For more than a century now, wristwatches have been an integral part of a man’s outfit. It’s the finishing touch that every man needs.
Some even think that the watch you wear tells a lot about your personality. Certainly, a good-looking timepiece goes a long way in completing the desired look – whether your style is sporty, casual, or ultra-elegant.
In this article, we will focus on the latter.
Mostly known as dress watches, these timepieces are a match made in heaven for more formal outfits. With that said, some men combine them with semi-formal or even casual styles for a slightly bigger contrast. This way, they can draw more attention to the piece.
Whatever your strategy is, we’re pretty sure that after reading this article your head will be spinning with ideas regarding your next purchase.
Today’s piece contains a list of the top 10 classiest watches for men in 2021. All the included models come from highly popular brands known for their highly elegant approach. Further good news is: these timepieces cater to contrasting budgets.
The first batch of 5 watches is for those who want to get a reliable and classy-looking timepiece without breaking the bank.
The next 5 watches are top-shelf models from some of the most refined watchmakers. If you’re not constrained to low-to-mid price points, go for any of these.
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Classiest Watches for Men (Affordable Picks)
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A classy-looking watch with reliable specs doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
The five brands listed in this section can be considered low-to-mid budget. The cheapest model can be snatched for around $100 whilst the most pricey is unlikely to set you back more than $300, anyway.
Now let’s have a closer look at each of these models.
There are not many more classiest watch brands at affordable price points than Bulova. With the 1875 date of foundation, the American watchmaker is also one of the oldest hands of the horological industry.
The model we have here belongs to the popular American Clipper collection and simply screams elegance.
Design-wise, it’s as class(ic) as it gets. The never-failing combination of black and silver makes sure the timepiece won’t look out of place in many different outfits.
The stainless steel case measures 42mm in diameter, meaning it’s suitable for folks with varying wrist sizes. Interestingly, the caseback is transparent. Such an approach is quite unique but not Bulova – the brand is known for displaying love for skeleton-type watches. The see-through back allows you to peek at the intricate workings of the mechanical movement.
The watch comes with a genuine, croco-embossed black leather strap with a standard tang buckle closure.
The dial is designed in a very minimalistic way. The three-hand analog configuration points to tiny line-shaped indices – there are no numerals. Additionally, there’s a day and date window positioned at three o’clock. That’s also the place of the pull & push crown. At six o’clock there’s the “Automatic” label whilst at noon o’clock the Bulova logo. Protecting the dial from cracks and scratches is mineral crystal glass.
This classy Bulova watch runs on Swiss automatic movement with a power reserve of 40 hours. It also comes with a modest water-resistance rating of 3ATM/30m.
If you can’t afford a Cartier model yet but love the style associated with it, Seiko SUP880 is one of the best Tank Watch homages you will find these days. Unsurprisingly, it’s been included on our list of best Cartier Tank homages.
When it comes to men’s dress watches, this one is as vintage as it gets.
The gold-tone stainless steel case is by far the tiniest on the list. Measuring just 28,5mm in diameter, it’s probably best suited for men with small-to-medium wrists. It might look just a tad too fine on those with larger sizes. Unlike the Bulova model above, this one has a solid caseback.
Seiko SUP880 shares the classic choice of a black leather strap.
The dial is very reminiscent of the original Tank Solo watch. It features just two arrow-shaped hands responsible for measuring hours and minutes. The second hand has been omitted. The central part of the snow-white dial features a rectangle inside of which there’s a Seiko logo (at 12 o’clock) and the “Solar” movement label at 6 o’clock. The fact that the watch hands don’t escape the rectangle while pointing to the large Roman numerals adds to the aesthetic.
Characteristically for a dress watch, the cabochon crown is located at 3 o’clock.
This Seiko model runs on a Japanese quartz movement, providing much better accuracy than an automatic watch. However, it’s not a regular battery-powered caliber as it’s powered by light. On a full charge, it can easily run for 1 year. Solar movements are a great choice for those who care about the environment and are not too fond of changing batteries. On the waterproofing front, this model is also water-resistant up to 30m.
Models with leather straps ooze class but a list of classiest watches for men wouldn’t feel complete without an all-stainless steel timepiece.
Are you familiar with the iconic Rolex Submariner? You must be. The Mathey-Tissot model we have here is one of the most reliable and affordable Submariner homages out there.
Mathey-Tissot watches have been around forever. Created in 1886, the brand has been through many ups and downs. Despite not being as popular as during its glory days of the 50s and 60s, it still provides classy-looking and reliable timepieces at low price points.
The one here belongs to the Mathey GMT collection that pays homage to the already mentioned Submariner. GMT is an abbreviation for Greenwich Mean Time. Watches with this feature allow you to track two time zones simultaneously. You can read more about this type in this article.
The watch comes with a 42mm stainless steel case that includes a black uni-directional bezel designed to show you time in the second timezone. The caseback is solid.
The bracelet is also made from stainless steel and uses a fold-over clasp with a push-button release.
The dial is very reminiscent of the iconic Submariner model. The classic combination of background and white hour markers looks good in any setting. Since it’s a GMT model, the watch uses a 4-hand complication. Apart from the standard 3 silver-tone hands, there’s a fourth GMT hand in blue color. That’s the one responsible for tracking the additional timezone of your choice.
Orient is the second Japanese watchmaker on the list and it’s another one that provides stylish designs that oftentimes look way beyond their moderate price tags.
Manufacturing beautiful mechanical watches since 1950, the brand is known to provide some of the best dollar-for-dollar value in this field of timepieces.
The classy model we have here belongs to the vintage-styled Sun & Moon collection. The biggest characteristic of these watches is the Sun & Moon Phase sub-dial that comes in the form of a rotating disc with the moon painted over. It represents the cycle from one new moon to another.
The watch comes with stainless steel with a fairly standard size of 42mm. The central part of the caseback is transparent and allows you to watch the workings of the mechanical movement.
Adding some diversity to today’s list of classiest men’s watches, this one uses a dark blue leather strap. The strap comes with a push-button deployment closure.
The navy blue dial is quite busy and those who value a minimalistic approach might find it a bit difficult to read. However, it for sure grabs the eye.
The centrally-positioned three hands point to large Roman numerals. Between four and six o’clock, there’s the already mentioned Sun & Moon phase sub-dial. Adjacent to it, located between 9 o’clock and 11 o’clock, there’s another sub-dial indicating weekday. Finally, at 8 o’clock there’s a date window and at 2 o’clock the Orient logo. What’s quite unheard of in the case of watches oscillating in this price range is the presence of a sapphire crystal glass. As things stand, it’s the most scratch-resistant material out there and an integral part of all luxury watchmakers.
Unsurprisingly for an Orient watch, it runs on an automatic movement. It’s also water-resistant up to 50m.
The list of classiest men’s watches wouldn’t feel really complete without the evergreen look of a brown leather strap model.
Completing the Holy Trinity of Japanese watch brands is Citizen. On the market for nearly 100 years now, the brand is predominantly known for its unique Eco-Drive movements. Watches with this label use quartz calibers powered by light. Whilst most competitors have only one or two solar lines to pick from, in the case of Citizen a lion’s share of models doesn’t need battery replacements.
In terms of looks, it’s definitely the most minimalist watch listed here.
Although it might not look so in the attached picture, it comes with a fairly massive case measuring 46mm. Hence, it might be a better fit for folks with larger wrists. Unsurprisingly for a quartz timepiece, the caseback is solid.
The watch belongs to Citizen’s Weekender collection and uses a brown leather strap with a tang buckle closure.
The ivory dial particularly screams the minimalistic approach. Simple, easy to read, and classy. The three-hand configuration points to Arab numerals that also have minute markers in between. At three o’clock located is the crown, at 6 o’clock the Eco-Drive label, and finally, at 12 o’clock the Citizen logo.
As already mentioned, the model runs on Citizen’s proprietary Eco-Drive quartz movement. Eco-Drive batteries are some of the longest-lasting and can work for up to 10 years. When it comes to water resistance, it’s 5ATM/50m.
Classiest Watches for Men (Top-End Picks)
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Now, if you’re lucky enough not to be limited in terms of budget, you might want to check out higher-end classic models.
The top 5 classiest men’s watches below come from the most renowned brands in the industry. Prepare to spend between 4 and 5 figures if you fall in love with any of these.
Let’s have a closer look now.
Rolex Air King
There’s no better way to open up the list of luxury models with the mighty Rolex.
Producing top-shelf Swiss timepieces since 1905, Rolex is probably the most recognized (and desired) watchmaker in the world. The model I picked here belongs to the Air-King collection which, as the brand itself states, is the ultimate “homage to aviation”.
With a design paying tribute to the pioneers of flight and the Oyster’s role in the rich history of aviation, the model is one of the most desired collector’s items. That said, it’s a timepiece with an unbelievably class design that will look outstanding in any setting. With that price tag, it probably should!
Both the 40mm case and the solid-link bracelet are made from Oystersteel – which is another name for the 904 stainless steel type. Rolex trademarks their watches with the Oystersteel label as the production of this steel type is conducted fully in-house. For sure, the material has stronger anti-corrosion properties than regular stainless steel and is generally much more durable. The caseback of this model is solid.
The Air-King comes with a distinctive back dial that combines large 3, 6, and 9 numerals marking hours and a prominent minute scale for navigational time readings. The large crown is positioned at three o’clock whilst at 6 o’clock is the Air-King label, and at noon o’clock the well-known and loved Rolex logo.
Naturally for a watch in this price range, it uses a top-shelf Swiss automatic movement. The exact caliber used in the Air-King model is 3131 and is known for its excellent accuracy and reliability. It’s unlikely to lose/gain more than 2 seconds daily.
The watch is water-resistant up to 100m.
To explore more Rolex models, click here.
Longines La Grande
Next on the list of well-known and respected Swiss luxury watchmakers is Longines. Certainly, not as bank-breaking as Rolex yet delivering excellent value for those looking for classy designs and top-quality performance.
With its beginnings dating back as far as 1832, Longines is one of the oldest watch companies in the world – now confidently approaching 2 centuries of existence.
Due to the relatively small cost, Longines La Grande is one of the most frequent choices of folks who value gold-tone watches with elegant, minimalistic designs.
Considering the fact that it’s a men’s model, the 36mm case is definitely on the smaller side. The case, just like the 9-link bracelet, uses a yellow-gold PVD coating. It has a solid caseback. The model is easily noticeable and will definitely turn many heads.
The snow-white dial is as simple as it gets. It features a 2-hand configuration and has been spared the inclusion of a second hand. The hour and minute hands point to fairly inconspicuous Roman numerals. The ultra-tiny crown is located at 3 o’clock whereas the Longines logo occupies the noon o’clock area.
The leading reason why this luxury watch is still relatively affordable is the fact that it runs on quartz movement. The Swiss-made caliber is naturally extremely reliable and accurate but doesn’t match a typical Swiss automatic movement in terms of complexity and craftsmanship.
The water-resistance rating is 30m.
To explore more Longines watches similar to this one, click here.
Next up, we have Omega.
Unsurprisingly, it’s another long-standing Swiss watchmaker. The roots of this brand date back to 1848.
If you’re a fan of watches in the mold of Rolex Submariner, this one is likely to steal your heart as well. The Omega Seamaster is to this day one of the brand’s most iconic releases. If apart from looking stylish you’re also a diving enthusiast, this is your best bet from today’s list.
The case measures 42mm in diameter and is made from stainless steel. Typically for a diving watch, it features a uni-directional bezel to help you keep track of elapsed time underwater. What’s worth noting, the bezel is made from ceramic. You might have noticed that the watch comes with two crowns. Apart from the standard one at three o’clock, there’s an additional one at 10 ‘clock. That’s actually a helium escape valve.
Paying tribute to marine life, the black dial comes with wave patterns. Similar to the Submariner line, it features eight dotted markers signaling hours. 3, 9, and noon o’clock (featuring the Omega logo) come with distinctive symbols whilst at 6 o’clock there’s a date window. Naturally for a diving timepiece, all three watch hands are strongly luminescent.
The watch is powered by a top-shelf Swiss automatic movement. Omega caliber 8800 is tested according to Master Chronometer certification and has strong anti-magnetic, shock-absorbing properties. The +/- 5 seconds/daily accuracy is also impressive.
It’s the watch with the highest water-resistance rating on today’s list – 300m.
Tag Heuer Monaco
Not any less head-turning although not as expensive, it’s time for a Tag Heuer watch.
Since 1860, Tag Heuer has been of the leaders of the Swiss (and global) luxury watch sector.
The model we have here is certainly distinctive. It belongs to Tag Heuer’s Monaco collection, known for its vintage style and rectangular-shaped dials. The collection pays homage to the world of moto racing. In fact, the design is very reminiscent of the iconic timepiece worn by Steve McQueen in the classic 1970 racing film Le Mans. We could go as far as saying it’s the contemporary version of it.
The square case measures 37mm and is made from neatly polished stainless steel. It has a solid caseback. The watch uses an alligator strap with a folding clasp buckle.
The black iridescent dial sits under a domed and beveled sapphire crystal glass. It features two large luminescent hands, pointing to equally massive hour indices. Whilst at first glance you might think the second hand is missing, it’s not. Seconds measurement takes place in the square-shaped sub-dial positioned at 6 o’clock. The bright red hand you see inside is responsible for that. Additionally, at 3 o’clock positioned is a date window and at noon o’clock the Tag Heuer logo along with the Monaco label.
The watch is powered by a Swiss quartz movement and is water-resistant up to 100m.
To explore more classy Tag Heuer watches, click here.
Cartier Tank Solo
Last but not least, closing the list of classiest men’s watches is the French-Swiss luxury watchmaker, Cartier.
Cartier is another member of the oldest hands of the watchmaking industry. Its roots date back to 1847.
Unsurprisingly, the watch included here is the iconic Tank Solo model. Despite a long history, Tank Watches are still as desired nowadays as they were at the time of their launch. The model we have here is pretty modern as it was released in 2004. It pays tribute to the good old days and the original design of the Tank Louis Cartier first introduced in 1918.
The W5200028 model features a rectangular case measuring just 31mm in diameter. The 3-link bracelet is made from the same material and uses a deployment clasp closure. The caseback is solid.
If you go back to the Seiko model we described in the first part of the article, the similarity is obvious. Positioned in the central part of the dial is a rectangle featuring watch hands, as well as a Cartier logo at noon o’clock and the “Automatic” label at 6 o’clock. Unlike the Seiko homage, the original Cartier Tank watch uses a standard three-hand configuration. The dark blue hands point to large Roman numerals. Outside the rectangle, there’s also a date window at 6 o’clock (another distinctive feature). Protecting the dial from damage is the highly durable sapphire crystal.
The watch uses a Swiss automatic movement in the form of Cartier’s in-house caliber 049. It has an accuracy of around +/- 3 seconds daily.
The water-resistance rating of this model is 30m.
For more Cartier dress watches, click here.