So seriously, what are the best dress watches you can buy on a budget? This is one of the most frequently asked questions for all watch journos, and then our advice is usually forgotten, disputed or plain ignored.
But in general, the answer to this question is to go for a brand that has earned its stripes over several years, or in many cases, decades, or pick on a lesser known watch brand where the designer, still very much involved on a day to day basis, agonizes over every nuance of the watch. Be prepared to spend enough to get a quality watch even if it means punishing your credit card, but if you’re not prepared to do that, opt for something with a quartz movement. Also, avoid extremes of fashion that will look silly and ill-considered in a year or two’s time.
Here is a selection of the best dress watches that fit the criteria and all of them are comfortably under US$2,000. Prices are in ascending order.
If you are stuck with a budget tighter than Helen Parr’s outfit in Incredibles 2, this heavily discounted dress watch from Bulova could be the answer. It’s a quartz powered silver-tone stainless steel watch featuring a Japanese quartz movement in a 37.7 mm stainless steel case with mineral dial and a date window at 3 o’ clock. Window. The watch comes on a stainless-steel band with fold-over clasp with double push-button safety clasp. How much? US$98.98
First introduced in 2015 and still looking very cool. Like planets orbiting, the reverse of the SISTEM CREAM (SUTM400) reveals innovative inner workings that resemble the sun, moon, and stars. The watch is a sophisticated cream and black color palette on the front, from the beige leather-touch rubber strap to the black dial and bezel which serve to elevate this watch from simple, everyday wear into something infinitely more transcendental. How much? From US$204
This watch is soon to be released by designer Ivan Chua of Singapore brand Vario, and it’s an absolute beauty, especially if you like smaller watches. This elegant Art Deco-inspired watch is 38mm, and ideal for smaller wrists. It’s a classic 3-hander with syringe hands and Art Deco numerals running on a Miyota 6T33 Hand Wound Movement. The hand wounds will be very limited at just 40 pieces for each of the 4 variants. How much? Early bird price: US$218
All of Raymond Weil’s watches are inspired by music and the Don Giovanni is no exception. At just a shade over US$800 for an automatic watch, the price should be music to any collector’s ears. The watch is made from a 37 x 35mm polished stainless steel case with a sapphire crystal screw-in case-back and a silver dial with guilloche center. The dial features silver-tone luminescent hands and silver-tone Roman numerals with a small seconds’ sub-dial at the 6 o’clock and date window at 3 o’clock. The watch runs on a Swiss automatic movement, ETA caliber 2895-2 with a power reserve of 42 hours. How much? US$867.99
The 42mm Jetomatic from Zodiac is available in several dial colors with different strap options (including a steel bracelet). The Jetomatic is a beautiful homage to a vintage Zodiac pilot’s watch from the 1960s. It runs on an automatic movement with date, sword hands, gorgeous multi-colored dial, and oversize winding crown make for a timepiece that looks great both with a suit or with casual wear. How much? US$995
I can personally vouch for the superior quality of this dress watch from Longines as I had the opportunity to wear it in Rome during the launch of the V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting. This striking Flagship Heritage Les Grandes piece features a 36mm stainless steel and yellow gold case, a white dial with gold batons with diamond markers and a date window at 3 o’clock. The watch comes on a stainless steel two-tone bracelet and is powered by an ETA automatic movement. This sophisticated watch will provide excellent durable wear. How much? US$1,502.98
The Carrera, created by Jack Heuer in 1963, is one of TAG Heuer’s more popular collections and comes with numerous series and sub-series. Although the Carrera was an evolution in terms of design for Heuer, its look was completely distinctive when compared to the commonly seen and sold chronographs of the 1940s and 1950s. The difference between the 39mm Calibre 5 and the larger Calibre 5 Day-Date is the addition of the day aperture at the 3 o’clock position. How much? From US$$1,725