Compare and Contrast: Minimalist Watches

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Choosing a minimalist watch can be overwhelming. There are so many choices online — it can be hard to tell which is high-quality. We want a watch that looks good and is built to last.

Nordgreen is a name that’s been popping up recently when you search for a minimalist watch for men or women. This Scandinavian start-up was founded on principles of good design, quality and sustainability.

When it comes to these principles, they’re not messing around: chief designer Jakob Wagner knows how to design a watch that works. He’s trained in both engineering and design and has worked with design powerhouses Bang & Olufsen and HAY.

On top of this, Nordgreen’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility means that we’re definitely curious to see what this company has to offer.

Getting a watch all the way from Scandinavia sounds cool, but international delivery can be a headache. Nordgreen promises free express-delivery and returns, as well as a two year warranty. Based on all the positive reviews about fast delivery and great customer service, it seems like they keep their promise. Online shopping can be stressful enough, so this is a big relief.

We like the way Nordgreen thinks and acts, but in the end we really care about one thing: is this a watch we want to wear? We’ve taken a look at three popular models, the Philosopher, the Pioneer and the Native, to see the differences and to find out what’s right for you.

Nordgreen - Philosopher
White Dial & Brown Leather

$209 -

Nordgreen - Pioneer
White Dial & Black Leather

$279 -

Nordgreen - Native
Black Dial & Rose Gold Mesh

Nordgreen Philosopher Review


The Philosopher is a fantastic choice regardless of gender. The choice between two dial sizes (36mm & 40mm) means that it can suit a variety of wrists.

Elements like discreet cone shape of the face, asymmetrical seconds hand and inclusion of the date elevate the Philosopher. It provides a sense of depth not seen in other, more muted designs Nordgreen offers.

The Philosopher is one of Nordgreen’s bestsellers, and it’s easy to see why. It finds a middle ground between the Native and Pioneer, which we’ll look at in-depth later in this review.

Those who don’t want too much or too little (we know, we know — it’s all by minimalist standards!) find a perfect match in the Philosopher.


  • 36mm dial typically for women or 40mm dial typically for men
  • Slim case at 7.84mm, maximum
  • Case constructed of 316L, marine grade stainless steel
  • Hardened mineral crystal glass
  • Japanese quartz movement, Miyota GM10
  • White dial; four different case colours
  • Rain and splash resistant (up to 3 ATM)

The Philosopher is the happy medium of minimal watches. It’s a great option for somebody that wants a clean design without sacrificing functionality. Compared to other minimalist watches, which are completely stripped back, we appreciate details like a seconds hand and date.

Of course, because it’s in the middle, the Philosopher compromises on the true minimalism of the Native and the functionality of the Pioneer. We also wish that it had as many customisation options as the Native — it’d be great to have the option of a dark dial. Still, there’s still lots of room to make the Philosopher your own.

The Philosopher is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants a minimalist watch without sacrificing features. Like any of Nordgreen’s offerings, you can play around with different straps and finishes when you shop the Philosopher here.

Nordgreen Pioneer Review


Nordgreen’s Pioneer watch was created to celebrate human and scientific achievement, in the past and in the future. Every element of Jakob Wagner’s design is symbolic, evoking the Danes’ sustainable mindset and appreciation of nature.

It’s no surprise that this design process resulted in an award-winner. The Red Dot Award is one of the most prestigious in the world — it signifies innovation, design and functionality. Previous winners include the teams at Apple, BMW, Bose and Porsche — and now, with the Pioneer, Nordgreen.

When it comes to minimal watches, we know it’s the details that count. While it’s larger than any of Nordgreen’s other watches, the Pioneer is saved from looking bulky by the recessed dial and sub-dials, which add dimension and depth. Other subtle elements, like the red tips on the hands, gently rounded design and brushed stainless steel finish, come together to create a timepiece that is both classic and refreshingly modern.



  • 42mm dial
  • Thick 11.9mm case
  • Case constructed of 316L, marine grade stainless steel
  • Domed sapphire crystal glass
  • Japanese quartz movement, Miyota 6S21
  • Choice of three different dial colors and three different metal colors
  • Water resistant up to 5 ATM

Is the Pioneer Model worth it?

Put simply: there’s a reason the Nordgreen Pioneer won the Red Dot Award. Chronographs (link) are notoriously bulky and can appear outdated. The Pioneer manages to balance the complexity of this style with Nordgreen’s distinctive, thoughtful minimalism.

 It leads the selection in this review with the quality of its movement and sapphire glass, and the variety of its functions (the two subdials work as a timer as well as eye candy!). Since the Pioneer is an industry leader, we do wish that it had a better water resistance. We know that it’s firstly a fashionable watch — nobody’s asking to go diving with it! But with the upgrades in glass and movement, it would have been nice to see a similar improvement in water resistance.

Overall, the Pioneer is a functional, sophisticated watch, built to last. With other Red Dot winning watches costing over $6,000, Nordgreen’s $279 option is an accessible route to owning a remarkable timepiece. You can check it out here. 

Nordgreen Native Review


The Native is one of Nordgreen’s simplest, most elegant options. It offers a variety of customisation options, including hardware and dial colours and the size of the watch face. The inclusion of a 32mm Native Lille gives it an edge on the Philosopher for those with small wrists or a preference for a small face. 


  • Three dial sizes: 32, 36 and 40mm 
  • Slim case at 8.35mm, maximum 
  • Case constructed of 316L, marine grade stainless steel
  • Gently domed, hardened mineral crystal glass 
  • Japanese quartz movement, Miyota 5Y20
  • Choice of three different dial colours and four different metal colours 
  • Rain and splash resistant (up to 3 ATM)

Is the Native Model worth it?

We love the elegant look of the Native. With the three different dials sizes, it looks sleek on every size wrist, of any gender. In our opinion, changing the straps makes the biggest difference to the look of the Native over the other two, making it a great option if you want a watch you can dress up or down. Nordgreen’s bundles are a great deal if you want the versatility of extra straps

Some might find the Native too simplistic for their taste — it’s Nordgreen’s bundles true minimalist. If that’s the case, we think the Philosopher might be more your style. However, if you’re looking for an elegant watch that compliments your look without being the focal point, the Native is a great choice. Decisions like dial and case color can also elevate this watch to make a statement. 


The Nordgreen Native is very stripped back, with nearly invisible minute marks and no clutter on the dial. While it’s not quite as tough as the other options, it makes up for it with its style and versatility. If you want a beautifully designed, truly minimal watch for both daily life and special occasions, look no further. You can see all the options here. 


Philosopher vs Pioneer vs Native: What’s right for you?

All Nordgreen watches use high quality Miyota Japanese quartz movements

  • The Native is the only watch of the three to offer a 32mm dial, while the Pioneer only comes in 42mm
  • Both the Native and Philosopher have 36mm and 40mm dials
  • The Pioneer has slightly higher grade sapphire crystal glass, while the Native and Pioneer use hardened mineral glass 
  • All three have interchangeable straps and customizable dial and case colors 
  • The Native and Philosopher are designed to be unisex
  • The Pioneer is typically a male watch, although it also works for women
  • The Native starts at $185 USD, the Philosopher at $210 and the Pioneer at $279

Conclusion: there’s a reason Pioneer won the Red Dot award, but Native and Philosopher are also a great watches, just different

We’ve had a look at the specific details of the Nordgreen Philosopher, Pioneer and Native. They’re all great watches, with different pros and cons, but we still have a few questions. Any Nordgreen watch is a good investment, but only you can tell which one would suit your lifestyle best. Now that we’ve broken it down, what do you think? Are you Team Philosopher, Team Pioneer, or Team Native?

What about the straps?

A big part of Nordgreen’s appeal is its customizability. They offer thirty different straps in multiple finishes and colors. That includes metal mesh, leather (genuine Italian and vegan), nylon and rubber. With all the different watches and their sizes, colors and straps, there’s over 1,500 unique combinations that you can experiment with on the website. 

 When you’re wearing a watch all day, you want to be sure that it’s comfortable. The mesh straps are the same high quality stainless steel as the watch cases, but what about the leather? It’s genuine leather, which is a low bar — as long as it’s not synthetic, it can be called genuine leather. Nobody wants a poor quality strap, which could crack or fall apart. 

However, quality is as much about the way the leather is treated as the raw product. Nordgreen works with tannery that centres the leather making process, and as a result the price point is kept down while making a leather strap that’s soft, malleable, and most of all — comfortable! The nylon, rubber and vegan leather straps are all of the same high standard. Any of the bands can sit on your wrist all day without cutting in or rubbing. 

As we’d expect from a company so committed to design, the function of the watch is as strong as its look. We talked about the differences in movements before, and although some have are better than others, the Miyota brand is universally reliable and long-lasting. We were also really happy to see that the straps are secure but also have releases for easy, quick changes.

Our final thoughts

We really like the Nordgreen approach to minimalist watches. Elegant Scandinavian design meets a strong engineering process to create a watch that’s refined, customisable and tells a story. If that wasn’t enough, their commitment to sustainability means that a Nordgreen watch feels as good as it looks. 

Any Nordgreen watch is a good investment, but only you can tell which one would suit your lifestyle best. Now that we’ve broken it down, what do you think? Are you Team Philosopher, Team Pioneer, or Team Native

Nordgreen - Philosopher
White Dial & Brown Leather

$209 -

Nordgreen - Pioneer
White Dial & Black Leather

$279 -

Nordgreen - Native
Black Dial & Rose Gold Mesh