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Guys don’t have many options when it comes to dress up accessories except for the dress watch. That means your high-end watch should pack a lot of dress weight, whether you’re headed to the office, a wedding, or a fancy dinner party. Luckily, the best dress watches are up to the challenge.
What is a dress watch?
Most of us have probably heard the term, but the true definition of what makes a good “dress watch” can be obscure. Here’s how most aficionados classify dress watches.
Cut: First, dress watches have a smaller and thinner case than other timepieces. This is important because the best dress watches should slip effortlessly under the cuffs of a dress shirt (without getting caught in the hem of your sleeve). With the exception of a few oddballs, dress watches are generally less than 40 millimeters in diameter and no more than 15 millimeters thick (although something closer to 10 millimeters thick is usually preferable).
Style: The best dress watches are sleek and minimalist. This means no diver’s bezel (like you see on a Rolex Submariner, for example) and often less markings overall. Classic dress watches also have a leather strap, although some dress watches get away with a metal strap.
Movement: Another feature you will see with the best dress watches is automatic or mechanical movements. This means that the watch does not use batteries (like quartz watches), but “charges” with the movement of your wrist (automatic) or requires manual winding every couple of days or so (mechanical). However, there are special cases of large dress watches using quartz movements.
Water resistance: Be aware that most dress watches are not very waterproof. Unless a watch is water resistant to 50 meters or more, don’t take it swimming or in the shower.
What are the best dress watches for men?
Are you looking to enhance your formal outfits? Here are some of the best dress watches for men to buy right now, including affordable dress watches under $200 and heirloom-worthy icons of the watch world.
With this Marlin watch, Timex has managed to channel the sophistication of vintage dress watches. It’s a small, thin piece (34 millimeters in diameter) with an old-school mechanical movement to match. This means you have to wind the watch in the morning, but you never have to replace a battery. We’ve had the watch for years now, and the required winding has actually become a ritual we look forward to.
2. Tissot Heritage Visodate
Founded in 1853, the Swiss brand Tissot does not have enough credit. The company still produces stylish, well-made watches with very affordable price tags, like this Heritage Visodate. With a metal mesh strap and quartz movement, it’s not your typical dress watch, but its sleek styling is too good to overlook. The watch measures 40 millimeters in diameter and 10.66 millimeters thick, making it ideal under a shirt. However, you can easily wear this one with jeans and a t-shirt.
3. Orient Bambino
It’s not often you find an affordable dress watch with an automatic movement, which makes the Orient Bambino a rarity. Beloved by watch enthusiasts, the Bambino features automatic Japanese movement and the look of a classic dress watch. It also has a 40-hour power reserve, which means the watch can be left standing for almost two days without needing a rewind.
4. Junghans Max Bill Automatic Chronoscope 027
Junghans is a well-known German brand (founded in 1861) offering great dress watches at an average price. This Max Bill, one of Junghans bestsellers, displays a very modern minimal style without being over the top. That comes from details like an uncluttered white face, delicate hour and minute markers, and a solid 40-millimeter size.
5. Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline Automatic Light Tan
Watch and fashion enthusiasts are very fond of 70s-inspired watches right now (many brands are reviving designs from that period), which is why we’re into this Hamilton Jazzmaster. It’s led by an eye-catching metal beaded strap, but we’d class it as a dress watch: the face is minimalist and the case is very thin at 8.45 millimeters.
6. Nomos Orion 39
Unlike most watch brands, Nomos produces in-house movements for their watches. This uses the reliable automatic movement of the caliber DUW 3001 from Nomos which has a power reserve of 42 hours. The exterior of the watch is equally well done with rhodium plating on the dial and indexes, and a scratch resistant sapphire crystal dial. It’s also very thin, and the 38.5 millimeter diameter of the watch should look good on a range of wrist sizes.
7. Braun BN0211
For a modern dress watch, check out this Braun BN0211. The face is nearly blank except for the subtle hour and minute markers, and a yellow sweep second hand adds a nice pop of color. The watch is also extremely thin (6.6 millimeters, to be exact) and we’re big fans of the black mesh strap. It works with a full suit, but we think the Braun looks best with modern office attire (think jeans, button down and boots).
8. Cartier Reservoir
One of the first popular consumer wristwatches, the Cartier Tank is much more desirable today than it was when it was launched in 1917. The square shape and Roman numeral dial are now iconic and , while not too flashy, it’s bound to be recognized (and appreciated) by any watch enthusiast. This Solo XL version has an automatic movement and a diameter of 41 millimeters, slightly larger than the old-style Tank Louis.
9. Rolex Datejust 41
Stainless steel Rolexes aren’t exactly dress watches, but they’re so popular in boardrooms, fine restaurants, and posh events that we had to include one. We think this Datejust 41 is one of the best Rolexes for a dressy outfit. It’s pretty minimal but still recognizable as a Rolex with signature block hour markers, tasteful polishing on certain areas and, of course, premium materials throughout. Inside is Rolex’s durable Caliber 3235 automatic movement, and unlike most dress watches, the Datejust can handle swimming or even diving with 100-meter water resistance.
10. A. Lange & Söhne Saxony Slim
Dress watches by A. Lange & Söhne are the holy grail in the watch community, and this Saxonia Thin is a favorite. Every element – from the white gold case to the alligator leather strap – is crafted from the highest quality materials available. This quality is reflected inside the watch, which uses an in-house caliber L086.1 automatic movement. We also like the sober style of the Saxonia: only experienced connoisseurs will recognize it as a treasure.