Everyday Carry

Best Budget Automatic EDC Watches in 2022

Ed Jelley
Best Budget Automatic EDC Watches in 2022

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You may have heard the term “automatic” thrown around a lot when talking about watches. On the most basic level, it means that the watch runs without a battery. Instead, it's powered by you! Essentially, there’s a tiny machine that’s “charged up” by a spinning rotor, completely driven by the movement of your wrist throughout the day. They keep running as long as you wear it, and the work that's involved in designing an accurate time telling machine is equally impressive. Fortunately, you can find a few solid watches featuring this fascinating movement that actually stand up to daily use without costing an arm and a leg. In this guide, we'll highlight our top 5 automatic mechanical watches for EDC on a budget.

Best Mechanical Watches on a Budget

Seiko SNK809
Orient Bambino V2
Hamilton Khaki Field
Seiko SKX009
Orient Defender

Case Size: 37 mm
Case Size: 40.5 mm
Case Size: 38 mm
Case Size: 43 mm
Case Size: 42 mm
Water Resistance: 30M
Water Resistance: 30M
Water Resistance: 50M
Water Res.: 200M
Water Res.: 100M
Origin: Malaysia
Origin: Japan
Origin: Switzerland
Origin: Thailand
Origin: Japan
Pro: Value
Pro: Office wear
Pro: Reliability
Pro: Diving
Pro: Daily wear
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Why EDC an Automatic Watch?

With all of the quartz and digital watch options out there, why invest in and wear an automatic watch?

  • No Batteries to Change: An automatic watch can run for years without requiring service. If the movement runs out of power, simply give it a little shake (or wind, depending on the movement) to get it running again.

  • A Watch for Life: Automatic watches can be serviced, repaired, and worn for decades without giving out. A quartz watch with a PC board and battery doesn’t have the potential to last quite as long without issues.

  • Cool Factor: At the heart of the watch is a tiny, complex machine with dozens of moving parts that all work in conjunction to tell the time. It’s just plain cool.

Now that you have an idea of why an automatic watch works well for EDC, here are 5 great options to choose from that won't cost you a fortune.

Seiko SNK809

The Seiko 5 SNK809 represents the best value in mechanical watches today. This feature-packed time piece has a ton of useful features bundled into a classic looking field watch package. To be a part of Seiko’s “5” line, the watch must be water resistant, shock resistant, have an automatic movement, have a day/date display, and a recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position. The best part? This watch will only run you right around 80 bucks.

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Orient Bambino Gen 2, V3

Orient’s Bambino dresses things up a bit. This take on the classic dress watch adds in a little bit of Bauhaus-inspired minimalism to the design. The sleek hour and minute markers pop out against the contrasting black face, while the squared-off hour and minute hands stay discreet yet legible. The domed mineral crystal adds a touch of vintage flair and wrist presence that’s typically found on watches several times the price of the Bambino. Of course you get an automatic movement, steel case, and leather strap as well.

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Hamilton Khaki Field

When talking about automatic watches, it’s hard to leave Switzerland out of the discussion. This country is known for their high level of detail and precision in watch manufacturing, and the watches hailing from Switzerland typically have the price tag to match. Hamilton’s Khaki Field is one of the most affordable Swiss watches out there. This 38mm field watch wears well on almost any wrist thanks to the conservative size.

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Seiko SKX009

When looking for an automatic watch, you're bound to come across one of these legendary divers from Seiko’s SKX line. These ISO-certified dive watches are built like tanks, with plenty of welcomed features inside. In addition to the automatic movement, there’s a day/date display, a sturdy screw down crown, and a stainless steel case that will hold up to years of use and abuse. The watch comes on a rubber dive strap, but switching to a nylon nato style, or bracelet can add a level of personalization to really make the watch yours.

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Orient Defender

The Defender is Orient’s unique entry into the field watch category. What stands out about the Orient Defender is the grey dial and day, date, and 24 hour sub dials. It’s not often that you see that much complexity on an affordable mechanical watch. It’s got an in-house (“made by the brand” in watch speak) automatic movement, hardened mineral crystal, and 100M of water resistance. The Defender makes for an excellent everyday watch, whether you’re in the office or out in the field.

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What's your favorite budget mechanical watch tough enough for EDC duty? Let us know in a comment below!

#watches #buying-guides #budget-automatic-watch #best-cheap-mechanical-watches #edc-watch-for-men see all

Who Likes This (42)

33 others

Discussion (23 total)

Ian Gilson ·
Vostok Amphibia. Huge amount of bang for your buck.
Lilith Mckenzie Nightinga ·
was just about to say ummm your list is missing vostok
the Seiko's are proven workhorses, neither hand wind or hack seconds, features worth pursuing. some 5's do, IIRC. the Bambino does, the Defender not. The Hamilton winds and hacks, has options on dial color.

Seiko 5's are available in a wide range of styles, check out watchsleuth dot com.

the Hamilton hits all the right buttons for a military watch- it's an auto/hack/wind, the second and minute hands meet the tick marks on the dial, and it is reliable&handsome. my money's on the Hamilton.

remember, you don' have to buy a *new* watch...
For a great value Gentleman's dress watch... The Bambino
The Bambino has a great variety by having (4) different versions and different color faces (generally 4) for each version, a total of 16 possible choices.

Personally I like version 1 white face (classic) while my son prefers Blue face version 4 with red tip second hand.

If desiring a Field watch, could get a great Citizen BM8180 Solar quartz for 30% of Hamilton or Seiko SNE095 Solar Quartz for 35% of the Hamilton. Nothing against Hamilton, just my thoughts on a Field Watch prefer quartz movement, and $350 is not my ideal of being affordable EDC watch mechanical or otherwise. Needs to be under $200. Your income level may allow more, but I would not say spending more than 1 days wage is affordable.
Orwell ·
I agree with the Bambion as a cool dresswatch. Sady its to big for me, with 40mm.
I also have the Citizen BM8180, a almost perfekt Fieldwatch.Gererally a quartz is a bit better as field watch, but if you plan to use it as EDC its okay to use mechanical.
Nicely-presented info in this article. I appreciated the line-up of watch specs side-by-side in a row of five across, with their stats and a ranking. Keep that kind of thing in place for any round-up of products, it is very handy.

Glad to see the Orange Monster mentioned in this thread. That'd be my pick. I own one and the sturdiness is incredible. It will take any whack or ding and shrug it off without raising an eyebrow. I especially hate catching watch crowns on doorjambs and vehicle doors and turnstiles. With other watches that can be a real worry. Not so with the Monster.

Tried a black NATO strap on it, but it wound up a grievous mismatch. The Monster really needs the heavy rubber strap; a lesser nylon choice just can't control it. It's a beast from the East!

Nathan Schneider ·
Bernhardt has some wonderful watches. Quality materials, excellent design, and they're made in America. I love my Binnacle Diver and would strongly recommend it to anyone.
J.S. Leonard ·
REALLY!!! REALLY!!! No Seiko Monster?!? Probably the best budget and quality entry level Automatic.
Ed Jelley ·
It was between the Monster and the SKX, and I opted to include the SKX. We took a poll on our Instagram Stories and the SKX actually beat out the Monster by a considerable amount of votes. The SKX's styling is a little more forgiving to a wider range of people too. However, the Monster is a super unique looking watch that's totally fit for EDC duty.
J.S. Leonard ·
The SKX009 has had ALOT of issues with QC and time keeping. The SKX779 on the other hand has been a perfect piece and the darling of the Seiko and horology world. They both have the same movement but the SKX779 for one reason or another has and does keep better time. The reason the SKX009 is popular is the fact it's a Rolex wannabe where the SKX779 is completely original. I get why people picked the 009 but it's just an unoriginal and lesser watch compared to the 779. As a diver and tool watch the 009 isn't the best choice even for the money. The SRP777 would be a better choice over the SKX009. Other solid choices Helson Shark Diver 42, Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba.
Automatic watches do need maintenance every few years and it is not cheap. Find a good horologist to work on them if you plan to keep your watch a long time.
craig b ·
This article is scratching where I'm itching! Thanks for getting this conversation going.
Ed Jelley ·
Awesome! Did you pick up a new watch yet?
craig b ·
Still rocking my citizen Calibre eco drive and G-shock. They just check a lot of boxes and are zero maintenance (perpetual calendar, solar, etc). 1st step in mechanical will be soon, just don't know which direction. Right now looking at Sinn, Nomos, etc. I don't want brands like Omega, Rolex, AP, because I don't want to care that much, if that makes any sense. definitely not interested in impressing anyone.
Can't go wrong with an SKX. My first was a SKX007 and I wear it most of all and highly recommend.
The Orient Bambino always gets all the love, but I picked up the Orient Symphony 2. For the same price, and often less than the Bambino, you get an exhibition back and a sapphire crystal. I also like the look of the Symphony 2 better than the Bambino as I'm not as much of a fan of that Bauhaus look, but that's personal taste.
BTW, the Bambino pictured is a version 3, the version 2 has Roman Numerals.
It is a Gen 2, water resistance, instead of Gen 1, water resist on watch face.
Eric Bordlee ·
Just from reading your blog and you pieces here, I had a feeling you were running the EDC account that day, Ed. Great work!
Ed Jelley ·
Am I that obvious? Haha. Thanks for the kind words!
Kenneth M Blake ·
I'm a fan. I want a versatile go to everyday watch that will not crap out on me. I'm stuck between the Hamilton Khaki and the Seiko SKX
While not listed here, search for Seiko 5 on Amazon, as well Orient Mako & Mako II. Very similar to the SKX but a bit more versatile (can more easily pair with cuff/coat). However I'm a big fan of Hamilton...have 3, of which the Jazzmaster Viewmatic is my daily wear. Make sure you check out all of their Khaki (Field and Pilot lines) as well as the Jazzmaster watches before deciding.
Zebadiah Ritselaar ·
And both the Mako and the Ray are less expensive right now than the SKX...
Ed Jelley ·
Both are solid choices. Depends on what style you prefer!