Reviewed & updated: March 28, 2023 by Jamie Wilson BA
Ever heard that less is more?
Sometimes the industry can feel swamped with flashy, chunky watches that are a long way removed from the basic function of timekeeping. Luckily there is a movement towards designing simple and refined watches that do the job and look great in the process.
It’s time you knew about minimalist watches…
What is a minimalist watch?
A minimalist watch doesn’t add unnecessary gadgets to complicate the basic pleasure of wearing a timepiece. Instead minimalist watches take away any distractions that don’t do the simple job of telling the time. Usually with a slim profile and muted, or even monochrome colours, a sleek watch will go with any outfit. Though they are united by their purity of design, there are lots of options when it comes to a minimalist watch, here’s our guide to the 16 best:
1. Casio Black Resin Watch
We all know the Casio brand for their digital gold watches, so you might be surprised to see this analogue style on our list of the best minimalist watches. At first, we were pleasantly impressed by the simple design of this black resin model, then when we saw it retails at only $16.95, it had to go on the list. Water-resistant with a battery life of two years, the gold watch dashes and hands on the black watch face make this an incredibly wearable and durable timepiece. With a rubber strap and tang buckle, this minimalist Casio will be incredibly comfortable to wear all day long.
2. Citizen Eco Drive Axiom
Don’t want to worry about your watch running out of battery? This stainless steel watch from Citizen converts any kind of light into energy which it stores in its rechargeable lithium cell. That means you will never have to worry about your watch running out of battery as just wearing it in your house will cause it to charge like an automatic watch. With a simple black dial and face, this one of the best minimalist watches when it comes to eliminating battery waste and even comes with a five year guarantee from the brand. The unpretentious date window will help you keep track of the days when it comes to endless summer months and with a water resistance of 99ft you won’t have to worry about getting splashed by the pool. At $147.50 this is the watch you need in your suitcase now.
3. Daniel Wellington Petite Ashfield Watch
The slim profile of this Swedish designed watch makes it the perfect timepiece to match any outfit. Aesthetically balanced to use only hour marks, the minimal design of this watch is complemented by the rose-gold stainless steel case and black mesh strap. The adjustable mesh bracelet length means this unisex watch will suit all wrist sizes and seamlessly take you from the office to rooftop drinks. This style comes in a variety of cases and strap types, but we particularly like how this pairing fuses a traditional design with modern materials. At $189 with Japanese quartz movement and water resistance up to 100ft, this is a well-priced watch that is simple to use and pleasing to look at.
4. Fossil Minimalist Slim Casual Watch
Subtle pops of colour add intrigue to this minimalist watch from Fossil. With a slim stainless steel case, orange second hand, and tonally matched stitching on the brown leather strap, the semi-matte finish on this watch prevents it from looking too flashy on your wrist. Some men may be put off from wearing a minimalist watch because certain colour-matched designs make it difficult to pick out the watch hands from the face so this is a great alternative – at $81.56 this is the best minimalist timepiece if you want a handsome watch that still clearly tells the time.
5. Timex Metropolitan Watch
Timex has experience in clock and watch making going back to 1854. The streamlined and functional design of this Metropolitan watch makes it easy to see why Timex have been a favourite brand amongst men for so many years. With a slim profile and black leather strap, this minimalist watch has a water resistance of 100ft and would be a sophisticated addition to any outfit, though we think this style would work particularly well with a simple suit in a professional setting.
6. Nixon Porter Watch
Slim down your watch collection with this Nixon Porter watch that will go with all of your clothes. The graphic gunmetal case looks bold against the taupe leather strap while the stamped seconds tracks blend into the watch face but make telling the precise time effortless. It’s reassuring to know that Nixon has paid attention to the small details when designing this watch, as often the ‘simple look’ can feel like an easy way out when it comes to putting effort into a minimalist design. In our opinion this $65 Nixon is the best minimalist watch for men who want an affordable and wearable everyday timepiece.
7. Skagen Stainless Steel Jorn Watch
With this Jorn watch Skagen are certainly ticking all the boxes when it comes to their ethos of ‘Modern. Minimalist. Playful’ design and if you’ve ever been to Copenhagen you’ll know just how fashionable the Danes can be. That’s why this Scandi brand has made a watch that will look good in any environment, be it at your big work meeting or on that boys weekend away. The water resistance and automatic movement of this model make it a durable watch which you can rely on. The stainless steel case and mesh bracelet makes this the perfect design for men who want to tread the balance between wearing a watch and jewellery, in a subtle, masculin way. With a sliding clasp this will fit most wrist sizes.
8. HUGO BOSS #Exist Watch
Specifically designed for a business environment, the #Exist watch from HUGO BOSS has an ultra-slim stainless steel case and dark brown leather strap and will go with any suit or smart casual office outfit. The automatic movement of this minimalist watch takes the work out of timekeeping while the durable mineral crystal will protect your timepiece from scratches and keep it looking smart. While life might seem chaotic around you, using this watch will put the simplicity back in your day and at only $94.78 this is one of the better priced minimalist watches for men.
9. Michael Kors Slim Runway Watch
Want a modern style of watch with no needless frills and flounces? This monochrome watch from Micharl Kors has a slight shine to the stainless steel case and face that will help reflect the light and make telling the time easy. This watch would suit any outfit but will look quietly stunning when offset with bright block colours. The Japanese quartz movement will keep this watch running reliably. Overall it’s not hard to see why the brand has been smashing the runway with his luxury accessories since 1981. At $140.54 we think this watch is a steal, so don’t waste any more time before you snap up this modern minimalist design.
10. Movado Museum Watch
Mad for minimalist art and interiors? Then you’ll love Movado’s Museum Watch. Inspired by the Bauhaus movement (created from an ethos of function and aesthetic simplicity) this Swiss quartz watch was designed by the artist Nathan George Horwitt. The striking 12 o’clock dot is inspired by the sun, with the rotation of the watch hands emulating the Earth’s orbit – add that to the translation of Movado as ‘always in motion’ and you have poetry in watch form. Horwitt’s design is kept in the permanent collections of MoMA and we think this bold minimalist watch is the perfect subtle way to add some creativity to a dynamic outfit. With a sapphire crystal window and Swiss quartz movement, this is the $206.67 piece of art you need on your wrist.
11. Mondaine SSB Watch
For travel enthusiasts and lovers of classic design, this SSB watch from the brand Mondaine would make the perfect gift. With Swiss quartz movement and a striking dial design, this impressive timepiece is styled on official Swiss railway clocks. The thick hour indices and hands are easy to read and prove that minimalism doesn’t have to always be about making elements as thin as possible, while the bold second hand and red lining on the leather strap add mischievous pops of colour in a sophisticated way and makes it a playful leather watch for men. It’s no secret that Switzerland makes some of the best watches worldwide, and for the comparatively low cost of $195, this is a well-priced watch that lives up to our assumptions about the quality of ‘Swiss Made’ products.
12. Nordgreen Philosopher Gunmetal Watch
When it came down to choosing the 16 best minimalist watches, Nordgreen were the brand with the most styles that could have earned a place on the list. What we love about this particular model is the pronounced slant on the dial that adds dimension to a minimalist scandinavian design. Created in Copenhagen, Nordgreen is a brand you definitely need to acquaint yourself with. Each of their watches are hand made to ensure every piece is of the utmost quality. With interchangeable straps and a water resistance of 100ft, you can be sure that the Nordgreen Philosopher will suit any outfit you want to style it with. If all that’s not enough to convince you this is one of the best minimalist watches for men, with every purchase you have the choice of three charities to donate a percentage of the sale profits to. At $209 you can wear an elegant watch on your wrist and feel good doing it.
13. Aark Collective Eclipse Watch
Think of countries that are known for their watchmaking and chances are your mind will leap to Switzerland and probably Germany. Prepare to have your preconceptions challenged with this $199 minimalist Eclipse watch from Australian brand Aark Collective. Similarly to the Movado Museum Watch, this timepiece uses a spot-detailed hour and second hand design to evoke the movement of the Earth around the sun. The Italian calfskin leather band and playful design make this one of the best minimalist watches for creatives who value simplicity when it comes to timekeeping.
14. BERING Solar Watch
Similarly to the Citizen Eco Drive Axiom, this solar model from BERING uses light (both natural and artificial) to charge like an automatic watch. What we particularly like about this style is the navy stainless steel strap and unisex design. Once fully charged the watch has a power reserve that can run for up to 12 months. These watches are so wearable that chances are you will be continually charging it up on your wrist anyway. The white date window is extremely easy to pick out against the blue face, making this one of the best watches for men who need help with their datekeeping as well as their timekeeping. With a water resistance of up to 164ft, this watch will sustain short periods of swimming and showering. Meaning you’ve really no reason to take it off…
15. Braun Classic AW50 Watch
Bet you know about Braun’s shaving range, but did you know that the brand also makes impressive watches? Black leather against an elongated stainless steel case makes this one of the more interesting watches in our guide, and gives the AW50 an almost mechanical look. The band width on this watch is not much wider than the case, giving the model a compact and streamlined finish. At $187.50 the Braun is a touch more expensive than some other minimal watches but is good value for money considering the amount of wear you will undoubtedly get out of this stainless steel watch.
16. Junghans Max Bill Handaufzug Watch
Time for something a little more upmarket. At $823.90 this watch is a more aspirational piece than most of the best minimalist watches. However Junghans have created a refined design that is well worth the money. With a gold PVD stainless steel case and light brown calfskin leather band, this scratch resistant watch has a timeless simplicity that will make it the perfect choice if you are looking for a piece you would like to pass down in the years to come. Designed by Max Bill in 1961, this timepiece shows that minimalism doesn’t have to be plain or boring, and the brand still collaborates with the designer’s family to ensure every watch meets the original creative specifications. The slim profile and light-coloured stainless steel case make this the perfect summer watch.
Will A Minimalist Watch Suit Any Wrist Size?
Lots of minimalist watches have a fairly thin strap width, so if you have a larger wrist you may want to choose a watch with a larger case and strap in order to keep your watch in proportion and stop it looking too narrow. If you usually struggle to find a notch on the strap with a tang buckle that suits your wrist size, go for a mesh bracelet with a sliding clasp that you can adjust to your perfect length.
What Outfits Will A Minimalist Watch Go With?
The real beauty of minimalist watches is just how versatile they are. Without unnecessary colours and designs, adding one of these watches to your outfit won’t create extra noise. This means you can style them with busy prints as well as any streamlined outfit, making them the perfect purchase if you only want to own one watch.
How To Choose The Right Watch For You
While we think all these watches are praise worthy, that doesn’t mean that each one will suit every single man out there. There are a few things to consider when it comes to which watch will best suit your life and style. Here’s how to break it down:
If you want supreme comfort from your watch, and hate the feel of a too tight leather strap, go for a mesh bracelet that you can adjust to the perfect length so it sits comfortably on your wrist. A stainless steel strap will last for years whereas some people will like the fact that a leather watch strap changes with age and wear.
Most of these watches have a stainless steel case, and this is because the material is durable and scratch resistant. If you like your watches as muted as possible, a gunmetal or black stainless steel case won’t reflect the light as much and will have a more matte finish.
We’ve spoken a lot about Swiss quartz movement and Japanese quartz movement, but what’s the actual difference? The basic principle behind each is the same – quartz is what moves the hands around the watchface. The main difference is that Japanese quartz movement is mostly assembled on a factory line and is function based, whereas Swiss quartz movement is often assembled by hand with a greater attention to aesthetic details. This is why a Swiss-made watch is normally more expensive than one with Japanese quartz movement. Just to complicate things further some watches have automatic movement. In simple terms a watch with automatic movement will wind itself so you don’t have to.
If you are an active person you’ll need to consider the water resistance of your watch. Most watches are splash proof and will sustain some drizzle, but if you want to wear yours in the shower or poolside, you’ll want a water resistance of at least 50 meters. For a watch that you can wear swimming or for watersports, look for a water resistance of 100 meters plus. There’s nothing worse than breaking your watch from an accidental dip so you might want to factor this in when choosing yours.
While all these minimalist watches will go with pretty much any outfit, you may want to think about how they fit into your overall style. In regards to leather band watches, men who like to wear more formal materials like tweed may find this style of strap with a round face will suit their look, whereas a stainless steel case and mesh bracelet watch will go well with denims and hoodies.
Alternatives To Minimalist Watches
While we love the minimalist style, we know how to appreciate a showstopping watch as well. If we’ve piqued your interest with some of the Japanese watches in this guide, why not check out some of the country’s best brands here. With a range of designs and styles, Japan has been making waves in the industry for years and produces reliable and exciting watches for men.
The 16 Best Sleek Watches: Ranked
- Junghans Max Bill Handaufzug Watch
- Braun Classic AW50 Watch
- BERING Solar Watch
- Aark Collective Eclipse Watch
- Nordgreen Philosopher Gunmetal Watch
- Mondaine SSB Watch
- Movado Museum Watch
- Michael Kors Slim Runway Watch
- HUGO BOSS #Exist Watch
- Skagen Jorn Watch
- Nixon Porter Watch
- Timex Metropolitan Watch
- Fossil Minimalist Slim Casual Watch
- Daniel Wellington Petite Ashfield Watch
- Citizen Eco Drive Axiom
- Casio Black Resin Watch
Feature image: Jonathan Fransisca