There’s nothing more elegant and stylish in the world of watches than a dress watch. Sleek, classic looking dress watches are the right choice for those occasions when you can’t simply appear with a bulky and flashy timepiece on your wrist. Though that’s debatable and depends on who you’re asking.
Synonymous with style, class, and a certain social and financial status, a dress watch will always be a nice upgrade to an already elegant outfit, no matter the event. While there’s no special criteria a timepiece should fulfill to be classified as such, the dress watch spectrum is a very large one. Which makes things both interesting and complicated.
And since there are no hard rules on what passes as a dress watch, it’s a bit tricky to find one that’s right in the ocean of options. The first thing most people would say about a dress watch is that it has to be expensive. This is where we tend to disagree.
If you can find a timepiece that’s both affordable and meets a few key characteristics, you’re set. Generally, dress watches should come with a leather strap, a slim case, a simple and discreet design, and depending on your personal preference and wrist size, a diameter of less than 39mm.
When it comes to movements, we suggest going for mechanical, but very affordable timepieces tend to be powered by quartz. Beyond these characteristics, it all comes down to personal preferences.
Here are our preferences for the 20 best affordable dress watches for men:
20. Junkers Bauhaus Automatic Dress Watch
Wearing the name of the legendary German aircraft maker Hugo Junkers, the Junkers Bauhaus Automatic Dress Watch combines a simplistic aesthetic with a very interesting dial design, with a 24 hour sub-dial at 6 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock.
The dial comes in either black and a cream color, with luminous baton hands, and a Citizen Miyota 9132 automatic movement underneath. Power reserve reaches 40 hours, and the 40mm case has a water resistant rating of only 30 meters. But that shouldn’t be a problem, since you’re not going to go swimming in a tuxedo, right?
It’s an amazing timepiece that offers great value for the money. And speaking of it, the price is in the hundreds, but it’s worth it.
19. Hamilton 40mm Jazzmaster Automatic
The 40mm Jazzmaster Automatic from Hamilton, priced at $725 new or around $500 on the used market, is a wonderful choice for a high quality dress watch. It’s Hamilton after all, so you should expect great things for good price tags.
It’s a very stylish watch that makes for a perfect fit for formal events, with a 40 mm case that’s just about right for almost all wrists.
The dial blends the traditional with some interestingly striking elements that make it stand out. There’s an external ring for minute markers, and the interior is reserved for the 12, 9, and 6 numerals, with the rest being markers only. At the 3 o’clock position there’s a date window.
18. Dan Henry 1937 Dress Chronograph
Dan Henry revives old timepieces by bringing their style back to life. The modern results are incredibly good looking and contrary to what most would expect, quite affordable.
One such impressive piece is the 1937 Dress Chronograph, that sells for $270. It’s got an art-deco style, a 38 mm case, with a tachymeter on the outer edge of the dial, and a trusty and reliable Seiko VK61 mecha-quartz movement.
There are two sub-dials at the 12 and 6 o’clock positions which add even more contrast to the already excellent dial.
17. Hamilton Murph Automatic
The Hamilton Murph Automatic is probably one of the best choices for an affordable dress watch. Its $995 asking price might seem too much for some, but it’s on the border of affordability, especially considering what it offers.
High quality craftsmanship is unquestioned, coming from Hamilton, and the style caters to most situations. It may be more casual looking than other dress watch examples, but that makes it fit for almost anything.
The 42mm case is maybe a bit too large for some wrists, but it’s still appropriate. The Swiss automatic movement is more than ideal, and the power reserve is impressive at 80 hours, so no complaints here.
16. Frederique Constant Classic Index Automatic Watch
The Frederique Constant Classic Index Automatic is a gorgeous timepiece. That’s also reflected in the price, which right now is $875.
If you can get past the price, it’s one of the most elegant dress options on the market for under $1,000. There’s nothing to reproach this timepiece, despite the brand being a newer player in the watchmaker industry.
The FC-303 automatic movement is based on the ETA 2824, so it’s a good one. The conservative but elegant dial is simply astonishing, something that few watchmakers have managed to do with so few details. The 40mm in diameter and 10 mm thick case is more than suitable for dressing up. Overall, it’s a very good timepiece that lacks nothing.
15. Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Automatic
Another entry from Hamilton, the American Classic Intra-Matic Automatic, makes for a very impressive appearance. Unveiled back in 2012, this timepiece impressed everyone and keeps doing that today.
The vintage aesthetic was a huge win, a recreation of an older watch they made in the 60s. The sleek and simple sunburst silver dial is a beauty that mesmerizes and attracts gazes. The symmetry Hamilton managed to create on the dial, with the date window on the bottom is simply astonishing.
The case comes both in 38 and 42 mm sizes, so it’s good you can choose the right one for your wrist. Priced at $995, it’s on the more expensive side, but still affordable when compared to models from other manufacturers.
14. Junghans Max Bill Quartz Dress Watch
Going almost half-way down in price, we’ve got the $600 Junghans Max Bill Quartz Dress Watch, with a Bauhaus design, domed dial, 8 mm thin case, which make it the epitome of what a true dress watch should be like.
This timepiece is truly an icon in the world of dress watches. The modern minimalistic appeal of the dial makes it a favorite of many men around the world, and though there are versions with a mechanical movement inside, this quartz movement is more than enough.
13. Seiko Quartz Rectangular
The Seiko Quartz Rectangular might be the best affordable alternative to the iconic Cartier Tank, costing almost 10 times less. It’s around $100-$200 on the used watch market.
This Seiko is also very elegant, and its rectangular shaped case, if you like it, is a good fit for a dress watch. It has a different and more discreet look on the wrist than the traditional round shaped watches, which makes it more interesting for some.
The Japanese quartz movement inside is solar-powered, so that saves you the trouble of changing the battery.
12. Timex 34mm Marlin Mechanical
The Timex Marlin Mechanical is a lovely dress watch, especially for its very small case size of 34mm, and its nice and sleek dial with domed crystal glass.
Powered by a hand-wound movement, you can currently find this handsome looking timepiece for $199 on Timex’s website and sometimes for even less than that on Amazon.
11. Seiko Solar Calendar Dress Watch
The Seiko Solar Calendar is a beautiful watch that goes for around $170, so it’s more affordable than most. The only thing that keeps it from being a true dress watch is that it’s all stainless steel. But if you can get past the stainless steel bracelet, it can be paired with a formal attire.
The dial is nice and sleek, with a date and day window at 3 o’clock, a reliable solar movement underneath, all nicely fitted inside a 37 mm case with 30m water resistance.
10. Tissot Gentleman Dress Watch
Simplicity can make a watch look extremely good, and this Tissot Gentleman Dress Watch is the perfect example. The dial holds the essential, with the only thing that breaks the pattern being the date window at 3 o’clock, which adds a nice contrast.
That same simplicity that makes the blue dial and silver hands and indices look so good together, makes the watch a very versatile timepiece. The case is 40 mm in diameter, has a 100 m water resistance rating, the overall looks give a glimpse of sportiness, and the high quality Swiss quartz movement inside will give you peace of mind for a long time.
The price tag comes at $350, which is good considering the qualities and craftsmanship.
9. Orient Polaris GMT
Orient is one of those few watchmakers who are somehow able to offer top quality timepieces at incredibly affordable prices, and the Orient Polaris GMT shows exactly that.
The dial has much going on, but despite that, it doesn’t feel cluttered. It borrows a luxurious and classic design from watches of old, with elegant diamond patterns in the center, a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock with wave pattern that excellently contrasts with the rest of the dial.
At three o’clock there’s a modest date window, and the outer ring has the GMT function’s 24 hours markers. The watch’s heart is the caliber 40P51 automatic movement with hand winding and hacking.
A modest watch of exceptional quality and with features that make it look a lot more expensive than it is. The Polaris GMT costs $575.
8. Hamilton Valiant Automatic Dress Watch
Mainly overlooked, the Hamilton Valiant Auto is a good contender for a dress watch, featuring a superb sunburst silver dial, curvy lugs, lance style hands, Roman numerals, and an overall simple and classic design.
The caliber H-10 movement, an updated Swiss ETA 2824 at its core, has a power reserve of up to 80 hours, and the case comes in at 40mm in diameter.
Price for a new one rises to $645, but on the used market you can find it for under $500, which makes it an absolute steal.
7. Tissot Visodate Automatic
The Tissot Visodate Automatic features a gorgeous dial with a nice and sleek aesthetic, a see through case back, sapphire crystal glass, day and date complication, and is powered by the ETA 2836-2 Swiss automatic movement.
It also comes in a wide variety of colors if you don’t like the standard ones. It’s a 40mm dress watch with a nice retro look to it, a good entry level piece priced at about $400, ideal for those who want to expand their collection on a budget.
6. Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 Automatic
Another very good option from the underrated watchmaker Tissot, Le Locle Powermatic 80 Automatic is a classic looking piece that brings performance and style at an affordable price.
The 39mm watch is beautiful, stylish, and has a timeless design, with Roman numerals and elegant leaf shaped hands.
5. Bulova Classic Quartz Dress Watch
Probably sporting one of the most minimalistic designs, the Bulova Men’s Dress Watch is a very popular model, and part of it is due to the small price of around $150, which makes it extremely affordable.
The dial, white and simple, with contrasting long silver indices and hands, a tiny date window at 3 o’clock, makes for a stunning appearance. The movement is quartz, but at this price, you can’t be hoping for anything else.
4. Stührling Quartz
The Stührling Original Quartz can impress almost anyone, especially with its price of a little bit over $50. And with its minimalistic aesthetic, 40 mm case, Japanese quartz movement, a wide range of colors, and low weight, there’s not much to reproach.
The quality of the strap seems to be lacking, but that can easily be changed, so it’s not too big of a minus.
3. Timex Southview
Another very minimalistic timepiece, both in aesthetic and price as well, the Timex Southview, makes for one of the best options for an affordable dress watch.
The $50+ price is incredibly low, and the gorgeous blue dial with applied metal markers, pencil style luminous hands, and the thin bezel around it, all make for a great look.
2. Citizen Eco-Drive Corso
The Citizen Eco-Drive Corso is an amazing timepiece. It’s got a nice and clean design, with Roman numerals for the 12 and 6 hours and indices for the rest of the hours, and a simple and modest date window at 3 o’clock.
The simplicity gives it an overall elevated aesthetic. The watch is light and comfortable on the wrist, and comes at 40 mm. It’s versatile, so it makes for a good fit with just about any kind of attire.
1. Orient Bambino 2nd Gen
The Orient Bambino is one of the most iconic affordable dress watches on the market. It’s a timeless one, and it comes in many variants, but the one we loved the most is the second generation, versions 3 and 4.
They’re quite similar, so whatever you choose would be good enough. The price goes around the $150 mark, so it should pose no trouble for most enthusiasts.
It’s a high quality watch, with a superb finish, domed glass that manages to put into focus the stunning dial and its amazing colors, especially the blue. The dial comes either with a flat polish or a brushed sunburst finish, and a date window at 3 o’clock.
Dress watches come in a great variety of styles and these 20 are our favorite options at affordable prices. It may be hard to choose, but once you know your budget, the choice should come down only to personal preferences.