When the word chronograph is brought up, usually the things that come into mind are racing, planes, aeronautics, and athletics. The reason for that is, if not marketed as timepieces for racers and pilots, they are also often described as sporty.
But there is even more to a chronograph, it can be used for tracking all sorts of things in our daily lives like cooking time, the time it takes to reach the subway, or if you have a car, it can be used for the parking meter; workouts; and etc.
Moreover, chronographs can be as stylish as they are functional. The chronograph function does not only add convenience to a watch but may also add to a watch’s aesthetic, which can also make a fashion-forward appeal.
But not all really know how to use it. So for some enlightenment on this kind of watch, we will provide a little brief on chronograph watches as well as a list of the best affordable chronograph watches in the latter part of this article.
Basically, the chronograph is a timepiece that also functions as a stopwatch and displays elapsed time in subdials. As a matter of fact, the word chronograph is derived from the words “Chronos”, which means time and “Graph,” which means writing. Why it was given such a name is that the earliest versions of the chronograph actually did make use of a writing method through a small pen that was attached to its index, wherein the elapsed time was indicated by the length of the pen mark on its dial.
If you’re interested in more on the topic we have a more in-depth explanation of the chronograph here. So, let’s move on to the list of the best chronograph watches.
(Please note, at the time of publishing, all these watches were selling for $500 or less. Prices may have fluctuated since then, possibly pushing them over the original budget. We’ve also tried to include watches at the lower range for decent chronograph watches to provide good value options for everyone’s budget).
Best Chronograph Watches Under $500
Seiko Men’s Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch (SSB031)
Designed with black, silver-tone, and a dash of red, the Seiko Men’s Chronograph Stainless Steel Watch has a classic style that’s easily readable.
Its chronograph function includes a red central hand and a 60-minute chronograph timer subdial at the nine o’clock position. A 24-hour subdial is present at the three o’clock position. And the seconds function is provided by the subdial at the six o’clock position. Other functions of this watch include a tachymeter on its black ion-plated bezel and a date display between the four and five o’clock positions.
It’s a Japanese quartz watch made of stainless steel and scratch-resistant Hardlex crystal that’s reinforced with 100-meter water resistance.
Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Chronograph (BL5470-06A)
Elegant details and multifunctionality make the Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Chronograph Stainless Steel And Leather Watch an exceptional timepiece.
Presented in this chronograph watch’s beautiful patterned silver-tone sunray dial are 1/10th of a second, 24-hour, and multi-function subdials. This watch also comes with a date display at its four o’clock position, perpetual calendar, leap year, and alarm.
Moreover, with this watch, you can go for water activities like swimming and snorkeling but not scuba diving, as it’s water-resistant to 100 meters, and it’s made watertight with its screw-down crown and a screw-down case back.
Making up this stunning timepiece is a stainless steel case, scratch-resistant mineral crystal dial window, and brown Croco-embossed leather strap. It’s a solar-powered Japanese quartz watch powered by Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology with an EOL indicator.
Casio Edifice Tough Solar Chronograph (ECB500D-1A)
Typical of Casio’s analog-digital watches, the Casio Men’s Edifice Tough Solar Chronograph Stainless Steel Watch is an analog-digital watch packed with handy features. Of course, this cool, sleek timepiece designed with silver-tone stainless steel and a black dial with silver-tone details provides the chronograph function you’re looking for. But it also comes with other great features, which make it suitable for those who opt for more functionality.
Apart from timekeeping, this watch is capable of functions, such as 1/100-second stopwatch; countdown timer; five daily alarms; full auto-calendar till 2099; world time including 40 times zones (40 cities + UTC); daylight saving on/off; and home city and world time swapping. To add to that, it’s water-resistant to 100 meters, which allows you to enjoy water activities, such as swimming and snorkeling with this watch on.
For readability, it’s equipped with a hand shift feature, wherein hands move away from the digital display for an unobstructed view of its contents as well as a Super Illuminator LED light.
This is a Japanese quartz watch that can be linked to your phone with its Mobile link feature, a wireless linking via Bluetooth SMART. Through this feature, you can make time adjustments; easily adjust watch settings, and enable a phone finding signal.
Additional features in this watch worth noting are its airplane mode and power-saving mode.
It’s powered with Casio’s Tough Solar technology. Its power reserve can last for 8 months in normal use and up to 26 months when stored in total darkness with the power save on. You can be notified when it’s power is running low with its low battery alert.
Seiko “Flightmaster” Flight Alarm Chronograph (SNA411)
The Seiko “Flightmaster” Flight Alarm Chronograph Stainless Steel Watch is designed with pilots in mind, but it can make anyone look fly and provide the chronograph you need. And since it’s a pilot watch, it’s also handy for making pre-flight and in-flight calculations like measuring ground speed; distance; fuel burn; wind set; and etc. with its E6B navigational slide rule. Not all would be able to utilize this feature, but it sure does give an interesting look to it that adds a distinctive style to the watch.
This nifty timepiece runs with a Japanese quartz movement. For its chronograph function, it includes a yellow central hand and a 60-minute chronograph timer subdial at its 12 o’clock position. The seconds function of this watch is at the subdial at its nine o’clock position.
Also included in this watch is a 12-hour basis alarm located at its six o’clock position, tachymeter scale, and date display at its three o’clock position.
It looks rather sleek with its design of silver-tone and black with fine details in yellow, silver, and white.
As it’s built with stainless steel, black PVD bidirectional rotating bezel, and scratch-resistant Hardlex crystal, it has a pretty rugged construction. Plus, it’s watertight with its screw-down crown and screw-down case back, and especially as it’s water-resistant to 200 meters.
Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Chronograph Canvas Watch (AT0200-05E)
Military-inspired, the Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Chronograph Stainless Steel And Canvas Watch is a reliable and durable timepiece that’ll go well with casual attire with its simple good looks.
This is a solar-powered Japanese quartz watch that features a high-contrast, easily readable dial with three displays for its 60-minute chronograph timer subdial; 24-hour subdial; and 60-second subdial that serves as the seconds function of the watch. A date display is also provided at its four o’clock position.
Making up its durable composition is its stainless steel case, scratch-resistant mineral crystal dial window, and green canvas strap that comes reinforced with 100-meter water resistance.
Graf Zeppelin Chronograph (7690-1)
Coming from the Graf Zeppelin series, a series brought forth in celebration of the 100 years of the Zeppelin airship, the Graf Zeppelin Chronograph is a timepiece of equal excellence to Zeppelin, a company that made its name in the rigid airship industry and made historic flights in Germany in the 1900s. It’s a six-jewel Swiss quartz watch skillfully crafted with elegance, multi-functionality, and durability.
Additional features to this fine timepiece are a chronograph, 12-hour totalizer alarm at the six o’clock position, date display at the four o’clock position, tachymeter scale, and telemeter scale.
Going into the details of its chronograph function, it features a 30-minute chronograph timer subdial at its nine o’clock position along with its black central hand. Providing the seconds function is the 60-second subdial at the three o’clock position.
It has a timeless appeal with its restrained aesthetic in an antique style. It boasts a silver-white dial together with a stainless steel case and brown Croco-embossed leather, which also makes the watch pretty solid. Adding to its durability is its scratch-resistant mineral crystal dial window and 50-meter water resistance.
Junkers G38 Quartz Chronograph with 60-Minute Timer (6984-4)
For a classy clean-looking chronograph, the Junkers G38 Quartz Chronograph could fit the bill. This timelessly chic watch features a light beige dial held by its stainless steel case that goes perfectly with its brown leather strap. The clean Bauhaus design of its dial makes it legible and easy on the eyes.
It’s a Swiss quartz watch that features a chronograph function with a 60-minute chronograph timer subdial at its nine o’clock position and black central hand, seconds subdial at its three o’clock position, 12-hour totalizer subdial at the six o’clock position, and a date display at the four o’clock position.
Moreover, it’s equipped with 30-meter water resistance.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Chronograph Camouflage Watch
As strong as its wrist presence are the tough materials composing this watch, such as the black PVD-coated stainless steel for its case; scratch-resistant sapphire crystal for its dial window; and leather for its strap, making it very much durable.
This is a 13-jewel Swiss quartz watch equipped with both a chronograph and a date display at its six o’clock position.
Together with its red and silver-tone central hand are 30-minute and 1/10th of a second chronograph timer subdials on the upper half of the dial for its chronograph function. And at the lower part of the dial is the seconds subdial.
It has a screw-down crown and screw-down case back to go with its 100-meter water resistance for water tightness.
Hamilton Pilot Pioneer Chrono Stainless Steel Watch (H76552433)
Rooted in traditional; military aviation, the Hamilton Pilot Pioneer Chrono is a reliable and durable timepiece that also makes a chic watch for casual wear.
It comes in a cool all-black design that’ll look good with anything. Furthermore, the contrast of the white and silver-tone details on its black dial makes for easy readability.
This watch with a chronograph and date display at the three o’clock position runs with a Swiss quartz movement.
As a watch that also functions as a chronograph, it features a 30-minute chronograph timer subdial at the upper left part of the dial to go with its silver-tone central hand. At the lower part of the dial is the seconds subdial.
It has a rugged construction composed of a stainless steel case, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window, and a nato nylon strap. In addition, it’s reinforced with 100-meter water resistance.
Bulova Men’s Special Edition Lunar Pilot Chronograph
The Bulova Men’s Special Edition Lunar Pilot Chronograph is a reliable timepiece with unparalleled precision. And it comes with a sturdy, sleek design to add to that.
Replicating the original Bulova Lunar Pilot Watch worn by commander David Scott on the Apollo 15 mission with an upgrade of Bulova’s exclusive high performance 262 kHz-quartz movement.
With this stunning timepiece, you can have the convenience of a chronograph; tachymeter; and a date display between the four and five o’clock positions.
With its chronograph function, you get 60-minute and 1/10th of a second chronograph timer subdials at the upper part of its dial along with its silver-tone central hand. The subdial at the lower part provides the seconds function.
It has a beautiful black dial with a combination of matte and sunray style in its design that’s enhanced with circular patterns on its subdials as well as on its minute markers. The high contrast in its dial makes for easy readability as well as adds to its aesthetic. Matching its dial is an equally beautiful black checkered-patterned strap.
Its solid composition is made of a stainless steel case, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window, and a leather strap. Plus, it comes with a reinforcement of 30-meter water resistance.
Tissot PRS 516 Chronograph (T1004171605100))
The Tissot PRS 516 Chronograph Watch is a stylish timepiece that has a vintage elegance with its 1960s motorsport-inspired design.
It’s a sleek-looking stainless steel and leather watch that’s designed with black and touches of red. Giving it the motorsport feel is its perforated leather strap as well as its chronograph function and tachymeter bezel that’s made pretty tough with ceramic.
Included in its chronograph function are the red central hand as well as subdials for the 30-minute and 1/10th of a second chronograph timer subdials at the upper part of its dial. Serving as the seconds function is the subdial at the lower part of its dial.
Another added complication to this watch is the date display at its four o’clock position. And it runs with a Swiss quartz movement.
Its sapphire crystal keeps it protected from scratches. It comes with a 100-meter water resistance that’s backed by a screw-down crown and screw-down case back, making it watertight.
Keep In Mind When Buying Chronographs
Style is one thing when choosing your watch. It’s a given that people will go for something that suits their taste.
Chronograph watches do have a nice aesthetic that comes along with their functionality. Although not really all utilize the chronograph function, still, the chronograph watch makes a stylish timepiece that’s popular to consumers.
But in the practical aspect of the watch, more importantly, when choosing a chronograph watch is that you choose a timepiece that’ll suit your time tracking needs. You must answer the question: How will you use the chronograph watch?
Identify first the capacity of the timepiece that you will require—how many minutes or hours for the stopwatch you will need. And you might also want an added allowance to your desired duration, so there won’t be a need for a reset.
To give a clearer picture of a chronograph here is a video from Real Men Real Style explaining the chronograph