In this watch style guide, I take at look at features to look for to find the best dress watch for your budget. A dress watch is something you should consider, if you go to work in a suit. Even if you don’t go to work in a suit, it’s still useful to have a dress watch for formal occasions like weddings and funerals.
WHAT IS A DRESS WATCH?
While it might have the word watch in its name, the dress watch is anything but an ordinary time telling piece. In fact, some dress watches are primarily an aesthetic accessory that can be entirely lacking in the accuracy aspect of timekeeping as substantiated by the fact that quite a number of models do not even have the second hand.
Therefore, the major purpose of such a watch is to keep track of time in a simple manner whilst also seamlessly blending in with the outfit.
And not just any outfit, but a formal one like a suit for example. However, it also pairs well with business casual attire or a semi-formal outfit.
That’s not to mean that it is not to be donned with home casual outfits like t-shirts and jeans as it also spruces up such an outlook quite nicely.
DO YOU NEED A DRESS WATCH?
While a dress watch isn’t a must-have accessory in your wardrobe, it is still meaningful to own one.
Similar to how you keep a ring, necklace or any other jewelry to don for those special nights when you are required to put your best foot forward, so too should you have a dress watch at the ready.
In fact, you can even buy a variety so that each outfit you own gets a matching piece.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DRESS WATCH
20TH century standards dictate that a good dress watch of its kind should have an averagely sized case with an appropriate measurement curtailed at 35 mm for the case diameter.
However, anything below 40 mm is also acceptable but beyond this size, the watch begins to draw more attention than ideal thereby not fulfilling the purpose for which it was created: to subtly tell time without standing out.
Consequently, the overall design out to be simplistic and the watch shouldn’t look like a chronograph.
Simplicity is key to wearing a dress watch. This is why most people go for the minimalist style when they purchase a go-to dress watch. The watch should not attract attention. It needs to complement and NOT overpower your overall outfit.
The presentation should encompass hour indexes that are either Roman numerals or forged in the metal saber style. Arabic numerals are also alright though they ought to be small.
It’s okay if you can’t tell time with a dress watch. Ironically, wearing a dress watch is not meant for telling time but for fashion purposes. In fact, at these events:
… it’s considered rude to check time (or even stare at your phone to check time).
While a dress watch comes in handy for a host of events, either formal or otherwise but mostly formal, there are certain occasions when you should simply leave it behind. For instance, when going to an important meeting, date or a funeral, wearing a watch is a sign of disrespect.
It gives off the feeling that you’re in a hurry to be somewhere else thereby undermining your presence overall. In the worst case scenario, others could perceive your occasional glances at your wrist companion as an indication of boredom.
You’re expected to be attentive and engaged at the event. This is why pocket watches haven’t gone out of style. Some people just like to keep a fancy pocket watch in their pockets to avoid getting caught staring at their watches.
What’s more —
The bezel and dial should be free of ornaments, though subtle patterns are not a problem, and the strap should preferably be made of good leather but slim bracelets are also acceptable. High contrast dials are a no-no as this gets in the way of quickly checking time in dynamic settings.
The use of precious metals is not a big deal however the inclusion of a subtle yet endearing accent is also advisable.
BLACK OR WHITE FACE WATCH?
That’s the question whose answers we seek to find in this section as we take a look at which watch face color is more ideal:
FORMALITY AFFECTS THE CHOICE
While which face color is more formal than the other is still a matter of contentious debate, white is often the one that emerges victorious in this regard.
It is thought to compliment dark suits well and adds a welcomed elegant contrast to the domineering shade of a black suit or tie compared to a black one that is viewed as a bit limiting in such a scenario.
Everybody is pretty much in agreement when it comes to this aspect with a white face watch proving more versatile than its counterpart.
It can, therefore, be worn with virtually any outfit and still not look out of place hence it is the “dressier” of the pair. Black, meanwhile, is best accompanied with matching black and is also an ideal shade for sports watches.
METAL ACCESSORIES DICTATE THE COLOR
Not really but wouldn’t it be nice to pair arm accessories such as bracelets and whatnot with a similarly shaded watch?
Of course it would, and that’s why a black watch goes well with dark accessories while a white face brings out the best of bright colored jewellery.
SHOE COLOR INFLUENCES COLOR OF WATCH
For shoes, it depends on which angle you take. White can go well with white however it can also make for an endearing look if the shoe and face watch colors are of opposite shades. It’s entirely up to you.
WEATHER AFFECTS WHAT YOU WEAR
The scales tilt towards the white face watch when it comes to weather thanks in part to a simple science concept: black is great heat absorber and white an excellent reflector.
Therefore, if you tend to stay outside for extended periods of time, then white is more appropriate as the black would cause your time telling piece to uncomfortably heat up on your wrist.
BLACK OR WHITE SYMBOLISM IN FASHION
If you’re one who believes a great deal in color psychology, then here are a few important things to note about either color:
White is herald as a blend of simplicity, purity and innocence so if these are the attributes you’re looking for, then a white face watch is what you need.
It is also a symbol of commitment and attention to finer details. Black, on the other hand, is herald as a sign of sophistication, excellent self-control and a promising financial future.
So which one takes the cake?
The debate over whether to get a black or white face watch has been rumbling on across the vast reaches of the interwebs for ages with a majority of the opinion going in favor of white face watches.
These are simply viewed as more ideal by many who opt for it over black dials that are often categorized as rather dour and limiting. However, at the end of the day, which color you go for solely rests on you.
Your preference towards either color, or any other for that matter though black/white is most appropriate, is the only rule you should go by.
BEST BLACK FACE WATCH FOR MEN: MVMT, NIXON AND VINCERO
For black faced watches, it’s always safe to go with the minimalist style. Again, you don’t want a glitzy gold watch when you’re at a funeral. Shoot for understated elegance.
I’ve covered MVMT (pronounced “moovment”) before (in fact we’re previewing MVMT watches at our main page). MVMT is one of the most popular minimalist watches on the Internet. They launched their brand via an Indiegogo campaign in 2013 and the rest is history.
They have flooded social media with their marketing, and now have full fledged line of watches. They even branched out into sunglasses.
For a black faced watch, consider the Classic Black Men’s watch. It’s priced at $100 at the MVMT website, and this particular watch uses a metal strap. However, with MVMT, it’s easy enough to remove the metal strap and replace it with a black leather or even brown leather strap.
Main features of the MVMT dress watch:
- 45mm Case size, 9mm case thickness
- 24mm strap width
- Hardened mineral crystal glass
- Japanese quartz movement
- 3 ATM water resistance.
MVMT sells a full line of straps, which makes it easy to mix and match straps with the black faced watch. One strategy is to buy the black dial MVMT watch and buy another strap. It’s like having two watches that you can wear at any formal function.
Vincero’s motto is “bold & uncompromising.” They avoid making “cookie cutter” designs and focus on quality and affordable dress watches. They make this possible by employing a direct-to-consumer model, and you can only purchase Vincero watches online.
For Vincero, I’d go with their Chrono Style with a black face. It’s a chronograph with the three buttons on the side and sub-dials in the watch face.
Although it’s a chronograph, it doesn’t scream “tacky.” Again you want to avoid glitzy colors like gold or pink. This style is black through and through. There are even options for a white faced chrono style. You can’t go wrong with either, and fits well with the motto of understated elegance for dress watches.
Main features of the Black Face Vincero Chrono style watch:
- Made of surgical grade stainless steel with a 43mm diameter
- Sapphire coated mineral crystal glass, making the watch scratch & scrape resistant
- Japanese quartz movement
- Italian leather band
Vincero has a solid following. The brand has received positive feedback in Amazon with an average of 4.5 stars from over 300+ watch enthusiasts and consumers.
I’ve already covered the Nixon brand in our quartz style guide, which you can check out here. Nixon is actually “older” than MVMT and Vincero, yet not as “mature” as the Swiss and Japanese brands.
The Nixon brand was launched in 1997 in the state of California. They started out as niche dedicated to the youth lifestyle, and has since branched out into fashion watches.
They are agnostic when it comes to their watch movements. They use both Swiss and Japanese movements.
For the black face style, consider the Nixon Corporal. This watch has everything you’re looking in a dress watch. It doesn’t have flashy colors that will overpower your outfit. It has a black face with a dark metallic band. Certainly, this would work for any formal setting.
The main features of this Nixon Dress Watch:
- Stainless steel watch with a 3-hand movement with large numeral indices
- Stainless steel band, stainless enamel case and a signature Lum Dial for viewing at night
- 10 ATM rating (good for 100m underwater)
The watch has an average of 4.5 stars from approximately 300 users in Amazon.
BEST WHITE FACE DRESS WATCHES – MILENEAL AND STUHRLING
Note that Vincero, MVMT and Nixon also offer white face watches. Those are also recommended. With fashion, look at what’s available and make a purchasing decision that fits your budget.
In this section, we’ll review other watch brands that offer white face style dress watches.
I discovered this brand, when the founders reached out to me and sent me a watch for review. I wrote about it here and the video unboxing is below:
For audio only, check out my podcast version.
Like MVMT and Vincero, Mileneal watches launched their brand after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Their main focus is in the dress watch category, and in their initial launch, they offer both black face and white face watches in their Classic line.
The watch I received was one of six available on their main website. It is the Rose Gold White with Vintage Blue Leather strap. It has a minimalist design, and although the bezel is rose gold, it’s not an overpowering color.
In fact, the Mileneal is a true minimalist watch with no fancy trimmings. It doesn’t even have roman numerals or numbers for the hours and minutes. It simply has the hour, minute and second hands. The branding is in the 12 o’clock position.
The great thing about Mileneal is you can get the black and white face watch along with several straps. Then you can just mix and match as necessary.
The watches are priced at $99 but there is a $20 discount if you subscribe to their newsletter. At least this discount is good as of April 2018.
Features of this white face dress watch:
- 316L stainless steel case
- Sapphire coated glass
- 100% genuine leather strap
- 3 ATM water resistance
- Japanese Miyota quartz movement.
They’ve had positive feedback from their Kickstarter campaign, which enabled them to raise over $24,000 via crowdfunding. Definitely, check them out.
I’ve covered Stuhrling in my Chronograph guide, which you can check out here.
Like Nixon, Stuhrling is a relatively new watch company. Founded in 1999, Stuhrling began making watches in New York. Their name comes from a master watchmaker, Max Stuhrling who lived in Switzerland in the 19th century.
Stuhrling makes all kinds of watches with a focus on the Swiss movement.
They have a popular dress watch in Amazon. Consider the Stuhrling Original Ascot Watch. It has all the features you look for in a dress watch.
It has a simple white face. It doesn’t even have numbers or roman numerals for the hours and minutes. It’s a simple face with a nice leather band.
Here is a quick summary of this Stuhrling dress watch:
- Stainless steel watch with silver-tone crown
- 42mm stainless steel round case with Krysterna crystal dial window
- Swiss Quartz movement
- Leather band
- 5 ATM rating (good for 50m underwater)
This particular watch has approximately 4.5 stars from over 100+ customers on Amazon.
BEST DRESS WATCHES BY PRICE
UNDER $200 PRICE: SKMEI, CITIZEN, ARMITRON
Note that the watch brands we reviewed (black and white face styles) are all under $200 so definitely consider them as dress watch options.
According to their website, Skmei is a wholesale and drop-ship brand, based in Hong Kong. They are a professional Chinese drop ship website, and their goal is to provide quality watches at whole sale prices.
They offer various tiers of watches for the General Customer, Silver VIP, Golden VIP and Diamond VIP. Each tier provides a different type of discount.
This particular dress watch is not only very affordable, but it has very positive feedback from the Amazon community. It has garnered an average of 4.5 stars from over 600 customers.
It’s a white faced style, dress watch with a brown strap. Users comment on its million dollar style without the price tag of a Rolex.
Here are the main highlights of the Skmei dress watch:
- White face dial
- 5cm case diameter, thickness of 1cm
- Japanese Quartz movement
- 3ATM water resistance (“splash proof”)
- Affordable price
Armitron is a watch brand, produced by a company named E. Gluck Corporation. They are based in Little Neck, New York. The brand was founded in 1956 by Eugen Gluck. According to Wikipedia, Armitron had the fifth largest share of all watch consumers in the United States.
Armitron produces dress watches, sports watches and licensed watches for both men and women.
For a dress watch, one of their popular styles is their Stainless Steel Bracelet Watch. It has a unique face. Most of the watch faces for dress watches are circular, but this particular timepiece from Armitron is more rectangular.
It has a minimalist style with no numbers or even roman numerals for time telling. The logo is placed at the 12 o’clock position. The highlights of this watch include the following:
- 33mm case diameter
- Stainless steel with degrade dial and Swarovski crystal markers
- Japanese quartz movement with analog display
- 5 ATM rating.
This Armitron dress watch has an average of 4.5 stars from over 180+ customers on Amazon.
Founded in 1930 by Japanese and Swiss investors, the company got its start when this group took over the Shokosha Watch Research Institute and other watch manufacturing facilities in Yokohoma.
They played an instrumental role in the development and proliferation of the Japanese quartz movement. You’ll notice that many watches in this guide (and throughout the site uses the Japanese Miyota Quartz movement). This movement became the world’s preferred movement due to the work of the Japanese watchmakers, like Citizen.
Citizen makes a lot of great watches. They have a good dress watch for under $200. It is the Eco Drive Stainless Steel Dress Watch. This watch has a black face has a black face and powered by the Japanese movement.
Here is a review of this Citizen dress watch:
- Leather band with a deployment clasp
- Black luminous hands and markers
- 44mm case size
- Silver tone, stainless steel rotating inner dial ring
- 10ATM water resistance
- Anti-reflective mineral crystal
- 12/24 hour time function, analog day/date and 3 hands.
The watch has an average of 4.5 stars from over 150+ customers in Amazon.
OVER $200 AND UNDER $500 PRICE: CITIZEN, SEIKO AND GRAF ZEPPELIN
GRAF ZEPPELIN BRAND
The Graf Zeppelin is a German made watch, manufactured by the PointTEC group. They are also known for their Junkers watches. The Graf Zeppelin is closely associated with Zeppelin air ships that have a renowned aviation history in Germany.
Graf Zeppelin employs clean and satin finished stainless steel cases. It is held together by handmade leather straps.
This particular watch is part of the Hindenburg Series is easily the most unique watch I’ll feature in this review of the best dress watches available for sale online.
It’s a white face dial watch with a black leather strap. The main highlights of this watch include:
- 316L stainless steel case
- Swiss made Ronda 515 quartz movement
- White dial with black digits / markers
- 3 ATM water resistance.
This particular dress watch has an average of 4.5 stars from 10+ reviews from customers. The users make a note of its unique build and polished finish.
For a dress watch under $500, I’ll go back to the familiar brand of Citizen. I’ve already discussed one of their popular models priced under $200. This one is a slight step up.
It has a very minimalist design in pure black. It only has markers for the minutes and hour markers with the logo under the 12 o’clock position. In fact, it looks very similar to the previously reviewed MVMT Chrono watch (except that one had red trimmings), while this watch is pure black.
Highlights of this Citizen watch:
- Imported from Japan
- Rounded watch with Eco-drive light powered design
- Japanese quartz movement with analog display
- Water resistant up to 30m (splash proof).
This particular watch has an average of 4.5 stars from 100+ customers on Amazon.
Here’s another dress watch priced under $500 from a familiar brand. It’s the Dress Black Ion Watch from Seiko.
It has a very minimalist design. Again, it has all the features you’re looking for in a classic dress watch. It has roman numerals for the 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock position. The logo is right under the 12 o’clock position.
It has a black face with a black strap. It has gold trimmings but nothing that will overpower an outfit. I’ve covered Seiko numerous times in this website. They’re a reliable brand, and it’s no wonder they show up as a recommended watch brand in all my style reviews.
The features of this Seiko watch:
- Japanese quartz movement
- Curved Hardlex crystal
- 5 mm case diameter
- Stainless steel case with black dial
- 3 ATM rating (splash proof).
This particular watch has an average of four stars from 30+ customers on Amazon.
OVER $1000 PRICE – TAG HEUER
It can be hard to find a minimalist style watch in the luxury tier. Often, this price tier is dominated by watches that are mechanical (with opulent dials and construction) or made of flashy gold.
However, there are some luxury watches that have that “understated elegant” look:
I’ve already covered this brand in my automatic watch style review. You can check it out here.
Unless you’re a complete novice to watches, you’ve probably heard of the Tag Heuer brand. They are a luxury Swiss watchmaker, who competes with Rolex and Omega for the luxury niche in watches. They’ve been around since 1860 and are sought out for their quality Swiss craftsmanship.
For a dress watch priced just over $1000, the Tag Heuer Aquaracer could be an option. It is a round faced watch with a dark blue color.
It has marks to denote the hours and minutes and the logo is right under the 12 o’clock position. For the main highlights:
- Imported from Switzerland
- Round silver tone watch with striped sunray dial with date window at the 3 o’clock position
- 5mm stainless steel case
- Swiss automatic steel case with analog display
- 3-link stainless steel band
- 10ATM rating (good for swimming in a pool).
This particular watch has an average of 4.5 stars from about 10 customers. As a bonus, it comes with free shipping!
Please note that the watches reviewed in this dress watch guide is not all inclusive. I could write an entire book on dress watches, but these watches would be great additions to your wardrobe.
As with anything fashion, do your due diligence, be mindful of your budget and make the right purchase decision.
HOW TO MATCH WATCHES WITH CLOTHES
Watches, and dress watches by extension, come in a multitude of variations and knowing how and which watches to pair with what clothes can mean the difference between pulling off a look or seeming utterly misplaced.
So here are a few pointers to help you out:
WHAT THE FORMALITY DICTATES
Generally, digital watches are considered causal with their analog counterparts often viewed in a formal light. The former is ideal for casual purposes like going out to a sports game with your friends, grabbing a bite with family and whatnot while analog watches are appropriate for formal meetings, dates, and business events.
While for most formal meetings simplicity is often the way to go, a tie could still be an important outfit accessory. It’s often considered impolite to wear a watch to a business event however you could pull this off subtly with an obsidian leather strap dress watch of simple yet classy design.
It is a great accompaniment for white or black ties.
For a business setting, a dark suit is often paired well with a dress watch of silver or gold accents and a slim dial that easily slots into the sleeves without leaving an unsightly bulge.
Also, a leather-strapped diver watch or a classic dress watch is the way to go with such kinds of clothes.
BUSINESS CASUAL FORMAL
While the exact definition of business casual is still a grey area, a shirt or suit without a tie or necktie is often the description of what this kind of casual is all about.
For a light colored suit, for example, a smart field watch, or a pilot and sometimes even a high-end chronograph is the right watch for the job.
Nothing says “casual” in a watch more than the inclusion of a metal band in the architecture so this is a go-to sign if you’re on the hunt for extremely casual timepieces.
The good thing about casual wear- e.g. a chambray shirt paired with jeans and dress boots- is that almost any watch you throw on will fit right in regardless of the outfit.
A dress watch is definitely not the watch for sporting events or any other activities with random physical movements. For such purposes, sports, Chrono, pilot, and field watches are recommended.
Check out our full coverage on watch types to see what would work best for you.
THE SHOES YOU WEAR ALSO HAVE A SAY
The dress watch, or any other watch variety you own, needs to complement the shoes you wear. The shade of the strap, for instance, is to be paired with similarly colored shoes as this will make for a more beguiling look than a conflicting shade.
Also, formal shoes should be paired with formal watches and casual wear with casual watches.
The rule of thumb on how to match watches with clothes.
In a nutshell, a dress watch pairs with anything but sporting attire while a diver watch is best for all but a black/white tie combination.
Chrono, pilot and field watches, on the other hand, are ideal for casual, sports and business casual clothes however they are a no-no for business formal and black/white tie pairings.
IS A DRESS WATCH WORTH THE PRICE?
So the $100 dollar question is —
Should I shell out $100 for a dress watch?
Why not just wear my chronograph watch at a funeral?
Again, it’s all about understated elegance. A proper dress watch at formal setting should complement and not overpower your wardrobe. Although not exhaustive, the best dress watch review has provided you with various models and brands to choose from. Any of these watches would be great additions to your wardrobe. Just be mindful of your budget and what you intend to use the dress watch for.