Whether you’ll be dressing to impress, meeting with business partners, or attending a special event, it’s important to present yourself properly and to look sharp. As you don your crisp sleek suit and polished leather shoes, what better way to complete your outfit than with a dress watch.
Although the famous James Bond started the trend of matching dive watches with a suit like the Rolex Submariner, it’s not really the ideal watch to wear with formal attire. Such a watch is stunning, without a doubt. But for a watch that is quite substantial, it’s too big and bulky to slip through a dress shirt cuff, and it’s rather gaudy which is the exact opposite of a dress watch like the classic Rolex Cellini.
While there are some men who try to think outside of the box and wear any watch they like but if you really want to up the style of your formal attire a dress watch would be the best to complement your suit. With smaller and thinner watch cases and elegant stainless steel or titanium watch bands, dress watches are slim enough to slide nicely under your cuff (unlike bulky sports or dive watches) and have a classic look that can be worn to work just as well as a wedding or business dinner.
A dress watch has a restrained elegant aesthetic more suitable for your suit. At times, a dress watch would even look more expensive than how much they actually cost. In addition, with their minimalist designs, dress watches have a classic appeal that’ll never fade through the ever-changing style trends.
For the perfect formal look, applying the standard style rules can help to really enhance your attire. A dress watch would be a much better match for your suit. It is, in fact, what they are made for.
And here, in this article, we present to you our top picks for dress watches under $500.
(Please note, at the time of publishing, all these watches were selling for $500 or less. Prices may have fluctuated since then, possibly pushing them over the original budget. We’ve also tried to include watches at the lower range for decent dress watches ($150-$200) to provide good value options for everyone’s budget).
Best Dress Watches Under $500 For Men
Seiko Automatic Stainless Steel Watch
“Less is more,” is true to the Seiko Automatic Stainless Steel Watch. With a simple combination of a black dial with silver-tone details and stainless steel for its case and bracelet, this watch is a classic beauty. To protect its aesthetic from scratches is a sapphire crystal dial window.
Along with its fine aesthetic are an excellent 50-hour power reserve, 23-jewel Japanese automatic self-wind movement with hand-winding and hacking capabilities. You can see the watch movement thanks to its exhibition case back. At its 3 o’clock position, you can find its date display.
Amazingly, this watch will not only serve you well in those formal events but also during water activities, such as swimming and snorkeling with its 100-meter water resistance.
Orient Bambino (2nd Gen) Automatic Stainless Steel Watch
Paying homage to past timepieces, the Orient 2nd Gen. Bambino Automatic Stainless Steel and Leather Watch has a stunning vintage appeal with the antique-inspired look it maintains form the original Bambino collection.
Its lovely dial comes in a champagne color and has polished Roman numeral markers and blue hands. Enclosing it is a scratch-resistant mineral crystal dial window together with a stainless steel case. Fastening the case is a brown alligator-embossed leather strap, which looks good with the dial.
It runs with a 40-hour power reserve, 22-jewel Japanese automatic movement that also has hand-winding and hacking capabilities. It also provides the date at the 3 o’clock position.
Protecting this watch from splashes is its 30-meter water resistance.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline Stainless Steel and Leather Watch
The Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline Stainless Steel and Leather Watch is a timepiece that’s not too flashy but shines in its own sophisticated way.
It has a clean, vibrant silver-tone sunray dial. The stainless steel case of this watch is super slim at 7 mm thin, making it comfy and practical wear along with a suit. Moreover, it comes with a brown alligator-embossed leather strap.
The sapphire crystal covering its dial is anti-reflective, which makes for a clear view of the dial. It’s also very durable and resists scratches.
This sleek watch will not only make you look sharp but will also provide sharp timekeeping with its reliable Swiss quartz movement. Plus, it has a date display at the 8 o’clock position.
Apart from formal occasions, this watch can also be worn during swimming and showering with its 50-meter water resistance.
The Jazzmaster also made our list of best Hamilton watches to buy.
Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 Watch
From the collection of fine automatic watches of Tissot, Le Locle, comes a series of watches that boasts a superb 80-hour power reserve, called Powermatic 80.
And this particular model of the Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 we have here has a minimalist yet classy design with its patterned silver-tone dial, super slim stainless steel case at 9 mm thin, and black alligator-embossed cow leather strap. For its dial window is a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Through its exhibition case back, you can see its 80-hour power reserve Swiss automatic movement that also has hand-winding and hacking capabilities. Moreover, its movement consists of 23 jewels. This watch can also give you the date at the 3 o’clock position.
Its 30-meter water resistance protects it from splashes. If you’re not familiar with Tissot watches, click here for our brand overview.
Hamilton Valiant Automatic Self Wind Stainless Steel and Leather Watch
Although understated in design, the Hamilton Valiant Automatic Self Wind Stainless Steel and Leather Watch has a strong wrist presence.
While this watch gets less attention than its cousin the Hamilton Jazzmaster that we reviewed above, this is a simply elegant timepiece that deserves a closer look. A clean, smooth, light-reflecting, silver-tone sunray dial is held in by its stainless steel case. Attached to the case is its black alligator-embossed leather strap.
Across its dial is an anti-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire.
This fine Swiss Made watch runs with an excellent automatic self-wind movement with a generous 80-hour power reserve and 25 jewels.
Additional features of this watch is a date display at the 3 o’clock position and 50-meter water resistance, which makes it safe to wear during showers and swimming.
Junghans Max Bill Stainless Steel and Leather Watch
From Junghan’s collection that pays homage to Max Bill, one of last century’s skilled designers, who has manifold accomplishments, including the superb watches he designed for Junghans, comes the Junghans Max Bill Stainless Steel and Leather Watch.
Max Bill’s creative philosophy was carried out by Junghans despite his passing in 1994, thus preserving his purist style, which is exemplified by the watches in the Max Bill Collection.
This particular watch we are featuring is rather basic but stunningly classy. Its clean design makes a sophisticated aesthetic that’s timeless.
Its minimalist dial has a matte silver-plating and comes with legible markings along with watch hands in an elegant lance style. Scratch-resistant hard plexiglass covers its dial. Its case is super slim at 8 mm thin. Attached to its case is a brown calfskin leather strap.
Keeping under our established budget of $500 we didn’t go for the more expensive automatic-self-wind Movement version of the Max Bill.
However, the quartz model we did select is nothing to look down upon either. It’s got the same designer look of the Max Bill with a very accurate Swiss quartz movement and is a classy dress watch worthy of a top-ten spot.
The watch also provides the date at the 3 o’clock position. And its 30-meter water resistance makes it splash-resistant.
Seiko Solar Recraft Stainless Steel and Leather Watch
Straight from Seiko’s series that fuses the traditional with innovative designs, Recraft, comes the spectacular Seiko Solar Recraft Stainless Steel and Leather Watch.
Its retro dark green sunray dial that vibrantly glows in different shades of green with the reflection of light is perfectly complemented by the gold-tone details on it, as well as by its brown leather strap. To add to its strikingly distinctive aesthetic is the rectangular shape of its case.
On its beautiful dial, a day of the week and date display can be found at the 3 o’clock position. A scratch-resistant Hardlex crystal makes up its dial window.
It has a 21-jewel Japanese automatic movement that can store up to 41 hours of power reserve. A behind-the-scene display of this machinery can be seen at its exhibition case back.
Moreover, not only is this suitable for formal wear, but it’s also wearable during swimming and when taking a shower, as it’s water resistant to 50-meters.
Junkers Bauhaus Stainless Steel and Leather Watch
Without any excessive embellishments, the Junkers Bauhaus Stainless Steel and Leather Watch have a minimalist aesthetic that’s rather refreshing to the eyes.
In its stainless steel case is a clean cream white dial that matches perfectly with its brown leather strap.
This watch is powered by a Swiss quartz movement. It has a date display at the 3 o’clock position. Water resistant at 30 meters, this watch is splash resistant.
Timex Marlin Hand-Wound Stainless Steel Watch
Having not produced mechanical watches in decades, Timex makes a comeback in the mechanical watch domain with their reissue of the 1960s timepiece long-time fans came to love, the Marlin Hand Wound.
The Timex Marlin Hand-Wound Stainless Steel Watch is one of the beautiful timepieces in the collection that exemplifies the timeless sleek style, which exudes a sophistication that Marlin is all about.
This particular model’s minimalist style in black and silver-tone makes it very formal-looking, while the texture on the black embossed leather strap and the bold black markers on its dial together with the matching black hands add oomph to the watch.
It has a balance of refinement and boldness in design, so it’s not too much but has an impressive wrist presence.
This stunning watch is protected from splashes by its water resistance to 30 meters.
Swatch Irony Body & Soul Automatic Skeleton Dial Watch
From the renowned fashion watch brand, Swatch, the Swatch Irony Body & Soul Automatic Skeleton Dial Watch is a very fashion-forward timepiece.
Along with the engraving of the fashion watch brand’s logo on the stainless steel bezel and bracelet comes a sophisticated stylishness that is worthy of the marking. In its sleek design of stainless steel, incorporated is a fascinating aesthetic of its skeleton dial and exhibition case back, where you can see the intricate details of its excellent machinery.
This watch runs with a 48-hour power reserve, 21-jewel Swiss automatic movement.
To protect this watch from scratches, it’s reinforced with scratch-resistant mineral crystal. Splashes can’t deter this watch, as it’s water resistant to 30 meters.
Zeppelin LZ129 Hindenburg Moon Phase Watch
The Zeppelin LZ129 Hindenburg Moon Phase Watch is a fine Swiss quartz watch that can please both in aesthetic and functionality.
On its vibrant silver-tone sunray dial, you can find the beautifully designed and handy moon phase subdial; day of the week subdial; and date subdial. In addition, it has a red-tipped pointer that indicates the number of the week. The minimalist yet striking dial is held in by a stainless steel case that’s attached to a black alligator-embossed leather strap.
This watch is invulnerable to splashes with its water resistance to 30 meters.
Dress Watch Buyer’s Guide: What To Look For
Case Thickness: Compared to thicker dive watch and tool watches, a good quality dress watch is slim enough to easily slip in and out of your dress shirt cuff. Dress watches are usually 10-11 mm thin and some that are super slim at 7-9 mm thin.
Case Material: Dress watches usually have stainless steel or titanium cases. While two-tones metal bracelets can work (i.e Rose Gold) sticking to one tone of metal usually looks more elegant and less flashy. See our article here on the pros and cons of stainless steel or titanium watches.
Case diameter: Again, as with case thickness, you want to look for sleeker looking watches with a lower profile that will easily slide under your suit jacket. The best diameter will depend on your wrist size but unless you have huge hands you’re going to want to stay below 44 mm. Most of our picks below are in the 38-40 millimeter range.
Watch Band: Another distinguishable feature of a dress watch is its band that would usually be made of genuine leather often calfskin or alligator leather. For metal bands, stainless steel and titanium are the most popular picks compared to more casual and sporty watches that usually have bands made of textile, rubber or silicone.
Although there are watches that have all sorts of embellishments and tons of features available in the market, and they may seem cool, the basic dress watch is a timepiece that’s most necessary to a man’s collection.
Those watches that are designed with different colors; jewels; and whatnot may look fabulous, but in more formal situations, the more refined dress watch is more suitable. Moreover, chances are some features in those feature-packed watches won’t really be utilized, like in aviation watches; racing watches; dive watches; and etc. if you don’t really engage in the activities those watches are made for. So they’re not very practical.
The bottom line is, there will come times in a man’s life that he will have to dress up to look his best, and a dress watch is what would work best with formal attire. A man’s collection won’t be complete without a dress watch.
Hopefully, this article helped to enlighten you on dress watches.