Discover which minimalist watches are best for you, and what to look for in a high-quality watch
It seems like there are a dozen of new minimalist watches coming out every year – and it can be a true nightmare to find out which ones are worth it and which ones are not. It’s clear that wearing a minimalist watch can really make us feel good and look good. It makes you look elegant, distinguished, 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.
However, as is the case with all and any products, the category that is minimalist watches, too, is host to an expansive bandwidth of options that vary in price and quality. There are plenty of well-made pieces at justifiable prices, but there are also plenty of low-quality cash grabs out there. And given that, visually speaking, this family of goods is not as easily distinguishable – hence, minimalism – it’s important to do some proper research beforehand, to make sure you end up buying something that you can cherish for as long as possible because it was actually worth its price tag. That said, this guide was specifically made to help you narrow down the choices available on the market today.
Why Wear A Minimalist Watch?
- They can enhance your style and appearance immediately, and can look fantastic with any clothes you’re wearing – whether it’s casual or professional
- They make you look more reliable, organized and professional
- They make a distinguished statement about your personality and style
- They can boost your self-confidence and make you look more trustworthy
- They can make you proud of wearing an outstanding piece of precise craftsmanship at your wrist
- They can remind you of your valuable relationship with time, and make you more respectful of your own time
- They show you the time immediately, wherever you go, whenever you want – no smartphone needed
3 MYTHS About Minimalist Watches
Myth #1: Minimalist watches look cheap
Some people think that minimalist watches will look cheap on their wrist just because they don’t have any fancy-seeming color-, texture-, or material-mixes. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, though! Minimalism is all about doing few things, but doing those select things extremely well. In fact, high-quality minimalist watches, despite their apparent simplicity, can be extraordinarily complicated in craft: some high-end minimalist models require hundreds of hours of dedicated experise before seeing the light.
It’s all about quality over quantity. And the truth is, a carefully selected minimalist watch can make an even stronger impression on others than a fancy and highly complicated one. That’s why many celebrities and highly successful people often wear minimalist watches – it’s the ultimate sign of elegance and sophisticated luxury. In other words, in the world of watches – like in many other areas of 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 indecently high prices, and high quality watches for suspiciously affordable ones. Prices are determined by multiple factors, including: the number of middlemen between the brand and the consumer, the cost to manufacture the watch, and 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 hands, (…). And if you know where to look, you can find high quality minimalist watches from top brands at very reasonable rates (under $200). We’ll talk about the most important criteria of determining a high-quality minimalist watch later on.
Myth #3: You don’t need a watch when you have a smartphone
It’s true. Occasionally, we may wonder: what is the point of buying a watch if I can read the time on my phone, seeing as I constantly, instinctively grab for and look at it anyways? Well, first, from a practical point of view, having a watch at your wrist is a way to be 100% certain that wherever you go, and no matter what happens to you, you will always have the time with you – even if your smartphone battery dies (we’ve all been there).
On top of that, a watch can give you the time in the blink of an eye, without breaking your concentration with useless distractions and notifications. But beyond the mere practical aspect, wearing a carefully chosen watch is a guaranteed way to elevate your style, make a strong impression on others, and remind of the precious bond between yourself and time – your most valuable resource.
3 TRUTHS About Minimalist Watches
Fact #1: Minimalist watches are timeless
One of the key advantages of minimalist watches is that they can never go out of fashion. Their classic and quintessential design transcends time itself. Minimalist watches were popular 100 years ago, they are still highly popular now, and will continue to be so for decades to come. As most sartorial experts will argue, wearing a high-quality minimalist watch is simply the safest, most reliable way to demonstrate elegant style and good taste everywhere you go.
Fact #2: Minimalist watches are highly versatile
Another key benefit of minimalist 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 network-gathering, look the top of your game during a romantic date, or simply on a casual day with a simple pair of jeans – minimalist timepieces will go perfectly with everything, under any circumstance. 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, (…). They can just wear one, an elegant watch that makes them feel good and look good wherever they go, whatever they do.
Fact #3: High-quality minimalist watches can be found at affordable prices
The good thing about minimalist watches is that you can get your hands on an exquisite and high-quality timepiece without having to spend a fortune. By cutting down on all the unnecessary features, minimalist watchmakers can save costs, focus on doing a few things extremely well, and sell their elegant 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 minimalist watches for less than $200. There are just a few criteria that you need to have in mind before choosing a minimalist watch – as we explain below.
Key Things To Look For In A Minimalist Watch
Here’s a checklist of three known facts to help you further understand the other benefits of minimalist 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 reputable experts, the best quality movements available on the market, used by nearly all high-end minimalist models, are 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 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 movements.
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 by how the case is built; whether or not it is of 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 Minimalist Watches On The Market Today
1. Nordgreen – Philosopher
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THE BOTTOM LINE
The Philosopher is a very high-quality, elegant-looking minimalist watch made by the renowned Scandinavian watchmaker Nordgreen. This sleek, smart and modern timepiece was designed by Jakob Wagner, a world-class designer acclaimed for his previous contributions to Bang & Olufsen, Hay, and Capellini. He is also a five-time recipient of the IF Product Design Award as well as numerous Designer of the Year awards.
The watch was designed to look and feel like luxury 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 Chief Designer Jakob Wagner, this unique shape serves as a metaphor to illustrate how we are constantly in motion through time.
The company also deeply cares about making the world a better place. For every watch purchase, they make a donation to charities that serve noble health, educational, and environmental causes.
Many wearers of The Philosopher can vouch for its superior quality, elegant look, and exceptional value for money.
Taking all these points into consideration easily places Nordgreen’s Philosopher at our #1 spot.
– Unique design
– Robust marine grade 316L stainless steel case
– Precise Japanese Miyota movement
– High attention to detail; engraved crown, case and hand shapes
– Abundance of choice for strap colors and materials
– Sustainable and ethical
– Designed by world-class designer Jakob Wagner
– Exceptional price-quality ratio
– High rates of customer satisfaction
– Unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee
– Limited stock
2. Mondaine Helvetica No1 Light
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Mondaine Helvetica Number 1 is a clean, minimalist timepiece designed with a modern twist. Simple and concise, it’s an effective, well made, everyday Swiss watch at an affordable 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 specify any further).
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 minimalist watches on the market (even though this one is higher quality than most models of its price range).
– Solid Swiss craftsmanship
– Clean, minimalist, highly versatile design
– Includes good-looking, distinctive features
– Affordable price considering the quality of the watch
– Maybe a little too simplified in its design
– Similar, visually, to watches way below its own price range
– Lack of transparency regarding the specific materials
3. Solios – Solar White Silver Mesh
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Solios Solar White is a great fit for those who want to buy a sustainable watch, in line with their environmental values. The watch is made of green technology and durable materials to offer a clean and elegant look, while making a positive impact on the environment.
What makes it special is that it uses a solar cell to recharge itself, meaning that the watch can keep functioning without changing or winding the batteries. The case is made of 316L stainless steel – a sign of high-quality and robustness.
With that, we note that, aside from its solar power movement, the watch looks relatively bland. Even though it has a clean and elegant appearance, it is rather hard to distinguish it from other minimalist watches on the market, just because each component – whether it’s the case, the crown, the hand, or the case – is very simplistic, perhaps too simplistic.
– Unique solar mechanism; distinctive, good for the environment
– Clean and elegant look
– No battery maintenance
– Strong case made of 316L stainless steel
– The design is not particularly distinguishable
– Slightly expensive considering the lack of visual differentiation
4. Skagen – Ryle Two-Hand Silver-Tone
THE BOTTOM LINE
Skagen’s Ryle Two-Hand Silver-Tone is a minimalist watch with a classic, modern, and elegant design. Factors that separate it from competitors come in form of Roman numerals on the face of the watch, as well as its rectangular face – both rarities for watches of this aesthetic and price range.
It can be worn very easily on any type of occasion – whether it’s casual or professional – because the watch looks incredibly versatile. It is made of relatively high quality ingredients, at least considering it’s affordable price, and users appear to be satisfied with the look and feel of the watch.
Perhaps one of the main weaknesses of the watch is that the crown looks extremely basic, there is no sign of distinction on this critical part of the watch, which is somewhat disappointing for a watch that is otherwise so audaciously designed. We would also enjoy more transparency in terms of the materials used for it. The company mentions, for instance, that the case is made of stainless steel, but we don’t know if it’s 316L stainless steel or a lower-end steel.
– Unique Roman numerals, rectangular-shape make it stand out
– Clean and highly versatile design, looks with anything
– Reasonably high-quality materials considering the price
– Crown looks too basic; disappointing craftsmanship on this end
– Lack of transparency regarding materials
– Some owners have warned of an odd thickness and heaviness
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 case is built of stainless steel (no further word 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.
That said, this watch model is not for those who want a truly distinctive 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 disappointing.
– Affordable price
– Clean and elegant look
– Highly versatile
– 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