The Best Watches Under £500 for Men & Women

Watches have gone from essential timekeeping devices to essential fashion statements. Indeed, the most expensive watches are more about the prestige they give more than their accuracy.

However, a respectable watch doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Everyone deserves to convey their style and status through a watch, regardless of the budget. That’s why we’ve gathered the best watches under £500, for men and women, that you can buy right now.

We’ll also arm you with some crucial horology (the science of watches and timekeeping) concepts to help you navigate the sometimes intimidating world of watches.

ProductForOur Rating
Emporio Armani Quartz AnalogMen4.8
Tissot Seastar 1000Men4.7
Fossil NateMen4.7
Vivienne Westwood WallaceWomen4.9
Michael Kors Slim RunwayWomen4.5
Bulova Dress WatchWomen4.7
Apple Watch Series 6Unisex4.9
Fossil Gen 5Unisex4.6
AmazFit GTRUnisex4.5

The Best Watches Under £500 for Men

Emporio Armani Quartz Analog

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 43 mm
  • Case Thickness: 7 mm
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM
  • Strap: stainless steel

This Emporio Armani watch marries the elegance and minimalist design of a dress watch, with the vibe of a sports watch.

The blue finish on the dial certainly lends a different kind of elegance to this watch, coupled with the Roman numeral dials and classic minute/hour hands. The Armani logo on the 12th dial with the Emporio Armani name below it offers a bit of branding and authenticity to the watch. The face is minimal and bare, save for a Date complication that tells the date of the month.

The case is a little bit oversized with a 43mm diameter, which can be great for stockier wrists. However, the good thing is that it’s relatively thin at just 7mm, which balances everything out nicely.

The strap is a classic stainless steel chain, lending a bit of ruggedness and sportiness to the watch without taking away the elegance. It’s also water-resistant up to 5 ATM, making this watch great for both everyday use and formal occasions.

Overall, this is an excellent all-around watch with a reputable brand name behind it, all at a reasonable price. The elegant box it comes in makes it great as a present as well.

Seiko 5 Sports Watch

  • Watch Movement: automatic
  • Case Size: 43mm
  • Case Thickness: 13mm
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Strap: stainless steel

The Seiko 5 is one of the oldest and most well-known sub-brands of the respected Japanese watchmaker that’s still in existence today. The 5 series is its line of entry-level automatic watches, and this Seiko 5 Sports Watch is a nice addition to that prestigious family.

The “5” in the Seiko 5 line stands for the five attributes that all watches in this category must possess. These include shock resistance with Seiko’s proprietary Diashock technology, an unbreakable mainspring, day or date complication, water resistance, and of course automatic movement. And this Seiko 5 Sports Watch satisfies all of them admirably.

Design-wise, this Seiko 5 Sports Watch evokes a masculine elegance coupled with a sporty attitude. The navy blue colour scheme of the dial is nicely broken up by the white and silver accents of the hands and dials. The inner dial is compact, yet doesn’t interfere with its ability to convey the time clearly. We also find that the stainless steel strap perfectly complements the overall look and feel of the dial.

Overall, the Seiko 5 Sports Watch is an economical choice if you want to go into the world of automatic watches. Even with the price drop, it still conveys the look and elegance of more expensive luxury watches.

Tissot Seastar 1000

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 45.5 mm
  • Case Thickness: 12.82 mm
  • Water Resistance: 300m
  • Strap: rubber

The Tissot Seastar 1000 is for those who love their complications but don’t like the high price tag often associated with them! This diving watch is primarily a chronograph, which is just a fancy word for a stopwatch. The elegant dark blue face is dominated by three complications, plus a small indicator for the date. The thick, burly hour and minute hands and dot dials further add to the masculine, sporty aesthetic of the watch.

The Seastar 1000 is chunky, but it never feels clunky. It still looks and feels like a luxury watch throughout. The rubber strap does detract from this a bit and lends it more casualness, but the pro is that it’s very comfortable to wear.

Thank goodness that the Seastar 1000 is as durable as it looks. The dial window uses sapphire, one of the most robust materials you can use that’s scratch resistant as well. This watch is also water-resistant up to a depth of 300m, great for using on your weekend fishing or yachting trip.

Overall, the Tissot Seastar 1000 is one of the best watches under £500 you can buy, especially if you’re into big, complicated watches. It’s fantastic as a gift for yourself or the sophisticated man in your life.

Fossil Nate

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 50 mm
  • Case Thickness: 13 mm
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM
  • Strap: stainless steel
  • Strap Width: 24 mm

The Fossil Nate is a sleek, edgy, all-black watch that breeds personality and sophistication. The face dial has a rough texture contrasted by the smooth, smoke grey surface of the number dials and hands. Enlarged numbers (12, 3, 6, and 9) add personality and punch to what would otherwise be a simple design. Three complications, plus a date window, complete the face of the Nate.

The black motif extends to the strap, which is made of stainless steel with a matte finish. The dial is covered in a mineral window for decent durability and protection.

The Nate is a versatile and striking timepiece, perfectly accompanying any outfit or occasion. If you’re gifting this to someone, it comes in the iconic bright and colourful Fossil boxes that adds its own charm.

Citizen Eco-Drive Gents’ Strap Watch

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 36mm
  • Case Thickness: 9mm
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Strap: leather
  • Strap Width: 19mm

The Citizen Eco-Drive is for you if you prefer that classic, understated aesthetic in your everyday timepiece. This is shown primarily in the pristine white face, broken up by Roman numeral dials emblazoned in black. Slender minute and hour hands, plus a thinner second hand, rotates elegantly through the dial. A simple day/date complication completes the overall minimalist vibe of the watch. The whole timeless design is completed with the 19mm genuine leather strap.

One thing to note is that this watch is powered by sunlight or artificial light, as with all other Eco-Drive models. All it needs is a brief exposure, and it can run continuously for up to 180 days. A low charge indicator tells you if you need to expose the watch to light again.

Overall, the Citizen Eco-Drive is a watch that gives a touch of classic elegance to your everyday timepiece. The roughly £100 price tag further makes this an excellent purchase.

Casio Edifice

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 41mm
  • Case Thickness: 10mm
  • Water Resistance: 10 ATM
  • Strap: stainless steel

The Casio Edifice is a unique looking sports watch, definitely made to be rugged and masculine. The thick minute and hour hands certainly lend to this look, together with the silver dials. The outer ring adds its own to the aesthetics of the watch, especially the yellow highlights on the word “COUNTDOWN” that gives a nice contrast to the overall design.

The good thing is that the design never feels cluttered, and it’s incredibly easy to tell the time at a glance. The lack of any distracting complications also helps with this.

Size-wise, the Edifice feels just right for the man with average wrists. The proportions are just right, and it doesn’t feel or look ridiculous, either. The dial is slightly thicker at 10mm, but overall still feels like it’s not jutting out of your wrist unnecessarily.

The strap is your typical stainless steel link design. However, one small caveat is that the size of the band is 21mm and not the standard of either 20mm or 22mm. This can make it a bit harder for you to buy a new or replacement strap since 21mm options are considerably limited.

Nevertheless, the Casio Edifice is a great buy for an everyday timepiece, especially considering the budget price tag.

The Best Watches Under £500 for Women

Vivienne Westwood Wallace

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 37mm
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Strap: stainless steel
  • Strap Width: 18mm

The Wallace is a unique, elegant women’s watch from iconic designer Vivienne Westwood.

This regal timepiece uses the glamorous combination of gold for the strap and dark green for the face, creating a unique colour motif. The face uses a unique jacquard pattern inspired by the interiors of the Wallace Collection art museum in London. Gold hands and dials perfectly contrast this green backdrop, with dots of Swarovski crystals in alternate number dials. The watch is then finished with a bevel made up of more Swarovski crystals.

The Wallace is undoubtedly one of the bolder statements you can make with a watch. A larger case size isn’t really needed with the distinct design of this watch, so it stays at a minimal 37mm – a perfect proportion for most wrists. The gold jubilee bracelet forms an excellent band that secures this watch in place.

With all the luxury and style that the Wallace exudes, it’s pretty surprising that it costs less than £500. All in all, one of the more affordable luxury watches you can buy.

Michael Kors Slim Runway

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 42mm
  • Case Thickness: 8mm
  • Water Resistance: 5 bar
  • Strap: stainless steel

The Michael Kors Slim Runway is the perfect example of a women’s watch, encapsulating many of its feminine qualities. First, you have the gorgeous rose gold colour of the face and part of the strap, probably one of the more sought after hues in women’s accessories. A classic gold colour then complements this, seen in the hands, dials, case, and outer section of the strap.

The entire watch is minimalist in nature, further adding to the elegance of the timepiece. This includes the slender, tapered hour and minute hands, plus the thin as a wire second hand. The outer bevel is pristine, save for the adjustment dial on the side. The water resistance is a nice addition, but we expect this watch won’t see much time underwater anyways.

The Michael Kors Slim Runway is a versatile watch; simple enough to be used every day but also elegant that it can be worn in formal settings. It comes in a white Michael Kors box ideal for gifting.

Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 34mm
  • Case Thickness: 9mm
  • Water Resistance: 10 bars
  • Strap: stainless steel

The Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium is the female take on the male sports watch design. Indeed, the dial face itself has a distinctly masculine aesthetic, from the dark blue colour to the thick bevelled hour and minute hands. The dial made of thick metal lines also evokes the same male appeal. The good thing is that, compared to your typical female watch, the Eco-Drive Titanium is easier to read.

The only thing that prevents this from becoming a male watch is the size and design of the case. It’s more petite at just 34mm and sits on a thicker border that transitions seamlessly to the strap. It looks more like a bracelet with a watch face as an afterthought.

This watch is an Eco-Drive model and is powered by sunlight. After a brief exposure, it can last up to 180 days without any light source. It gives you the convenience of having an automatic watch because no battery needs replacing.

The Titanium is also durable, made with the same material as its namesake. Titanium is generally light but sturdy. Paired with the sapphire dial window, and you have an everyday watch that you can confidently wear daily.

Overall, if you’re looking for a bolder female watch, get the Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium.

Bulova Crystal

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 35mm
  • Case Thickness:
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Strap: stainless steel
  • Strap Width: 16mm

Glitzy and glamorous, it’s hard to believe that the Bulova Crystal watch costs less than £150.

It’s a striking piece that doesn’t shy away from using hefty amounts of authentic Swarovski crystals (200 pave crystals, to be exact) to convey its personality. These are placed mostly on the centre of the watch face, as well as on the bevel outline and dials. Indeed, the Bulova watch makes a strong statement and can shine as brilliantly as any diamond ring can.

The rest of the design serves to emphasize the Swarovski crystal motif, so there’s no complicated embellishments or distracting colours here. Everything uses a pure silver hue, including the stainless steel strap. The potentially cluttered and crowded design is counteracted by the smaller 35mm watch face, giving the Bulova watch a sense of minimalism and elegance.

The Bulova Crystal watch is, undoubtedly, something that you’ll save on special occasions, paired with your best outfit. The fact that it’s relatively affordable, though, means you won’t feel guilty using it every day if you want to.

Bulova Dress Watch

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 18mm
  • Case Thickness: 7mm
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Strap: stainless steel
  • Strap Width: 10mm

While nice, the Bulova Crystal watch we mentioned previously might not be for everyone. Sometimes, you just want to go with something elegant and minimal and doesn’t call too much attention to itself. In essence, that’s what the Bulova Dress Watch is all about.

This is a watch that wears more like jewellery. The case diameter is a petite 18mm and in a shapely rectangular form. The colour of the face is pure black, to contrast the bright silver hands and dial that forms the only parts of the watch face. Apart from looking sophisticated, it also makes reading time very easy.

This dress watch sits atop a thin bangle bracelet, complete with adjustable links and a standard jewellery clasp to secure it in place.

For the classy look and sophisticated vibe, the Bulova Dress Watch is surprisingly affordable, costing just under £200. It’s the perfect dress or everyday watch for women with slimmer wrists.

Fossil Riley

  • Watch Movement: quartz
  • Case Size: 38mm
  • Case Thickness: 12mm
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM
  • Strap: leather

The Fossil Riley is a mix of both a men’s and women’s watch, making it perfect for the woman with an adventurous spirit.

This watch veers away from the dainty and minimalistic visuals typical of female watches. It instead adds in complications and a chronograph feature to add distinct masculinity to the design. The brown, rugged leather strap is also reminiscent of the one used in men’s dress watches.

But despite the male nuances, the Riley is undeniably feminine. Maybe it’s the pristine white face, line dials, and silver hands that give it away. Or it’s probably the relatively smaller strap. Whatever it is, the Riley won’t make you feel like you’re just borrowing your father’s watch and passing it as your own.

The Riley makes for an excellent personal purchase, or you can give it as a fantastic gift to someone. The iconic Fossil tin box ensures that the presentation is top-notch when you do.

The Best Digital & Smart Watches Under £500

Apple Watch Series 6

  • Case Size: 44mm (also available in 40mm)
  • Display Area: 977 sq mm
  • Battery Life: 18 hours

The Series 6 is a worthy upgrade to the Apple Watch, which give it several features for monitoring your health and well-being. Undoubtedly, it’s a move by Apple to make the Watch competitive with the slew of fitness bands in the market like FitBit.

The notable addition is the ECG app, which allows you to take an electrocardiogram anytime. This gives you an overview of your heart health without needing to go to the hospital. Complementing the ECG is a new Blood Oxygen sensor. Of course, The Series 6 has basic fitness features locked in. These include a sleep monitor, activity tracker, heart rate monitor, and calorie counter.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is also designed to become a hub of your mobile phone, allowing you to view messages, set appointments, and accept calls easily. It also supports Siri and Apple Pay for easy transactions on the go.

A problem of most smartwatches is glare, something that the Series 6 solves admirably. Also, it features the Always-On Retina display that’s 2.5x brighter when your wrist is down, so you can quickly glance over it and read the time. Durability features include water resistance and fall detection.

Personalization and style is a big thing with Apple devices and is no different with the Apple Watch. You can choose between five different colours (three for the stainless steel version), as well as endless interchangeable strap options.

Overall, the Apple Watch is one of the best smartwatches you can get for under £500, and the Series 6 makes it even better with the added health features.

Fossil Gen 5

  • Case Size: 44mm
  • Case Thickness: 12mm
  • Strap: silicone
  • Strap Width: 22mm
  • Storage: 8 GB

The Fossil Gen 5 is a good alternative to the Apple Watch in terms of features and display. It runs on the rival Google Wear OS platform, which is an amazing watch operating system in its own right.

Visually, we like how the Gen 5 veered away from the square shape of most smartwatches and retained the traditional circular dial. It also has the familiar dial controls on the find. All in all, we find it makes the watch instantly relatable. The watch face can be personalized with any number of designs and layouts to reflect you.

Virtually all of the basic functionalities of a smartwatch are present with the Gen 5. You can receive calls, notifications, and text messages from it. You can also manage your schedule and even play music with this smartwatch.

You can also track your health and fitness through Google Fit apps. You can monitor your heart rate, track the steps you’ve taken, and manage your daily calories. You can also set yourself some reminders, like when it’s time to sleep. A built-in GPS can help you track distance and location while you’re out jogging or hiking.

The battery life on the Gen 5 is respectable, but even more so with Extended Battery Mode, which helps the watch last longer on a single charge.

Overall, what makes the Fossil Gen 5 great is the ton of fantastic functionalities that are available at a modest price tag. It’s one of the most affordable and stylish ways to get a smartwatch.

AmazFit GTR

  • Case Size: 47mm
  • Display Resolution: 1.39″ AMOLED display (326 ppi)
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM
  • Strap: leather and silicone

The AmazFit GTR is a rugged and luxurious take on a smartwatch. With the right display, you might even be fooled into thinking it’s an analogue watch. That’s because of the light titanium body of the dial (giving it elegance and class), coupled with the leather accents on the silicone strap (giving it ruggedness). You can easily switch the look and layout of the watch face to fit several occasions, making the AmazFit GTR a more fashionably versatile smartwatch.

The watch of the AmazFit GTR uses a 1.39″ AMOLED display, giving it absolute clarity and colour vibrance. It’s protected with tough Gorilla glass for maximum sturdiness with an anti-fingerprint finish.

The GTR is fantastic as an accompaniment for your sports and wellness needs. You can use it to track your activities with 12 different sports modes that cover everything from swimming to skiing. It has water-resistance of up to 5 ATM, suitable for the harsh outdoors.

You can also use the AmazFit GTR like you would any smartwatch, like getting a call and even reminders. However, it doesn’t have that much robust features like making calls or receiving text messages.

Overall, the AmazFit GTR is a more stylish take on a smartwatch, at the cost of a few features. However, it does cover the basics, making this a viable watch option.

Honor Magic Watch 2

  • Battery Life: 2 weeks (idle)
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM
  • Display: 1.39” AMOLED (454 x 454 resolution)
  • Storage: 4 GB

The Honor Magic Watch 2 is a nice marriage of smart technology with sports watch aesthetics. The black, metallic dial and crown certainly lend much to this overall look, as well as the silicone strap. The AMOLED display is in AOD (Always on Display) mode, so you can always look at the time without the screen having to brighten up, even under the sun.

The Magic Watch 2 is described as an incredible sports watch, with functionalities that are perfect companions to active individuals. It has 15 different fitness modes that correspond to typical activities like swimming or running. The built-in app has a voiceover feature to guide you while doing these for maximum results.

This watch is also great to help you get a good night’s sleep with TruSleep 2.0 technology. The app can accurately track your sleeping patterns and give you actionable advice to improve sleep. A heart rate monitor also alerts if it detects an unusual heart rate.

Calls and messages can be answered and managed via a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone. 4 GB of storage allows you to store a few song files and play them directly from the watch.

All in all, the Honor Magic Watch 2 is an excellent smartwatch alternative to the big-name brands, especially if you want a sportier look.

Huawei Watch GT 2

  • Battery Life: 2 weeks (idle)
  • Case Size: 46mm
  • Display: 1.39″ AMOLED

Not to be outdone by Apple, the Chinese company Huawei is also joining the smartwatch niche with its own entry, the Watch GT 2. It uses Huawei’s proprietary Kirin A1 wearable chip, allowing the smartwatch functionalities like receiving calls via Bluetooth or accurately monitoring your activities. It also has both GPS and GLONASS positioning systems for better tracking accuracy.

Software-wise, the Watch GT 2 has a lot going for it. It has 15 different sports modes to monitor different activities, like hiking or running. You can use the GT 2 to track calories, steps, distance travelled, or your heart rate while you’re performing these activities to see if you’re hitting your goals.

While resting, you can also rely on Huawei’s TruSleep 2.0 to scientifically monitor your sleeping patterns and diagnose sleep issues if present. It can even monitor your stress levels with Huawei TruRelax technology. Bluetooth connectivity allows receiving calls and messages to your smartphone.

Many people don’t consider comfort when buying a smartwatch. Luckily, the GT 2 itself is comfortable. The strap is good against your skin, and the dial is lightweight enough that it doesn’t drag your hand down. That’s important because you’ll probably be wearing this 24/7.

So is this watch worth buying? If you’re looking for your first smart or fitness watch, the Huawei GT 2 is undoubtedly a good buy. Affordable price with all the features you’ll need.

Buyer’s Guide

Buying a watch can be a difficult decision, especially with the dizzying amount of choices you’ll inevitably encounter. You might also be worried that you can’t buy anything of quality at below £500, but fortunately, that’s not the case.

The trick is to know why you’re buying a watch, set a budget, and then carefully go through this list of considerations:

Watch Movement

The watch movement refers to the mechanism that makes the watch, well, tick. There are two types here, each commanding different price tags and perception.

One is quartz, which is what the majority of budget watches use. As the name implies, it uses a piece of quartz crystal inside an oscillator powered by a small battery (or, in some cases, via solar cells). When electrically charged, the quartz creates a signal at definite, precise frequencies. These drive the second hand of the clock to move.

Quartz has the advantage of being highly accurate, more so than a mechanical watch. It’s also relatively inexpensive to mass-produce, leading to its widespread use. Due to this, however, quartz watches are still considered as inferior as far as prestige is concerned.

The other type of watch movement is mechanical, using the traditional wheels and cogs used by watchmakers for centuries. However, while these old-timey watches were often wounded manually, today’s watches are powered by kinetic energy. That is, they are powered whenever you move your hand.

For that reason, you’ll almost always see mechanical watches referred by their modern name – “automatics”.

Automatic watches are generally considered to be more respectable, even though they’re less accurate than a quartz watch. This is because of the immense skill, heritage, and craftsmanship required to make them. Automatics also have a more satisfying mechanical vibration compared to the lifeless ticking of quartz, which further adds to the prestige of the former.

Hence, you’ll see top watch brands like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe almost always produce automatic watches.

Design Styles

Like any decorative piece, watches come in a variety of sizes and styles. There are often watches for different kinds of occasions, so it’s not uncommon for a person to own a couple to mix and match as needed.

Watches, however, tend to follow similar design styles. Here are some of them:

Diving Watches

Diving watches are one of the most famous watch styles, despite being ironically seldom used by divers themselves. They generally have a very rugged exterior characterized by larger size, glow in the dark dials, and a rotating outer bezel. As fitting their name, diving watches are also water-resistant up to at least 100m.

Even though they’re generally oversized, diving watches are still stylish in their own right. They’re great as elegant, everyday watches or as a semi-formal accessory.

Formal or Dress Watches

Minimalism is the name of the game for dress watches. They feature thin hands, a smaller face, and almost no embellishments. The watch strap is also almost always leather, and the design is classic and elegant.

A dress watch is more of a decorative accessory than a functional timepiece. They are usually small and meant to be hidden under a person’s cuff. These timeless pieces are the best statement of class out of all watch types.

Minimalist Watches

Minimalist watches are similar to dress watches in being pared down to the basics. However, the former has a broader range of visual styles, while the latter almost always sticks to a classic and elegant feel.

A minimalist watch often sports a modernist or contemporary vibe, in monochromatic colour schemes. Some might not even feature numbers on their dial at all. The strap is often leather or fabric but can be metallic as well.

Aviation Watches

Also called pilot watches, aviation watches were first designed for pilots in the 1910s. This is reflected in their general design, with multiple faces (for dispensing different kinds of information), luminous dials, light casing, and a long strap. The face of an aviation watch can be oversized, but this is not a required feature. In fact, modern aviation watches tend to veer away from this and tend to be smaller and more wearable.

Analogue vs Digital

The difference between an analogue vs a digital watch is obvious enough to understand. The former features dials and hands, while the latter displays time using an LED or LCD screen. But which one should you choose?

As with anything watches, it all boils down to preference. Traditional, analogue watches are prized more for their look than timekeeping convenience. They also feature more durable and precious materials with sophisticated designs. Of course, that means that they’re more expensive overall.

Digital watches, on the other hand, are all about practicality, convenience and versatility. They allow you to tell time, even in the dark quickly. They also have more robust features and even apps (as is the case with the Apple Watch).

The drawback with digital watches is that they generally have less value compared to analogues. They’re also less versatile and fancy, as you’ll mostly never wear one in more formal occasions.

A subset of digital watches is the smartwatch category, a niche single-handedly started and led by the Apple Watch. These watches have loads of functionalities that analogues can only dream of. Most of these are fitness-related, such as monitoring heart rates or tracking calories. They can also sync with your smartphone so you can receive calls or access your calendar.

Bottom line is: buy an analogue watch for fashion and get a digital watch for practicality. Of course, the final decision is still up to you!

Case Size

The case of the watch refers to the main body of the watch itself, separate from the strap. What case size you’ll go for is a significant consideration when buying a watch, since it will influence how it will look on you. An oversized dress watch on a thin wrist simply isn’t attractive (unless that’s the look you’re going for).

For men, the case size of most watches is around 34 – 44 mm, which works well for average-sized male wrists. If you’re on the stockier side, go for a case size in the neighbourhood of 46 mm. Nevermind if the watch is loose on your wrist or not – you can quickly fix this with the strap.

For women, case sizes are more of a matter of style and statement. Most watches range from 20mm case sizes for dainty pieces, all the way to oversized 40mm dials. There’s no hard or fast rule, so pick one that you want; just make sure it’s not swamping your wrist too much.

Case Window Material

This refers to the transparent glass covering (which isn’t really glass) that protects the inside of your watch face. There are three different kinds of materials you can choose from, each with varying costs and protective capabilities.

The cheapest is acrylic and is also the weakest in terms of protection. You can, however, buff out some of the minor blemishes and scratches with acrylic coverings.

The next step up is mineral, which is made up of several different components heat-treated together to form a formidable, scratch-resistant barrier. It’s common in budget and mid-tier watches.

The best case window material is sapphire, which is unsurprisingly the most expensive as well. It’s approximately 300% harder than mineral and 20,000% more durable than acrylic.

Strap

The strap is equally essential in any watch as far as style and look is concerned. In fact, it carries much weight when mixing and matching timepieces to the occasion at hand.

For men, the choice is often either metal or leather. Metallic straps are best suited for casual endeavours, and they certainly look much more masculine. Leather straps, on the other hand, are the strap of choice for more formal engagements paired with a snappy suit. Rubber is relegated more to kids watches and can “cheapen” the watch; however, several high-quality watches can pull a rubber strap successfully.

Women have more or less the same strap choices, with one more additional one – bracelet straps. These are more akin to decorative bracelets with a watch dial strapped on. Compared to metal straps, they come in more precious materials and colours like gold and ceramic. Rose gold is a particularly desirable strap in women’s watches.

Complications

Complications are the proper watch term for the extra dials that are in your timepiece. They give additional features to your watch, and range from the very simple (showing the date) to the complicated (chronographs for stopwatch functionality).

The more complications a watch has, the more expensive it tends to be. It’s interesting to note that most of the functions that complications give are mostly obsolete in today’s smartphone world. In other words, you don’t buy complications because you actually need, much less use, them.

Nevertheless, complications are still seen as adding value to watch for the craftsmanship and engineering that they require.

Water Resistance

Nowadays, almost all watches have some degree of water resistance. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that you can swim with them. You need first to know how much water depth you watch can handle. To do that, you need to understand a few numbers.

Most manufacturers rate their watches using either depth (in meters), ATM or bar. 100 metres equal roughly 10 ATM or 10 Bar. At first glance, depth is easy enough to understand – it’s how deep underwater your watch can survive, right?

In reality, this isn’t the case. Dip your watch rated at 30 metres under 30 metres of water, and it will likely break. So what do these numbers mean? Here’s a brief breakdown.

30 metres / 3 ATM / 3 Bar – this is the bare minimum of water resistance for a watch. However, this rating simply protects your watches from splashes and NOT actual dipping in water. We don’t recommend wearing this watch while swimming

50 metres / 5 ATM / 5 Bar – this is the bare minimum for a watch that you can safely wear while swimming. However, you should only wear it on shallow water, and never dive with it.

100 metres / 10 ATM / 10 Bar – this watch is built for shallow diving or snorkelling for extended periods.

200 metres / 20 ATM / 20 Bar – Despite the considerable depth rating, you still shouldn’t risk scuba diving with this watch. At most, it’s for lap swimming, extended snorkelling, or light diving.

300 metres / 30 ATM / 30 Bar – watches at this rating are finally fit for scuba diving. Even so, it’s best not to exceed the specified 300-metre depth.

ISO 6425 – this is a special certification that guarantees a watch is safe for diving up to 100 metres, plus 25 more metres if water conditions are static. Also called diver’s watches, these can handle the most extreme scuba diving conditions. They also often have other protective capabilities like shock, magnetic, and salt resistance.

Timekeeping Accuracy

Technically speaking, if you want an accurate watch, you’ll go for a quartz piece over an automatic. In practice, however, the difference is so negligible between the two that you can safely ignore it. On average, automatic watches only fall behind by about 30 seconds a week.

Now, suppose you require a super accurate timepiece. In that case, you should buy a watch certified by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC). This non-profit organization tests the accuracy of all Swiss-made watches. This chronometer certification is only given to around 3% of all Swiss watches made, so you can imagine that it only applies to the most expensive of pieces.

Price

Price is one of the most critical aspects of buying a watch. Unfortunately, it also tends to be the most confusing. After all, some £20,000 watches tend to look exactly like the £50 you saw at the local department store.

While there’s no clear rule, there are some factors that influence price overall. As we mentioned, automatic watches tend to cost more compared to quartz. The place where the watch was manufactured also factors into the price. Swiss watches are considered to be the most prestigious and therefore costing the most. In contrast, Japanese watches are viewed as more functional and economical.

And of course, there’s the matter of brand prestige, something that a Rolex or a Panerai will command. This is a matter of opinion and preference. Some might like a Patek Philippe for its exclusivity, but many will baulk at its asking price.

In terms of category, luxury watches are those that tend to be in the four to five-digit range (more than £1,000), with budget pieces falling below £500. With that being said, budget pieces aren’t necessarily low quality. You’ll find many watches in this tier with the same features, accuracy, and durability as the top luxury watches. Sometimes, it really is just about the brand name.