If there were a global ranking for tired clichés, “less is more” would probably be right near the top. In the world of watch design, however, it still rings true. Tasteful minimalism can bring out the best elements of a watch, instead of burying them in a sea of unnecessary detail; its very nature makes a watch more comfortable to wear, and more versatile in the styles it’s paired with. Above all, a well-executed minimalist watch is an artful accent, rather than a flashy main course. With that in mind, here are our picks for ten of the best.
There aren’t too many watches made for the blind, for obvious reasons. With the Eone Bradley, however, this niche market has been making waves in the sighted world. Once you see it, you’ll understand why: this minimal, tactile approach is a completely different way of telling time, with magnetic bearings instead of hands. By engaging touch as well as sight, it’s engaging on a new, unique level.
Movement: Ronda Quartz
Mondaine Helvetica No1 Light
Over the past 70 years, Helvetica has become the most widely used typeface in the world, and a Swiss design icon in its own right. Mondaine, famous for creating the Swiss railway clock, decided to pay tribute to a fellow design legend with the Mondaine Helvetica, which has a minimalist bent that still retains a bit of playfulness. This version, the Helvetica Light, takes the simple theme even further, and creates a beautiful design in the process.
Movement: Ronda 515 Quartz
Braun AW 10 EVO
First off: yes, that is the same Braun that makes your electric shaver. The brainchild of Braun Chief Design Officer Dieter Rams, the AW 10 EVO brings the brand’s signature functionalist aesthetic to the watch world. The integrated bracelet and lugs along with the sterile numerals give it an industrial, slightly futuristic feel on the wrist, while the unique one-piece case construction makes this a durable, streamlined choice. It might be stark, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty.
Unimatic has established a unique, recognizable style that marries minimalist design and tool watches. Powered by the Seiko NH35A automatic movement, the U1-FM comes in around $800, features 300m of water resistance and offers eye-catching looks with a sterile rotating bezel (a single pip ensures it remains functional). Unimatic also offers other options, such as a black, DLC-coated case or other (less minimal) bezel iterations.
Movement: Seiko NH35A Automatic
Looking for a splash of restrained Mad Men cool on your wrist? The Hamilton Intra-Matic has you covered. Available in either a retro 38mm or more modern 42mm size, the Intra-Matic’s silver sunburst dial gives off a slick mid-century vibe. The ETA 2892-2 movement powering the Intra-Matic is impressive in itself, and its decorated rotor is on display through a wide sapphire case back.
Movement: ETA 2892-2 Automatic
Sinn 556 A
Not every minimalist design is some waifish dress watch. Minimalist watches can be tough and sporty too, as evidenced by the Sinn 556 A, which features subtle updates for 2020. A solid 200m of water resistance, a bold, super-legible dial and a generous helping of glowing green lume make this watch as functional as it is handsome. Its pared-down pilot-watch looks blend classic military themes with an ultramodern vibe, and render it a natural choice for more casual wear.
Movement: SW200-1 Automatic
Georg Jensen Koppel Automatic
Summed up in one sentence, the Koppel is a nearly perfect expression of Danish design. Everything here is pared down, not just minimal but almost skeletal. The hands are elegantly thin needles, and you won’t find any text or numerals here. The only markers are a ring of tiny black dots, unobtrusive but still easily legible. It’s the kind of thing you expect to see on the wrist of a famous architect.
Movement: ETA 2824
Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope
The modern minimalist design movement started at the Bauhaus school in Germany in the early 20th century, and Max Bill was one of its greatest students. Responsible for one of the most famous pieces of designer furniture ever, the multipurpose Ulm Stool, Bill also laid the groundwork for a watch in 1961. It’s remained nearly unchanged since, and this 2020 version takes an appropriately minimalistic approach to its colors and details.
Movement: ETA 7750 Automatic
Nomos Ahoi Datum
Marine chronometers have have sported fairly consistent design language for well over a century — even after they were adopted into wristwatch form. Nomos changes this up with their gorgeous Ahoi Neomatik, featuring a simplified nautical look and gorgeous dial in this 2020 version for Doctors Without Borders. Its in-house caliber Epsilon movement is a work of art itself, richly decorated with Geneva stripes.
Movement: Nomos DUW 5101 Automatic
Ochs und Junior Moonphase
Moonphase watches are considered by many to be some of the greatest expressions of watchmaking prowess. What they aren’t usually considered, however, is minimal — most moonphases are ornate, finely detailed pieces. The Ochs und Junior Moonphase bucks that trend in favor of a clean, simple design that also includes a novel date-indicator track. Even more impressively, it’s one of the most accurate moonphases in the world, needing readjustment every 3,478 years.
Movement: Modified ETA 2824-2 Automatic