A couple of years ago, we did a guide for dress watches under $1k. Looking at it now, I feel it’s time to do another one, with some different options. The watches mentioned there are still valid, but we’ve seen plenty of watches since then that make the cut too. That said, true dress watches are not really that common, nor really that needed. Rather, watches that are good for work and the occasional formal setting, but could probably be worn whenever and wherever, made the list. So, if you’re looking for an alternative to you divers, pilots and tool watches, here are a few good options.
We just reviewed this one last week; between the price and the style it’s a sure fire winner. Rose gold markers, pearlescent dial, and an insane domed crystal come together for a design that feels vintage, but doesn’t look derivative. If you’re on a budget, it’s also just one of the best buys out there, with a Japanese made automatic movement and a price tag of $182. But, you don’t have to be on a budget to buy and really enjoy the Bambino as it’s a genuinely great watch, and it definitely does not look inexpensive.
It comes on a dark brown faux-gator strap that suits it well, and gives you plenty of options for pairing. I’d call this one business-casual to dress, but not super formal, given its size. A great office piece that will attract more attention than you’d expect.
I think I’ve said it before, but this one took me a bit by surprise. It’s not that I had reason to doubt Melbourne, but for a first watch, one funded on kickstarter, I wasn’t expecting something so refined. Not only in design, but in manufacturing. Coming in at $475, the Flinders offers a lot style and class for the price, as well great finishing. The dial is pale silver with a striped texture that offsets the bright polished steel applied markers and printed black index, which adds a technical touch. This plays off of the mix of polished and brushed surfaces in the case.
Measuring 40mm, like the Bambino, this one is more business-casual than strictly formal. But I think if you dressed it up with a gator or cordovan strap, it would look the part with no problem. It’s also just a great daily wearer, not looking so formal as to be weird with a pair of jeans.
When I first reviewed the C5 Malvern MKII, it came in an unbelievable $365, making it one of the best values for a Swiss made auto out there period… Well, it seems that was too good to be true as the price has steadily increased now ranging from $550 – $690 options depending… While that’s not as amazing as the original, it’s still a good price for a solid watch. The C5 is powered by a Sellita SW200, which is visible through a display case back, has a domed sapphire crystal and is Swiss-made
Components and price aside, what makes the C5 a worthy entry to this guide is its complete lack of fuss or pretension. It’s simple, clean, elegant and versatile. It’s basically neutral, not be so stylish as to garner attention, nor so plain as to be dull. At 39mm it’s small enough to be discreet, but big enough to be modern and masculine. The dial is stripped down to a near bauhaus-level of bare minimum, but has applied markers for a bit of decor.
This is a watch you can wear just about any place a dressier watch is needed. In fact, I’d recommend wearing it as just that, keeping the polish of the case in tact. Both the bracelet and faux-gator options are formal enough, thought the bracelet might be a bit more conservative. The various dial options also allow you to choose what suits your dress style the best. We reviewed the silver option, which is very versatile, but the newer dark grey or white and gold are very tempting.
Most of the options in this guide draw from vintage inspirations, but the Tissot Luxury Automatic is thoroughly modern. In fact, it’s almost a touch sci-fi looking, like you’d expect to see it in a remake of Blade Runner (which I hope they never make). At 41mm, it’s also the largest and most masculine, but it has a sleek, reserved style that speaks to dressy intentions.
What makes the Luxury Automatic appealing (it’s definitely not its name) is it’s all-metal palette and use of texture and layering. Though spartan, it has a very architectural feel, with a dial that has multiple layers, inset markers and a plethora of finishing. The case then has slightly aggressive lines and a woven-plate texture that is unlike anything else I’ve seen.
If you like to wear all black to the office, sport titanium frames and prefer glass to wood, this is the watch for you. That said, it’s also just a cool watch for anyone that likes the look of metal and a more modern style. This one also features Tissot’s Powermatic 80 movement, which has an 80hr power reserve. The idea being, you take it off after work on Friday, party all weekend with something else on your wrist, and it still is keeping time monday morning.
Hamilton did such a good job with this one, that it should really be high up on anyone’s list of potential dress pieces, let alone just watches to get. Seriously, this one is just fun to wear and exudes style. Measuring 38mm (there is also a 42, but forget that one) it looks and feels like a large vintage watch, but is built to very modern standards. The case is curvaceous and nimble, with slick lines and a slim profile that is dominated by a domed sapphire.
The dial, however, is the show stopper. Simple, reductive, but effortlessly cool, the domed silver-sunburst plays with light at every angle, even reflecting the case a bit, for a surface you can just stare at. On it are long grey lines for an index, a 6 o’clock date (right where it should be), a bit of text and a vintage Hamilton logo. Simple curved black stick hands for the hour and minute tell the time. No seconds… a detail, or lack there of, I really appreciated.
Though I’m not much of a gold person, it looks good on this watch, playing off of the grey in the dial and the black strap. That said, the simple steel model is probably the safer option. Put this one on and never take it off. Office, bar, wedding, concert, monster truck rally, this watch will always look good.