In our last print edition, we ran a buying guide for “The Ultimate Dress Watch,” in which I proclaimed the “ultimate” in question was achieved by “a slim case, cast in understated pink or rose gold, given a simple two- or three-hand movement, then finished with a minimalist dial.” They had price tags ranging from $13,800 to $18,000. That’s pretty damn ultimate.
I stand by what I said, though the advice really only applies should you live an idealized version of life in which throwing down an entire economy-car MSRP’s worth of money on a watch worn just for special occasions is no biggie. That’s not everyone. Truth is, you don’t need a solid gold watch — and, for a couple reasons, you’d be better off without one. The aforementioned price is one of them, but the other is that gold isn’t particularly durable; a softer material than standard stainless steel, gold is more prone to scratches and dings.
The PVD gold watch (as we’ve covered before), in which a thin layer of gold is essentially blasted onto a steel case, is a great alternative that looks every bit as good as solid gold without the expense. Further a good dress watch in general doesn’t need to cost much more than $1,000.
So here’s the moment when our best dress watch coverage converges into one cohesive bit of advice. If you’re buying on a budget, but like the ultra-thin gold look, boy have we got some choices for you.
A reissue of a Hamilton dress watch from the 1960s, the Intra-Matic has a decidedly retro look (cinched by the vintage Hamilton logo and domed crystal) but comes in either a 42mm case diameter or the pictured 38mm, which, considering the watch’s thin bezel and empty face, hits the sweet spot. That encompasses an ETA 2892-2 automatic, a relatively thin movement that lends itself to the watch’s slim 10mm profile. The biggest standout is the dial, a sunburst silver number that shimmers when hit by direct light. We’ve recommended the Intra-Matic as an affordable dressy option before, but it looks especially good in PVD gold finishing which adds warmth to the radiant dial and costs only $120 more than steel.
Mido Baroncelli Heritage
A timepiece with a thickness of 6.95mm is one thing, but keeping that profile with an automatic three-hand movement and a $1,090 MSRP is what makes the Baroncelli such an astounding value. Though its face lacks the brilliance of the Hamilton, the Baroncelli gets points for its blued seconds hand and spackled texture, which add a much-needed bit of detail on what would otherwise be a Plain Jane affair. At 39mm, it’s the largest of the trio, but it’s also the only watch that comes in both PVD rose gold (pictured) and yellow gold options. And while most vintage-inspired watches as of late are pastiches of the ‘60s and ‘70s, this watch’s more classic (I’d argue Art Deco) shape is refreshing.
Sekford Type 1A
Mido and Hamilton are both subsidiaries of Swatch Group; considering the resources at both brands’ disposal, it shouldn’t be too surprising that both pack so much value. So what about an indie designer like Sekford? The young British brand’s Type 1A is powered by a Ronda 702 quartz movement. Over $1,100 is a lot for quartz, even for a watch with PVD plating — though it’s worth noting the Ronda 702 can run for five years without a battery replacement.
The Sekford will certainly win most over with its looks and details. Its brilliantly finished case is paired with an aggressively domed crystal that gives the watch a Bauhaus feel, and the minimalist dial hints at the Junghans Max Bill. The hands are made from black brass and the font is, according to the brand, a bespoke take on Chiswick, done in partnership with font foundry Commercial Type.