Lots of people don't wear watches, and many in the EDC community don't see them as
necessary parts of a loadout. I can certainly understand that, but I personally like wearing them, and I think there's a few reasons why you might want to keep a watch on instead of just relying on your cell phone.
For one thing, I don't like having to get my phone out whenever I want to know what time it is. It's a lot simpler to glance at your wrist and get that information, and in some cases you may not have easy access to your phone.
Some watches will do a lot more than just tell time, but I don't typically bother with those. I've owned chronographs in the past, and digital watches with a billion functions, and never used any of their secondary features. I enjoy the simplicity of a basic wristwatch, and I think they can make good additions to the other things you keep on your person each day. They can also be fashionable, but that;s besides my main point.
Within the watch world, you have a number of options as to how the watch is powered and keeps time. For my three subjects, I've covered the most common categories - Digital, Automatic, and Analog Quartz. I won't dwell too much on the mechanical details, but offer an option of each type that's as close to $50 as I can get and has a good EDC aspect.
I'll start with the Automatic, and my personal choice - the Seiko SNK800 series:
Pictured is the SNK803, which is the tan colorway. The 805 is green, the 807 is blue and the 809 is black. They're all on Amazon, though the prices for them seem to be somewhat fluid, and the 803 is normally the least expensive ($54.02 at time of writing). The biggest selling point is, being an automatic, it needs no batteries. The 7s26 movement is generally very accurate and has been in production for a very long time. It's Seiko's "standard" movement, for lack of a better term, and there are dozens of watches on the market with the same guts. This makes them great for modding and generally cheap to repair.
I've owned a few of these over the years and like them immensely. This is a very nice little automatic watch for not a lot of money. It is comfortable on the wrist, though it is smallish at 37mm. If you have bigger arms, I'd say to look for something bigger. This is a newer version of this Seiko fleiger, which features 20mm lugs vs. the old model's 18mm. That makes it much more compatible with common aftermarket straps, should you choose to swap the stock one out. Overall a fantastic choice and also a great way to get into autos. The biggest negative is a low 50m water resistance rating, which actually means it's safe to splash it, but you might not want to go swimming with it on.
The next watch is an absolute classic - the Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1V:
If you'd rather not fiddle with an auto, and just want something that you can grab and go, and that will take a pretty substantial beating, I don't know that there's a better choice than the DW5600. You may not need the tough guy features, but it's still a great watch to just knock around in. The E-1V version goes for around $47 on Amazon, but over the years there have been a bunch of special editions and Japanese import versions that sell for more than double that. Some of these rarer ones are cool (all black version, red LCD, different color cases, etc), but you really can't go wrong with the original.
Of my 3 watch recommendations, the DW5600 can do the most as it's digital - stopwatch, timer, an alarm - but it's not so overloaded with modes as to be unruly. Of the G-Shock line, these are also fairly subdued and don't look too much like a Transformer trying to hump your wrist. The case diameter is 45mm, so this is on the bigger side, but still within the normal watch range. This watch also has 200m water resistance, highest of the 3, making it suitable for light diving or snorkeling.
Lastly, an outdoorsy quartz analog at a great price - The Timex Expedition T49877:
If you'd prefer to have a "basic" watch that takes a battery, I think these are a good choice. They've got a great design, for one thing, with the face set deep in the case thanks to the angled chapter ring. The face itself is clean, understated and easy to read but is still rugged with a definite military inspiration. Like the Seiko, these are a series of differently colored watches, with a brown and light gray also existing in this style. However, they appear to be discontinued on the Timex site, though Amazon has this one for $42.36.
The one important feature of this watch is Indiglo, which lights up the entire watch face. The G-Shock has illumination, too, but the Seiko relies on lumed hands, which look awesome but fade somewhat quickly. This watch should be very easy to read in the dark once the Indiglo fires up - a wintergreenish blue. The Timex has a 42mm case, putting it in the middle of the 3 here in terms of size, and a 100m water resistance rating.
So there you have it, 3 sensible choices for quality EDC watches. It's possible to spend multiple hundreds or thousands on a watch, but for basic time telling and banging around a campsite, I don't think you need to spend that much money.