After a decade or two of decidedly disinteresting designs, progressive watch manufacturers have pushed the envelope in recent years.  The designers behind brands like Nixon, Diesel, Lip, Vestal, TokyoFlash and others have truly broken the mold with some amazing new watches.  In celebrating their work, our resident horophile has compiled a list of 13 of the most amazing modern watches available for under $500.  The goal is to show that some of today’s hottest timepieces aren’t then one’s selling for $1.5 mil.  Continue reading below for 13 of the coolest watches you’ll see today.

The Diesel DZ7091 Digital Watch

Diesel’s DZ7091 is one hell of a progressive little gem.  The DZ7091 features a slim, silver leather band and a bold, obelisk-like black faceplate.  The red digital display shines through like laser light, giving an ominous red readout of the time.  The Diesel DZ7091 can be a bit tough to find stateside, but UK shops can import this piece for under $500.

The Nixon Murf Watch

One of our favorite elements of new watch design is the inclusion of woodgrain veneers.  The Nixon Murf watch features a natural, dark wood veneer enclosing the jump-hour-style display.  With jump hour watches, the hand stays static while the time dials spin, showing the current hour and minute.  With a stainless steel band and case punctuated with dark wood, the Murf is one hell of a fresh design.

The Nooka Zen Watch

Watch maker Nooka takes a unique approach to digital LCD displays.  The Nooka Zen Watch splits up the hours, minutes, day and date in individual sections.  The white watch to the left is showing 8:30 a.m. on Sunday the 17th, as the first two bars count to 12 for the hours, the third bar counts the minutes and the rest is self-explanatory.  Encased in a stainless steel and wrapped with a white or black leather band, the Nooka Zen makes for a wild little piece of contemporary wrist candy.

The Quiksilver Ray Watch

This ebony-encased jump hour style watch was instantly a favorite of ours.  The Quiksilver Ray watch features an ebony wood and stainless steel band and case, clearly inspired by the art deco period and humming 30s family radios.  While its not a true jump hour, this watch works with spinning hands that show time only above the center fold.  The first spin shows on the outer rim, the second spin shows the inner black panel.  While it might take a few glances at first to figure out the time, reading it will become as natural as its ebony-veneer beauty soon enough.

The Lip Mythic Jump Hour Watch

Easily our favorite modern jump hour watch, the Lip Mythic Jump Hour Watch is a clear standout.  Classic French watch maker Lip has had quite a storied invovlement in contemporary watch design.  What started 150 years ago has been reborn today in watches like the Mythic Jump Hour shown above.  This brilliant timepiece features three spinning dials that rotate under a Lip-branded display readout.  While its tough for us to choose a favorite from this list, the Mythic is among the best.

The Tokyoflash Nekura Tumbler

Japanese watchmaker Tokyoflash has become quite popular amongst tech and streetwear circles.  While the Tokyoflash Nekura Tumbler might be a departure from most TokyoFlash watches, it retains their flashy brand of cool.  The Nekura is our third jump hour on the list and likely the most conservative in display.  The hours and minutes spin under the static display hand, providing for an easy read– something Tokyoflash is not known for.  It is the case and band design of the Nekura tumbler that set this one apart.  This flashy time bracelet gives off a bright chrome vibe that seems more befitting of the video game generation than any other on this list.

The Nixon Rotolog Watch

Again, if it has a wood veneer, you can rest assured we’ve drooled over it once or twice.  The Nixon Rotolog Watch is our absolute favorite watch by the Nixon brand and a quick glance shows why.  The full band on the Rotolog is made of stainless steel-encased wood veneers, providing the perfect contrast between natural and industrial.  The display is a small-form jump-hour with the Nixon logo on its case.  If this darker wood isn’t your style, there are plenty more styles of this one at Nixon.

The Fossil Digital White Dial

Over the years, Fossil has done a good job of modern watches with mass appeal.  The Fossil Digital White Dial is a prime example, showing that a pop watch maker can compete with the more progressive brands.  The Digital White Dial features a studded white leather band and a curved, stainless steel case.  Its digital display is a bit more involved than most of the other digitals on this list, but that certainly isn’t a negative in this case.

The Diesel DZ9019

This big, bold and chunky Diesel watch has the most detailed display of any watch on our list.  The Diesel DZ9019 features a thick stainless steel case with rivets attaching it to a leather band.  The DZ9019 has three displays– one centered in the case and two additional display on the side of the case for alternate time zones.  The main display provides the hour, minute, second, day, date and sunrise/set marker.  While we may not need all that info, this beast certainly makes it all look damn good…

The Vestal Rosewood Watch

Vestal watches are inspired by music.  At first, we scratched our heads about what they meant, but this watch cleared it right up.  The Vestal Rosewood Watch is inspired by the rosewood fretboard of the classic electric guitar.  This thick-wristed wooden banded watch features a small inset display with a shiny metal background.  Guitarists will feel right at home with this rosewood bad boy.

The Tokyoflash Tibida Watch

The Tokyoflash Tibida watch is quite a bit different from the Nekura Tumbler we showed above, but a bit closer to the familiar Tokyoflash style.  At first glance, can you tell the time?  Neither can we.  The Tibida uses 42 LEDs to display the time in a few different variations– enough to frustrate your friends and co-workers into NEVER asking you the time again.

The Lip Diode Watch

150-year-old French watch-maker Lip has enough magic to be included here more than twice, but to keep this list fresh we limited it to two.  The Lip Diode watch features that familiar slimming leather band and chromed steel case– but with an old-school digital diode display centered within.  We’ll definitely have more from Lip on StyleCrave in the future…

The Nixon Connect Watch

Last, but not least is the Nixon Connect Watch– the one-and-only polyurethane-banded watch on this list.  While we normally scoff at polyurethane bands, Nixon’s execution on this one is as golden as its case.  The Connect watch has a brilliant digital LCD display, showing the same golden color as the flashy case.  While the Connect has a sporty feel, its progressive and modern enough to stand atop this list on its own.  We’ll take two, please…

Thanks for reading, and please let us know if we missed any modern watch that you think would fit this list.  Kudos to everyone from StyleCrave, StumbleUpon, Digg and otherwise who shared this with your friends.  As always, we sincerely appreciate it!