 20mm lug width. Exhibition caseback shows off the in-house automatic movement that has up to 40 hours of power reserve when fully wound. That champagne dial with the blue hands is one heck of an eye-catcher.


Timex M79 Automatic 40mm Watch in Gray and Green – $299

Timex M79 Automatic 40mm Watch

A exclusive version of their popular M79 automatic. Along with the sharp gray/green color scheme, it comes with a slightly different bracelet compared to the other M79s. Spendy for a Timex, but they sure got the looks right on this one.


Seiko “Cocktail Time” Automatic – $361.25 w/ SUMMER ($425)

Seiko "Cocktail Time" Automatic watch

A favorite of watch aficionados, this is the one with an almost iridescent blueish-silver dial. Case size is a pleasing for many 40.5mm, and the movement hacks and hand winds. The hands and indices look razor sharp, the case back is an exhibition style showing off the 23-jewel movement, and the slightly tapered crown has a classically styled Seiko “S” etched into it. But it’s the band that’s a deal breaker for some of us. Sure it’s pliable leather with a soft underside, and the blue accent stitching is neat, but the topside is a glossy patent leather. It’s easy to see what they’re going for here, but it just doesn’t do the piece justice. Looks like something they stole off a pair of 10 year-old’s dance class tap shoes. Yet a strap change-out is simple enough. Go with a black croc style embossed instead.


Seiko GMT Automatic Blue and Black or Black and Gray – $403.75 w/ SUMMER ($475)

Seiko GMT Automatic

Review here. Maybe the “it” watch of the last 6 months, although demand has cooled off enough and/or supply has increased that these are now relatively easy to find at authorized dealers. Diameter is a sporty 42.5mm (which wears more like 41mm), it has 100m of water resistance, and the caseback is an exhibition style so you can see the workings of the GMT movement. Movement hacks and hand winds, and while the crown doesn’t screw down, it feels nice and secure in the seated, waterproof position. Be patient, keep an eye out (we’ll do our best for you too), and you could score one for 20% – 25% off at an authorized dealer.


Lorier Neptune SIV – $499 (pre-order August ’23)

Lorier Neptune SIV

Full review here. Can you give a grad or dad an IOU for a watch that won’t be ready to ship for a couple of months? Seems a little weird, but if it’s the Lorier Neptune it could still be very, very well appreciated all the same. It’s arguably the best bang for the buck + best looking watch under five hundred bucks. 39mm case diameter leans classic but not tiny. Details like the big arrow hour hand and sizable crown are details gently borrowed from watches 10x its cost. Looks great on a NATO too.


Lorier Zephyr Automatic – $499 (pre-order for July)

Lorier Zephyr Automatic

Fire up the Duke Ellington tunes, crack open your copy of The Great Gatsby, and feast your eyes on Lorier’s art-deco-age inspired dress watch. Tonneau case shape, a 31mm width (similar fit to a round 35mm with a 42mm lug to lug case length), a guilloché dial, and a sapphire crystal. Powered by a Miyota automatic movement. Comes with both black and chestnut straps. Straps have quick change pins, so you can easily swap them out without a springbar tool.


Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm – $488.75 w/ SUMMER ($575)

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm

Another one for the outdoorsy/leans casual/rugged fellas. A classic field watch like this certainly does say “take me outside… please.” 38mm in diameter. Manual wind mechanical movement. 80 hour, yes 80 hour power reserve when fully wound. Full review here.


Baltic Bicompax 002 Mechanical Chronograph Watch – $595 – $625*

Baltic Bicompax 002 Mechanical Chronograph Watch

Full review here. Looks amazing, and if the Grad or Dad you’re shopping for (even if it’s you, especially if it’s you…) loves mechanical watches AND loves chronographs… then you know sticking to a realistic budget is difficult. Baltic is the answer when the question is “what’s a good looking mechanical chronograph for under a grand?”

*Note: Since Baltic is a French company that assembles and ships their watches from France, their prices are listed in Euros. At post time, the Bicompax was priced at €540 for a solid caseback, and €565 for an exhibition caseback. 


Hamilton Railroad Automatic 40mm – $615 ($945)

Hamilton Railroad Automatic 40mm

From Hamilton’s “Railroad” line. Currently on sale at Nordstrom Rack, so you know you’re getting the real thing. automatic H-10 movement with 80 hours of power reserve. Could be the last dress watch you ever buy. One of those looks that won’t go out of style… ever.


Hamilton Khaki Field 42mm Automatic – $573.75 w/ SUMMER ($675)

Hamilton Khaki Field 42mm Automatic

If the recipient prefers to dress casually most of the time, then this is a watch he could wear almost every day. Rugged. Dependable. Brown leaning tan strap pops next to that black dial. Terrific feel to the construction and finish. Also available in a 38mm size.


Mido Belluna Royal Automatic – $714 w/ SUMMER ($840)

Swiss made, cushion shaped case, “guilloché” sunray stamped dial, and an exhibition caseback that shows off an automatic movement with an 80 hour power reserve. That’s a LOT of watch for six hundred to eight hundred bucks.


Baltic Aquascaphe Classic 39mm Automatic Watch – $630 – $725ish

Baltic Aquascaphe Classic 39mm Automatic Watch

Full review here. The Baltic Aquascaphe is the rare social media favorite which actually lives up to the hype. Assembled in France, powered by one of Miyota’s hacking and hand-windable premium automatic movements (9039), and sized in a pleasing to many 39mm diameter. The case is a solid hunk of brushed stainless steel, but doesn’t feel clunky or cumbersome. The dial and bezel are simple, classy, and inspired by decades past without looking out of place in the 21st century. And the textured, “grainy finish” dial is a unique characteristic that’s not overdone or obtrusive. The total package combines for a less-fortunate (but still fortunate) man’s version of the Omega Seamaster 300. Base price gets you the watch and a tropic rubber strap. If you want the flat link bracelet (shown) it’ll cost you an additional €80. And know that the bracelet has brushed center links, but the links on the edges are polished. That’ll be a little too flashy for some tastes. Some of us are “all brushed or nothing” when it comes to watch bracelets. Also looks really, really good on a NATO strap.

*Note: Since Baltic is a French company that assembles and ships their watches from France, their prices are listed in Euros. Thus, the “ish” in the price shown above. 


Tissot Gentleman Automatic – $750

Hard to get more classic than that. 40mm case diameter is wearable by most. Swiss made. Automatic movement has 80(!) hours of power reserve when fully wound. According to the official Tissot site, strap has quick-release pins. That means if/when you acquire a black strap (also with quick release pins) you can have this as your one and only dress watch, since changing out straps on the fly to match brown or black dress shoes will be easy. Ships and returns free via Nordstrom.


Hamilton Murph 38mm or 42mm – $760.75 – $845.75 w/ SUMMER ($895- $995)

Hamilton Murph Automatic

For fans of the movie Interstellar and/or science and science fiction. It’s “a faithful recreation of the watch that appeared in the movie on the wrist of main character Murph. With the word ‘Eureka’ printed in Morse code in lacquer on the seconds hand.” Available in either the original 42mm (full review here) or in a recently sized down 38mm version.


Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300 – $1095

Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300

Christopher Ward is one of those rare brands that continues to develop their designs without destroying them with trendiness. Their new flagship Trident Pro watches are slimmer and more wearable than ever, are still Swiss made with Swiss automatic movements, and boast an impressive 300m worth of water resistance. They ship from the UK, so you’re on the hook for import duties (which aren’t refundable in case you decide to return the thing), but at least they’re covered by a 60 month movement guarantee. Available in 38mm, 40mm, and 42mm diameters.


Shinola The Monster 43mm Automatic Dive Watch – $1238 ($1650)

Shinola The Monster Automatic Dive Watch

Money. Lots of money. But… Assembled in Detroit. Swiss made, Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement. 300m water resistance. Sapphire crystal. Micro adjustable clasp for a precise fit. 12 o’clock marker is modeled after “the flag a boat flies when it has a diver down in the depths.” Trapezoid straight-up/60 min pip on the bezel is a nice alternative touch too, as is the “water drop” shaped lume blob on the seconds hand. This thing is the works. You’ll pay for it though.


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