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The Best Two-Tone Watches, and Why They Don't Suck

Steel and gold "two-tone" watches provoke strong feelings, but they're making a comeback.

best two tone watches steel gold
Yema

Two-tone watches are those which combine mostly steel case/bracelet constructions with gold elements for a bi-color look. This sounds simple enough, maybe even attractive — but this is a highly contentious combination of metals.

There's clearly an audience that appreciates the look, as evidenced by many recent two-tone releases — but when I say contentious, I mean some people really hate it. (Editor's Note: I really hate it.) For them, the look evokes something dated, cheap and even somehow sleazy. (Editor's Note: Like, really sleazy.) They'll say it reminds them of their tanned, octogenarian grandfather or looks like a compromise for those who want to be flashy but can't afford full-gold (Editor's Note: My grandfathers were never tan.) Little else in the watch world provokes vitriol like two-tone.

Clearly people who feel that way shouldn't buy or wear such watches. Those who don't share that sentiment, however, might counter that what some call "dated" others might call "retro." So why shouldn't two-tone have the same comeback that just about everything in watches from the 1960s and '70s presently enjoys? In fact, there's been a marked increase in two-tone watches released in recent years, and one supposes that it's riding the vintage wave.

It's not too hard to understand the anti-two-tone point of view, but this view is beginning to feel less relevant itself. Two-tone is like the mustache of watches: it shares stylistic associations with the swinging '70s — but attitudes are changing and styles from those eras that were once rejected somehow look cool again. (To some people.)

Below are some two-tone watches that you'll either love or hate.

Nixon Base

nixon two tone watch
Nixon

The two-tone look isn't restricted to fancy-schmancy watches: if you simply like the warm color combination and want it in a casual package, this Nixon digital watch is one of the most affordable ways to get it on your wrist.

  • Movement: Quartz
  • Case diameter: 38mm
  • Water resistance: 100m
  • Price: $75
  • Manufacturer info: nixon.com

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    Timex Q Falcon Eye

    timex two tone quartz watch
    Timex

    The Timex Q watches are quartz-powered, proud of it and we love them for it. The Falcon Eye has a captivating look and cool personality, with its unique dial and applied, three-dimensional indices and text. Could it have been even more two-toned? Probably, but it meets the basic definition in mostly steel, with a bezel and crown in a gold-toned execution.

    • Movement: Quartz
    • Case diameter: 38mm
    • Water resistance: 50m
    • Price: $179
    • Manufacturer info: timex.com

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      Seiko 5 Sports

      seiko quartz two tone watch
      Seiko

      The Seiko 5 Sports is great as a casual beater, but the newer family that's downsized to 40mm and sans the rotating diver-style bezel has a more versatile appeal. Here, it looks downright snazzy and offers the two-tone looks and an automatic-winding mechanical movement at an impressively approachable price.

      • Movement: Seiko 4R36 automatic
      • Case diameter: 40mm
      • Water resistance: 100m
      • Price: $275
      • Manufacturer info: seikowatches.com

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        Yema Superman Steel Bronze

        yema superman steel bronze two tone watch
        Yema

        While two-tone usually refers to gold or gold-toned elements, bronze kind of accomplishes the same thing — so we'll include it here and let you be the judge. These new versions of Yema's popular Superman dive watch emphasize the brand's new movement, with the unique combination of a steel case paired with bezel and crown in bronze.

        • Movement: YEMA2000 automatic
        • Case diameter: 39mm or 41mm
        • Water resistance: 300m
        • Price: $545 (kickstarter price)
        • Manufacturer info: yema.com

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          Hamilton Jazzmaster Day Date Auto

          hamilton jazzmaster viewmatic auto two tone watch
          Hamilton

          You can't expect solid gold components at this price range, but PVD gold-coated steel does the trick visually. What you can expect from Hamilton, however, is a strong value proposition, with Swiss automatic movements, premium features like sapphire crystal and great build quality. In other words, you get the two-tone look in a solid package for a pretty reasonable price.

          • Movement: ETA H-40 automatic
          • Case diameter: 42mm
          • Water resistance: 50m
          • Price: $1,145
          • Manufacturer info: hamiltonwatch.com

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            Zodiac Super Sea Wolf

            zodiac super sea wolf two tone watch
            Zodiac

            Gold and two-tone might seem to go against the character of a dive watch as a rugged tool, but it can work — depending on your tastes. Zodiac takes a classical approach with gold-toned bezel, crown and gold center links for its Jubilee-style bracelet.

            • Movement: STP 3-13 automatic
            • Case diameter: 40mm
            • Water resistance: 200m
            • Price: $1,395
            • Manufacturer info: zodiacwatches.com

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              Oris Divers Sixty-Five

              oris diver sixty five two tone watch
              Oris

              Another example of two-tone executed in bronze rather than gold, the Oris Divers Sixty Five has a very throwback feel to begin with, and the bicolor treatment only emphasizes this. The bracelet completes the look, and the dark blue dial adds some interest.

              • Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
              • Case diameter: 40mm
              • Water resistance: 100m
              • Price: $2,450
              • Manufacturer info: oris.ch

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                TAG Heuer Aquaracer

                tag heuer two tone watch
                Tag Heuer

                Though TAG Heuer's Aquaracer dive watch got a modern redesign a few years ago, the two-tone look of this particular model has a very '80s throwback feel. A blue dial and the choice of yellow gold-coating give it even more glitz, and it's sure to be one of those bi-color watches that produces polarized reactions.

                • Movement: ETA 2824 automatic
                • Case diameter: 41mm
                • Water resistance: 300m
                • Price: $3,100
                • Manufacturer info: tagheuer.com

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                  Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G

                  tudor black bay chrono sg two tone watch
                  Tudor

                  "S&G," in Tudor speak, refers to steel and gold. The Black Bay Chrono hit its stride with this particular version that offers a relatively dark look for a two-tone watch with its black dial and bezel. There are several strap option, but if you're going full-in for two-tone you need the bracelet, which features gold center links.

                  • Movement: Tudor MT5813 automatic
                  • Case diameter: 41mm
                  • Water resistance: 200m
                  • Price: $7,000
                  • Manufacturer info: tudorwatch.com

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                    Cartier Santos Dumont

                    cartier santos dumont two tone watch
                    Cartier

                    The Cartier Santos Dumont is the original pilot's watch, but it feels dressy from a modern perspective and looks incredible in this two-tone iteration. The gold hands echo the gold bezel and it all looks seductive against a black dial with a black leather strap. An in-house, manually wound Cartier movement keeps it thin and elegant.

                    • Movement: Cartier 430 MC manual
                    • Case diameter: 31.4mm
                    • Water resistance: 30m
                    • Price: $7,250
                    • Manufacturer info: cartier.com

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                      Bulgari Octo Roma

                      bvlgari octo roma two tone watch
                      Bvlgari

                      The Bulgari Octo's complicated case design offers a lot of possibilities for swapping in certain elements for ones produced in gold. Here, several components are in 18k rose gold, while silver dial with gold hands and indices provides strong contrast and drives home the two-tone theme.

                      • Movement: Bulgari BVL 191 automatic
                      • Case diameter: 41mm
                      • Water resistance: 50m
                      • Price: $7,350
                      • Manufacturer info: bulgari.com

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                        Omega Speedmaster Mark II

                        omega speedmaster mark ii two tone watch
                        Omega

                        The modern remake of the Omega Speedmaster Mark II comes in three variations, one of which is this two-tone model. Solid 18k rose gold chronograph pushers and bracelet links use the brand's own Sedna gold alloy. It goes to show that the bicolor look can work well for different types of watches and on a wide range of designs.

                        • Movement: Omega 3330 automatic
                        • Case diameter: 42.4mm
                        • Water resistance: 100m
                        • Price: $11,400
                        • Manufacturer info: omegawatches.com

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                          Rolex Datejust 36

                          rolex datejust 36 two tone watch
                          Rolex

                          Oddly, two-tone Rolex watches have a special name in the Rolex lexicon: their case/bracelet material(s) is (are collectively) called "Rolesor" — even when using white gold, which starts to blur the definition of two-tone. The Datejust is available in other sizes and configurations, too, but it's probably the archetypal two-tone watch in many people's minds.

                          • Movement: Rolex 3235 automatic
                          • Case diameter: 36mm
                          • Water resistance: 100m
                          • Price: $11,700
                          • Manufacturer info: rolex.com

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                            Breitling Chronomat B01

                            breitling chronomat b01 two tone watch
                            Breitling

                            After Rolex, Breitling is one of the brands most associated with the two-tone look. This Chronomat is new for 2020 and uses 18k red gold (just about any gold alloy can be used in two-tone) for various components. With a blue dial and red seconds hand, the overall aesthetic verges on colorful.

                            • Movement: Breitling 01 automatic
                            • Case diameter: 42mm
                            • Water resistance: 200m
                            • Price: $12,100
                            • Manufacturer info: breitling.com

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                              Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

                              audemars piguet royal oak selfwinding two tone watch
                              Audemars Piquet

                              One of the most iconic watch designs proves its versatility by looking good in many different iterations. Two-tone? Of course it fits. The bezel, crown, bracelet links and dial elements are in 18k pink gold, but the signature screws in the bezel are steel, providing an interesting contrast.

                              • Movement: Audemars Piguet 3120 automatic
                              • Case diameter: 37mm
                              • Water resistance: 50m
                              • Price: $23,800
                              • Manufacturer info: audemarspiguet.com

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