Best exhibition case watch for ≈$500 or less?

Looking for recommendations:

Friend/ business mentor (Veteran and entrepreneur) is graduating in his 30s as a mechanical engineer. I would Like to get him his first mechanical/automatic watch with a display case back. (Figure it is a great fit given his major). Cannot really spend much more than $500. Obviously would prefer less but want to get home a solid everyday(every scenario) mechanical watch, 100m water resistance, sapphire crystal (if possible), and a display case back.

I really like The seiko 5 sport and gmt but they are on the larger side and the movements look so bland (silver on silver). Many Hamiltons seem to stretch the budget a little too far.

What would you recommended? 

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Any of the chronographs with a Seagull movement are a good way to get a beautiful exhibition movement on a budget. Look up Seagull 1963 or Sugess watches to start.

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88MilesPerHour

Any of the chronographs with a Seagull movement are a good way to get a beautiful exhibition movement on a budget. Look up Seagull 1963 or Sugess watches to start.

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I saw those. Very pretty. Do you know how they are for longevity/serviceability? 

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JPeters243

I saw those. Very pretty. Do you know how they are for longevity/serviceability? 

I don't know off hand (I'm sure someone here does.) They have an interesting history going back decades in China, and they are used in a lot of different designs though, so you are more likely to find something that suits your friend's taste.

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88MilesPerHour

I don't know off hand (I'm sure someone here does.) They have an interesting history going back decades in China, and they are used in a lot of different designs though, so you are more likely to find something that suits your friend's taste.

https://www.gearpatrol.com/watches/a745770/affordable-mechanical-chronograph-seagull-st19-movement/

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JPeters243

I saw those. Very pretty. Do you know how they are for longevity/serviceability? 

My understanding is that the movements are too expensive to service vs the cost to buy a replacement. 

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The Hamilton Khaki Field Auto has a pretty nice looking Swiss movement and can be had for around $425 from somewhere like Jomashop. 

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The Seiko Presage line has the same movement as the Seiko 5, but they have a gold rotor. Not sure if that is enough of a distinction, but can be had for $300-400. 
 

https://www.ablogtowatch.com/seiko-presage-automatic-srpb43-watch-review/

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gbelleh

The Hamilton Khaki Field Auto has a pretty nice looking Swiss movement and can be had for around $425 from somewhere like Jomashop. 

Great watch, too!

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88MilesPerHour

I don't know off hand (I'm sure someone here does.) They have an interesting history going back decades in China, and they are used in a lot of different designs though, so you are more likely to find something that suits your friend's taste.

Still getting input from his wife on his tastes but found one I really like 🤣

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Seagull 1963 - that movement is to die for.

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cornfedksboy

The Seiko Presage line has the same movement as the Seiko 5, but they have a gold rotor. Not sure if that is enough of a distinction, but can be had for $300-400. 
 

https://www.ablogtowatch.com/seiko-presage-automatic-srpb43-watch-review/

It does makes the movement look so much better

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JPeters243

Still getting input from his wife on his tastes but found one I really like 🤣

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Nice! I have their more racing styled one and I enjoy it. Have had it for a few months and no complaints so far. 

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  1. Citizen NB1050. Comes in 3 different colors even
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I had a Tissot PR100 Powermatic, I bought it for 300$ new (jomashop). It is a 39mm, 100m wr, sapphire, powermatic 80 movement with a display caseback. The design is a little bit boring, and ultimately that is why I sold it. But overall it is the best specificated swiss watch under 400$

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JPeters243

I saw those. Very pretty. Do you know how they are for longevity/serviceability? 

There are divergent opinions in this group.

Let's just say they are not for the faint of heart and it depends on who has finished the movement.

If you are buying from a brand like Baltic, you can rest assured they have tested the movement and ensured it is working. Some brands look like they have given up on the movement and moved to the mecaquartz alternative which has far less issues (Geckota being an example).

If you purchase from Aliexpress, it is a total gamble. You can purchase these really inexpensively on Aliexpress, but you get what you pay for.

I have a number of these in the collection and they are fine for a starter chronograph.

That being said, repeated use could result in failure.

Also, it's important that the user know how to work these mechanical manual chronographs as they are not "flyback" chronographs, so pressing the bottom return pusher while the chronograph is running will likely result in a broken watch. You have to stop the chronograph hand by pressing the top pusher and then pressing the bottom pusher to return it to the 12 o'clock position. Basic knowledge for anyone who knows chronographs, but not necessarily for those who have never used them.

Here are a few I would recommend with the Seagull movement and display caseback...I recommend these based on owning them or references very similar by the same brand...

Baltic Bicompax 002 - 540 euros - closed caseback - movement not displayed

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Bicompax 002 Blue Gilt - Baltic Watches (baltic-watches.com)

Hemel Airfoil - US$500 - display caseback

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Hemel HFT20 Watch for Men with VK64 Configuration - Hemel Watches

Landeron Pilot - 450 euros - closed caseback - movement not displayed

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LANDERON CHRONOGRAPH PILOT| Landeron

Poljot Strela Officer - 435 euros - display caseback

Strela Chronograph Officer 40mm Sapphire
Strela Chronograph Officer 40mm Sapphire

STRELA watches - Marken | Poljot 24

TC-9 Lunarscope - 499 British pounds - display caseback 

NB: check for discounts - this brand is really good about offering discounts

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TC-9 Lunarscope - Solid Bronze Mechanical Chronograph | TC-9 Watches (mysimplestore.com)

If you decide you want to go the Aliexpress route, then many people have purchased the Pierre Paulin "brand" made by Merkur...I have one they are a bit flimsy but relatively inexpensive...make sure to pay the little bit extra for the swan-neck regulator option...

Pierre Paulin - mine cost US$230

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A couple of links for you...you'll have to see if you can get display caseback...

PIERRE PAULIN Retro 70‘s Panda Style Chronograph Mechanical Men's Watch Metal White – Grmontre Watches

New PIERRE PAULIN Retro 70‘s Vintage Panda Style Chronograph Mechanical Men's Complicated Acrylic 38MM Small Luxury Classic Wrist Watch (merkurwatch.com)

Hope this helps.