In A Hurry? These 3 are the best minimalist watches in 2020:
Your wristwatch says a lot about you.
Men looking to buy a minimalist watch crave simplicity. An elegant construction that emphasizes aesthetic style all enclosing a functional timepiece can be a delicate line to walk.
But, think along the lines of Apple or Braun products. You get exactly what you need in a sleek package, without the fuss of additional features.
Minimalist watches provide time at a glance, no more and no less. Simplicity is the name of the game, as minimalism cuts away excess decor for a perfect, easy-to-read display. You won’t find oversized or bulky buttons, anti-shock bodies, or bulky straps here.
Even minimalist watches offer nearly endless options, and choosing the right device isn’t quite as straight forward as the design itself. We’re reviewing the top brands at different price points, $500, $200, and $100.
You can get a perfect timepiece for you at any of these price points that has a clean design based on minimalism. We’ll also take a look at movements and crystal – or dial window – quality and go over some of the essential considerations when you’re looking for a sturdy, clean minimalist watch.
The Best Minimalist (Simple) Watches of 2020 Reviewed
1. Best Overall: Movado Calendoplan Men’s Minimalist Watch
Our overall pick for simple, minimalist design is this gorgeous Movado Heritage Series Calendoplan. Featuring a 40 mm diameter stainless steel case set on a brown leather strap, this Movado watch features water resistance to a depth of 100 feet, printed white minute index, and date display, all with a sleek, classic design.
Swiss quartz movement provides accurate timekeeping, and sapphire crystal glass makes the piece one of the best minimalist watches. It also comes along with a great two-year warranty, ensuring you get what you pay for.
Smack dab in the middle of our price range, the Movado Calendoplan features a clean, modern design without sacrificing the old world style. You can be comfortable wearing this watch anywhere, to both casual and dressy events.
Not the watch to bring out on the trail, however.
- Stunning cognac leather band
- Fair price for a stunning dial and leather strap
- Swiss quartz movement for accurate time
- Would have liked to see other colors and varied size
- Stainless steel instead of silver or more precious metal
What You Need To Know
2. Best Under $500: Movado Museum Classic Minimalist Watch
The ultimate in minimalist watches, this Movado Museum Classic is a 40mm diameter case with a black face and no markers of any kind. The black leather strap, paired with a stainless steel case and black face, makes for a pleasing addition to any outfit.
The design and brand are really what you’re paying for here.
This watch is all about aesthetics, not function. It is only available in the 40mm size, so that may throw some off, but you can’t argue with the authentic Swiss quartz movement, stainless steel housing, and a sapphire crystal dial window. The watch is made from the highest quality material, but you may want to search for a watch that has a bit more bang for your buck, even on the minimalist scale.
Like many others, it offers water resistance up to 30 meters.
- Black dial and lack of markings is a clean look
- Stunning black leather strap and stainless steel housing for easy wear
- Max tier of minimalism
- The lack of any markers may throw some off
- Expensive, in the middle of the price range
What You Need To Know
3. Best Under $200: Vincero The Kairos Mesh Watch
The Kairos Mesh Matte Black Watch by Vincero makes for a great piece that also features a nearly blackout design. Stainless steel case and band makes for an ideal day in and day out wear. Its matte black design and mesh band are both subtle and statement-worthy.
At only 10mm thick with a 42mm diameter face, the watch, with silver markers, is a nice addition to any outfit. It also features water resistance and a nice date window.
The hour, minute, and second hands are also silver, making for a nice pop from the black face.
- A bit more than the Citizen but still able to call it minimal
- Pure black with silver accents makes for nice readability
- Mesh band
- Milliseconds crowd the watch dial
- Could be a bit large for some
What You Need To Know
4. Best Under $100: Bulova Classic Men’s Minimalist Watch
Absolutely the best minimalist watch under $100, the Bulova Classic Men’s Minimalist Watch offers a black calfskin band with a silver body, face, and hands – take note, it is made from stainless steel. The date window appears at the three hand of the the piece.
Bulova is a well-regarded brand and the size of the watch will fit well for most men. At the bottom end of our range, the Bulova has great Japanese quartz movement and features a beautiful quality band material.
The markers are minimalist with no numbers. This piece also offers water resistance up to 30 meters and a mineral crystal dial window.
- Nice size for most men
- Attractive black leather band
- Thin hour, minute and second hands
- More difficult to tell time without numbers
What You Need To Know
5. Best Quartz Movement: Fossil Men’s Townsman Minimalist Watch
Minimalist men’s watches don’t have to conform to a certain formula and the Fossil Townsman takes the tack of adding more features. Highlighted with quartz movement and a beautiful blue face, this watch focuses on quality material that produces a beautiful addition to your outfit. A clean brown leather band holds a polished stainless steel case with water resistance to 50 meters.
A mineral crystal dial window provides durability. Gold-tone stick markers keep the dial clean and quartz movement makes sure the two subdials stay right in time.
- Striking blue face
- Gold tone markers
- Glow in the dark hands
- Three knobs may be cumbersome for some
- Single prong buckle closure can wear easily
What You Need To Know
6. Best Automatic Movement: Timex Marlin Minimalist Watch
When we think of Timex, we often think of stop watches and those we’d take out on hikes. Get that out of your brain. The Timex brand also makes a number of great dress watches and the Marlin Minimalist is a great example.
A dark, brushed brown leather highlights a striking black watch face and silver dial. With water resistance down to 30 meters and a stainless steel case, the watch is enclosed by a mineral glass dial window.
Around the quarter mark of our price range, the Timex Marlin features quality material and automatic movement to keep you right on time.
- Soft, supple brown leather
- Date window is unobtrusive
- Black face is striking
- If not worn, automatic movement can be a pain
- Would’ve liked to see a brushed stainless steel, not polished
What You Need To Know
7. Sapphire Crystal: Frederique Constant – Moonshape Men’s Watch
If you truly want to splurge, your search will not yield a more beautiful timepiece than the Freerique Constant Moonshape men’s watch. This stainless steel case is plated in rose gold with a brown, alligator skin strap.
Its silver dial and gold tone hands are exquisitely crafted. It features automatic movement with a 42 hour power reserve and a moonphase subdial centered on a date calendar. The crystal of this watch is made from sapphire – one of the best watch crystals that money can buy.
At 42 mm diameter and 11.2 mm thick, it is on the larger end (making it a great watch for men with larger wrists).
It’s also on the higher end of our budget range, at the very top. If you could pick features and looks off of a menu for the best watch, with superior material craftsmanship, you’d make this watch.
- Alligator skin
- Rose-gold two tone
- Moon phase
- Very expensive
- Larger size may be wrong for some men
What You Need To Know
The Daniel Wellington Classic St Mawes Minimal Watch is a great, inexpensive option to enhance your outfit. Featuring quartz timing and a nice small size (36mm), this simplistic piece is made from stainless steel and has a mineral crystal scratch resistant glass.
A brown leather band accents the piece. It also offers water resistance up to a distance of 30 meters.
Swedish watchmaker Daniel Wellington is a recent entry into the watch market, riding on the coattails of similar startups.
- Low price
- Leather and stainless steel
- Lacks some brand recognition
- Wider face
What You Need To Know
MVMT is another startup-style watch company that focuses on lowering the price to the consumer. The watch has a 45 mm diameter, meaning it’s quite a bit larger than some others in the market. It does, however, use miyota quartz time to keep things ticking along efficiently.
The band material is genuine leather and is a bit lower quality than we like to see in men’s watches. There are a variety of color and style options, all with a stainless steel case with several choices of finish including silver, black, or brass.
Our favorite is the eye-catching all black watch, which features a red accent logo and second hand. Affordable at the lower end of our price range.
- Black contrast option is nice
- Miyota quartz movement
- Face design and strap material leaves something to be desired
- Larger diameter
What You Need To Know
Braun is better known for making small electronics but its Men’s Japanese Quartz minimal analog watch is a great addition to anyone’s wardrobe. With a smooth brown synthetic band, stainless steel case, and two-tone black and gold hands, you won’t be disappointed.
The design does feel a bit cheap, but at the very bottom of our price range, you can’t ask for much more. It tells time, and it does it well.
- Japanese Quartz movement
- Great brand name
- Stainless steel case
- You can get a better bang for your buck elsewhere
What You Need To Know
Style is the name of the game here. The Komono Mono watch comes in a number of different colors and features a mono design. That means the color overtakes the whole watch. It’s definitely a statement piece.
The silicone strap and stainless steel case allow you to wipe the surface clean simply.
The company has offered minimalist products since its founding in 2009 and has really knocked it out of the park with these watches.
- Modern, fun design
- Offset name is a neat feature
- Has to go with your style
- Can’t be worn to formal occasions
What You Need To Know
The Seiko men’s Solar Essentials watch uses the sun to power the timepiece. A blue face accented with gold bezel and hands and a stainless steel case make for an attractive look.
The brown leather alligator band is paired with a buckle closure, and the day and date window pair with water resistance to 100m that will let you get this wet.
Powered by light, Seiko watches come with a three-year warranty.
- Great brand name
- Attractive strap
- Lower price
- Crocodile-embossed doesn’t work for everyone
- Two-tone is odd
What You Need To Know
9 Tips on Finding the Best Minimalist Watch for You
1. Watch Face Markings / Complications
One of the most important things to consider with any chronograph is how the watch face markings appear. The varied options vacillate between being stylish and traditional or encompass both.
Roman Numeral – Standard for any timepiece, roman numerals have been used to tell time since, well, Rome. They’re a timeless way to show the hour and minute on watches.
Arabic Numerals – Arabic numerals are often used on watches for ease. Their name makes them sound a bit exotic, but in reality, Arabic numerals are simply numbers written out as you would in a math problem (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4…).
Simple Markers – Truly minimalist, simple markers can be small dots or lines that appear on the dial or are designed as simple demarcations. Some watches don’t have markers at all, for the true expression of minimalism.
Single-day – Common among minimalist watches and timepieces, single day calendars simply show the day digit in a small window within the dial. Most watches do not have internal calendars, so you will have to change the date as the months change manually.
Month/day – This shows the month and day either numerically or as an abbreviation, i.e., Mar 2. You’ll also find this on minimalist watches.
Year/month/day – Not terribly common on minimalist watches because of the size, the full readout of the date and calendar may appear as numbers if it is featured at all.
Chronograph in-face – Timers are a nice addition, whether they be fully functional, bold pieces, or minimalist, functional ones. You activate the chronograph by pressing a separate button or activating a secondary function of an existing one. Chrono timers will generally operate in sixty-second intervals around the dial, so you’ll have to count the minutes in your head.
Bezel function – With bezel function timers, you rotate the dial to a starting place, then measure the time that elapsed. Bezel timers are one of the very simple watches features that even slim, lightweight statement watches will feature.
Track moon phases (i.e., waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, full moon, etc.) – tracking moon phases on your watch is typically a function reserved for a more versatile timepiece that you may wear in situations where the information is important. Still, having the phase on your wrist can be a perfect conversation starter, and it doesn’t take much space on the dial. Note that it will not be automatic, so you’ll have to update it at least once to get it on track.
Minimalist watches for men come in a whole hose of band and strap arrangements. They range from brushed metal to clean canvas, the light, and easy silicone. Leather strapped timepieces are also common. Depending on your desire for versatility and need to be stylish, you’ll want to match the correct band for you.
Canvas bands are made from natural substances and tend to be the most comfortable on the wrist. They also tend to be the most lightweight option but are not necessarily resistant to water. Canvas bands are also the most eco-friendly choice for consumers who are looking for earth-conscious options.
Silicone bands are waterproof and retain their look longer than leather or metal. Perfect for the man who is onto the next adventure, silicone watch bands are more durable, versatile, and have a built-in resistance to the elements. They can still be slim and minimalist timepieces.
Probably the most traditional look, leather watch bands run the gambit from dressing up your timepiece to making it casual. This has a lot to do with the color. Polished black leather watch bands tend to be dressier, while the brown or light color schemes will create a more aesthetic, yet casual appearance. It is important to note that they are not water-resistant and will degrade if they’re exposed to the elements regularly.
Metal / Bracelet
Similar to leather, metal bracelets run the gamut from dressy to casual, and there are many different varieties. The links are typically either titanium or stainless steel and can up your dress depending on the diameter and markers of the timepiece. They are also the most rugged, and many offer resistance to a variety of elements. The nicer ones also tend to pull your hair a lot less.
3. Dial Window (Crystal)
Sapphire is the hardest and best dial window. In fact, Sapphire is rated an impressive 9 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This substance resists natural scratches and bush-ups and is found primarily in expensive or luxury watches. It’s not the best product for direct impact, so if you’re taking your watch out on the trail, it may not hold up perfectly.
It’s common among many brands and bridges the gap between mineral crystal glass and sapphire. Hybrid materials do tend to lower the price a bit while maintaining a modern, highly aesthetic feel to a timepiece. They may not always perform as well as a sapphire dial window, but they can provide decent resistance while keeping a classic look.
Mineral Crystal Glass
Great for general clarity, you’ll find mineral crystal glass on most watches priced greater than $50. It doesn’t scratch easily, giving you a high-quality display throughout the watches’ lifetime.
The cheapest material, acrylic, is essentially plastic. It scratches very easily and will begin to lose its luster. We recommend avoiding acrylic at all costs. It’s mostly a substance found in novelty watches and won’t age well.
Hand Wound / Mechanical
Hand-wound or mechanical watches make a bold, statement piece that simultaneously features modern looks while making for great heirloom pieces. Found on high-end luxury watches, particularly Swiss watches, hand-wound or mechanical timepieces are designed to look great on your wrist and have a sleek look, whether the band is leather, metal, or canvas. They are often handmade with incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail. They require daily hand winding in most cases, but with proper care, they are designed to last a lifetime.
Automatic watches retain time based on body movement. A small gimbal, generally located behind the dial window, will rotate as your body moves and rewind the timepiece. A watch winder is required for accurate timekeeping between uses. You don’t necessarily need one, but if you aren’t wearing the watch frequently, you’ll have to build up the winding again before you can keep accurate time.
Quartz crystal movement is a relatively new invention that has yet proven the test of time. It relies on the vibration of a quartz crystal, in conjunction with a simple electronic oscillator to count seconds. Japanese quartz movement is considered among the best in the world. Swiss quartz is also well regarded.
5. Brand / Country of Origin
Brand and country of origin tend to be thought of as important in the world of luxury men’s watches. Daniel Wellington, Miyota, Japanese quartz, Swiss quartz, Tag Heuer, the list goes on and on. Brand does matter to many watch enthusiasts, but the most exclusive and iconic brands will cost you, so keep that in mind if you’re on a budget.The idea is to find a minimalist watch design that goes with your style.
The undisputed king of all things timing, the Swiss have been developing higher-end luxury watches since at least the 17th century. They have a rich history and a design catalog to match. Well known for precision and style, a Swiss timepiece is a mark of distinction, particularly if it is from one of the top brands like Rolex, Tag Heuer, Longines, Patek Philippe, or Tissot.
The Japanese were relatively recent entrants into the global watch world, with the development of top brands like Seiko, Citizen, Casio (including G-Shock) in the last century or so. Quartz dominates the Japanese market, and for a good reason – the timing and design are excellent.
Watches from other countries aren’t necessarily bad. They will not, however, retain value like a highly crafted perfectly timeless Swiss watch or a nanosecond precise, classic Japanese watch. They’re great for everyday wear and if you’re not looking to wear a status symbol on your wrist.
6. Case Diameter & Thickness
Case diameter and thickness is an important element in men’s watches. If you’re a smaller man, you want to be careful about wearing large diameter watches or those that tend to protrude from the top of your wrist. Despite the classic style a larger timepiece offers, it can make your hand look small and not sleek.
Watches come in a variety of diameters, and you should consider the size of your wrist and hands when you’re looking to add a minimalist watch to your wardrobe. A larger timepiece can be a bold choice and can elevate your style, but the perfect watch will be the one that compliments your features, not draws attention to itself.
Small Wrists – Sub 40mm
Average Wrists – 38mm to 42mm
Large Wrists – Greater than 40mm
The thickness of your watch will often depend on the movement it employs. Automatic watches are much thicker because they have to include extra mechanics behind the window. The best minimalist watches will do their best to reduce this as much as possible. Quartz is also considerably thinner, and you’ll find hand-wound watches in the middle since your hands are doing the winding function.
The three most common types of material are stainless steel, silver, and gold. Your choice here is highly dependent on your style. A quality, minimal watch can be crafted from any of these materials and can still maintain some water resistance for durability’s sake. The bracelet is often made from the same material of the watch if you’ve opted for a metallic band.
Stainless steel is one of the more sturdy and durable materials and provides natural resistance to water while creating a clean, classic style. It generally comes in either polished or brushed metal and is a staple of many minimal watches.
Gold is a stylish, luxury metal that tends to hold its value over the lifetime of a watch. It’s better reserved for heirloom timepieces. Gold features sub-par resistance as compared to other options but adds a bold statement to your wardrobe.
While still a precious metal, silver will tarnish and require maintenance. Still, it gives a nice classic look, especially when paired with a striking black dial or mesh band.
Prices on watches vary wildly. Minimalist watches, despite their name, tend to be more expensive for a quality timepiece. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for in modern men’s watches. Watches can range from $25 to $1,000.
If you’re taking your minimalist watch on the road, water resistance may be a great feature addition. Resistance typically comes in either 100 or 200 meters (330 and 660 feet, respectively). This does not mean it’s a dive watch – water-resistant watches are not sealed for changes in pressure. Still, you can wear it in rainstorms and even jump in the pool quickly without missing a beat. We recommend checking your manual before exposing your watch to water.
Clasp / Buckle
A clasp features a single piece of metal that will close shut, streamlining the design. Clasps tend to present better for a minimal watch, but there isn’t much leeway for fit. These watches can simply be too tight or too loose, especially if the diameter is larger. Clasps come in a variety of materials, from aluminum to gold to stainless steel and silver.
A buckle closure is able to fine-tune for a closer fit and is generally found as a leather band. It can, however, get hung up on materials, and the adjustment holes can start to wear down. These have a hang that may get caught on things every now and again
Dial color and markings can work in tandem to create a minimum effect (i.e., black dial with black markings). Additionally, markings can be used to set off the watch a bit (think a black dial with white markings and various sizes.)
We don’t often think about dial shape as an option because we see round everywhere. It is by far the most popular dial shape, and square is most often found in feminine timepieces and smartwatches. Still, a modern, small resistance square dial shape can be attractive and provide a bit of an addition to your outfit.
Complimentary Watch Accessories
A watch case can protect watches and also put them on display. Great for the dresser top or next to the bed to display your watches.
A watch winder is essential if you get a minimalist watch with automatic movement and don’t plan on wearing it all the time. It keeps the watch moving in order to maintain accurate timekeeping between the wearings. It’s great if you only wear an automatic watch on certain occasions.
Watchbands can completely change the style of the watch. If you have a watch that you like the look of, you can easily refresh the piece with a band change. Many different straps and styles can go well together.
Q: Are minimalist watches formal or casual?
Minimalist watches can be both formal or casual, depending on the look of the band and piece. The simple style of a minimalist watch often brings enough versatility to allow for wear at both fancy and casual affairs.
Q: Where are good places to buy a minimalist watch?
Direct from companies or online retailers such as the following have good minimalist watch selections:
- MVMT – a startup focused on cost-effective watches that cut the frills
- Timex – a standby watch company that produces great timepieces for both casual and formal wear
- Braun – more famous for small electrics, Braun produces simple, clean watches
- Komono – focused on great mono color watches
- Miyota – the epitome of great Japanese timekeeping
- Miansai – high-end minimalist watches
- Nordstrom – a standby department store with dedicated staff
- Huckberry – online only where you can shop around for everything you need
- Macy’s – a step down at from Nordstrom but full of great items and watches
- Neiman Marcus – Also a high-end department store that offers a number of key items
- Joma Shop – watches and accessories only
- Kay’s – a jewelry store that focuses on high-end pieces
Q: I am not sure if a particular watch brand is good, any pointers?
Ask yourself what you are buying for. Are you looking for casual everyday wear or an heirloom piece? If you’re looking for a several thousand dollar investments, you may want to ensure you get your hands on the piece. If you’re talking about casual wear, you’re looking at style over substance – get a trendy watch.
Minimalist Watches vs. All The Rest
Minimalist watches are traditionally a simple watch that has nothing more than time. There could be some smaller features like a day or a moon phase, but these watches tend to skip other embellishments.
Thin watches are usually always made from quartz movement as it allows for fewer pieces. They’re also more about manufacturing rather than design.
Get’s its name from Staatliches Bauhaus, which was a German School of design. It’s all about minimalism, and these are often sourced from Germany.
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Minimalist Watches
We looked at a variety of factors, including materials, cost, price, and use. The list we came up with here, we think, is the most comprehensive compilation out there. We hope after reading this article you’re able to find just the right device. Remember to get the watch that works for you.