Automatic watches are increasingly common amongst the mid-ranged offerings from the big watch companies. Instead of using a battery, they rely on generating their own energy to power the watch. In most cases, this is done through harnessing the kinetic energy generated from the movement of the wearer. So when you fidget, you are actually powering your watch. If that isn´t cool, then we don´t know what is. Even better, most of these watches come with an exhibition casing back, so you can see your watch working.
There are downsides too: the less you wear it, the less energy the watch gets and so the less accurate it becomes. You can wind it yourself, which is good if you want to leave your watch behind when you go on holiday, but these watches are best for men who wear their watch every day. That’s the only downside if you don’t want to have a battery powered watch.
Now that we´ve got that out the way, what else is there to distinguish? To save you some time, we decided to weed out the unreliable watches, so every watch here on our list is already considered to be reliable.
- Band material
- Water resistance
- Chronograph (timer)
- Display coating
Our Top Picks
|Timepiece (No Batteries)||Size||Water Resistance||Movement||Price Range|
|Seiko SNK809 Seiko 5|
|Small (37 mm)||99 Feet||21-jewel automatic||$|
|Hamilton H32612555 Jazzmaster|
|Large (42 mm)||330 Feet||Quartz||$$$|
|Tissot T-Sport PRS516|
|Large (44 mm)||330 Feet||Swiss Quartz||$$|
|Citizen NB1031-53L Grand Touring|
|Large (44 mm)||984 Feet||Automatic self wind||$$$$|
|Bulova 63A103 Accutron Kirkwood|
|Medium (41 mm)||330 Feet||Swiss Automatic||$$|
|Longines HydroConquest L3.6126.96.36.199|
|Medium (39 mm)||1000 Feet||Quartz||$$$|
We´ve focused on bringing you the best of the automatic options around, and sadly best means expensive. For comparison, or if your budget just does not stretch that far, we´ve also included the Seiko SNK809 too, but we´re not going to lie – this list is pretty aspirational.
Seiko Men’s SNK809 Seiko 5 Automatic Watch
If you´re looking for a simple watch that doesn´t have a lot of functions, but does what it can do well, then the Seiko Men´s SNK809 may be for you.
Seiko’s are known for their reliability and this watch is no exception: if you wear it daily then you will only lose a few seconds per month. Beyond this, the watch doesn´t have many gizmos. There is a date window (available in Spanish or English) and the watch is theoretically water resistant up to 100m, although it is not designed for frequent exposure. Strangely, it comes with a sweeping second hand- a feature absent from a lot of cheap automatic watches. There is another oddity about the display, too: the 12-hour clock markings have been nestled inside the 60 second markings, as if they formed a second, inner clock face. Unusual, but not overly stylish or difficult to read.
Worth noting is that this watch only comes with a nylon “nato” style band – an uncommon feature for a men´s watch. It is possible to replace this with a leather one, but this has to be purchased separately and naturally it increase the overall cost of the watch.
If you want a cheap, reliable, automatic watch that doesn’t need batteries, then this is a decent buy at a good price. Although the nylon band would need replacing if you wanted to wear this formally, and in general more attention has been given to the inner working than the outer features and design.
Hamilton Men’s H32612555 Jazzmaster Watch
On the other end of the spectrum, if you´ve got money to invest in a new timepiece then Hamilton´s H32612555 “Jazzmaster” is an example of how luxurious an automatic watch can be.
What sets the Jazzmaster apart from the other offerings isn´t really its inner workings (a good, but in no way outstanding 251.272 quartz) but its visible features. The band is made out of dark-brown calf skin with contrast stitching that looks elegant with any outfit, and the watch markings are designed in a rose-gold tone that tinges on bronze. The three chronographs are embedded in the watch dial in uneven sizes, which not only leave the watch looking more stylish but it also leaves the regular dial considerably easier to read.
None of these feature fundamentally change the usability of the watch, however. It is reportedly water resistant up to 100 meters, but like the Seiko, this watch has not been designed for extensive exposure to water so this should be seen as accident protection rather than as a design feature. The only real technical benefit that this watch has over it rivals is that the dial is protected by sapphire glass, rendering it almost impossible to scratch.
If you are looking for a traditionally-stylish watch that will not go out of date, then the Hamilton H32612555 Jazzmaster certainly offers all of the luxury features that you might want from a watch (and it is also possible to purchase the same watch with a black calf-skin or stainless-steel band.)
Tissot Men’s T-Sport PRS516 Watch
Another luxury option is Tissot´s T0444302103100 T-Sport PRS 516 Watch.
On the technical front, its Swiss ETA 2836-2 movement is reliable and the 2386 movement itself has regularly been found in high-end watches over the last 40 years. Although it is not classed as highly precise (it averages at around +/- 15 second per/day), but it´s a trusted movement and the watch can be expected to work for years and years on it.
On the other hand, its design is superb. The sheer white with red and black details evokes the Swiss flag, and the dial has a crisp, modern appearance which is emphasized by the tiny bezel. This attention to detail is reflected in practical details too: the dial is protected by a layer of anti-reflective sapphire to eliminate glare and scratches, the hands are subtly luminous for night-time, and the watch come with an elegant push-button deployment clasp. Similar to many of the other watches featured here, it is water resistance to 100 meters, but it is not designed for regular underwater usage.
If you´re looking for a distinctive, modern classic timepiece that looks and feels perfected, and also does not require a battery to operate, then the Tissot may be for you.
Citizen Men’s NB1031-53L Grand Touring Automatic
Citizen´s Signature collection is a relatively new expansion into the territory of high-class watches. That isn´t a bad thing though: it means that Citizen are busy establishing their name by designing some very nice watches and selling them for much less than the established high-end brands would dream of. The NB1031-53L Grand Touring Automatic featured here is one of them, and well worth considering if you value product over name.
The most distinctive element is the movement, which is from Citizen´s in-house 9000 series. For those who would like something different to the ubiquitous ETA movements that have a monopoly on most watches of this price range, this is special and it is nice to encourage the return of in-house movements.
The watch is designed to resemble the Omega Series, and it looks clean and sleek if not overly distinctive. As would be expected at this price range, it is water resistant to 100m, has a dual-coated anti-reflective sapphire crystal display, and has luminous hands. The watch has a date window, but no chronographs or timer function.
The main feature of this watch is its in-house movement. This makes a welcome change from the endless sea of ETA movements, many of which are almost unchanged after 40 years, and it is nice to promote technical innovation and diversity.
Bulova Men’s 63A103 Accutron Kirkwood Swiss Automatic Watch
Bulova designed Accutron watches for various NASA missions, and they have maintained their reputation for well-crafted, luxury watches since. Don´t be fooled by the Accutron in the name though: the workings of this automatic watch have nothing to do with the mechanical Accutron movements. Maybe for this reason, Bulova do not widely publicize the movement, but as the number of jewels suggests, it´s actually a fairly standard Swiss quartz ETA found in various mid- and high-range watches. This means that the watch is reliable, and as accurate as most of the others listed here ( +/-15 seconds per/day,) but nothing as exceptional as the Accutron reputation might suggest.
The big draw of this watch is its appearance: the dial is designed with an open heart at the 12:00 position, so you can see the quartz that powers your watch. The numeral markings are also somewhat unique: three, six and nine are designated with their Roman numeral, but the remaining numbers are noted with an equivalently-sized lone numeral. The dial is black, with faint sunray marking, and the band is a standard stainless-steel (although the links are slightly larger than usual, so it is slightly harder to find an ideal fit.) If you want to see the quartz heart of your watch, then this is a reliable option.
Longines HydroConquest Mens Watch L3.6188.8.131.52
Water resistance up to 300 meters and with a screw-down crown, this watch is actually designed to be used underwater, unlike the others reviewed here. This focus shows in the other design feature too: its bezel rotates so that you can time how long you have been under the surface, and the deployment buckle clasp is designed to ensure that the watch stays in place securely.
Moving on to appearance, the sapphire blue and silver color scheme is attractive if not distinctive, and the silver-tone hand and hour markers are luminous for easier reading underwater or at night. The Longines stainless steel band is hard-wearing and is fairly standard of many mid- and high-level men´s watches. The technical details are similarly standard- the watch is powered by a standard ETA quartz movement with minor in-house adjustments that justify calling it by a different name.
If you´re an amateur diver or sportsman then the Hydroconquest is a nice compromise between a dress watch and a diving watch. It´s a great choice if you want a top notch automatic timepiece that does not need a battery to function.