Finding The Best Watches Under €500 — Jorg’s Picks From Seiko And Unimatic
The search for my favorite timepieces under €500 was tough. Almost all of the options that immediately popped into my mind turned out to be slightly more expensive than the predetermined budget. As it turns out, price increases are not just a thing for expensive brands. But after some extensive clicking, I found quite a few watches that would make for my perfect daily wearer. Some of them are watches that I would gladly add to my collection, and some are familiar pieces that I already own. So let me take you on my small quest to find the perfect watch for under €500.
Many of my Fratello teammates and I are excited to take up this challenge. It’s fun to see whether there are timepieces out there that can make genuinely excite us for €500. It probably has to do with the fact that €500 is a substantial amount to spend, but it generally doesn’t have a catastrophic effect on our finances. But for the money, we all would like a proper watch with a reliable movement, good looks, and build quality to make it a proper daily wearer. Combining those three important factors, though, is not always easy.
The first option was a no-go
This first watch sprung to my mind in an instant. I would spend my money on a Tissot PRX in a heartbeat! While my Powermatic 80 version in the picture above is out of reach for this budget, I would gladly make it the quartz version. I have owned the mechanical version for roughly eight months now, and the PRX is an impressive watch, no matter what movement is in it. I wrote an extensive review of mine, and the thing that keeps surprising me to this day is how good the PRX is. As I explained in the article, with the PRX, you truly get the feeling of wearing a luxury timepiece.
While I prefer the mechanical version because of its movement and dial pattern, the quartz model is no slouch, either. It will give you the same standout ’70s-inspired design, brilliant bracelet, and fantastic build quality and finishing. It would probably pick the version with the blue dial, but there is one problem: Thomas van Straaten already picked it. And while it definitely makes sense that more people would do so, I prefer to look at other options. So the search continues…
My first pick under €500: The Unimatic Modello Quattro
The second watch that came to mind is another timepiece that I own. The Unimatic Modello Quattro came out in late 2020, and it has been one of my favorite daily wearers ever since. I wrote a review about the watch and explained that, essentially, the Modello Quattro is the Modello Uno diver with a fixed steel bezel. It makes the watch a modern military-inspired watch based on the successful diver from the brand. The watch features a 40mm stainless steel case that is 13.8mm thick due to the monoblock bezel and the 2.8mm thick sapphire crystal. As a result, the watch is water resistant to 300 meters and is built like a tank.
It makes the Modello Quattro quite the chunky timepiece but one that is very easy to wear thanks to its modern case with its straight lugs and 22mm lug spacing. That allows you to fit the watch with some amazing straps that will balance the watch perfectly on your wrist. Once on the wrist, you are treated to the minimalist dial that perfectly fits the case design. In these pictures, you see the Modello Quattro U4-A that I own. Currently, Unimatic offers the Modello Quattro U4 Classic – UC4 for €425 (excluding tax). This is part of the brand’s permanent Classic series and the best available option.
The Modello Quattro U4 Classic – UC4
The U4 Classic looks very similar to the watch that I have. The main difference is the slightly different dial design with a bordered minute track rather than the open one on mine. Additionally, the UC4 comes with a black NATO strap, whereas mine came fitted with a green NATO strap. Other than that, you will still be able to enjoy the minimalist dial design featuring the brand’s standout hour markers at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock and the rest of the oversized lume plots.
Inside the case, you will find the automatic Seiko NH35 caliber. This movement operates at 21,600vph and provides a 41-hour power reserve. It also features hacking seconds and bidirectional winding. The movement is nothing special, but it has proven to be robust and reliable in all the Unimatic watches that I own. It makes the Modello Quattro U4 Classic the perfect first pick for this challenge if you like a solid daily beater that you can wear in practically any situation.
The search for a watch under €500 with vintage charm
But I was not done with my quest for the best watch under €500. How about one with a little more vintage charm? I quickly checked the options from Baltic, and the perfect watch would be the HMS 002. I love seeing that watch, especially the version with the black dial. We recently had the silver-dial option in the office, and it is a charming piece. At roughly €435, this is a great option with its 38mm case, sector dial, and the automatic Miyota 8315. But it’s also a watch that I would not wear all that often, so I let it simmer for a while.
Another option that made an immediate impact upon release is the Citizen NJ0150. The yellow-dial version of the watch immediately caught the attention of the entire Fratello team. For €279, this is a great watch. The piece features the same ’70s-inspired retro design as the Tissot PRX and packs plenty of charm. It features a 40mm case that is a modest 11.7mm thick. As Robert-Jan explained, it is powered by Citizen’s automatic caliber 8210. This is a simple but capable movement, especially at that price point.
While the version with the yellow dial is the instant eye-catcher, Citizen also offers the watch with either a black or dark blue sunburst dial. Those are the better options for daily use. But in an installment of our Sunday Morning Showdown series, I explained why the Tissot PRX is the far superior watch. So with the PRX as the better option, this was also not my second pick.
My second pick: The Seiko Presage Style60’s SRPG07J1
My second and final pick actually came to me last weekend. I was in the Dutch city of Haarlem admiring some of the new Grand Seiko and Seiko pieces in the shop window of a local dealer. And among the many watches that were on display, I saw one that reminded me of a series of Seiko watches that I adore. The Seiko Presage Style60’s packs tons of style and character combined with an in-house Seiko caliber, all for €490 on a NATO strap.
The one model that actually is available at that price is the SRPG09J1 with a black dial, black bezel, and black NATO strap. But I would gladly “cheat” and pay a little extra to get the SRPG07J1, the version with a black dial and brown bezel on a bracelet for €540. As Lex explained, it’s hard to fault these pieces as they pack plenty of style and charm. The design is inspired by the brand’s 1964 Crown Chronograph. But if you ask me, these pieces have the same vintage charm as some of the retro divers that we often see, such as the brilliant Omega Seamaster 300.
The perfect pick for under €500
These Style60’s models each utilize a 40.8mm stainless steel case that is 12mm thick. The case features sharp angles, and the lugs are slightly slanted for great comfort on the wrist. As Lex explained, the finishing of the case is impressive for a watch in this price category. It gives it a proper luxury feel, just like the PRX. The dial design looks great with its vintage-inspired looks and faux lume to up the retro charm. Both the crown and date window sit neatly at 3 o’clock, something that is not always the case for Seiko, as many of you will know.
Inside the case, you’ll find the brand’s automatic 3Hz caliber 4R35. It has a 41-hour power reserve and a conservatively advertised accuracy of +45/-35 seconds per day. While that is certainly not too impressive, the movement has proven to be reliable and generally more accurate in real life. But as I am no stickler for accuracy, especially not at this price point, I’ll still take it any day of the week as this piece has something that I absolutely adore. It’s a design that has a great story and it still looks awesome. I was reminded of that last weekend when the Style60’s watches stood out in a wide selection of Seiko timepieces. In my opinion, the style of the Seiko SRPG07J1 is simply unmatched at this price point, and that’s what I look for around €500.
Which is your favorite out of these two picks? And what watches at this price point have you continued to enjoy after moving upmarket (if you have at all)? Let us know in the comments below!