So, what’s the deal with automatic watches? A watch is a watch, right? Not exactly. Just like cars, they all have something a little different under the hood. And if you’re really serious about your timepieces, then this guide to the best automatic watches is totally worth the read.
The “automatic” movement refers to the elaborate and complex components that keep your watch going. By comparison, quartz watches are made up of much simpler parts. Think of it this way: automatic watches are like a Ferrari, while quartz is your Kia. Both are great in their own right, but one is clearly more luxurious.
Trouble is, there are so many options that it can be a little like trying to find your car in a busy parking lot (okay, that’s enough of the motoring analogies now). To help, I’m going to introduce you to a selection of the finest styles around.
Whether you’re a watch enthusiast or an intrigued newbie, automatic watches should be firmly on your radar. Which is why I’ve compiled this guide to take you through 15 of the best automatic watches on the market.
From Timex’s excellent M79 to Fossil’s Townsman, these watches are so much more than a pretty face. And each and everyone is worthy of your consideration. You’ll find something for all styles and budgets, plus a bunch of top tips for what to look out for when making your choice.
When it comes to luxury watches, nine times out of ten, you’re going to be looking down at an automatic. The hallmark of a fine timepiece is the elaborate self-winding movement featuring an array of wheels, springs, and gears (amongst some other fiddly bits) to help keep your watch ticking.
And while there are a plethora of options to choose from, the M79 from Timex is up there with the best. Sleek, stylish, and versatile, it can be worn with everything from tailoring to casual staples. Boasting a 40-hour power reserve, it comes with a stainless steel bracelet featuring a curved, solid link construction. The black and blue bezel gives it a slightly sporty feel, and there are luminous dial markings for night-time viewing. My favorite feature is the exhibition case back showing off the clever mechanics that make the watch work.
Case Size: 40mm | Material: Stainless Steel | Water Resistant: Yes
With its elegant case, smart strap, and slim profile, the timeless dress watch is perfectly designed to sit neatly beneath the cuff of your favorite formal shirt and jacket. But while it may feel most at home with your finest attire, the best automatic watches will look just as good with a button-down Oxford and some slim-fitting khakis.
Proudly housing an impressively thin caliber, this one from Nomos Glashutte is classy but packs plenty of impact. Award-winning with plenty of charm, it’s complete with a galvanized, white silver-plated dial, cyan blue minute markers, and a sleek black strap made from one of the most luxurious leathers in the world.
Case Size: 45mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Leather | Water Resistant: Yes
Dive watches may be designed to accompany you to the depths of the sea, but in reality, you don’t have to be sticking on scuba gear to wear one. I guess it’s a little like wearing sportswear outside of the gym. Stylish, strong, and water-resistant (of course), they’re a great everyday option, whether you’re taking a quick dip or dining al fresco.
The Aquascaphe Dual-Crown from Baltic is the cream of the crop. Equipped for the harshest of conditions (whether you’re in the water or land), it boasts an uncluttered dial protected by domed sapphire crystal that’s ultra-strong and scratch resistant. The dual crowns not only allow for the internal bezel to be adjusted but can be used to wind the automatic movement and set the time.
Case Size: 47mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Tropic Rubber | Water Resistant: Yes
You don’t have to drop a ton of money in order to find an awesome watch. In fact, some of the finest brands in the business make affordable timepieces. So, if you don’t want to spend more than $500, the HMS 002 from Baltic is a great place to start.
Inspired by original 1940s designs, the three-hand automatic comes complete with a host of modern finishes including linear and circular brushing, plus a smooth blue leather strap. At 38mm in diameter, it’s perfectly sized for wearing with suits but will look just as good with a white tee and jeans.
Case Size: 38mm | Material: Stainless Steel | Water Resistant: Yes
Black watches don’t just look great with all-black outfits—they pair perfectly with almost every outfit imaginable. Which is why it makes total sense to add one to your growing accessory collection.
This one from Baltic has been designed specifically for diving, but it’s also an excellent everyday option. Shockproof, waterproof, and scratch-resistant, it’ll take you from the beach to the bar and back again. Wear it with everything from hoodies and jeans to shirts and slacks.
Case Size: 38mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Tropic Rubber | Water Resistant: Yes
If you’re looking for a watch for $1,000 or less, I have some good news: it’s a great price point, and there’s plenty of options to choose from. Better yet, you’re going to get a really nice, high-quality watch for your money.
Case in point is the Gentleman Powermatic from Tissot. A fine choice for every day, it’ll perfectly complement your formalwear, and easily smarten up your off-duty attire. And at the $700 price point, you’re even left with some spare cash to put in the bank. As far as its appearance goes, it’s housed in a stainless steel exhibition case, with a brown leather strap that’ll never look out of place.
Case Size: 40mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Leather | Water Resistant: Yes
Don’t worry if everything I’ve featured so far is a little out of budget. This next pick from Fossil is the most affordable watch on my list of the best automatic watches for men. Timeless, reliable, and wallet-friendly, it’s an excellent all-rounder that won’t leave your bank account empty.
Complete with an analog display, stainless steel case, and brown leather strap, it has everything you’d expect to see from a luxury watch (but without the excessive price tag). What impresses me most is the skeleton dial that acts like a trophy cabinet—showing off the detailed inner workings achieved by years of hard work and expert craftsmanship. If you’re taking it on vacation, leave in the hotel for deep-sea adventures, but a quick dip in the pool is fine.
Case Size: 44mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Leather | Water Resistant: Yes
It’s not just the certified baller connotations that make gold watches popular. The wide range of options, slick style, and impressive versatility makes them a must-have timepiece for any well-dressed guy. Seriously, they’re up there with diamond watches when it comes to luxury.
Inspired by vintage models from times past, this limited edition design from Zodiac is fit for a king. Featuring a 40mm stainless steel and yellow gold PVD case, it’s finished with sapphire crystal glass and a deployment clasp for added durability and security. You could wear it with a polo and khakis, but I think it looks best with a fresh navy suit.
Case Size: 40mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Yellow Gold | Water Resistant: Yes
It’s no wonder some of the best automatic watches are made from stainless steel. Tough, versatile, and anti-corrosive, it’s the perfect material for an accessory that’s with you from morning ’til night.
As you’d expect, there are a vast amount of options available, but it’s this 2021 model from Omega that really caught my eye. It’s inspired by the 4th generation Speedmaster worn on all six landings on the moon, and powered by a 3861 caliber movement. Truly out of this world (sorry, I had to), it benefits from 30-minute and 12-hour recorders, and can be worn in water up to 50 meters deep.
Case Size: 42mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Nylon | Water Resistant: Yes
Military watches were originally made for soldiers, allowing them to keep track of time under adverse physical conditions. They also came with a bunch of special features that would help complete the mission at hand. Today, they’re the perfect hard-wearing timepiece for any kind of badass—whether you’re an avid hiker or regular gym goer.
Named after one of the most extreme deserts on earth, the Atacama Field from Luminox is designed for outdoor adventures but will slot effortlessly into your city ensembles. The robust sapphire crystal glass is pretty awesome, but the most impressive feature is the self-powered illumination system. Using tiny micro gas light sources, the face is kept light under any circumstances. Seriously, 24/7, for up to 25 years.
Case Size: 44mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Nylon | Water Resistant: Yes
Watches are a bit like sneakers. There are those you treat with contempt and others that you guard with your life (and show off at any given chance). These, of course, are the ones totally worth the splurge.
Montblanc’s 1858 GMT falls into that category. Presented in a 42mm stainless steel case, it comes with a black sunray dial with an interchangeable black rubber strap. The GMT time zone is shown with a red square that moves around the outside, while there’s also a date window and central seconds hand. My favorite feature is the engraving on the back of the case. In 24 time zones, you get the names of oceans, continents, and cities.
Case Size: 42mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Rubber | Water Resistant: Yes
Do you love all things astronomy? Or are you simply intrigued by the motions of the moon? If you answered yes to either of those questions, a moon-phase watch would certainly make a wise investment. Timeless, charming, and just pretty damn cool, these special inventions not only show the time but also the current phase of the moon as you see it in the sky.
This understated rendition from Baume & Mercier is a must-have for every collection. Set upon an elegant (and super versatile) all-white dial, it features rhodium-plated indices and hands, plus an impressive moon-phase indicator. Whether you wear it to the office or a bar, you’ll want to show off the complex automatic movement that can be seen through the exhibition case at the back.
Case Size: 42mm | Material: Stainless Steel | Water Resistant: Yes
The secondhand marketplace is flooded with vintage watches bursting with character and timeless appeal. Which means grabbing yourself one of the best automatic watches for men has never been easier.
This beauty from RGM is the brand’s version of a 1940s-era chronograph. It comes with a 38mm stainless steel case, a stepped bezel, and a glass-fired enamel dial with both telemeter and tachymeter scales (used to measure speed and distance). Complete with a brown alligator-style leather strap, it’s a classic option suitable for work or weekend.
Case Size: 38mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Leather | Water Resistant: Not Guaranteed
As far as watchmakers go, the Swiss are up there with the very best. The country’s glowing reputation springs not only from the household names that live there but also from its unrivaled reputation for expert craftsmanship. If you need any proof, just check this out.
Launched to celebrate 60 years of James Bond, this Seamaster Diver from Omega is a must-have for any gentleman (whether you’re a special agent or not). Made from stainless steel, it features an eye-catching blue dial, with laser-engraved waves, inspired by the very timepiece worn by Mr. Bond in GoldenEye. If that wasn’t enough, it really gets interesting at the back. Here you’ll find the movie’s iconic opening sequence, complete with Bond’s silhouette and spinning gun barrel. Wear yours to the bar as you sip a martini; shaken, not stirred.
Case Size: 42mm | Material: Stainless Steel | Water Resistant: Yes
There are two types of sports watches. There’s the digital kind, kitted out with endless features to help you reach your sporting goals. And then you have the smarter everyday timepiece that prioritizes practicality, with a level of functionality that doesn’t just tell the time. For the sake of this guide on the best automatic watches, I’ll be focusing on the latter.
Worthy of a champion, Luminox’s version has a slightly retro feel that’ll look great with everything from smart-casual staples to your go-to tailoring. Featuring a 42mm stainless steel case with a white-on-black dial, it’s water-resistant up to 200 meters, taking you from work to the water with ease.
Case Size: 42mm | Material: Stainless Steel, Leather | Water Resistant: Yes
What to Look For in the Best Automatic Watches for Men
Most automatic watches share many of the same mechanics. Where they usually differ is the materials used to make them. Which one you choose will be determined by factors such as your style and budget. The likes of silver, gold, and titanium will come with a higher price tag but also offer some of the best strength and durability. Stainless steel is an excellent all-rounder that’s versatile as well as affordable.
Watches are available in a range of sizes, and while there are no specific guidelines to help you make the right choice, there are some things to keep in mind. If you have small wrists, choose a smaller case. For larger wrists, you can go bigger. Generally speaking, the larger the watch, the more casual it will feel.
As with any sartorial purchase, style is likely to be high up on your priorities. And since most men don’t own more than one or two timepieces, avoid paying too much attention to watch trends. Instead, you should choose one that suits your lifestyle and needs. For example, dress watches are ideal for guys who live in formal wear, whereas a classic black watch can be worn more regularly and with a wider variety of outfits.
So there you have it: the definitive list of the best automatic watches, with Timex’s M79 coming out on top. Thanks to its sporty black and blue bezel, stainless steel strap, and exhibition case back, it’s the perfect all-rounder suitable for days in the office or nights on the town. If you’re looking for ultimate versatility and value for money, you’ll struggle to find a better addition to your watch wardrobe.
They may be slightly more expensive than other types of watches, but automatic watches are a fine investment. Not only do they not require a battery, but they’ll often be made from the best materials and finished to an extremely high standard.
Other than reading the product description, the easiest way to tell if a watch is automatic is by checking the movement of the second hand. If it makes a sweeping or gliding movement, it’s automatic. In comparison, the hands of a quartz watch will jump or tick.
Otherwise known as ‘self-winding,’ automatic watches are powered by the natural motions of the wearer as they move around. This means the watch harnesses energy automatically as it is worn.
If you look after your watch and get it serviced regularly, it should last you a lifetime. In terms of how long they stay wound, they will continue to harness energy all the time you’re wearing it. When you’re not, most automatic watches could last for 30-70 hours.