Since time immemorial, people have come up with different ways to tell time, including the invention of watches. One of the greatest inventions for watches is the chronograph watch. A chronograph watch is a watch complication that allows you to time anything. These watches are also fitted with sub-dials to make them complex and interesting compared to time-only watches.
There are several different brands, and types of chronograph watches on the market. However, these devices don’t come cheap due to their complex and practical nature. So shopping for a chronograph can be challenging, especially when working on a budget. However, with affordable entry-level models such as the Timex Weekender Chronograph, you can get a sweet deal. Remember that upgrading to other options may need you to dig a little deeper into your pockets.
Table of Contents
- Best Chronograph Under $500
- Our top pics
- What is a Chronograph?
- What Look for When Buying a Chronograph Watch?
Best Chronograph Under $500
I have spent countless hours researching the best budget chronographs to get while maintaining quality with limited affordable options. This research has been partly for my collection and the benefit of my readers. In this article, you will be looking at some of the best chronograph watches that range below $500.
Our top pics
#1 Bulova Lunar Pilot
The Bulova Lunar Pilot is arguably one of the best yet, underrated chronographs on the market. This watch gained the limelight when worn by NASA astronaut Dave Scott during the Apollo 15 space mission to the moon. The watch comes with a six-hand chronograph, a stainless steel screw-back case in silver-tone, a black dial, and sapphire glass. This chronograph is also water-resistant up to 300 meters; however, it’s best not to bathe or swim with the watch.
The new edition Lunar Pilot Chronograph guarantees you excellent performances with an updated high-performance quartz movement supported by a frequency of 262 kHz to ensure unparalleled accuracy. This watch is designed to provide you with a precision level of 1/1000-second within a twelve-hour time frame and accuracy within seconds in a year.
- High level of accuracy
- It has two interchangeable straps
- Easy and logical to read
- It doesn’t have a warranty card.
- Twelve-hour chronograph function
- Precision timing to 1/1,000th of a second
- Stainless steel case and bracelet
- Curved mineral crystal
- Precisionist-class torsional resonator movement
- Calendar window
- Screw-down crown
- Water-resistant up to 300 meters
- Yellow continuously sweeping second hand
- Luminous hands and maker
#2 Orient Neo70s
One of the most common trends today in the fashion industry is panda dials. This feature has become popular among the younger generation. However, few may understand what panda dials are. A panda dial is a chronograph with cream/white dials and darker subdials resembling a panda. The Orient Neo70’s is a perfect example of a panda dial watch with the meca-quartz movement. This chronograph borrows heavily from the vintage timepieces from the ’70s.
The cream/white dial accents a cool and classy feel to the Orient Neo70’s, bringing a bit of versatility regardless of the strap you choose to wear it with. This look is further highlighted by the monochromatic color scheme that goes well with any belt. The Orient Neo70’s comes with a canvas, leather, or NATO making it an ideal choice to include in your collection.
The Orient Neo70’s comes with a 42mm diameter, an average size for most wristwatches, making it a perfect fit for most wrists. The casing is geometrically shaped with sharp angles on the sides and a slightly rounded bezel to give you a retro and 70s look.
- Visible in the dark
- Light and flimsy bracelet
- It’s too recessed
- The date window is relatively small
- Has three subdials for the chronograph and other functions
- Has a meca-quartz movement
- It comes with interchangeable straps
- Deep brushed surfaces
- Luminous skeletonized stick hands
- Water-resistant up to 100m
#3 Tissot V8 Chronograph
One of the most outstanding features of the Tissot V8 Chronograph is its Swiss automatic movement; this feature makes it stand out among other timepieces in this category. Mechanical chronographs are rare to find, more so those with a Swiss automatic movement. The Tissot V8 Chronograph also features a sapphire crystal for scratch resistance, a textured matte black dial to give you a cool look, and a tachymeter for a classic look. You are also guaranteed a well-regarded and highly recognized Swiss brand with this chronograph.
The Tissot V8 chronograph has 100 meters of water resistance, making it possible to swim or bathe with the watch without incurring water damage. The black dial makes it an ideal option for any strap or attire you choose to wear. With these features, the Tissot V8 can function both as a casual and formal accessory, making it the best choice for an everyday watch. It’s also considered a powerful engine for the wrist.
- It comes with a two-year international warranty
- Interchangeable straps
- Well-balanced hour markers
- It is a bit large on the wrist.
- Swiss Tissot automatic chronograph movement
- Stainless steel case
- Case size-45mm, bandwidth- 22, case thickness- 14.79mm
- Index dial type
- Water-resistant up to a pressure of 10-bar
- Leather strap and butterfly clasp with push-button closure
Generally, the Tissot V8 is an incredible watch to include in your watch collection. This is mainly because of the impressive Swiss automatic movement that is difficult to find within this price range.
#4 Citizen Eco-Drive Blue Angels
When looking for a chronograph with high precision and accuracy, the Citizen Eco-Drive Blue Angels is one of the best choices. This chronograph is well-polished and highly functional for keeping extremely accurate time. The watch features a solar-powered Eco-drive movement that can be charged with a short time in the sun. It’s also fitted with an atomic clock connected to a radio signal that automatically and accurately resets daily time. This feature guarantees you the correct time every time you glance at it.
The watch is 43 mm in diameter, making it an ideal choice for average-to-large wrists, making it ideal for people with large wrists or those who prefer slightly larger watches. The chronograph is fitted with a stainless steel case and sapphire crystal for scratch resistance to increase durability. The Citizen Eco-Drive is also water-resistant up to 200 meters, making it suitable for diving or swimming without worrying about water damage.
Other specific functions include:
- A 1/20 second chronograph that measures up to 60 minutes.
- A perpetual calendar.
- A 12-24 hour time alarm.
- A power reserve indicator.
The watch also has a Japanese quartz movement with an analog display. You also can reset the watch when it’s not working properly. However, you may need to charge the watch first when insufficient power reserve.
- 12/24 hour time
- Long-lasting interchangeable straps
- Automatic time reset
- Has a non-reflective sapphire
- High level of accuracy
- Water-resistant up to 200 meters
- Large and loosely fitting bracelet
- 43mm stainless steel case with anti-reflective–sapphire dial window
- Leather-synthetic band with buckle closure
- Water-resistant up to 666feet
- Atomic Timekeeping Technology with Synchronized Time Adjustment
- Perpetual Calendar
- 1/20 Second Chronograph Measuring up to 60 minutes
- 200 Meter water-resistance
- Non-reflective sapphire crystal
- Power Reserve Indicator
- Atomic Timekeeping
- Automatic Time in 26 World Cities
- Crocodile strap
The Citizen Eco-Drive Blue Angels is an ideal choice for someone looking for a versatile and reliable timepiece that guarantees accurate timing. The best part is that it can serve casual, formal needs and miscellaneous adventures, making it an everyday watch.
#5 Seiko Flightmaster SNA411 Chronograph
The Seiko Flightmaster SNA411 chronograph is one of the most popular and well-regarded pilot watches with several features beyond the average chronograph. Seiko Flightmaster is fitted with an alarm function with an internally rotating slide rule bezel. So it can calculate fuel consumption, flight climb, and other calculations that a pilot may need. These calculations may not be applicable in your everyday life, but it doesn’t hurt to have a one-of-a-kind engine on your wrist. You can also use this watch to time yourself in the kitchen or when performing a timed activity.
Seiko Flightmaster SNA411 chronographs were originally designed for engineers and pilots to provide extra functionality. The chronograph gives you access to a working mechanical calculator on your wrist. The watch also comes with a 42mm diameter, making it an ideal choice for users with an average-to-large wrist. However, the slide rule and bezel take up a lot of the dial space, giving the watch a smaller appearance on your wrist.
The Seiko Flightmaster SNA411 also comes with black dials with a gear-edge bezel, multiple subdials, fluted crown, and date window. The stainless steel case also comes with a Hardlex dial window. The chronograph is fitted with a Japanese quartz movement with a display to ensure maximum accuracy.
- Suitable for professional marine activities and surface water sports
- Multiple functionalities
- High level of accuracy
- Ideal for both formal and casual occasions
- The slide-rule elements and bezel take up a lot of space, making the watch appear smaller on the wrist.
- Multiple dials
- Water-resistant up to 200m
- The stainless steel link bracelet
- Fold over push-button clasp and safety closure
- Japanese quartz movement with a display
- Date window
The Seiko Flightmaster SNA411 is a cool and functional watch with multiple features. It’s an ideal choice for an entry-level chronograph based on its reasonable price, noting the reputable brand name.
#6 Seagull 1963
The Seagull 1963 is a remake of the original Chinese pilot’s watch made in 1961. The chronograph is designed with a fully mechanical hand-wound ST19 movement lauded for its price to performance ratio. The Seagull 1963 spots a decorative and stylish design that stands out through the Seagull 1963’s clear display case back. When adding a watch to my collection, I tend to look at the history of the watch, something the Seagull 1963 is not short of.
The Seagull 1963 has gained its reputation and regard among watch collectors due to its history. This history is complemented by the unique red and blue hands, unique gold hour markers, not forgetting it’s an affordable mechanical hand-wind chronograph. The watch was originally designed in 1961 for the Chinese Air Force with a proprietary Venus watch caliber 175 movements. The chronograph was designed with military functionality in mind. However, over time, the watch has caught on to become one of the coolest accessories to add to your collection.
One of this watch’s most outstanding visual features is the decorated ST19 movement visible through the clear see-through case back. This way, you can peer into the inner working of the watch. However, you can also find a stainless steel case back variation that completely covers the movement.
- Vintage aesthetic
- High performance
- Reasonable pricing
- Lacks brushed surfaces
- t has a diameter of 38mm
- Water-resistant up to 30m
- Fitted with an ST19 movement
- Sapphire crystal for scratch resistance
- Weighs 59grma
- Lug to lug: 47mm
- Interchangeable straps, including leather and NATO
The Seagull 1963 has a 38mm diameter; however, you can find a 42mm variation making it an ideal choice for people with either small or large wrists. Generally, this chronograph is a comfortable watch with a striking vintage look that fits on almost every wrist. This watch is fun to add some character to your watch collection.
#7 Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo
The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo draws its inspiration from the sporty racing chronographs in the ’60s. The chronograph is designed with a meca-quartz hybrid movement that leverages the accuracy and reliability of quartz and the smooth-sweeping second hand of a mechanical for excellent performance. The watch has a 38mm diameter, making it wearable for a wide range of wrists. The designers also included available decorative bead of rice stainless steel bracelet. However, for comfort, the Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo is paired with a high-quality textured leather strap.
The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo is considered one of the trendiest vintage watches with its panda dials. The watch features a white dial with two black subdials, white numbers, and a black tachymeter. The case back features a screw-back with a 3D case-back embossed with the Aston Martin DB5 automobile.
- Highly accurate
- Affordable pricing
- Limited diameter options
- 38 mm stainless steel 316L
- 19mm lug width
- 12.9mm thickness
- 44.7mm lug to lug
- Screw-back case back
- 60min chronograph with 24hr indicator and lume
- Non-reflective sapphire coated double domed mineral glass
- Instant Reset
- Seiko Caliber VK63 meca-quartz movement
- Water-resistant up to 50m
The Dan Henry is arguably one of the best choices for an entry chronograph to add to your collection. Aside from functionality, the watch gives you a calm and classy look with its panda dials.
#8 Brew Mastergraph
The Brew Mastergraph chronograph is a famous rectangular chronograph that sports a vintage inspiration that takes you back in history. The watch draws inspiration from the sporty chronographs in the ’60s; however, this model boasts a host of design elements such as black rectangular/round chronograph dials, white contrasting hands, and sunburst silver dial that make it stand out. The chronograph also comes with specific markers on the bezel, making it easy to specify and time yourself. This can be invaluable to baristas looking to time how long until an espresso shot is brewed.
The manufacturers pride themselves on a carefully designed and engineered chronograph to produce a unique watch. So the best part about these watches is that they are versatile and multi-functional, making them perfect for everyday use. The Brew Mastergraph spots a solid billet of 316L stainless steel and is hand polished and brushed for the best results.
- Reliable and Multi-functional
- Has different variations
- Limited diameter options
- Dimensions: 38x 10.5 x 41.5mm
- Has a Seiko meca-quartz VK68 movement
- Fitted with sapphire crystal
- Water-resistant up to 50m
- It has a push/pull crown
- Stainless steel case material
- Dials: white dials with black subdials, copper with white subdials, and black with black subdials.
The Brew Mastergraph is an ideal choice if you are looking for something out of your ordinary comfort zone. Its functionality makes it an ideal choice when looking to brew a cup of espresso.
#9 Lorier Gemini
The Lorier Gemini is a fully mechanical watch that features a clean and multi-functional design ideal for daily wear. It has a domed crystal and design hue that gives it a vintage flair within a modern package. This is credited to its well-finished and refined case. The timepiece is also fitted with a Seagull ST19 mechanical hand-wound movement that has received high recognition for its value to price ratio.
The Lorier Gemini has water resistance up to 50 m. However, it’s not suitable for intense water-based activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving. This chronograph comes in various color configurations, including the trendy panda dial that features a white dial with black subdials. For the diameter, the designers went with a 39mm diameter that is perfect for almost any wrist except a very small one or a huge one.
- Visible in limited light
- High level of accuracy
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Difficult to read
- Massive domed acrylic crystal
- Bi-directional 12hr bezel
- A signature flat-link steel bracelet
- Arrow handset
- Seagull ST19 caliber movement
- Water-resistant up to 50m
- 316L stainless steel case
- Push/pull crown
- Lume: yes
The Lorier Gemini has gained an enormous following among watch lovers, with models going out of stock more often. This excellent vintage-inspired watch delivers value with its overall build quality and aesthetic.
#10 Seiko Prospex Diver’s Chronograph
The Seiko Prospex Diver’s Chronograph is one of the best solar chronographs from Seiko’s lineup of watches. This timepiece was originally designed as a tool watch. However, with the textured dial, various hues of blue, and busy dial layout, the watch can serve you well on different occasions. The watch sports black chronograph buttons and crown that bring out a design that is not common in most watches.
The Seiko Prospex Diver’s Chronograph is fitted with an eco-drive solar movement that draws power from direct sunlight. It also has a 200m water resistance making it safe for swimming or diving without fear of water damage. It has a 43.5mm diameter, making it perfect for people with average-to-large wrists.
- Large diameter
- Screw-down crown and case back
- Hardlex Mineral Crystal
- Luminous hands and markers
- Date display
- Stainless steel case and band
- Safety lock feature
The Seiko Prospex Diver’s chronograph is an ideal choice if you are looking for a reliable, multi-functional, and accurate watch that can serve you every day.
What is a Chronograph?
A chronograph is a watch complication that serves as a stopwatch timer and doubles up as a measure of time. Typically, a chronograph features several subdials, each measuring a specific amount of time. In fact, these dials are activated by external pushers found on the side of the watches, case next to the crown.
These watches have multiple applications, including timing your espresso shot and keeping track of how long you have spent reading.
What Look for When Buying a Chronograph Watch?
Besides the regular features such as construction, quality, and comfort, there are other features you need to evaluate before buying a chronograph. These include:
Chronograph pushers- buttons located on the side allow you to stop and reset the chronograph function. You should focus on buttons that are clicky and tactile for better results.
Movement- here, you can choose quartz, mechanical, and meca-quartz.
Subdials- these components play an essential role in a chronograph as they contribute to the overall aesthetic and functionality of the watch. You can either go with a bicompax or tricompax subdials based on your preference.
Maximum Recorded Time- mechanical and analog chronographs have limited capacity to how much time they can record; 30-60 minutes. However, you can find models that record up to more than 12 hours.