5 Amazing Chronograph Watches Under $300 That Will Turn Heads

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Nordgreen.

I’m an outrageously slow runner.

All my friends in high school were on the track team, and like any kid wanting to fit in, I joined up. The track coach watched my 100-meter sprint and couldn’t stop laughing.

Well, I wasn’t there to win any medals anyway. I was there for moral support. Or at least to be the butt of many jokes.

The team pitched in and bought me a twenty dollar chronograph when the holidays came around to commemorate my historically bad footspeed.

Having a stopwatch on my wrist didn’t make me any faster like the team had hoped.

But I did fall in love with the style of the watch.

Chronographs are versatile. Some brands go minimalist, others go old-school. Some come in with an attitude, and others base their design on the city they were founded in.

Sooner or later, most watch brands produce a chronograph. It’s almost inescapable.

Complicated, functional, and ornate, chronograph watches are casual staples.

With so many amazing options out there, it’s hard to know which to choose.

Are you looking for a new stellar chronograph watch that’s as stunning as it is affordable? Well, start your timers, because you’re going to see why our favorite chronograph timepieces might just become your favorites, too.

Quick Summary

  • nordgreen pioneer white background

    Nordgreen Pioneer

    • 42mm, Sapphire crystal
    • Beautiful, open minimalist design
    • Three case colors and three dial colors
  • Vincero Chrono S in White and Black

    Vincero Chrono S

    • 43mm case with scratch-resistant crystal
    • Unusual subdial placement at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock
    • Tons of different case and dial colors and styles
  • closeup jack mason halyard sport angle

    Jack Mason Halyard Sport

    • All-American feel
    • Very sturdy build
    • Excellent lifetime warranty
  • wolfpoint fort dearborn

    Wolfpoint Fort Dearborn

    • Unique subdials
    • Beautiful and distinctive color options
    • Amazing band
  • Bjorn Hendal varberg chronograph eggshell white dial closeup blue baton

    Bjorn Hendal Varberg Chronograph

    • Vintage style
    • Super-cool domed crystal
    • A rare chronograph that’s classy enough for formal dress-code

What Are Chronograph Watches?


model wearing nordgreen pioneer white dial against blue checkered shirt

To break it down as simply as possible, a chronograph is a timepiece that uses subdials to measure more than just the hour and minute.

Chronographs will either have two or three subdials, depending on which complications the watchmaker chooses to include.

best chronograph watches for men

The style came from the original aviation watches used by pilots to measure distance traveled and judge their fuel consumption.

When Americans saw their beloved Charles Lindbergh flying across the states with this complicated timepiece, these watches became overwhelmingly popular.

They’ve never gone out of style, but over time have become less for function and more fashion-forward.

While there’s a ton of variation in chronograph styles, there are a few key features that are distinctive to all chronographs:

1. The Sub-Dials

White dial pioneer against blue packaging

If it doesn’t have subdials, it’s not a chronograph. Beyond their timekeeping functionality, these add visual depth to the watch and can be as complicated or simple as the designer chooses.

2. A Way to Adjust the Subdials

Most chronographs have two pushers at two and four o’clock which can start and reset your timer. The timer is measured by subdials, though there’s no set standard for what these dials should read.

There are the rare chronographs that don’t feature two-button pushers, and we’ve featured one in our list if you love the subdial look but you want to keep the crown simple.

3. More Features than Just Telling the Time of Day

Do you know what all those subdials and pushers are for?

Whether the subdials just measure seconds and minutes, or seconds, minutes, and hours, your chronograph should do more than simply tell the time of day.

Not all chronographs can act as stopwatches, though. Some swap out second-reading subdials to record the day of the week. There are hundreds of different complications watchmakers add to their chronographs. Just make sure you’re getting the style you like with the function you need.


3 Things to Consider When Buying a Chronograph Watch


four chronographs in a row

Size

Chronograph watches tend to be larger. It’s rare to find a chronograph watch these days under 40mm.

These timepieces need to fit complicated movements and still stay readable. If watchmakers tried to squeeze all that information on a 38 or 36mm dial, you wouldn’t be able to read a thing. Some watches are so complicated, they’re still hard to read even with an oversized dial.

If you’re not sure what size watch you prefer, take a look at your wrist size. If you have average-sized wrists, 38-42mm is your sweet-spot. You can venture into 44mm territory no problem, but the watch will look noticeably large on your wrist—sometimes that’s exactly what you want.

If you’ve got a smaller wrist, 36-40mm is the way to go, and for that reason, you should double-check to see that your chronograph comes in a 40mm case size.

How Complicated Do You Want It?

nordgreen pioneer black dial stacked under white dial

I’m a big fan of the complicated and busy styles of some chronographs. But recently, I’ve come across some minimalist designs that have changed the way I think about the style.

With the thousands of brands out there, you can have it any way you want.

Functionality

If you need to use your watch for a specific function, that should make a huge difference in the type you go for. Back in the day, pilots needed to use their chronos to calculate their fuel consumption. If their watch was bogus their lives were at risk.

Maybe you’re not putting your life on the line, but if you need a precise chronograph, make sure you go with a trusted brand.

Similarly, picking a watch with outrageous detail might not be the best fashion choice, while picking a minimalist masterpiece might not have all the markings you need from a functionality standpoint.


Tips for Wearing Chronograph Watches


A Casual Stunner

Chronographs are casual watches. They’re often too complicated for formal wear, and you’re better off sticking with something simple, sleek, and shiny.

They’re best used as standout pieces in a casual wardrobe. I love to pair a chrono with a denim or leather jacket, jeans, and boots. Any sort of look where you’re going more rugged—the chrono will look great.

Small Wrists?

Do you have small wrists?

Chronographs are hard to find under 40mm. There’s just too much going on under the hood to gracefully fit everything in a smaller dial.

That being said, you can still get away wearing a 42mm watch, but that should be the largest you go. Even then, the watch will look oversized, but there are a time and place for oversized watches.


The 5 Best Chronograph Watches for Men Under $300


What We Like

  • This watch is the perfect blend of Scandinavian minimalist design and complicated chronograph style watches.
  • The domed sapphire crystal is scratch proof and warps light in a cool and interesting way.
  • Nordgreen is committed to the future. They tell that story through their design.
  • Amazing amount of depth in the dial.

What We Don't Like

  • It lacks a few classic hallmarks of the chronograph style like detailed subdials. But then again, Nordgreen is minimalist in nature. We like it because it’s unlike most chronographs.

What Other Reviewers Say

The Pioneer is brand new, so there are only a handful of reviews on it right now (but we did an in-depth review here). Nordgreen as a company has gotten plenty of feedback, though.

Over 275 reviews give Nordgreen an average of 4.7 stars, touting their design, quality, and customer service. Our experience was certainly great and apparently, the public agrees.

The Verdict

It may not have all the bells and whistles of a standard chronograph, but the Pioneer blends beautiful, simple design with a classic, complicated concept.

When we tested the Pioneer for ourselves, we were surprised at how elegant it looks in person. The thoughtfulness of the design really shows when you’re holding it in your hands.

For those who appreciate minimal watch design and are looking to add a piece of history to their collection, the Nordgreen Pioneer is a great way to go.

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What We Like

  • Vincero is known for its cold-edged masculine style, and the Chrono S is another extension of that look.
  • This timepiece has a unique setup for its subdials, featuring them at 6, 9, and 12’oclock. We first got our hands on a Chrono S over a year ago and we really liked the silver case and white dial. But if that’s not your style, no problem.
  • Vincero has a huge variety of case and dial colors you can choose from.

What We Don't Like

  • The band was a bit stiff out of the box and the lume could’ve been stronger.
  • After the band is broken in, this watch is a sleek stunner.

What Other Reviewers Say

There’s no typo in the following sentence.

Vincero has a 4.8 star average with over 18k reviews.

There are few other watch brands who can say the same.

The Verdict

If you can get behind Vincero’s hard-edged masculine attitude, the Chrono S is a bold and beautiful watch. It’s not quite as sturdy as the Nordgreen Pioneer or the Jack Mason Halyard Sport, but it holds up well to everyday wear.

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What We Like

  • When we took a close look at the Halyard Sport from Jack Mason, we really appreciated the attention to detail. From the star on the crown to the red, white, and blue banner on the second hand, they created a timepiece that feels as American as apple pie.

What We Don't Like

  • This was one of the stiffest bands we’ve tried. It took a few weeks for the band to break in enough to make it comfortable.

What Other Reviewers Say

Customers are happy with Jack Mason. Over 300 reviews with a 4.85 average talk about the quality over and over again. Many people had their expectations beat, and that’s what this brand is all about—going above and beyond.

The Verdict

Jack Mason’s Halyard Sport is a classic chronograph. If you’re looking for something straight forward with a ton of attention put into the details, you’ve found your watch. Give the band some time to loosen up and soften a bit. When it does, this might just become your everyday go-to.

What We Like

  • The Fort Dearborn from Wolfpoint is Chicago through and through. Their love of Chi-town is reminiscent of Shinola’s devotion to Detroit. But Wolfpoint comes in at a fraction of the cost.
  • The Fort Dearborn collection comes in a few stunning colorways. When we took a look, we were devastated to find out their Chicago Blue was sold out. We picked up their Forest Green instead and never looked back.
  • Plus, the strap is made with leather from the legendary Horween tannery in Chicago. See what we mean about Chi-town through and through?

What We Don't Like

  • The subdials read the hour of the day, the day of the week, and the day of the month.
  • It’s not a negative for us, but others may take issue with the fact that this timepiece can’t act as a stopwatch.

What Other Reviewers Say

Wolfpoint was founded just last year. There aren’t many reviews circling the web yet, but we’re sure there’s a lot of good press coming their way.

The Verdict

The Wolfpoint Fort Dearborn is a classic looking watch in a variety of beautiful colors. The simplicity of the crown and case really let the dial shine.

If you love the look of chronographs but want to add a little color, keep your eye on Wolfpoint.

What We Like

  • Old-school, ‘40s style design. The 18ct gold plated case matched with a domed plexi crystal is all the vintage we need. Their eggshell white dial against metallic blue batons makes for a unique look.
  • They back all that fashion up with a Seiko quartz movement that’s reliable and will last for years.

What We Don't Like

  • The strap doesn’t match the quality of the watch. We discussed this a bit more in our review, but we felt this timepiece was better suited for a different band.

What Other Reviewers Say

There isn’t too much out there on Bjorn Hendal. We were the first to do a deep-dive and publish an in-depth review.

Some don’t like the fact that they use Japanese quartz at their price point and would rather see an automatic movement. We felt that the watch was more geared toward hitting a certain vintage, classy look rather than pleasing timepiece historians.

The Verdict

The domed crystal really puts this watch at the next level. Their retro, ‘40s inspired chronograph design might not be for everyone, but for those who love to blend the old with the new, Bjorn Hendal is a great choice.


Conclusion


A chronograph won’t help you run faster, but it’ll definitely give you style points. Especially if you pick up one of our top recommendations.

If you don’t already have one, a chrono is one of the best ways to nail the smart casual style. They’re ornate and elegant, but ultimately have the masculine profile of a sports timepiece.

With this list, you’re sure to find a look that fits your wardrobe. Heck, you may even find a couple.

Unlock timeless elegance in your casual look with a great chronograph watch.


Further reading:

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