Reviews: What Are The Top 3 Best Automatic Watches Under £500

It’s great having a luxury Swiss watch like a Rolex, Breitling, TAG, Patek etc but most of us cannot justify spending over 5K on a watch. More importantly, as UK cities gradually become no-go zones for older people wearing expensive watches, it’s not much fun buying something and then simply locking it away in a safe, gathering dust and costing you an extra £80 a year in bespoke insurance.

So what can you get for under £500 that has a good quality automatic movement, looks stylish and might actually hold its value in the medium term?  Here are Warrington Watch Co’s top three High Street/online winners.

  1. Seiko Presage Cocktail – Sunray Blue Dial. 

      Target Price: £300 

This handsome dress watch has a trusty 4R35 Cal movement, which is visible through the see-thru caseback, so you get that blokey gears n cogs bonus feature. The sunburst blue dial is beautiful on the wrist and the oversize crown adds a practical touch. You can wind this model, as well as give it the Seiko shake.

Comes on a decent metal bracelet with foldover clasp, or a leather strap. Either way, looks handsome with a business suit, or more casual night out clothes. You can haggle one brand new at £300, saving about £50 on the current UK RRP – I know it can be found at this bargain price, cos I just bought one!

This may not ever be a collector’s item like the Pepsi bezel divers watch, or a Seikosha Sportsman, but you’ll always find a buyer willing to give you £100-£150 back if you look after this reliable watch and keep the box and papers, can you really say the same if you buy an Armani/Boss quartz?

2. Tissot Powermatic 80

Target Price: £400

A Swiss auto for just 400 quid? Seems too good to be true and in some ways, it is, for the Powermatic 80 movement has some plastic parts inside to save on production costs. The reason for that is that Tissot is part of Swatch and so a little bit of the same tech in the Sistem 51 Swatch auto movement has found its way into the Powermatic 80.

OK, so there’s no regulating lever in the Powermatic 80, which means the balance wheel cannot be adjusted by a watchmaker in the future. That said, the movement does have plenty of metal parts, carried over from the trusty ETA 2824 series, and it is authentically assembled in Switzerland, so you have the Swiss Made logo on your watch, just like someone who has splashed out 3.5K on a TAG Monaco.

The Powermatic 80 looks understated, does the job and although it is undeniably built to a price, you will always find someone who wants a pre-owned Tissot automatic in the future. For that reason alone we think this entry level, everyday Swiss watch is worth a look.

3. Mondaine SBB 40mm Automatic

Target Price: £499

For us, the classic Swiss SBB Railway Clock design of the Mondaine is what gives this watch a long lasting appeal. It looks classic because it is a TRUE classic, and that means cash in the attic in years to come.

It also has the Sellita SW200 movement inside its 40mm case, which is exactly the same movement that powers many an Oris, Eterna, TAG Calibre 5, Baume & Mercier, Sinn, Christopher Ward, Bell & Ross and many more brands.

The big difference is that the Mondaine cased Sellita SW200 costs you around 500 quid, whereas the same movement, albeit in slightly modified form, can be found in a Baume & Mercier Clifton that has a £1300 pice tag, or a Hublot Fusion that costs over £4000. In short, you get pretty much the same engine, but save yourself a fortune. The only letdown with the Mondaine watches imho is the rubbishy straps that come as standard, but a nice Hirsch for about £30 will soon sort that out.

Honourable Mentions:

OK, let’s give a tip of the hat to the following bargain automatics which offer reliability, strong resale demand and look half right.

Junghans Max Bill – classic retro lines will never go out of fashion. £490

Seiko 5 Sports – Refreshed styling and chunky cases make the humble 5 a winner £270

Victorinox Swiss Maverick – Outdoor style, rugged build quality, all for £350-ish

Hmilton Khaki Chronograph – Reliable ETA derived movement, big case chrono £400



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