You’ve probably seen many watches that tick, but have you ever seen one that sweeps? Welcome to the world of watches with sweeping seconds hands.
If you landed on this page, you’re probably new to these kinds of watches, and might want an affordable one as a novelty. That’s how I got started in this hobby, and you’ve come to the right place.
First I want to say be careful when buying cheap watches online, because many of them are terrible quality and will stop working after a few weeks. Use this guide as a reference for the price point, brands, and styles that will keep sweeping for more than a few weeks. I want to make sure you only make the best purchase, so this guide only has the best recommendations that I would give to my friends.
First, let’s go over what a Sweeping Seconds Hand watch is, or you can scroll to the list portion for the best options. Here’s a summary of my recommendations from budget picks to best long-term value:
- Best Overall Sweeping-Hand Watch: Orient Mako II
- Cheapest Sweeping Hand Watch: Winner Automatic
- Best Rolex-Lookalike: Invicta Pro Diver
- Best “First Watch:” Seiko SNK809
- Best Affordable Russian Diver: Vostok Amphibia
- Best Dress Watch: Orient Bambino III
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What is a Sweeping-Seconds Watch?
A sweeping-seconds watch is usually known as an “Automatic Watch.” This is contrast to watches that tick, which are called “Quartz Watches.” The reason that Quartz watches tick is because they’re powered by a battery and an oscillating quartz crystal, giving it the modern tick-tock-tick-tock of once per second.
Automatic “Sweeping-Hand Watches” are powered by a mechanical movement (think tiny gears, levers, and springs) like a tiny Rupe Goldberg machine. This causes the seconds hand to have a continuous sweep.
The Sweeping-Seconds Hand is actually Ticking 6 times per second
Most affordable automatic watches technically still tick, but extremely rapidly, at 6 times per second. This give them the appearance of a very smooth sweeping motion.
More expensive watches like Rolex beat at 8 times per second. However, the difference in smoothness of sweep is barely perceptible unless you’re scrutinizing them side-by-side.
For a perfectly-smooth continuous sweep with no detectable beating, you have two options: Grand Seiko Spring Drive (luxury watches) and Bulova Precisionist (entry-level watches). Both utilize quartz technology to some extent, and you can click here to read more about Quartz watches that Sweep.
Best Overall Sweeping-Hand Watch: Orient Mako II
For the best all-around automatic watch with a sweeping seconds hand, you’re going to want the Orient Mako II. This watch has a smooth seconds hand tipped with a red arrow so you can easily keep track of it and be mesmerized all day long.
The Mako is made by Orient Watch, a Japanese company that’s been making quality watches since 1950. They are also a subsidiary of Seiko – one of the largest and most reputable Japanese watchmakers in the world.
The best part about the Orient Mako is that it’s a very long-term watch; in fact, it could be the only automatic watch you ever buy, and you would have an outstanding collection.
The Mako is a real 200m ISO-certified scuba diver’s watch, so you never have to worry about getting it wet or banging it up. The real show-stealer is the reflective blue dial that will make your heart skip every time it glimmers – it’s absolutely gorgeous. The watch has a crisp diving bezel that you can use to time anything from the stoplight to the duration of a meeting.
The watch is very slim and compact, classifying it as a “dress diver” because you can wear it with a suit and still look professional. This “version 2” is an upgrade of a long-time fan favorite, which augments and improves upon the v1 model. There’s no other watchmaker that makes this level of quality and all the features of the Orient Mako at this price. For a slightly different appearance, you can also check out the Orient Ray II, which is the same watch but with different hour markers and hands.
Cheapest Sweeping Hand Watch: Winner Automatic
The Winner Automatic is the cheapest sweeping-seconds hand watch you can get, and it’s under $20. At this price, you’d normally be getting something that barely works, or is held together with duct tape – but this Winner is actually well-made.
Again, keep your expectations low for the price. If you just want to see how you’ll feel about automatic watches, you can check this one out (hint: you’ll love them). If you want something to actually use as a reliable timepiece, any other option in this list is much better.
What do you get in the Winner Automatic? First, the sweeping seconds hand. Not only that, but it’s got strikingly-reflective blued hands on a white textured (“guilloched”) dial. The whole watch is a Chinese copy of a very expensive Swiss brand called Longines – but it’s pretty well-made for the price. I don’t normally recommend cheap Chinese copy watches, but for the most affordable ones I’ll make an exception. This company is owned by Forsining, and you can read my full review (and other cheap Chinese options) on Forsining Watches here, but this one is the best-looking.
On top of all that, you get a very good-looking dress watch. It’s on a cheap leather band, and it’s way too thick, but it looks good, it sweeps, and it works. Also, for that price it’s not going to have a very good accuracy. Again – it’s the cheapest watch I would ever recommend, for those that want an automatic sweep as a novelty rather than a timepiece. Otherwise, continue reading for real watch reviews.
Cheapest “Rolex Lookalike” with Sweeping Hands: Invicta Pro Diver
For people who want a sweeping second hand watch that looks like a Rolex, the Invicta Pro Diver 8926OB is the best option. Now, there are other cheaper watches that look like a Rolex that you can buy, but those are likely to break down within the first year. For just a little bit more, you can get a reliable and trustworthy Invicta.
If you’re not interested in Rolex, I would recommend one of the other options on this list because they have more original designs, although the Invicta Pro Diver is a pretty good Rolex homage for under $100.
For being one of the cheapest reliable sweeping-hand watches you can buy, Invicta does a pretty good job. This watch is rated at a water resistance of 200m, although frankly I wouldn’t submerge it at all since it’s a theoretical water-pressure resistance and not a true dive watch.
Best “First Watch” with Sweeping Hand: Seiko SNK809
This Seiko 5 is usually the first watch I recommend to someone buying their first automatic sweeping-hand watch. It’s made by Seiko – a Japanese watchmaker that’s one of the most esteemed names in watchmaking today, especially at cheaper price points like this.
The Seiko 5 is an entire series with hundreds of models, but the SNK series is one the most timeless and pleasant designs of the bunch. While most Seiko 5’s are dress or sports watches, this one has the classic elements of a pilot’s watch, and at an elegant size of 37mm.
What makes this watch special is that it’s the cheapest automatic watch that’s actually considered respectable.
This watch is very high quality. You get the sweeping seconds, day and date windows, a crown at the 4 o’clock position, and a see-through caseback. On top of that, it’s powered by the Seiko Caliber 7S26, which has a decent accuracy but is a low-end movement.
Despite costing under $100, the SNK80X series delivers on all of the important features of a watch while maintaining reliability for a up to ten years. Besides the black Seiko SNK809, you can check out the other colors in blue, olive green, and beige as well.
Best Russian Diver with Sweeping Seconds Hand: Vostok Amphibia
The Russians have a rich history of reliable watchmaking, and the Vostok Amphibia is their best-known watch. This model is affectionately called the “Scuba Dude” because of the scuba diver on the dial. It’s made in Russia, and has Russian writing on the dial and caseback. If you’re looking for something with a little more originality to it, this is your watch.
This watch was commissioned by the USSR in 1941 with specific military specifications for scuba diving. There were several design innovations that make it so robust, cheap, and reliable as a tool watch and scuba diving watch.
This was actually my very first automatic watch, and that’s why I can recommend it with confidence. I could watch that red seconds hand sweep for hours.
The Vostok Amphibia is a legitimate 200m dive watch. Considering that the movement is mechanical (which makes it sweep), it’s extraordinary that the Russians were able to make it so affordable and functional.
A few caveats: this watch isn’t all guns and roses. First, all bracelets on Amphibias are trash, so a rubber strap or pass-through “NATO” straps are better any day. Second, the crown operation is pretty unique in that it has a “wobbly crown” that many find cheap, but is actually a feature for keeping it undamaged. Last, setting the date is a bit cumbersome but you get used to it. If you want all the bells and whistles, check out the Orient Mako II in this list.
Overall, there are dozens of colors and models of Vostok Amphibia and Vostok Komandirskie watches out there. (The Komandirskie is very similar but is designed for land rather than sea). They all have automatic movements that produce a sweeping second hand, and they are all a fascinating part of watchmaking and Russian history.
Best Dress Watch with Automatic Sweep: Orient Bambino
The Orient Bambino is a respectable dress watch that also has an automatic movement and a smooth-sweeping seconds hand. The simple and classic design of this watch makes it ideal for wear with a suit, business casual, or even something completely informal. The deep dark blue dial gives it a lot of character on the black leather strap.
This watch is made by Orient Watch, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Seiko, and both are renowned for their elegance and skill in Japanese watchmaking. Orient in particular makes some of the best-quality best-value watches in the business, and puts Swiss watchmakers to shame for the same price.
The Orient Bambino comes in 5 generations and multiple versions each. This particular highlight is currently their most affordable model, the Generation 2 version 3. They’re mostly in the same price range, so you can browse through all the Orient Bambino versions.
For the price, you get a Japanese-manufactured automatic movement, a domed crystal (classic dress watch design), a minimalist and classic dial layout, a good quality black leather band, and a well-finished watch. For a timeless Orient watch that sweeps, you can’t go wrong with the Bambino.
Sweeping Hand Watches Conclusions
Sweeping-hand watches, known as Automatic watches (or mechanical watches), are fascinating for a lot of people. They’re the whole reason I started this site – in order to make information about them accessible to more people.
Automatic watches frequently have rich histories that aren’t shared by cheap mass-produced quartz watches: they’ve been to the moon, to the top of Mount Everest, and to the depths of the Mariana Trench. They have fascinating mechanisms with a beating heart of their own. Their mechanical nature gives us a sense of organic relief in an age where everything is cheap plastic and digital automation. Automatic watches are a bastion of quality watchmaking, craftsmanship, and art.