Best Chronograph Watch Under $500

Written by Paul Morrison
| Last Updated on July 22, 2021

Whether you use it for the added functions or just love it for the complex design, chronographs are a posh accessory to carry on the wrist.

While chronographs definitely look like a million bucks, they don’t always have to be expensive watches.

Check out our comprehensive guide below for the best chronograph watches under $500.

Best Overall

Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251

Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251

Best Value

Orient Neo 70 Solar Panda WV0041TX

Orient Neo 70 Solar Panda WV0041TX

Best Budget

Seiko Chronograph Alarm SNAF09

Seiko Chronograph SNAF09

Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251

Best Overall

Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251

The Bulova Lunar Pilot pays homage to the Omega Speedmaster. Without this incident, the Lunar Pilot wouldn’t be what it is today.

Allow us to tell you a story in under 15 seconds.

This chronograph watch actually found its beginnings in the Apollo 15 space mission – Yes, it just so happens the commander in charge ran into an unfortunate situation.

When the crystal on his Speedmaster popped out, the commander in charge reached for his Bulova prototype. And the rest, they say, is history.

So if you have DOUBTS about this watch’s quality, well…

The Bulova Lunar Pilot is every bit as high-quality as its Omega inspiration. And that’s all justified by its modest price tag.

This also includes its stellar features:

  • The white markings against the black dial make this timepiece extremely LEGIBLE.
  • The dial has a nice depth given the raised tachymeter rehaut under the crystal.
  • While the protruding watch crystal may be a cause for concern, some watch-wearers think this simply adds to the 3D relief of this chronograph.
  • The subdials measure 1/20th of a second (3 o’clock position), 60-minute (9 o’clock position), and small seconds for the current time (6 o’clock position).
  • The Bulova Lunar Pilot quartz watch also carries a decent amount of luminosity in the dark, with lume painted on its hour markings and dial hands.
  • Bulova also uses an ULTRA-HIGH frequency quartz movement in this watch for an accuracy of +/-10 seconds per year! That means you DO NOT have to worry about losing seconds and precision timekeeping!

Looking at the +/- 15 seconds per month on a traditional quartz watch, Bulova’s is out of this world.


  • Design is similar to Omega Speedmaster
  • High precision movement
  • Highly scratch-resistant sapphire crystal case


  • Weak lume
  • Leather strap is flimsy and prone to folds
  • Protruding case is susceptible to hitting on surfaces


  • Case Diameter: 39mm (Stainless steel)
  • Case Thickness: 11mm
  • Crystal: Sapphire crystal
  • Movement: Quartz movement
  • Water Resistance: 50m

Orient Neo 70 Solar Panda WV0041TX

Best Value

Orient Neo 70 Solar Panda WV0041TX

Did this watch give you a heart attack for its beauty? Because we felt it too.

Something about chronographs gives the wearer such a distinct classy and POWERFUL appeal.

The Orient Neo 70 Solar Panda is no exception.

This chronograph successfully incorporates that old-time feel into the modern sports watch style without making the timepiece feel too dated.

Even if we didn’t wear this watch, we’d consider it a TROPHY collection to keep for generations to come.

Especially the panda dial which is a classic in itself.

Let’s DISSECT its more intricate parts:

  • The outer edge of the dial has a black chapter ring for the seconds, while the center of the dial has a chronograph function for measuring time in 24 hours, 60-minutes, and seconds.
  • The hour and second hand are painted with luminescent material on their tips and provide decent legibility in the dark.
  • The date display is positioned between the 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock markers and is slightly recessed into the dial.

Notice the “complications” this chronograph comes with?

ACTUALLY… that’s what makes the design so bold and stunning. The Orient Neo 70 deserves to be appreciated and studied carefully.

You can’t just take a GLANCE and say you’ve SEEN it. You need to look closer. Dive. Deeper.

All the intricate parts, design, and materials come together in a complicated, profound, and elegant style.

Women will be BEGGING to hold your hand as they study the fine piece strapped to your wrist.

And don’t forget it’s powered by solar technology too!

For a price point of around $300, the Orient Neo 70 Solar Panda is an excellent high-value option if you’re looking for a chronograph that can double as a dress watch, too.


  • Style and quality provides excellent value for money
  • Solar-powered movement negates the need for batteries
  • Great for everyday wear or more formal occasion


  • Date display disturbs watch symmetry
  • Size might be too chunky for some wearers
  • Crystal case is not as scratch-resistant and will be prone to scuffs


  • Case Diameter: 42mm (Stainless steel)
  • Case Thickness: 11.7mm
  • Crystal: Mineral crystal
  • Movement: Quartz movement
  • Water Resistance: 100m

Seiko Chronograph Alarm SNAF09

Best Budget Pick

Seiko Chronograph Alarm SNAF09

If you’re looking for a chronograph that stands out in the crowd without DOUBLE-DOWNING on cash, the Seiko Chronograph Alarm SNAF09 is the timepiece for you.

The green dial is undoubtedly the most striking element of this timepiece. But do you know what else is stunning?


It’s ridiculous how Seiko managed to design an exquisite piece without making the wearer feel they’re spending GOLD to get your hands on diamonds.

But enough foreplay. For now, let’s look at its delicate parts:

  • The sunburst finish reflects light beautifully while the gold markings and accents on the hour and second hand give the timepiece an even more expensive look.
  • The markers are also applied with lume which is extremely reliable in the dark.
  • Surrounding the dial is the Seiko brand’s own Hardlex crystal which is MORE scratch-resistant than the mineral crystal you’ll find on most chronographs under $500.
  • The crown has crown guards which add to the bulkiness and manliness of this timepiece, but also minimize the possibility of you accidentally activating them.
  • The Seiko Chronograph Alarm (keeping true to its name) also has an alarm chronograph function.

These features and parts along with the date display at the 3 o’clock position are the kind of design elements you want to have for EVERYDAY WEAR and use.

While this timepiece may be quartz-powered by the Seiko caliber 7T62, the movement has a power reserve of 3 years.

Considering the hardwearing movement, crystal quality, and overall design style, the Seiko Chronograph Alarm is one of the best chronograph watches the watch world has to offer.


  • Best affordable watch
  • Accent timepiece
  • Reliable and hardwearing movement


  • Battery will need to be changed from time to time
  • Leather strap is not as long-lasting
  • Case size is big for most wrists


  • Case Diameter: 41mm (Stainless steel)
  • Case Thickness: 10mm
  • Crystal: Hardlex crystal
  • Movement: Japanese quartz movement
  • Water Resistance: 100m

Citizen Eco-Drive AT0200-05E

Citizen Eco-Drive AT0200-05E

The Citizen Eco-Drive continues to top lists for affordable timepieces that deliver EXCEPTIONAL value for money.

We love the extreme durability and quality of this military-style chronograph watch, making it a great option for an everyday field watch.

Here’s why.

The stainless steel case has just the right amount of weight on the wrist to feel solid and reliable- just as a tool watch should be.
This chronograph watch is water-resistant up to 100m – handy for shallow swims but isn’t enough to be qualified for a dive watch (dive watches usually have a water resistance of 200m+).

The black dial has track markings for seconds and three subdials that display 1-second (6 o’clock position), 60-minute (10 o’clock position), and 12/24-hour time (2 o’clock position).
Some other useful watch features are the luminescent hands and the date display at the 4 o’clock position.

Can Citizen’s AT0200-05E survive hard hits?


The watch crystal is sufficiently scratch-resistant, but it’s not as hard as sapphire crystal. Still, that’s understandable given the modest price of the Citizen Eco-Drive.

We feel Citizen’s AT0200 – 05E chronograph deserves to be part of our BEST PICKS because you get more than just ordinary quality for the price. Top-notch quality under 500 is a steal!

The most convenient part?

If you’re tired of buying batteries for your watches, Citizen STEALS the light thanks to its solar-powered Eco-Drive technology! You don’t even need direct sunlight to power it- ambient lighting is enough.


  • Durable and reliable
  • Value for money
  • No need to change batteries


  • Dial design might feel cluttered for some watch wearers
  • Not suitable for diving
  • Chunky crown may be uncomfortable


  • Case Diameter: 41mm (Stainless steel)
  • Case Thickness: 11mm
  • Crystal: Mineral crystal
  • Movement: Eco-Drive (light-powered quartz movement)
  • Water Resistance: 100m

Seagull 1963

Seagull 1963

The Seagull 1963‘s panda dial is the MOST DEFINING element of this watch.

SAVE your critics for later until you read all there is to know about it.

Though usually associated with the cute and cuddly animal, the black and white dial window gives a wonderful vintage element to this chronograph.

Here are some of its best aspects for the ideal wearer:

  1. The smaller case diameter is perfect for smaller wrists
  2. If you’re going for a minimalist and retro style, this is it
  3. It feels light and comfortable on the wrist
  4. Finally, the domed scratch-resistant, sapphire crystal also adds to the retro look

Even the technical parts give off a retro, vintage vibe such as:

  • The outer edge of the chronograph dial has printed black minute and seconds with precision to 1/5th of a second.
  • At the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions are the 30-minute and running seconds function for easy functionality.
  • The triangular markers with the Arabic numerals make for a very 60’s aesthetic, and the red star just below the 12 o’clock position is a nice touch from that era.

The Seagull 1963 watches come with either a nylon strap or a brown leather strap, perfect for when you want to use it as a field or a dress watch.

Personally, we prefer brown over green, HANDS DOWN.

Now, here’s where it gets a little technical.

The “21 Zuan” on the dial refers to the ST19 mechanical movement that uses a 21-jewel column wheel.  We won’t get into the specifics because that might BORE YOU TO DEATH.

What’s important to remember is that the ST19 movement is what makes the Seagull 1963 one of the best chronograph watches under $500.

The movement is a mechanical, non-hacking, movement with manual winding you can see through the clear case back; making it another one of the standout design features on this watch.

At this price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find other chronographs with this kind of mechanical movement.


  • Unique vintage design style and open case-back gives a luxury look and feel
  • Sapphire crystal provides excellent scratch resistance
  • Best affordable mechanical chronograph


  • Retro style may not be for everyone
  • Lack of branding, common strap, and no art on display case crystal may make the watch feel generic
  • Manual wind may be cumbersome for wearers used to automatic movement


  • Case Thickness: 14.5mm
  • Case Diameter: 38mm (Stainless steel)
  • Crystal: Sapphire crystal
  • Movement: Mechanical movement
  • Water Resistance: 30m

Citizen Avion Eco-Drive Men’s Watch

Citizen Avion Eco-Drive Men's Watch

Well, look at you, gorgeous.

It’s not JUST the chronograph function that got us to want it for ourselves. It’s one of the few watches under $500 that can pass as a chronograph, pilot/aviator watch, AND dress watch.

Its looks and winning combination of its black dial, white luminous markers, and brown strap make it one of the finest pieces to wear that will definitely turn heads.

What about its technical aspects?

  • Has three chronograph functions showing you the minutes and hour sub-dials along with its Eco-Drive movement
  • Its 100m water resistance rating allows you to wear it for swimming and snorkeling expeditions
  • White luminous markers give it a solid glow in the dark style that matches perfectly with the dial
  • The rechargeable power cell stores surplus energy you can take from any natural and artificial light source

We love everything there is about Citizen Avion, from its style and functionality down to the easy legibility.

The only downside?

The day-date window is rather at an “off” position. You won’t notice it easily compared to its other parts.

Also, some users mentioned they received defective or cheap versions, so be sure to keep these in mind.


  • Highly affordable
  • Versatile piece; can be used as a dress or pilot watch
  • Colors blend perfectly together for a classic, timeless, and elegant piece
  • Its large case diameter suits bigger wrists and hands more
  • Attracts a lot of attention without being flashy
  • Decent accuracy


  • Strap quality needs improvement
  • Day-date position isn’t very clear


  • Case Thickness: 13.5mm
  • Case Diameter: 45mm (Stainless steel)
  • Crystal: Mineral crystal
  • Movement: Japanese Quartz
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Stationary Bezel


How Do You Use A Chronograph?

While chronograph timepieces look cool and high-tech, those sub-dials are there for a reason.

First and foremost, chronographs were invented to be used as stopwatches.

While there are several different types of chronographs, most of them work like this:

Step 1: Starting and Stopping A Chronograph

Most chronograph timepieces will have 2 pushers on the right side of the watch case.

Pressing the top will begin timing your event and will prompt the seconds hand (centered on the dial) to start ticking. You can then use the same pusher to stop timing.

Step 2: Reading A Chronograph

Because of their stopwatch functionality, chronograph watches display the time measured on the sub-dials separately from the current time being read on the watch.

Reading a chronograph is as simple as looking at the dials on the watch face, which are usually split into a dial each for seconds, minutes, and hours.

If you’re still a little bit lost, this YouTube tutorial breaks the whole process down well.

Step 3: Resetting the Chronograph

The bottom pusher will reset the chronograph to zero.

Note that some watches will only have a ‘monopusher’, which is a single button to start, stop, and reset.

Can You Run A Chronograph All The Time?

A chronograph gets its energy from the mainspring of a watch, which is powered by different sources depending on the kind of WATCH MOVEMENT your timepiece has:

  • If you have an automatic chronograph, you might not notice your watch running out of juice since it’s powered by your wrist movement.
  • If you have a mechanical or quartz-powered watch, you’ll find that you have to wind it more often or change the batteries as they run out.

The more important thing to consider, though, is that a chronograph is still a mechanical timepiece made up of several different parts.

Whenever a machine is used continuously, those parts start to wear and tear because of the friction of the movement.

This includes the start and stop function of the pushers on chronograph watches. Constant use of the pushers may even wear your timepiece out faster than just leaving your chronograph running.

Are Chronograph Watches Dressy?


While there are some watch aficionados out there who will insist that a chronograph is strictly a sports watch only, most watch wearers would rather have one watch for several occasions.

That said, when it comes to wearing chronographs as dress watches, the same rules apply to how you would pair your shoes with your suit.

Bearing in mind the kind of event (like black tie versus smart casual) will determine the appropriate bracelet type, design, and even size of your chronograph.

Case Size

Generally, picking a chronograph with a case size that’s appropriate for your wrist will enable you to wear it on everyday and formal occasions.

Going with a timepiece with a case thickness of 10mm-12mm is also preferable as this would enable you to slide your chronograph sleekly under your cuff.


You can’t go wrong wearing chronographs with stainless steel bracelets. Whether you’re wearing jeans and a blazer or a full-on suit, you can dress it up or down.

That said, leather straps can also be dressy but aren’t as appropriate for black tie events.

Also, leather straps are more prone to breaking or creasing especially if it’s just a faux leather bracelet.


Finally, going with a chronograph that has a white dial or black dial (or even a panda dial!) window helps you match any outfit with your timepiece since they’re neutral colors.

This article sums up all these points nicely.


Chronograph watches are not only classy-looking but provide great functionality, too.

Sport them for dressy occasions or use them on the field- a chronograph watch is a great choice for an everyday watch if you just had to buy one.

The best thing is they don’t even have to be expensive to meet all your watch needs.


Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251


Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251
About Paul Morrison

For years I’ve been buying and selling watches as a hobby, which led me to the decision of starting Watch for Tomorrow. I write a lot of the content, and I enjoy doing it. The most important aspect for me is the guidance of buying watches as well as avoiding bad ones. There are many bad watches out there, that are just too expensive. Hopefully, I can help you find your dream watch!