Discover which casual watches are best for you, and what to look for in a high-quality watch
It seems like there are dozens of new casual watches coming out every year — and it can be a true nightmare to find out which ones are worth it and which ones aren’t.
It’s clear that wearing a casual watch can really make us feel good and look good. It makes you look elegant, stylish, and smart, it can boost your self-confidence, and, most importantly, it reminds you of your precious relationship with time – the most valuable resource in the world. Most importantly, casual watches are very comfortable. You can wear them every day like a “second skin”, and they’ll look effortlessly good on your wrist.
However, like all types of watches, casual watches may vary in quality, and sometimes they can look different in real life than in the pictures. While most casual watches are relatively well made, some of them can look and feel really disappointing, by surprising you with cheap materials, clumsy mechanisms, and sometimes even manufacturing defects.
That is why it’s important to do some research before you purchase any casual watches – to make sure that what you buy is reliable, effective, of the highest quality, and not a complete waste of money.
This guide was specifically made to help you narrow down the choices available on the market today.
Why Wear A Casual Watch
What are the main reasons to wear casual watches?
They can enhance your style and appearance immediately, and can look fantastic with any clothes you’re wearing – whether it’s casual or professional
2. They make you look more reliable, organized and professional, while feeling comfortable
3. They make a confident statement about your personality and style
4. They can boost your self-confidence and make you look more trustworthy
5. They can make you proud of wearing an outstanding piece of precise craftsmanship at your wrist
6. They can remind you of your valuable relationship with time, and make you more respectful of your own time
7. They can give you the time immediately, wherever you go, whenever you want, without having to look at your smartphone
Wearing casual watches is a big step for people who want to combine flawless functionality with elegant style, which is why it’s important to find the right one among the many varying choices out there.
3 MYTHS About Casual Watches
There are tons of great things said about wearing casual watches, but it comes with the spread of false information, or the inevitable myths, that influence your decision to purchase certain products. But they’re exactly that: myths, and are highly likely untrue.
Myth #1: Casual watches look cheap
Some people think that casual watches are cheap, just because they don’t have any fancy complications or expensive-looking design. But in practice, this is simply not true!
Casual is not a range of watches, it’s a style. And within this “casual style”, you’ll find watches from many different price points and quality levels…
On the one hand, you’ll find cheap casual watches, like the Seiko Series 5 Automatic ($95) or the Timex Weekender ($40). On the other hand, you’ll find super expensive, high-end casual timepieces, like the Rolex Submariner ($10,000), or the famous Panerai Luminor ($8,500-$10,000). Same casual style, different price points.
What’s fascinating is that contrary to what some people think, wearing a good casual watch can make you look even more “high status” than wearing a sophisticated luxury watch – if you choose your casual watch wisely.
That’s because a well-picked casual watch reveals two things about yourself: 1) you value both practicality and elegant style and 2) you are not trying to show off with fancy objects, which conveys a strong sense of self-confidence. These two traits are very common in so-called “high status” people.
That’s why you see dozens of A-List Hollywood actors wearing casual watches in style, such as Tom Cruise (Panerai Luminor Marina), Matt Damon (Rolex Explorer), Ryan Gosling (Casio A168WA-1), or Robert Downey Jr. (Omega Speedmaster).
When it comes to watches, as in many things in life, less is more.
Myth #2: The higher the price, the higher the quality
By far one of the biggest misconceptions! Watch experts know very well that you can find poor quality watches at indecent prices, and high quality watches at affordable prices.
Prices are determined by multiple factors, including: the number of middlemen between the brand and the consumer, the cost to manufacture the watch, and the brand positioning. There can be a massive difference between the retail price of the watch, and the objective amount of care and effort that went into it.
For example, many expensive watches with a retail price of over $5,000 can actually be manufactured for just a few hundred dollars! Since price is so subjective, it should never be used as a reliable indicator for quality.
Instead, the best way to truly evaluate the quality of a watch, according to several Swiss watch specialists, is to look carefully at each individual component of the watch, including the case, the crown, the second-hand, etc.
And if you know where to look, you can find high quality casual watches from top brands for a very reasonable price (even under $200). We’ll talk about the most important criteria to find a high-quality casual watch later on.
Myth #3: You can’t wear a casual watch at the office or other “formal” setups
Also a very big misconception! One of the biggest advantages of casual watches is that they can be worn with literally any type of clothes, in any social environment – including formal corporate offices, where everybody is dressed in sharp suits and shiny shoes.
And the truth is: in recent years, casual watches have become even more popular than sophisticated watches in the business world, because a casual watch shows that you’re absolutely confident in your own value. That you don’t need any “shiny objects” to impress others.
That’s why many powerful CEOs, businessmen, or high-profile public figures are wearing casual watches every day.
Lloyd Blankfein, ex-CEO of the prestigious investment bank Goldman Sachs, is known for wearing a casual Swatch watch, priced at around $100. Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft and 4th richest person in the world, is wearing a $70 Casio Duro – a very simple watch with a casual style. Even former US President Barack Obama was seen wearing a casual, $250 Jorg Gray watch!
All these men could literally afford to spend millions on ultra-luxury watches… But instead, they choose to “keep it simple” by wearing well-made, casual watches to look effortlessly good and high-value.
Bottom line is: In the world of business, casual has become the new luxury. It’s the ultimate statement of confidence.
3 TRUTHS About Casual Watches
Here’s a checklist of three known facts to help you further understand the other benefits of casual watches.
Fact #1: Casual watches are timeless
The main advantage of casual watches is that they always feel comfortable. Unlike more sophisticated watches who can make us feel a bit uptight, or sometimes “overdressed”, casual watches can be worn with absolute comfort and peace of mind at any time.
We’re not wearing it to try to make an impression on others. We’re wearing it because it looks great and feels great. When we put the watch on our wrist in the morning, it doesn’t feel like we’re making “an effort” to dress up: it just feels like we’re putting on a smooth, familiar, comfortable “bracelet” that kindly gives us the time…
Fact #2: Causl watches are highly versatile and look great in any circumstances
Another key benefit of casual watches is that they are extraordinarily versatile – they can look great in any setting, and with any type of clothes that you are wearing.
Whether you’re looking to make a strong professional impression in a formal networking gathering, look at the top of your game during a romantic date, or simply enjoy a relaxed day with a simple pair of jeans, these casual timepieces will look perfect on you in any circumstances.
That’s why millions of people love these watches. They don’t have to buy ten different watches, one for work, one for weddings, one for groceries, etc. They can just wear only one, elegant watch that makes them feel good and look good everywhere they go, whatever they do. With a casual watch on their wrist, they know that they will always have a “trusted companion” that will be there in their greatest life memories.
Fact #3: High-quality casual watches can be found at affordable prices
The good thing about casual watches is that you can get your hands on a high-quality timepiece without having to spend a fortune.
By cutting down all the unnecessary features, casual watchmakers can save costs, focus on doing a few things extremely well, and sell their stylish watches at a fraction of the cost of more complicated, feature-heavy models. As a result, it is entirely possible to find top-notch, carefully designed, and highly reliable casual watches for less than $200.
There are just a few criteria that you need to have in mind before choosing a casual watch, as we explain below.
Key Things To Look For In A Casual Watch
Here’s a checklist of three known facts to help you further understand the other benefits of casual watches.
Criteria #1: Has to use a high-quality movement
A watch movement is the “engine” of the watch that acts as the powerhouse to make the watch and its functions operate (hands, calendars, chronograph, etc.). If you want a watch that is precise and reliable – and which remains so for decades – you need to choose one that uses a high-quality movement.
According to most reputed watch experts, the best quality movements available on the market, used by nearly all high-end minimalist watches, are the Japanese and Swiss movements.
For example, the Japanese “Miyota” movement is widely considered as one of the most reliable and accurate quartz movements in the world. This Japanese movement uses top-grade quartz crystals that vibrate at 32,768 times per second, to guarantee an incredible accuracy of +/- 15 seconds per month. The “Swiss Ronda series 5 movement” also has a strong reputation in terms of precision.
When choosing a high-quality watch, it’s therefore good practice to look for these types of movement (which are usually indicated in the watch characteristics).
Criteria #2: Watch parts need to be distinctive and show high attention to detail
One of the best ways to appraise the quality of a watch is to look at the level of detail of each of its parts (including the case, the crown, the hands, etc.). If you look at a watch and see that each of its parts has been precisely crafted, using a very distinctive shape, then you can be confident this watch was made by a quality watchmaker.
For example, high-quality minimalist watches tend to have unique engravings on the crown, like the signature of the watchmaker. They also usually use unique and very distinctive shapes for the hands – specifically the second-hand. In other words, high-quality minimalist watches have a distinct design “personality”.
On the other hand, poor quality watches are often designed exactly in the same way, with no distinctive elements. They use very basic crowns, unoriginal hands, and undifferentiated cases. Many well-known high-street brands are selling these poorly designed watches for over $200, so it’s very important to look for these details when you buy a minimalist watch.
Criteria #3: Has to use high-quality materials
Finally, the best and most reliable minimalist watches all use high-quality materials. You can tell if a watch is extremely well made if the case is built using 316L stainless steel, a high-end steel that has a very high purity level and which is virtually unbreakable. It’s also called “marine grade stainless steel”, because it is often used in marine environments due to its ultra-high resistance to corrosion.
If you’re looking at watches with leather straps, make sure it uses at least “genuine leather” – it’s a sign that the strap is made with smooth, comfortable, and reasonably durable leather.
The Top 5 Casual Watches On The Market Today
After hours of extensive research, in consideration of professional watch advice, combined ratings and verified online reviews from customers just like you, we’ve compiled a list of the top five casual watches for men on the market today.
1. Nordgreen – Philosopher
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Philosopher is a very high-quality, elegant-looking casual watch made by the renown Scandinavian watchmaker Nordgreen. This sleek, smart and modern timepiece was designed by Jakob Wagner, a world-class designer acclaimed for designing collections for Bang & Olufsen, Hay, and Capellini. He is also a five-time recipient of the IF Product Design Award and Designer of the Year.
The watch was designed to look and feel “high-end casual” for a competitive price, by only using high-quality materials and precise craftsmanship. It’s powered by a state-of-the-art Japanese Miyota mechanism for maximum precision, and the case (40mm) is entirely made of premium 316L stainless steel, carefully polished to give the watch a sharp and robust look. The crown is highly distinctive: precisely tapered with bevels at the tip for easier grip, and engraved at the centre with the logo of the watchmaker – a premium feature that we usually only see in higher-end, more expensive timepieces.
But perhaps the most astounding and unique element of the watch is the asymmetric second-hand: it is shaped like a blade, slicing through the minutes and hours of the day. According to the Chief Designer Jakob Wagner, this unique shape serves as a metaphor to illustrate how we are constantly slicing through time.
The company Nordgreen also deeply cares about making the world a better place, with the launch of its Giving Back Program: a charity that has established several partnerships with three leading NGOs in the health, education, and environmental sectors.
For every Nordgreen watch purchased, you can either give two months of clean water to one person in the Central African Republic, one month of education to a child in India, or preserve 200 sq ft of rain forest in Latin America.
Therefore, people who buy a Nordgreen watch not only get a fine piece of craftsmanship: they also make a positive and measurable impact on the world. It is currently one the rare watch brands that offers such kind of sustainable initiatives.
Overall, many wearers of The Philosopher can vouch for its superior quality, elegant look, and exceptional value for money. Hundreds of customers claim to wear this casual watch every day, praising its flawless comfort and stylish, versatile look suitable for any type of event. The company Nordgreen has a score of 4.8 out of 5 on Trustadvisor based on 3,000+ reviews.
Taking all these into our consideration easily places Nordgreen – Philosopher at our #1 spot.
– Unique, one-of-a-kind design that makes the watch really stands out among other minimalist watches of this range
– Robust and sharp-looking steel case using premium 316L “marine grade” stainless steel
– High precision Japanese Miyota movement
– Incredible level of detail, with engraved crown, distinct case shape, and blade-shaped second-hand “slicing through time”
– Comfortable, soft, and high-quality leather straps. Abundance of choice for strap colors
– Sustainable and ethical watch
– Designed by world-class designer Jakob Wagner
– Exceptional price-quality ratio
– Established and engaged Scandinavian watchmaker trusted by thousands of happy customers
– Unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee
– Can run out of stock quickly
2. Mondaine - Helvetica No1 Light
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Mondaine Helvetica Number 1 is a clean and elegant minimalist timepiece designed with a modern play on design. Simple and concise, it’s an effective everyday Swiss watch that is quite well made considering the price. If we look at each component individually, we can tell that the level of craftsmanship is high.
The watch contains a few distinctive features, including the design of the lug structure, which connects the strap to the case, and the asymmetrical text on the dial that tapers down to the date window. The watch uses a precise Swiss movement Ronda 715, and the case is made of brushed stainless steel (the brand doesn’t mention if it’s 316L steel or not).
Although this watch has many strong characteristics, we could perhaps expect a few more distinctive features – especially for a watch of this price range. For some users, this minimalist timepiece may look a bit too similar to other undifferentiated minimalists watches on the market (even this one is higher quality than most models in this range).
– Well-made Swiss match
– Clean and minimalist design that is highly versatile
– Solid craftsmanship
– Includes a few good-looking distinctive features
– Affordable price considering the quality of the watch
– Could expect more distinctive features for this price range
– Could look a bit too similar to other minimalist watches on the market
– Lack of transparency regarding the grade of steel used for the case
3. Hamilton - American Classic Ref. H38455751
THE BOTTOM LINE
This watch is a well-made timepiece with a contemporary design, which will blend very nicely in any kind of environment. It combines the beauty of the American style with top-notch Swiss craftsmanship.
People will like its supple black leather strap, and simple, 38mm stainless steel case complementing the silver dial with black hands and fine indices. Further, this casual watch offers a precise ETA caliber 2892-A2 movement with a power reserve of 42 hours, which will satisfy lovers of automatic watches that don’t require a lot of maintenance.
Although this watch is a strong choice for people looking for a casual watch, we believe that its price tag ($769) is unwarranted given the features and level of detail that this timepiece offers. While this watch sends a fresh, American vibe, it does resemble many other watch models sold at a much lower price range. We think this watch would benefit from having more distinctive features, like a bolder case, uniquely shaped hands, or more original dial.
– Well-made casual timepiece with contemporary design
– Nice blend of American style with Swiss craftsmanship
– High-quality movement
– Strong case made of stainless steel
– The watch looks relatively undifferentiated. Very basic components
– Expensive considering the lack of visual differentiation
4. Victorinox - Fieldforce Quartz 241851
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Victorinox Fieldforce 241851 is a highly versatile, casual watch leaning a bit on the sports side. Victorinox watches are known for being robust, solid, and durable, and this watch is exactly that.
Due to its strong build, it can be used during sports, runs, hikes, or anything other activities where physical shocks are more likely to happen than during a simple walk in the park! With that said, it’s sufficiently versatile to make it suitable for many different occasions, including formal events.
The case is made of stainless steel with a diameter of 42mm, and the watch offers a water resistance of 100m/330 feet – making it appropriate for swimming. A positive point is that the watch does have a few distinctive features – including white sword-shaped hands with applied luminescent material. We do note, however, that some users reported that the luminescent effect was a bit weak, and that numbers were slightly hard to see in dark conditions – which somehow defeats the purpose of the luminescent feature.
Overall, we think that although the watch is of good quality, there are many other watches on the market today that offer superior functionality and finer design, at a more affordable price.
– Robust, well-made watch that can worn in any environments, including intense sports and formal events
– High water resistance makes it suitable for swimming
– Clean, sporty look with a few distinctive features
– Some unique features seem to have been poorly executed (e.g. hardly visible luminescent effect)
– Price-to-performance ratio could be improved
– Steel bracelet may feel a bit “cold” for people looking for truly comfortable casual watches
5. Daniel Wellington Classic St Mawes 36mm
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Daniel Wellington Classic St Mawes is a unisex, Scandinavian minimalist watch with a sleek and ultra-simple design. Due to its quintessential yet elegant look, this watch can match with any type of clothes and style, which makes it incredibly versatile.
It is powered by a precise Japanese movement, and the beautiful rose gold case is built of stainless steel (no more indication on the type of steel). Many users who have never worn a watch before seemed satisfied with this simplistic yet appealing minimalist timepiece, which can be bought at a very affordable price.
With that said, this watch model is not for those who want a truly distinctive minimalist timepiece. The design is extremely basic, with no clear signs of differentiation. Hundreds of other models of watches use similar case shapes, similar crowns, and similar hands.
Even though the quality appears reasonably good for the price, it doesn’t really stand out from the crowd of minimalist watches, in our view. Further, we note that there is a noticeable lack of transparency with regards to the quality of materials used. The brand doesn’t mention the calibre of steel used for the case, and we don’t know anything about the grade of leather either – which is somewhat disappointing.
But it might satisfy those who want a simplistic and good-looking watch for an accessible price.
– Affordable price
– Clean and elegant look
– Highly versatile
– Highly undifferentiated watch. Looks extremely similar to other minimalist watches
– Clear lack of transparency on quality of materials
– Brand has become rather unoriginal
– No sign of dedicated craftsmanship