There are specific characteristics that need to be present for a timepiece to be considered as a “dress watch”. The most important trait is that it must be both simple and elegant. This is why most formal timepieces tend to have either a traditional or minimalistic design.
A common misconception is that these timepieces need to be extravagant, almost gaudy in appearance. This is not the case as a great formal watch offer subtlety with its appeal. This type of timepiece also tends to clash when worn alongside casual or sports attires – it is specifically designed to be worn with formal wear such as a business suit or tuxedo. Basically, it needn’t have any additional bells and whistles, just elegant simplicity with a touch of luxury.
In regards to sizes, there is a rule of thumb to follow in regards to dress watches, and that is to have a slim profile that allows it to be worn underneath the cuffs of a long-sleeved shirt. A good target for the case size is 41mm and below with a case thickness of 12mm or less. This is small enough to fit nicely underneath the cuffs without ruffling the fabric. Speaking of luxury watch models, we will be giving you a list of the best dress watches under $400 for those who can splurge a bit more with their budget. Check out the list below.
(Please note, at the time of publishing, all these watches were selling for $400 or less. Prices may have fluctuated since then, possibly pushing them over the original budget).
Best Dress Watches Under $400
Citizen Corso Eco-Drive BM7251-53H
The Citizen Corso Eco-Drive blends together a traditional charm with modern watch technology to enhance its overall performance.
Citizen managed to infuse the classic aesthetics of the Corso with their signature Eco-Drive solar-powered technology. It features a silver-toned stainless-steel case measuring 41mm in diameter and 10.5mm thick. The gray dial is accompanied by gold-toned hour hands and markers, which gives the timepiece a rather restrained grandiose charm.
The Citizen Corso also incorporates some excellent watch craftsmanship and materials. It features a sapphire crystal glass which is known for its impressive level of scratch-resistance and durability. As you can probably already see from its moniker, the Citizen Corso also comes with the Eco-Drive technology. This allows the Corso watch to continuously recharge using ambient light. Any form of light can be used to generate energy, from solar to artificial. This means the Corso timepiece is constantly recharging as long as there is light – whether it is day or night.
Seiko Presage SRPD37J1
Exuding a classy and smart design, the Seiko Presage is one timepiece that will surely appeal to individuals who prefer a more refined watch. The SRPD37J1 model also comes with a green dial which provides it with a rather special charm. It also uses a smooth brown leather strap which hammers home the earthy aesthetic. The beautiful green dial also uses a sunray-burst pattern to add some more character to the Presage.
The case is made from polished stainless-steel and measures 40.5mm in diameter with a thickness of 12mm. The hour markers have a sharp diamond-like with silver-tone finish. The same classy finish is also given to the dauphine hour markers. The Seiko Presage definitely earns points for its fantastic implementation of a simple yet refined design.
Tissot Gentleman Watch T1274101603100
The Tissot Gentleman watch showcases a highly ergonomic and elegant design. This timepiece can also be considered a multi-purpose watch due to its flexible aesthetic. While it is clearly designed for suits and other formal wear, it still comes with a rather casual charm that allows it to commingle with leisure attires. If we were to describe the Tissot Gentleman, it is a classy timepiece for the modern gentleman. This classy timepiece uses a sleek 40mm x 8.25mm stainless-steel case which is further enhanced with its embossed cow leather strap.
Underneath the refined design of the Tissot Gentleman is a Swiss quartz movement with an analog dial. The dial is encased with a durable and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal for optimum protection. The construction of this Tissot timepiece also gives it a pretty good 100-meter water resistance.
Bulova Precisionist 98B267
The Bulova Precisionist exudes an air of sophistication that is apt with its moniker. The Precisionist is a 43mm stainless-steel timepiece with a thickness of 10.5mm. The Alligator-embossed leather band gives the Precisionist a rugged charm as well. The round case is equipped with a mineral crystal dial window and features a gunmetal gray and rose-gold aesthetic.
The dial uses the traditional three-hand design which is operated by a three-prong quartz crystal movement. It is the dial’s beautiful design where most of the praise will go to, with its honed to perfection aesthetics. Besides the sophisticated dial design, the Precisionist is also designed to provide up to 100-meter of water resistance.
Seiko Watch SUP896
The Seiko SUP896 features the classic rectangular-shaped design, giving it a highly sleek frame from the get-go. The stainless-steel case has a 28mm diameter with a thickness of 7.5mm which lends credence to its uber-slim design. Seiko was not satisfied with just delivering a classy timepiece though as they equipped the SUP896 with solar-powered technology as well. Giving the Seiko SUP896 enhanced longevity and reliability in the process.
As for the design, the Seiko SUP896 features an all-gold tone finish for its rectangular case. From the case down to the dial hour markers, the SUP896 certainly went all-in with the luxurious appeal of gold. This is somewhat balanced out by the brown crocodile-texture leather strap though, which gives the SUP896 a more professional charm. This timepiece uses quartz movement with its analog display. Overall, the Seiko SUP896 is suited for both men and women who value infusing their attire with tradition.
Orient Bambino Classic RN-AP0003S
The Orient Bambino has always been one of the most highly-rated dress watches in the market as it perfectly delivers on all the traits of a top-tier formal watch.
The Orient Bambino Classic gives a nice little twist to its classic design with an “old-timey” aesthetic that feels like it was plucked right out of the 1800s. The Bambino Classic’s charm centers around its design which are delivered with outstanding finesse.
The stainless-steel round case features a silver-tone finish with a measurement of 40mm in diameter and 12mm thickness. The silver case is accompanied by a brown leather strap which is a great counterpoint to the polished appearance of the timepiece. The watch also comes with a beige-tone dial that is equipped with polished hands and hour markers. As this is a Bambino watch, the cherry on top is its signature domed crystal dial window. If you love Orent’s Bambino collection, you will certainly find a lot to love in the Bambino Classic series as well.
Orient Bambino Small Seconds Watch
We have another excellent entry from Orient’s Bambino watch line in the form of their Bambino Small Seconds Watch model. This time around we have the highly polished Bambino Small Seconds Watch with its nigh-immaculate white and silver aesthetic. First of all, we get the signature domed window that all Bambino watches incorporate into their design.
This Bambino timepiece features an elegant silver-tone case with a 40mm x 12mm dimension, making it suitable to be worn with a long-sleeved shirt. The dial features polished silver-tone Arabic numeral hour markers hands. You will also notice a little sub-dial on the bottom part of the dial which is the second display.
As for what makes this Bambino watch tick, it incorporates an automatic F6222 caliber movement. This watch is also built to provide around 30-meter of water resistance, which means it can withstand occasional splashes of water without the risk of damaging the mechanism inside. The Orient Bambino watch series has a distinct charm to it, which is why it is often cited as one of the best fashion timepieces in this price range.
Frederique Constant Slim Line Watch 235M4S5
When it comes to classy watches, the Frederique Constant brand has been, well, constant in delivering top-tier dress timepieces. The timeless appeal of a sophisticated formal watch is alive and well within this 37mm watch, and staying true to its moniker, the FC Slim Line comes with a paper-thin 5mm thick case – one of the slimmest we have encountered. While the Frederique Constant Slim Line may appear dainty, it features incredible watch craftsmanship with premium-grade materials such as a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal window.
The gold-tone slim case is complemented by a brown leather band, which adds a touch of formality to the luxurious-looking timepiece. Underneath the classy dial lies the Frederic Constant Caliber FC-235 Swiss quartz watch movement with analog display. There is also a sub-dial incorporated into the design which displays the second’s hand. In addition, the FC Slim Line watch features a 30-meter water resistance rating.
Tissot Heritage Visodate
Take a trip back to the 1950s with this Tissot Heritage Visodate model. The Heritage Visodate knows how to induce a sense of nostalgia with this stainless-steel watch. The fonts used in the logo is a callback to the American Golden Age era and the addition of the domed sapphire crystal dial window further augments its refined appeal.
The Tissot Heritage Visodate features a timeless aesthetic with its silver-tone case and bracelet which is accompanied by a black dial. It doesn’t need to overdo it in terms of visual flair, which is a sign of an outstanding timepiece. Simple and accentuates your overall attire. The inclusion of a retro look undoubtedly helped the Heritage Visodate’s overall charm. When it comes to key specifications of this timepiece, the case measures 40mm and is only 10mm thick. It also features a sapphire crystal glass window which is known for its excellent scratch-resistance.
Seiko Presage Automatic Watch SRPB77
The Presage SRPB77 features that signature Seiko craftsmanship that blends together a mix of contemporary and traditional. This is an automatic fashion timepiece that is equipped with Seiko’s Caliber 4R35 23-jewel movement that delivers an impressive precision of 21,600 VPH. The watch mechanism within also comes with a power reserve of 41-hours. The case and dial also feature excellent attention to detail and exudes a level of confidence and elegance that completely staves off any sense of monotony that some formal timepieces seem to fall into.
The silver dial features a textured sunburst pattern, giving it a radiant charm that delivers a grand yet subtle flair. The dial also comes with a neat and highly legible charm to it which we cannot emphasize enough in this write-up, the Seiko Presage can only be fully appreciated in person. There is also a date window that is positioned beside the 3 o’clock-hour marker. As for the beautiful stainless-steel case, it has a measurement of 41mm with a 12mm thickness. Overall, the Seiko Presage is always a good choice if you are aiming for an elegant and classy timepiece that will fit perfectly well within formal gatherings.
Citizen Eco-Drive Stainless-Steel Watch BM6550-68E
The Citizen Eco-Drive BM6550-68E model features a sublime modified tonneau-shaped case. The classic style is further accentuated by the use of contrasting silver and black color tones. The sleek black dial is equipped with luminous hands and hour markers which further enhances its overall charm. It also doesn’t hurt that this timepiece is equipped with Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology which provides it with a solar-power capability, completely negating the need for a battery.
This stunning tonneau-shaped timepiece also features a Japanese quartz movement with an analog display. The analog dial is encased within a sturdy mineral crystal with the stainless-steel case measuring 32mm in diameter with a slim 8mm thickness. This classy timepiece also comes with 30-meter water resistance and is suitable for both men and women.
Seiko Presage Watch SSA405
We have another Seiko Presage watch model that managed to make it to the list, and this one is pretty evident at first glance. The Seiko Presage SSA405 features a beautiful midnight blue dial with a spiral texture. The stunningly intricate features of the dial are further elevated thanks to the “open-heart” design which allows a sneak peek into the complex inner workings of the Presage SSA405. Of course, you can further appreciate the open-heart dial thanks to the Japanese automatic movement that lies within.
The stainless-steel case of the Presage SSA405 has a measurement of 40mm in diameter and is 11.8mm thick. The blue and silver aesthetic of the case is complemented by the black leather straps which give the otherwise fancy open-heart dial timepiece a more rugged appeal.
Maurice Lacroix Eliros Watch
The Maurice Lacroix Eliros is an elegant timepiece that will surely enhance your overall attire with its minimalist and sophisticated aesthetic. It features polished stainless-steel bracelets which are interchangeable to add a bit more flexibility to the Eliros’ style. The dial is also well-protected using a sapphire crystal window which is scratch-resistant and has an anti-glare finish. The analog dial is operated via Swiss-quartz movement for optimum reliability in timekeeping.
As for the case itself, the polished silver-tone watch frame comes in at a sleek 40mm diameter and is 8mm thick. The watch also has a pretty solid build that gives it 50-meter water resistance, allowing the Eliros to withstand recreational or brief submersions underwater without sustaining any damages.
Bulova Diamond-Accented Steel Watch 98D109
Fusing together a professional charm with a modern and functional aesthetic, the Bulova Diamond-Accented 98D109 delivers the best of both worlds with this sleek black timepiece. The round case perfectly uses its matte black finish along with the diamond-studded dial – giving the 98D109 a unique and highly stylish flair that combines luxury with a resilient look You will notice that the Bulova 98D109 features a half-circle sub-dial along with a date window that adds to its overall performance.
The black matte stainless-steel case measures 40mm and is around 11mm thick. There is a Japanese quartz movement that will provide excellent reliability and accuracy to the analog dial. The black with the silver aesthetic of the Bulova 98D109 will help elevate your attire, whether you are going to aiming to express yourself in either a business-minded or formal look.
Citizen Eco-Drive Watch AU1060-51E
Featuring a highly minimalist design, the Citizen Eco-Drive AU1060-51E will undoubtedly appeal to the modern gentleman. This timepiece features a stunning stainless-steel case and bracelet with a minimalist black dial. The dial only incorporates a date window, a single silver-toned hour marker (12 o’clock), and the Citizen logo. Other than the slim hour and minute hands, the dial is pretty much absent of any detail.
The Citizen Eco-Drive AU1060-51E features a 40mm case with 8mm thickness – making it fit perfectly underneath long-sleeve cuffs. Everything about this Citizen dress watch is smooth, from the build, design, and even in its timekeeping. If you are looking for a suave minimalist formal timepiece, Citizen is among the few watch brands that will elevate your style.