Dress watches are considered essential accessories to further accentuate formal attire. This type of timepiece is quite distinct in that they generally lean towards a traditional build and design – which means it should incorporate an analog dial display. Minimalism is also a common element in fashion watches as few can convey a level of sophistication and elegance than this type of aesthetic.
As the name implies, these timepieces should be able to be worn discreetly under the cuffs of long-sleeved shirts without any issue. For that to be possible, dress watches must have a thin case structure. On this list, you’ll find smaller case diameters and much thinner case thickness compared to a bulkier dive watch in the same price range.
When it comes to choosing a formal timepiece, it is important to pick one that provides a sublime beauty rather than one that takes the attention away from your entire attire. These watches should act as a supplement to enrich your style, not hog all the spotlight.
That said, you can imagine how picking the best formal watch can be a bit daunting as you will also need to consider your preference and what style you wish to evoke. To help you along the way, we have compiled a list of the best dress watches on the market. This time around, we are focusing updated our budget from early lists and now focus on those who are willing to splurge a little bit with their watch choices.
(Please note, at the time of publishing, all these watches were selling for $300 or less. Prices may have fluctuated since then, possibly pushing them over the original budget).
Best Dress Watches Under $300
Timex Marlin TW2T22700ZV
The Timex Marlin is one of the most popular entry to mid-range formal timepieces available. It also comes in several variations from different dial colors to using either leather straps or stainless-steel bracelets. We focused the spotlight specifically on this model as we feel that it is the one that blends class with a certain rugged charm the best.
The Timex Marlin features a stainless-steel case and looks sleek and sophisticated at first glance. The round case measures around 40mm in diameter with a thickness of 13.5mm, slightly over the recommended 12mm. It features an automatic movement with an analog dial that incorporates the traditional three-hand display. The hands and hour markers feature a gold-tone finish to add a bit more of that luxurious allure. If you are looking for a classic timepiece to go along with your three-piece suit, any model from the Timex Marlin Collection is a good candidate.
Citizen Corso Watch BM7490-52E
The Citizen Corso is an elegant timepiece that exudes an air of professionalism and confidence with its angular stainless-steel case. The case features an octagonal bezel which helps separate the Corso from your standard round case dress timepieces. This notable polished case comes with a measurement of 41mm in diameter and a slim 9mm thickness, making it suitable to be worn under the cuffs.
The polished stainless-steel case is balanced out by the black dial which features silver-toned hands and hour markers. What helps the Corso stand out, besides the chic octagon-shaped case, is its use of
Citizen’s proprietary Eco-Drive technology gives the Corso solar-powered capabilities. This gives the Citizen Corso watch not only an edge in aesthetics but also performance.
Seiko Solar SSC566
Leave it to Seiko to develop a timepiece that manages to contain enough grandeur in its design without feeling bloated or loud. The Seiko Solar SSC566 features a prominent sunray burst design dial which is its biggest draw. The rose-gold stainless-steel case measures around 42mm in diameter with a thickness of 12mm. The stunning case and dial are accentuated by the black leather strap which slightly grounds the SSC566’s magnificent dial face design.
The SSC566 does not just excel in terms of style though as Seiko also employed a chronograph functionality as well as solar-powered batteries into this impressive fashion watch. The analog dial is operated by a Japanese quartz movement and the impressive construction of the case provides the SSC566 with 100-meter water resistance.
Bulova Classic Watch 96C125
The fusion of a mirror-like polished stainless-steel case paired up with an equally stunning blue dial is a timeless watch design that never fails to mesmerize. The Bulova Classic 96C125 takes this iconic timepiece design and throws in a curveball in there to give it a fresh twist. The Bulova 96C125 model features a sleek 39mm case with a 10mm thickness. The deep blue dial utilizes silver-toned hour markers with luminous hands to improve visibility in low-light environments.
You will notice that the Bulova 96C125 incorporates two miniature displays within the dial. The day display is located at the top while the date is shown over at the 3 o’clock position. The 96C125 also has a solid 30-meter water resistance which means it can easily withstand the occasional splash of water.
Tissot Heritage Visodate
Another personal favorite of mine managed to crack the list with the Tissot Heritage Visodate watch. The Heritage Visodate might appear relatively simple at first glance, but closer inspection will show you a very retro-inspired timepiece. The Visodate takes its style from the roaring 70s with its retro fonts found on the dial. This simplicity is highly regarded, especially if you fancy retro-style aesthetics.
As for performance, the Tissot Heritage Visodate is no slouch. It features a reliable and precise quartz movement with an analog display and a scratch-resistant sapphire glass window with an anti-glare finish. The stainless-steel case is also incredibly slim with a 25mm diameter measurement with a 9mm thickness. The black dial is equipped with silver-toned hands and hour markers. There is also a date display found beside the 3 o’clock position. The Heritage Visodate manages to deliver a fantastic style that is steep in nostalgia, and who doesn’t want to be reminded of the good old days’?
Seiko Gold SNE482
With its all-gold design, the Seiko SNE482 is one of the more luxurious looking entries in this list. Make no mistake though, the Seiko SNE482 is not just a mere flash in the pan as it also packs some nifty features to elevate it from just being another “pretty face” in the crowd. Besides the stunning all-gold finish design which it uses on both the stainless-steel case and bracelet, it is also equipped with solar-powered batteries with a 10-month power reserve on a single full charge.
The Seiko SNE482 features a smooth round 40mm case with a 9mm thickness. Within the SNE482 lies a highly-accurate Japanese-quartz movement with an analog dial display. There is also a date display located beside the 3 o’clock hour marker. The minimalist design is perfectly highlighted by the polished gold finish, giving the SNE482 a level of high-end charm at a fairly reasonable price.
Orient Bambino Version 5
You can’t have a best fashion watch list without including one from Orient’s beloved Bambino series. For this entry, we will go with the Bambino Version 5 model with its sleek and elegant design. The most notable of which is Bambino’s signature domed mineral crystal window. The simple shift towards a domed crystal glass gives the Bambino watch a certain air of sophistication not found in standard flat dial windows.
Of course, domed crystal glass is not the only thing that Bambino watches have going for them. It also features a premium-level design with amazing attention to detail. The silver-tone teardrop hour markers with dauphine-shaped hands give the Bambino V5 a certain subtle elegance which is further emphasized by the used of a blue dial. The case is relatively slim enough to fall into the pre-requisite dress watch specifications with its 40mm diameter with a 12mm thick stainless steel case.
Hamilton Jazzmaster H38511743
The American watchmaker Hamilton certainly knows how to tap into the low-key and complex charm synonymous with the Jazz genre, which is clearly on display with their Jazzmaster collection. The Hamilton Jazzmaster is relatively simple, but this is where its classy charm truly shines. The use of subdued colors brings a level of emotion to this timepiece. The darker color shades will also look great with formal attire.
The Hamilton Jazzmaster features a Swiss quartz movement and a fairly traditional dial that incorporates silver-toned Arabic numeral hour markers and hands. There is also a date display at the bottom of the dial and a fixed bezel. The stainless-steel case measures 42mm and has a 7mm thickness. The Hamilton Jazzmaster is a mellow timepiece for those going with a more chill vibe.
BREDA Visser 1737 Watch
BREDA’s watchmaking style is unquestionable, as seen from their catalog of deluxe fashion timepieces. The Visser 1737 watch continues this trend with a square-shaped gold-tone watch with a minimalist appeal – combining traditional watchmaking practices with a contemporary twist. The stainless-steel case and bracelet feature a gold-plated finish. The square case measures 35mm in diameter with a slim 8mm thickness.
The mechanism within is a Miyota Japanese quartz movement with an analog dial which delivers excellent accuracy in timekeeping. The timepiece also provides decent 30-meter water resistance. Also, those who purchase the BREDA Visser 1737 from the official store will get a two-year international warranty. Make sure to take advantage of this BREDA offer if possible.
Victorinox Alliance 241767
Victorinox is best known for its durable and multi-functional timepieces, but they are also known for developing professional-looking watches. The Victorinox Alliance 241767 threads the middle ground with its stoic build and refined dial. The dial is most certainly the most noticeable element of the Alliance model with its fusion of gold, white, and rugged steel color tones. The watch also features a Swiss quartz movement with an analog dial display.
The case measures around 44mm in diameter, making this relatively one of the larger models we included in this list. The larger build was countered by the slim 9mm thickness which even things out. This is a premium-grade Victorinox watch that you can wear on both formal or casual occasions.
Bulova Chronograph Watch 96C133
The Bulova 96C133 features a chronograph dial contained within a fashionable aesthetic. This is a nice different little approach and subverts what you initially think when it comes to chronograph watches. The Bulova 96C133, firstly, is quite slim and will fit nicely with a tux. The stainless-steel case measures 42mm in diameter with a 12mm thickness. The sweet spot as to recommended specs of a fashion watch should be.
In addition, Bulova moved further towards a more refined design by implementing a domed mineral crystal window. The chic case contains a quartz movement with an analog dial display and a 30-meter water resistance. As for the chronograph feature, the Bulova 96C133 has three sub-dials that tracks hours (12), minutes (60), and seconds (60) which can be operated via the two prominent lugs on the side of the case. Overall, the Bulova 96C133 is a highly functional timepiece designed with an emphasis on finesse.
Orient Golden Eyes 2
The Orient Golden Eyes 2 is a magnificent fashion timepiece that is surprisingly subtle in its beauty. It features an open-heart or skeletal dial that incorporates a small window within the inner machinations of the timepiece. With the Orient Caliber F6T22 hand-wind movement in place at the heart of this stunning timepiece, that skeletal dial design is fully appreciated. The stainless-steel case comes in at a petite 38mm in diameter with only an 11mm thickness. Orient has proven time and time again that they offer some of the most visually pleasing dress timepieces in the market today that are still considered to be quite budget-friendly.
Zeppelin Hindenburg Series 7046-4
Featuring an aesthetic that is a clear callback to the golden age of aviation, the Zeppelin Hindenburg Series is an unassuming formal watch with a suave design at closer inspection. A peek inside the Zeppelin Hindenburg will unveil a Swiss quartz caliber Ronda 515 movement, which is an impressive piece of watch craftsmanship with its impeccable precision. Another notable element of the Hindenburg Series 7046-4 model that we loved is its use of a domed Hesalite crystal window. Again, I might sound biased here, but a domed crystal significantly enhances a timepiece’s charm.
As for other key specifications, the Hindenburg 7046-4 comes with a stainless-steel 40mm case with a 10mm thickness. There is also a date display neatly positioned over beside the 3 o’clock hour marker, All in all, the Hindenburg 7046-4 by Zeppelin features an enduring and smart aesthetic that will surely appeal to professionals.
Citizen Eco-Drive AO9023-01A
The Citizen Eco-Drive AO9023-01A is a timepiece that offers a visually magnificent design with its white and gold-tone aesthetic. It also incorporates a chronograph dial build with its two sub-dials which displays the date and day. The pristine white dial is also further enriched by the use of gold-tone hour markers and hands. The straps are made from brown genuine leather which gives the AO923-01A a more casual allure, for those who feel that gold watches can be too lavish for their taste. The Citizen AO9023-01A’s has a 42mm case with 11mm thickness, making it an ideal timepiece to wear with your long-sleeved three-piece suit if you wish.
Festina Year-Round Watch F16573-9
The Festina Year-Round Watch delivers a rugged charm with its industrial-themed dial. There you will find two sub-dials that display the date as well as a 24-hour format. The Festina Year-Round a stainless-steel case with indices on the bezel. It uses a 45mm case which is the largest in this entry, but it does manage to circumvent that element by only measuring within 11mm in thickness, allowing it to still neatly slide into the sleeve’s cuffs. This dress timepiece is designed with excellent proficiency on all fronts, which is why the relatively lesser-known Festina watch brand gets a spot on this list.