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Every dad needs a good watch. But a good watch doesn’t have to be expensive. Nor does it need to connect to his phone. And while the perfect watch depends on the individual, there are plenty of budget-friendly options.
What do those look like? Fortunately, there are loads of fantastic watches for men out there today, from cool brands with awesome features that he’ll love to even watches with a touch of swag. So ask yourself: what will he want to do while wearing it? Shooting, swimming, camping, hiking, have a meeting or two?
Check out these affordable options, made by legendary watchmakers you can trust. Whether it’s mechanical or digital (or both), blacked-out or colorful, each is the only watch he’ll ever need — or the perfect addition to his collection.
One of the greatest watches on the planet costs less than $400. The Seiko SKX007 is technically a diver’s watch, with 200 meters of water resistance. But its chunky stainless steel case, rotating bezel, super-lumed dial and sturdy Seiko 7S26 automatic movement make it the perfect wear-it-anywhere watch. It is ideal for hiking and for going to the beach or the bar. It has also got a military styling that will suit his tastes for the practical.
Marathon General Purpose Quartz
Marathon is a fantastic and storied military watch brand. They started supplying watches to American soldiers way back in 1941. Lately they have been crafting a fistful of fantastic watches made to military specification to suit any budget. These come with adequate shock and water resistance and legibility for the field. The General Purpose Quartz is a no-nonsense field watch. At 34mm it is on the smaller side at 34mm; the perfect unassuming watch for the perfect unassuming man.
Hamilton Khaki Field
This update on a classic field watch worn by American soldiers in Vietnam is a steal for under $400. It comes from a respected brand (Hamilton used to be made in America but, alas, are now owned by the Swatch brand, which does good work, anyhow). It has a vintage military look, a sweet-spot 38mm size, and a hand-wound mechanical movement. Hamilton supplies loads of watches for the movies, so you’ve probably seen this particular model, or one like it, on Matthew McConaughey and the gang, too.
S&B Ambush 2.0
Analog or digital? Why choose just one? This beauty from micro-brand S&B pairs a Japanese battery-powered digital display with an analog set of hands. They’ve packed a lot into its bulky 48mm case: It has a chronograph, pedometer, thermometer, compass, and displays three-time zones. It is an expedition machine for less than $200. Oh — and blacked out, it’s cool as hell.
The fact of the matter is, if you want what most spec ops choose, you want a G-Shock. Yes, their funkiness has made them a street style icon, but don’t be fooled. They still can survive getting run over by an M1 Abrams or being frozen in a chunk of ice for a few days. And while its the best budget option, the functionality of this workout-centric beast (try it in desert tan) is due to an impressive quartz brain that runs a 3-axis accelerometer and a multi-timer with enough memory to record 200 laps. Not too bad for a hundred bucks.
Tissot Seastar 1000
Like Bond in a tux, its black PVD-coated stainless steel case is all business, until it comes time to mix it up. Then it’s ready to go, with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, screw-down crown, and lumed markers and hands. Its black rubber strap is the final touch of perfection on a brawler of a watch that you can wear to a wedding.
Timex Navi XL
Don’t sleep on Timex. Just because they’re affordable enough for any budget it does not mean they are not awesome. This one was inspired by the brand’s earliest dive watches and carries forward the kind of tough utility that will last you a lifetime. We prefer the 41mm over the 38mm; the extra legibility of its lumed dial and hands is perfect for a night mission. (Blacked out it is best for field ops; but try the white dial for a cleaner, around town look.)
A cheap little watch that’ll make most watch nerds cry tears of joy. This little beast is the perfect first watch. Seiko has been making the Seiko 5 for a few decades. It has always come with a stubborn mechanical movement, solid water resistance. And its price means that you will not wince twice at replacing it should you lose it — or if you just want a new one in a different color.