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Guys don’t have many options when it comes to dressy accessories — save for the dress watch. That means your upscale timepiece has to pull a lot of sartorial weight, whether you’re heading to the office, a wedding, or a fancy dinner. 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 actual definition of what makes a good “dress watch,” can be murky. Here’s how most aficionados classify dress watches.
Size: Firstly, dress watches have a smaller, thinner case than other timepieces. This is important because the best dress watches should slide effortlessly under the cuffs of a dress shirt (without getting caught on the hem of your sleeve). Save for a few oddballs, dress watches are usually smaller than 40 millimeters in diameter and no thicker than 15 millimeters (although something closer to 10 millimeters in thickness is usually better).
Style: The best dress watches are sleek and minimally styled. That means no diver bezels (like you see on a Rolex Submariner, for example) and often fewer markings in general. Classic dress watches also have a leather strap, although some dress watches get away with a metal bracelet.
Movement: Another feature you’ll see with the best dress watches is automatic or mechanical movements. This means the watch doesn’t use batteries (like quartz watches), but instead “charges” with your wrist’s movement (automatic) or requires hand-winding every two days or so (mechanical). However, there are some special cases of great dress watches using quartz movements.
Water-resistance: Be aware that most dress watches are not very water-resistant. Unless a watch is rated at 50-meters water-resistant or more, don’t take it swimming or in the shower.
What Are the Best Dress Watches for Men?
Looking to elevate your dressed-up 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.
1. Timex Marlin
With this Marlin watch, Timex successfully channeled vintage dress watch sophistication. It’s a slim, small piece (34 millimeters in diameter) with an old-school mechanical movement to match. That 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, Swiss brand Tissot doesn’t get enough credit. The company is still producing stylish, well-made watches with very affordable price tags, such as this Heritage Visodate. With a mesh metal bracelet and a quartz movement, it’s not your typical dress watch, but its sleek style is too good to overlook. The watch measures 40 millimeters across and 10.66 millimeters in thickness, making it suitable under a dress shirt. However, you can easily rock this one with jeans and a T-shirt as well.
3. Orient Bambino
It’s not often you find an affordable dress watch with an automatic movement, making the Orient Bambino a rarity. Beloved by watch enthusiasts, the Bambino features an automatic Japanese movement and the looks of a classic dress watch to boot. It also boasts a 40-hour power reserve, which means the watch can be left stationary for almost two days without needing a rewind.
4. Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Automatic 027
Junghans is a storied brand out of Germany (founded in 1861) offering some great dress watches at a mid-level price point. This Max Bill, one of Junghans’ best-sellers, showcases a minimal style that’s very modern without being over-the-top. This comes from details like an uncrowded 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 into seventies-inspired timepieces right now (many brands are reviving designs from that period), which is why we’re into this Jazzmaster from Hamilton. It’s led by an eye-catching metal bead bracelet, but we would classify it as a dress watch: the face is minimally styled 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 one uses Nomos’ reliable calibre DUW 3001 automatic movement which boasts a power reserve of 42 hours. The exterior of the watch is equally well-made with rhodium plating on the dial and index, and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal face. It’s also very thin, and the watch’s 38.5-millimeter diameter 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 all but blank, save for subtle hour and minute markers, and a yellow 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, a button-up, and boots).
8. Cartier Tank
One of the first wristwatches with mainstream success, the Cartier Tank is far more desirable now than it was when it launched in 1917. The square shape and roman-numeral dial are now iconic, and, even though it’s not too flashy, it’s bound to be recognized (and appreciated) by any watch enthusiast. This Solo XL version features an automatic movement and a 41-millimeter diameter, which is slightly bigger than the old-school Tank Louis.
9. Rolex Datejust 41
Stainless steel Rolexes aren’t exactly dress watches, but they’re so popular in boardrooms, nice restaurants, and classy events that we had to include one. We think this Datejust 41 is one of the better Rolexes for dressy attire. It’s fairly 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 calibre 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 Saxonia Thin
A. Lange & Söhne’s dress watches are holy grails in the watch community, and this Saxonia Thin is a favorite. Every element — from the white gold case to the alligator leather strap — is made of the highest-quality materials available This quality is reflected on the inside of the watch, which uses an in-house calibre L086.1 automatic movement. We also love the Saxonia’s understated style: only in-the-know connoisseurs will recognize it as a treasure.