The Best Dress Watches for Every Budget

For men, finding the right dress watch is similar to finding the right suit. It should fit you well, reflect your personal style, and elevate your look in formal settings. But even if you don’t put on a suit very often, having a solid dress timepiece is a must.

“Every man needs very few accessories to look great in a formal setting—but a dress watch is one of them,” says stylist and watch expert Paul Frederick. “Instead of the bells, whistles, and bulk that come with sportier watches, a slim, classic dress watch adds polish without stealing the show.”

Also like a suit purchase, doing your research before you make the plunge is critical. Here’s what you need to know when adding a polished dress watch to your time-telling arsenal.


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What Makes a Dress Watch
Most dress watches are recognizable by their slim profile and clean aesthetic, free of the many complications you’d find in a dive watch or a pilot watch. Many have a leather strap of some kind, be it calfskin, crocodile, or other exotic hides. However, there are some exceptions for finer steel bracelets, which typically give off a sportier vibe.

What to Look for in a Dress Watch
A dress watch should be around 40 millimeters in diameter or smaller. Look for a clean dial—darker is typically more formal—that’s simple and elegant but still eye catching. Unique leather straps will elevate your look, whether they’re embossed or real. Black and brown are the safe choices, but try a green or blue strap if you dare.


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What to Consider Before Buying
First, think about how often you’ll wear this watch, and let that dictate your budget. However, you don’t want to drop a grand or more for a watch that you’ll only wear with a suit. Consider buying a more casual bracelet or strap as well so you can swap it out for a more laid-back vibe.

And although there are tons of modern dress watches to choose from, don’t forget vintage options. They tend to be compact and easy to wear with more formal attire. Sites like Chrono24 and Tourneau are good places to start.

How to Wear a Dress Wristwatch
Fit is crucial with dress watches because you’ll often be wearing it with long sleeves. “The slimmer a watch, the better, as these watches need to fit under your tailored sleeve cuff,” Frederick says. If you get custom shirts made, tell your tailor which wrist you wear your watch on so they can leave more room in the cuff.

If you’re right-handed, your watch’s crown and part of the case should barely peek out when standing at rest. When you bend your elbow 90 degrees or more, your jacket and shirt should reveal your whole watch. If this isn’t the case, wear your watch and suit to your tailor, and they can adjust it accordingly.

But don’t worry too much about breaking any style rules. The most important thing is loving the watch you buy.

MVMT Atlas

Simple. Elegant. Affordable. These are three great virtues of any dress watch—all in one. Its sleek, minimalist dial and superthin bezel give it a simple feel that will look good with any outfit.

[$ 140; mvmt.com]

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Larsson & Jennings LJXII Norse Leather

This handsome, square-cased watch is a classic, timeless pick. Its gold roman numeral hour markers give it a sophisticated vibe, while the black case and bracelet lend a formal feel.

[$ 178; larssonandjennings.com]

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Withings Steel HR

Who says a dress watch can’t also be functional? This sleek black dress watch doubles as a full fitness tracker that monitors seven metrics—including heart rate in the subdial—and comes in a dozen strap variations. 

[$ 179.95; withings.com]

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Tissot Heritage Visodate

Modern watches are great, but sometimes looking to the past is a surefire path to killer style. This vintage-inspired piece has an old-school vibe with modern details like a cool stainless steel mesh bracelet. 

[$ 350; us.tissotshop.com]

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Timex American Documents 41mm Leather Strap Watch

As part of its new made-in-America line called American Documents, this watch from Timex is as classic as they come and features all-American parts and assembly (save for its ever-accurate Swiss movement).

[$ 495; timex.com]

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Martenero Kerrison

Meet the most affordable automatic movement you’ll find just about anywhere. For work, the weekend, or anywhere in between, this sharp watch is a solid choice. Bonus: You’ll never need to change a battery. 

[$ 595; martenero.com]

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Movado Ultra Slim

Stand out in a sea of black suits and watches with this tonal watch that will show your style chops, while still maintaining an elegant vibe that will set your style apart from the pack.

[$ 695; movado.com]

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Shinola The Bedrock Chrono 42mm

As part of Shinola’s first dress watch, this model is one of the few on this list with an elegant chronograph. It also features a supple leather strap and subdials that track elapsed time—all made in Detroit.

[$ 900; shinola.com]

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Hamilton Spirit of Liberty Auto

This classic dress watch celebrates Hamilton’s American heritage—it was founded in Pennsylvania in 1892—with an engraving on the leather strap that reads “without liberty, life is a misery.”

[$ 995; hamiltonwatch.com]

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Rado Diamaster Thinline

A quality watch should never lose its luster. This model uses a ceramic and metal alloy for its case, which will never fade. And its sapphire crystal will never scratch or scuff either. 

[$ 2,250; rado.com]

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Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture

With a 28-jewel automatic movement, 50-hour power reserve, an elegant date subdial, and a navy crocodile leather strap, this show-stopping dress watch is the right choice when you mean business.

[$ 3,195; frederiqueconstant.com]

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Nomos Glaschuette Tangente Neomatik 41 Update Ruthenium

Known for its slender watches and modern aesthetic, Nomos Glaschuette makes standout watches with unique features like its date ring that uses two red dashes to frame the day’s date.

[$ 4,100; nomos-glashuette.com]

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Tudor Black Bay 41 S&G

With its sleek, classic dial and iconic snowflake hour hand, this Tudor watch is a smart choice for any guy. Its steel and gold design means it will go well with any black or brown suit you wear.

[$ 4,150; tudorwatch.com]

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Breitling Premier Automatic 40

Add a fun pop of color to any outfit with this bold blue automatic, which features an eye-catching croc strap and a convenient 38-hour time reserve, so you can always stay on time. 

[$ 4,200; breitling.com]

 

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IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince”

As part of its recurring Mark series, this IWC watch combines the brand’s pilot heritage with its elegant precision—all in a sophisticated blue-dialed timepiece that’s every bit as beautiful as it is accurate. 

[$ 5,150; iwc.com]

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Omega Constellation Globemaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer

This watch is so insanely accurate, it was the world’s first Master Chronometer. Its signature pie-pan dial in blue is a nod to Omega’s first constellation design in 1952—and this model is just as cool.

[$ 6,900; omegawatches.com]

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Rolex Datejust 36

Part mechanical marvel, part status symbol, Rolex watches are indelibly popular for a reason. This model is a certified chronometer rendered in steel and white gold with an understated 36-millimeter black dial to match. You simply can’t go wrong.

[$ 8,200; rolex.com]

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Weiss Executive Issue Field Watch

Each of these 18-karat gold Executive Issue watches is made to order by founder Cameron Weiss and fitted with a shell cordovan strap that makes for an impressive watch befitting any executive, current or aspiring.

[$ 8,950; weisswatchcompany.com]

 

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Patek Philippe 5146J

If you want even more than the best, this is the watch for you. Aside from a case made from yellow gold, it has day, month, date complications, as well as an elegant moonphase complication. In short, it’s one of the most impressive dress watches money can buy. 

[$ 39,580; patek.com]

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