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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

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.

Casio A158WEA-9CF

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 Casio digital watch is just about the most affordable ways to get it on your wrist.

  • Movement: Quartz
  • Case diameter: 33mm
  • Water resistance: 30m
  • Manufacturer info: casio.com
    Q Timex Reissue Falcon Eye

    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
    • Manufacturer info: timex.com
      Seiko 5 Sports SRPE60
      $186.99 (42% off)

      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
      • Manufacturer info: seikowatches.com
        Yema Superman Steel Bronze

        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
        • Manufacturer info: yema.com
          Hamilton Jazzmaster Day Date Auto

          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
          • Manufacturer info: hamiltonwatch.com
            Zodiac Super Sea Wolf

            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
            • Manufacturer info: zodiacwatches.com
              Oris Divers Sixty-Five

              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
              • Manufacturer info: oris.ch
                Tag Heuer
                TAG Heuer Aquaracer

                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
                • Manufacturer info: tagheuer.com
                  Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G

                  "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
                  • Manufacturer info: tudorwatch.com
                    Bulgari Octo Roma

                    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
                    • Manufacturer info: bulgari.com
                      Cartier Santos-Dumont

                      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: 33.9mm
                      • Water resistance: 30m
                      • Manufacturer info: cartier.com
                        Rolex Explorer

                        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. While something like the Datejust is possibly the archetypal Rolex two-tone watch in many people's minds, Rolex clearly believes in two-tone's popularity as it introduced the Explorer in this configuration for 2021.

                        • Movement: Rolex 3230 automatic
                        • Case diameter: 36mm
                        • Water resistance: 100m
                        • Manufacturer info: rolex.com
                          Omega Speedmaster Mark II

                          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
                          • Manufacturer info: omegawatches.com
                            Breitling Chronomat B01

                            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
                            • Manufacturer info: breitling.com
                              Audemars Piquet
                              Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

                              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
                              • Manufacturer info: audemarspiguet.com
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