Who says affordable watches and exquisite dress watches can’t be the same thing? Yes, you can spend big money to put a formal timepiece on your wrist. And there are some amazing dress watches among the upscale offerings. But there are also lots, and lots, of great dress watches with surprisingly accessible price tags. Let’s take a look at some of the finest dress watches.
Orient Bambino Version IV
Orient is an amazing brand when you’re looking for quality that exceeds its price tag. While the Orient Bambino is the most popular of its automatic offerings, with dozens of models in the line, it is not so easy to decide which is right for you. Nevertheless, consider Version IV.
It wears a little sleeker than many of the other pieces in the line, largely due to its elegant dauphine hands and slim hour markers. You can wear it on a high-polish bracelet or go for a more formal look on leather. Flip it over to find a clear case back to let you see that mechanical movement in motion. All for under $200!
Timex Marlin Automatic
Another watch brand that’s earned praise for its affordability and quality, Timex makes some really nice dress watches at low prices. The Marlin Automatic (which you can pick up for around $250!) is truly a classic in the traditional sense, both sleek and simple, with an unassuming 40mm stainless steel case that hasn’t changed much since its debut in the 1960s. With understated golden hands and indices, on a fine leather strap, this low-cost wonder is ready for any formal occasion.
Bulova American Clipper
Another fine entry you can pick up for a good price, the Bulova American Clipper exudes sophistication way beyond its bargain price. With a 42mm diameter, it wears a bit bigger than many a dress watch, but its minimalist leanings downplay its size to give in an unassuming air, albeit a sophisticated one on an alligator strap. With a 40-hour power reserve, this self-winding wonder is a deal at any price.
Seiko Cocktail Time
Created to capture Tokyo’s ultra-chic nightlife scene, the Seiko Cocktail Time simply oozes urban sophistication. It’s just a shade glitzier than your average dress watch, evidenced by the light-catching sheen of its guilloche sunburst dial. But beyond that somewhat shimmering aspect, it’s a classic dress watch in every way, from its traditional stainless steel case to slender beveled hands and smooth calfskin strap. While a few of the watches in the line dip over the $1,000 line, you can often find them for around $350.
Victorinox Swiss Army Men’s Alliance
Sure, most of us know that Victorinox is famed for its Swiss Army knives. And they also have a reputation for making some rugged timepieces that could go out in the field with soldiers as well. But among their more refined options, such as the Alliance line, are some pretty stunning timepieces. This dress watch goes for a clean and classic look with a basic black or simple white dial and Arabic numbers. Look closely, and beyond the small date window, you’ll notice unique 24-hour indices that make up the dial’s inner ring. Less formal than other dress offerings, Victorinox puts this watch on a laid-back stitched leather strap, unless you go with a stainless steel bracelet.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline
Hamilton takes dress watches in the opposite direction — minimalism. A no-nonsense dial has basic Arabic numerals. It keeps things understated in terms of size, with a slim 7mm thickness and 42mm case diameter. With different dial colors and a variety of different straps, it’s also a pretty versatile timepiece. While we doubt you’ll take this to the beach, it is water-resistant up to 50 meters.
For fine Swiss craftsmanship at affordable prices, look to Tissot. The Powermatic goes for a more of a casual presentation on its face than other dress watches, with Roman numerals and the traditional Le Locle signature in script, a nod to the Swiss town that sits at the heart of watchmaking heritage. On an alligator strap, this watch takes its casual lean into the more formal territory. Flip it over to watch the movement through a display caseback. Depending on the model, you have many great options to choose from.
Frederique Constant Classic Index
Frederique Constant brings us right up to the edge of our $1,000 limit with its Classic Index, a dress watch that you’ll likely cherish for decades. It keeps things classy with an elegant white face and subdued silver hour markers. The hour and minute hands are slim and triangular, giving the watch a cosmopolitan vibe, while the case size keeps things understated with a diameter of 40mm. It’s powered by automatic Swiss movement with a power reserve of 38 hours.
So, while you can spend a lot of money on fine dress watches, and there are a lot of timepieces out there that are worth the expenditures, you can surely get yourself a great dress watch without breaking the bank.