Summer Beaters: 10 Tough Watches for Under $500

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Around this time last year, I put together our Summer Watch Guide 2014… So, I was thinking, might as well make it some sort of tradition and do it again. This year, the focus is on affordable beaters under $500… By beaters, I don’t mean watches one should abuse, but rather watches that you don’t have to be fussy about and can take a lick or two. Solid watches, with sporty/casual looks and at least 100m water resistance that will be good company whether you’re hanging out in your backyard or at a beer garden. Some are mechanical, others are quartz, all look good and wont do too much damage to your wallet.

As per usual, these are but a few of the many options out there that would fit the bill, and I tried not to duplicate last year’s guide, nor include some of my go-to watches (it pained me not to include Seiko 5 SNK’s, but I pulled through!), so if I left out something you think should be included, please post it in the comments. Enjoy!

Seiko SKX007

An affordable staple, the SKX007 is tough, water ready, nicely sized at 42mm and notably affordable with prices starting around $150 on amazon (they range depending on vendor and availability). Aesthetically, they are straightforward dive watches with markings and hands that clearly draw on Seiko’s 50 years of making dive watches, with their distinct, but modest, twist on those elements. At 42m with a 4 o’clock crown, they should be comfortable all through the day. Read our full review here.

Withings Activité Pop

Departing from the norm, these $150 health tracker watches are, in my opinion, a great option for those looking for something simple, but functional. They are minimal, but sporty and have those great “analog feedback loop” sub-dials that give them a cool look. We got to briefly handle some in Basel this year, and I honestly liked them quite a bit. But what really sets them apart is their health tracker capabilities… track your walks, jogs, swim, sleep, etc… and log it with their app (which also automatically adjusts the time). And no worries about having to charge it daily as they use button cell batteries that should last 8-months. A great option if you do plan on being active this summer.

Orient Mako

Much like the Seiko SKX007, the Mako is an affordable classic diver (we reviewed the newer USA edition). In fact, they sort of occupy the same niché as 200m, day/date automatic divers that come in under $200. Regardless, the Orient has clean, but aggressive looks with large, blocky 12, 6 and 9 numerals alternating with applied fence post markers. Large roman sword hours and minutes almost give the Mako a slight aviator feel, which plays nicely off of the diver’s bezel. At $125, it’s really hard to go wrong.

photo credit: WUS member Fullers1845

Citizen Nighthawk

The ‘ol Nighthawk makes its way into many a guide because it’s just one of those watches that succeeds at so much. Multiple timezones, calculator bezel, 200m WR, good lume, and mean looks just to start. Yes, it’s quartz, but it’s an eco-drive, so no battery and a long-life on a little charge…and naturally, very accurate. Heck, even the bracelet is nice. It’s simply a go anywhere, do anything watch…perfect for summer, or any other time of year for that matter. Coming in just shy of $300, it’s a lot of watch for a good price. Read our review here

Florijn 2

I just reviewed this one last week, so it’s fresh on my mind, but for those looking for more of tank of watch, it’s a very well-priced option. At 45mm, it’s not for every wrist, but if it fits, you’ll find its a wonderfully solid brute of a watch that you can confidently go base jumping with or… something else like that, maybe just go for a bike ride. Nevertheless, with 300m WR, a sapphire crystal, a Seiko NH35a movement and the widest lugs you’ve ever seen, it’s a cool watch with a great price of about $360.

Aevig Valkyr

For an option with a bit more style, the Aevig Valkyr get’s the job done. A vintage-inspired sport watch, the Valkyr was one of the more original designs I came across this last year, especially at the price. It’s small at 39mm, but chunky, being made of a solid block of either stainless or CuSn8 bronze, giving it some nice mass. Perhaps the coolest detail, however, is the simply single color bezel that is used to compliment the tones of the case and dial. While this one is a bit less rugged than others on the list, it still sports a 100m WR, sapphire crystal and a Miyota 9015 movement, making it a solid everyday watch.

Victorinox Inox

The Victorinox Inox is built to be tough… like really tough. They’ve rolled over them with tanks, they’ve thrown them in dryers, they’ve shaken them at crazy high frequencies…. they’ve done all sorts of things that one should never do to a watch to make sure the Inox can take a beating in daily life. So… this one almost challenges you do to wear it while you do things that could damage or break an ordinary timepiece. They’re also decent looking, rugged watches with nicely finished cases, faceted bezels, clean and legible dials, sapphire crystals and 200m WR. Coming in at $260 (in green) – $350 on Amazon, these are a good deal for a true beater.

G Gerlach Navigator

The Navigator pulls from pilot and dive watches for something vintage inspired and stylish. The dual crown design clearly speaks to 60’s divers while the column-like markings and cream lume of the dial have a more military feel, giving it it’s own, interesting aesthetic. While the 100m WR and lack of screw-down crowns makes this one better above water, the overall look and feel is that of a solid sport watch, which is reinforced by the sapphire crystal and workhorse Seiko NH35A movement inside. At $375, it’s another great value, one that you can dress up with leather or down with nylon to suit your mood.

Smiths PRS-40

This chunk of metal is unapologetically brutal and tough. Harsh angles, slab sides, 12 o’clock crown, a 2-piece design and built in pass-through lugs (as in, the lugs are slots and there are no springbars), make this watch solid and purpose driven. That said, it has a certain unique character, like something that was military designed for a specific function but ended up aesthetically pleasing (in this case, I’d imagine it was meant for some 70’s Italian bomb disposal unit). The quartz movement inside paired with the lack of springbars makes this a very robust watch that can likely take a harsh blow or two; perfect for tool watch and outdoor use. At about $250, it’s another decent deal for a tough watch.

Marathon Mid-Sized Tsar

This is a curious watch. It’s got all the trappings of Marathons mil-spec SAR dive watches, but comes in at 36mm. Though called “mid-sized” that really is quite small, but its such a beefy little watch that it carries well. It has a great bezel, a sapphire crystal, 300M WR and tritium tubes, which I personally love. Throw this one on nylon and you’re set. The MSRP is $450, but you can grab it for $396 at LIWatch. For summer, should you want the functions of a tool dive watch but not so much the bulk, or you simply have smaller wrist, this is a fantastic option.

Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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