This article covers everything you need to know about minimalist watches and has our top recommendations.
There’s an unfortunate trend in men’s watches where a manufacturer, usually lacking any actual horological heritage, mislabels a watch they designed as “minimalist.”
In actuality, many of these watches are just dull and plain. Or, they create a watch so complicated in their attempt to be minimalist that it comes across as ugly or like the manufacturer is trying too hard—the exact opposite of what a minimalist watch should be.
Minimalism takes actual design chops. Someone has to know what they’re doing to pull it off.
The idea is not to be boring; it’s to be graceful, thoughtful, and purposeful, all while creating something straightforward and clean.
Contrary to what some might think, creating a great minimalist watch takes a lot of effort.
Short on time? Here are our top three picks for the best minimalist watches for men you can buy right now:
Read on for more info and the complete list…
What Is a Minimalist Watch?
If you’re wondering what exactly makes a “minimalist” watch, you’re not alone.
Most guys, myself included, never went to design school and probably skated through their high school art class, so minimalism can seem a bit mysterious and challenging to put your finger on.
The following is a quick primer on what most would consider the primary hallmarks of a minimalist design. Keep in mind that these are general rules, and they don’t encompass all there is to minimalism.
Minimalist Watch Case Design
Generally speaking, minimalist watches have simple case designs. Lug widths are 20mm and under.
Rarely will you find any pronounced bezels and crown guards. Polished stainless steel is the material of choice.
Image caption: Many vintage watches feature minimalist design details, even though minimalism wasn’t so popular when they were made.
Cases are usually around 40mm and under in width, while relatively thin in height. They slide under a dress shirt easily, making some minimalist designs perfect for dressy occasions.
Straps and Bracelets on Minimalist Watches
Again, in general, minimalist watches come on leather straps under 20mm wide.
The most common material you’ll find is a type of leather, though bracelets are a possibility.
There are some manufacturers offering their minimalist watches on NATO straps as well, which can be a great look.
Minimalist Watch Numerals and Indices
Now we’re getting into the meat of minimalist design. Indices can play a huge role, behind the dial and hands, in a minimalist watch’s design.
Typical minimalist watches use stick-style indices to mark the hours—and sometimes the minutes—on the dial. As the name suggests, stick indices look like tiny sticks, slender in width, often with larger sticks indicating the hour.
Other markers used in minimalist watch design are round-style and numerals. It’s far more common to find numerals in Bauhaus-style watches, which we’ll cover shortly.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a watch without indices is a minimalist design. It might just be a bad one—I like to be able to tell the time when I look at my watch.
Minimalist Watch Dials
Here is where minimalism really shines—sometimes quite literally. Many minimalist watch designers and manufacturers use the dial as their opportunity to create an impact.
The impact comes for the use of texture or a complete lack thereof. See how minimalism can be tricky?
Completely plain dials and sunburst effects are equally popular, with the former being a Bauhaus-staple a the latter being at home on a dressier timepiece.
A date complication or a power indicator is about as complicated as most minimalist watch dials get. You probably won’t even get much lume.
Minimalist Watch Hands
The watch hands are quite possibly the best part of a minimalist watch, and most manufacturers get the overall design correct.
They’re typically long and slender, sweeping gracefully along the edge of the indices.
Very often, designers dip them in a complimenting color that contrasts with the dial, but black, silver, and gold hands aren’t necessarily rare.
As mentioned earlier, minimalist watches don’t normally come with many complications. Day-dates are rare. Moon phases and GMT functions are quintessentially non-minimalist.
Tourbillons? Forget it. You might not even get a seconds hand!
Having said that, there are a few minimalist chronographs with dials somehow both cluttered and clean at the same time. We’ll get into that further.
The Bauhaus School of Design was an art, craft, and architecture academy in Weimar, Germany. While only open for 14 years (1919 to 1933), it’s had a lasting effect on design and architecture ever since.
The mantra of the Bauhaus School was “form follows function.” Essentially, a thing had to do what it’s supposed to first, above all. After that, the style and flair could be worked into the equation—as long as it didn’t interfere with the function.
Many watches today find inspiration in those Bauhaus rules. They’re easy to read and understand, while also being gorgeously simple and straightforward.
You’ll find numerals, often printed plain dials in the Bauhaus font—which the school created specifically for its own purposes like letterhead and correspondence.
As a function-over-form fan myself, I appreciate Bauhaus style watches more so than a classically minimalist design.
The 15 Best Minimalist Watches for Men
While you’re now the recipient of a very minimal primer on minimalism, let’s dive into The 15 Best Minimalist Watches for Men.
These watches range from between $50 and $1000, which most would consider an entry-level range.
While you won’t find any fashion-style watches on this list, if a particular fashion watch appeals to you, wear it. It just might not offer as much value for your money as the watches on this list.
Junghans Meister Classic Automatic
If you’re looking for a moderately-sized, minimalist design dress watch for under $1000, the Junghans Meiser Classic Automatic is worth checking into.
This German-made minimalist uses a Junghans automatic movement with a date complication.
This piece has a matte silver dial, a stainless steel case, stick-style indices, and silver-tone hands to create a simple, monochromatic style.
The 20mm lugs really reign in the 38.4mm case, creating a watch that looks great on the wrist but won’t draw undue attention to itself—a staple of minimalism.
With its super thin 9 mm case thickness, it will easily slide under a dress shirt.
Junghans Max Bill
Under $1000, the Max Bill may be the best representative of what the Bauhaus-design has to offer the world of watches. This simple, clean, easy-to-read, no-frills watch looks great on wrist, and it comes with a Junghans automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve.
The Max Bill might seem a little undersized, with a 38mm-wide stainless steel case paired with a 20mm leather strap. But, this thing is all dial with virtually no bezel to speak of, giving it a more pronounced look on wrist than you’d expect.
The 10mm thickness is a bit misleading as well, as the Max Bill has a convex hard plexiglass crystal that stands proud of the base by quite a bit, providing a bit of distortion.
The black dial and faux patinated Arabic numerals at each hour mark look awesome in combination with the lumed hands and markers.
Junkers Dessau Chronograph
There are some guys out there that love the Bauhaus design so much that they want more of it on their watch face. The Dessau Chronograph strikes that perfect balance between a functional chronograph and a sleek Bauhaus creation.
Not only is this our only chronograph on the list, but it’s also the only quartz movement watches. This watch uses a MIYOTA 6S20, which is realistically the only way to get a reliable, accurate chronograph at this price point.
The Dessau’s stainless steel case is 41mm wide, and its lack of a bezel and 52mm lug-to-lug measurement make it feel every bit of that 41mm.
It comes in both white dial and blue dial versions, and your choice of a leather strap or a stainless steel mesh bracelet. The dial has printed numerals at the two, four, six, eight, ten, and 12 o’clock hour markers, as well as a 4-o’clock date window.
The white dial on leather is our favorite, thanks in part to the blue hands.
Junkers Spitzbergen F13
If you’re looking for a minimalist-design watch but need something a bit more rugged, the Junkers Spitzbergen is worth a look. This German-made aviation-meets-minimalist style watch looks tough while playing the Bauhaus role well.
The Spitzbergen F13 has a 40mm-wide case that measures 12mm thick. The included 20mm leather strap does make it look a bit larger than it is, though not so much that it looks out of place on smaller wrists.
The cream dial has basic numerals on all hour-markers except for the three o’clock, where a date window and a small polished stud sit nicely.
The polished hands look great against the cream dial, while the second hand has a red accent to match the accent at six o’clock on the dial.
When it comes to lume, the Spitzbergen’s entire dial glows a blueish green to help maintain some legibility. Function over form, after all.
Tissot Everytime Swissmatic
A great value at a very reasonable price, the Swiss-made Everytime from Tissot offers a lot for your money. This minimalist beauty uses an ETA Swissmatic watch with an incredible-for-the-price 72-hour power reserve. With only a date complication, this is a straightforward design.
The Everytime has a polished stainless steel case that measures 40mm across and 11.6mm tall. It has a light silver dial with silver-polished hands and index hour markers, and a three o’clock date window. It comes on a quirky 21mm leather strap as well.
One of the more impressive features of this watch is its display case back—not common for watches at this price point.
Orient Bambino V3 Generation 2
When it comes to affordable Japanese-made minimalist watches, the Orient Bambino may very well be the best on the market. The V3 Generation 2’s super clean minimalist aesthetic and perfect dimensions show why it holds the title.
The Bambino V3 has a 40.5mm-wide, 11.8mm-thick case, which sits very well on the quirky-sized 21mm leather strap. The case is brushed stainless and topped with a domed hardened mineral crystal.
The silver dial has a slight sunburst effect, with stick-style hour and minute markers. The baton-style brushed hands look great sweeping across the dial.
The movement, however, is where true beauty lies. For the incredibly affordable price, you get an in-house automatic movement.
It self-winds, hand-winds, hacks, and has a forty-hour power reserve, as well as a date function. It’s just an incredible value in the minimalist watch field.
Laco Classic 40 Automatic
The Laco Classic Silver 40 Automatic absolutely embodies the minimalist design. This German-made timepiece uses a Laco-branded Miyota movement with 42 hours of power reserve and a six o’clock date window.
The Laco Classic’s dimensions are spot-on, with a 40mm case width and a 48mm lug-to-lug. It comes on a 20mm leather strap, which accents the case size nicely. The silver sunray dial looks great paired with the polished hands and indices.
One thing to keep in mind about the Laco Classic is that this particular watch is exclusive to Long Island Watch, so don’t wait until they sell out.
Timex Marlin 34mm Mechanical
Timex has always been a function-first watchmaker, though the Marlin is one of their best efforts at a minimalist watch. The Marlin 34mm Mechanical is a reissue of their 1960’s Marlin timepiece. It uses a mechanical hand-wind movement.
The Marlin uses retro-inspired dimensions, measuring 34mm in diameter, 10.5 mm thick, and 41 mm lug-to-lug, making it the smallest watch on our list.
The silver sunburst dial looks great, with art deco-meets-Bauhaus style numerals at the even hours. It comes on a black crocodile-grain 18mm leather strap, which fits the design near perfectly.
Timex Marlin 40mm Automatic
Timex really nailed their Marlin reissue. The 40mm Automatic is another example of Timex’s version of minimalism, but with some extra-sweet dimensions as well.
Timex chose a Miyota automatic movement for the 40mm Marlin. It has a three o’clock day-date function and a 40-hour power reserve.
The deep gray-silver sunburst dial looks incredible on this watch, offset nicely with the gold-colored indices and hands.
But, the best part of this watch is its dimensions; 40mm wide, 13mm thick, and a tight 48mm lug-to-lug, making this a great-sized watch for guys with smaller wrists that don’t like lugs that hang over.
This particular Marlin comes on a nice tan leather strap, though you can find other dial/strap combinations in colors like black or green.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Automatic
The Hamilton Jazzmaster line has some pretty wild variations, but this Swiss-made silver dial model plays the minimalist role very well.
It features a Hamilton Calibre H-40 movement with an awesome 80-hour power reserve, as well as a day-date complication that somehow doesn’t derail the minimalist design.
This Jazzmaster has a 40mm stainless steel case with a 12 mm case thickness, which is about as standard as it gets for an automatic watch. It has lumed silver-tone hands and markers for easy reading in low-light.
This particular model comes on a 20mm black leather strap, though you can get the Jazzmaster on a variety of straps and bracelets.
Tissot Gentleman Automatic 80 Silicium
There are a lot of Tissot watches that you could consider minimalist, but none are quite as classy as the Gentleman Automatic 80 Silicium. This Swiss-made beauty features a Powermatic automatic movement with a long 80-hour power reserve and a date complication.
The Gentleman comes on a 20mm stainless steel bracelet that fits nicely in proportion to the 40mm-wide, 11.5mm-thick stainless steel case.
It also has index-style hour and minute markers with lumed pips atop each hour. The crystal is a scratch-resistant sapphire on both the front and the display case back.
The Tissot does have a fairly pronounced stainless steel bezel that does detract a bit from the minimalist aesthetic. However, its clean face and straightforward design maintain its eligibility.
The Seiko SARB033 is a great minimalist-style dress watch that has quickly grown in popularity, and in price, in the last year or so. This Japanese-made automatic uses Seiko’s 6R15 movement, which is hackable and hand-windable, with a 50-hour power reserve.
The SARB033 has a few things going for it. The 38mm-wide and 11.2mm-thick case allows it to pull double-duty as a dress piece, while it’s 20mm lug width means you probably have a casual strap lying around to dress it down a bit.
It has a black matte dial with polished and lumed hands and indices, with a graceful sewing needle’esque seconds hand. There’s also a three o’clock date window with a polished surround.
Hamilton American Classic
Don’t let the name fool you: The Hamilton American Classic is pure-bred Swiss-made minimalist. This beauty features a Hamilton automatic movement with a six o’clock date window. It hand or self winds and has a 50-power reserve.
This American Classic has one of the least complicated dials on the list but remains easy to read. The slight sunburst silver dial has stick markers at the hour marks, with slightly heavier markers at the three, six, nine, and 12 o’clock marks.
The hands have a rubbed bronze-type finish, giving the American Classic a vintage, patinaed look.
The stainless steel, yellow gold-coated case measure 42mm across, with a squat thickness of only 10mm. These dimension make it a solid choice for guys that want a watch that makes a statement without hanging up on their shirt cuffs.
Seiko SRPB77 Cocktail Time
Seiko again blurs the lines between dress watch and minimalist-style well with the SRPB77 Cocktail Time. This Japanese-made beauty features Seiko’s 4R35 movement, which hacks, hand-winds, and self-winds.
The Cocktail Time has a polished stainless steel case that measures 40.5mm wide and just under 12mm thick. It has a 20mm lug width as well, so finding a minimal leather strap to swap in place of the stainless bracelet should be easy.
By and large, the best part of the Cocktail Time is the dial. While it has an overall minimalist design, the heavy sunburst silver dial looks fantastic, especially paired with the blue hands and polished indices.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Small Seconds
The Hamilton Jazzmaster Small Seconds takes a bit of a different path on the road to Swiss-made minimalist design. The small seconds dial—something normally seen on Bauhaus watches—sits above the six-o’clock marker and gives the gray sunburst dial a bit of extra texture and depth.
The only thing small about this Jazzmaster is the seconds hand. This stainless steel watch is 43mm wide, though it’s a reasonable 12mm thick.
It’s powered by a Hamilton Swiss-made movement with a date complication at the three o’clock mark and a 50-hour power reserve.
If you can handle a large-bodied watch, the Jazzmaster Small Seconds could be a good fit.
As you’ve probably noticed, minimalism is not about doing without. Most of these watches provide an incredible amount of value per dollar, and none of them skimp on features or ability.
Minimalism is really about purposeful design that also looks amazing.
Whether you’re looking for something Swiss-made like the Tissot Gentleman or something quintessentially German like the Laco Classic, you’ll be able to find the perfect minimalist watch for your style and taste.