As smartphones continue to cement themselves as permanent fixtures in our lives, the role of the watch has evolved. What was once an essential timekeeping device and status symbol is now a statement of personal aesthetic and taste, yet it remains a staple purchase for professionals, proving itself to be a timeless accessory.
From the late 90s until around the early 2010s, oversized watches were the trend, and cases would often cover the entire wrist. However, as devices have gotten slimmer and lighter, so has consumer demand for elegant, minimalist design, and smaller watches have made a triumphant return.
Sitting at a case size of 38mm, the five men’s dress watches on this list are the perfect blend of luxury, style, sophistication, and functionality for the modern wrist. Each would be a remarkable addition to your collection.
1. NOMOS Glashütte’s TANGENTE 38
With its angular Bauhaus-inspired black typography over a clean, white dial, the German-made Tangente 38 watch is a truly handsome piece. Customers have the option of choosing complementary steel hands on the central and small seconds dial, or adding a dash of colour with the unusual yet visually pleasing tempered Cornflower Blue.
Its black strap is made from one of the most beautiful and sought-after leathers in the world. Genuine Horween Shell Cordovan leather is like fine wine – it only gets better with age, which makes this a fantastic piece for a family heirloom.
The jewel-rich Alpha movement is an original NOMOS Glashütte creation, and uses their NOMOS swing system to achieve chronometer-level accuracy. It requires manual winding once every 43 hours, and you can see it in motion by flipping the watch face to reveal its sapphire crystal glass back. The Tangente 38 is splash-proof, with a water-resistance of 3 atm.
2. SEIKO’S SARB033
If the clean white look of the Tangente 38 isn’t your cup of tea, then the SARB033’s sleek, fine-brushed stainless-steel case and black dial are as far away from the design as you can get. Instead of leather and typography, this Japanese watch combines luminous hands and silver-tone hour markers with a stainless-steel bracelet to achieve its simplicity. A date-window sits at the 3 o’clock position.
This watch is meant to see a little more action than the Tangente 38. With a water resistance of up to 330 feet, you can take it swimming and snorkelling, but might want to hold off on diving. The Seiko 6R15 movement has both a manual and automatic winding feature which lasts up to 50 hours, and you can watch it at work through the sapphire crystal back-glass. The deployant clasp frees your wrist from the adjustable bracelet with a quick press of two buttons.
3. JUNGHANS’ Max Bill Automatic 027/3400.00
Perhaps the most classic-looking design on this list, unlike the previous two entries, this German watch has a fully self-winding J800.1 movement, which boasts a 38-hour power reserve. Like most Bauhaus-inspired watches it carries very simple elements, with the black dial consisting only of numbers and minute markers coated with an environmentally friendly luminous material for added lustre. It’s water resistant only up to 100ft, so you’ll want to skip swimming entirely with this one.
If you love the understated, traditional look, the Max Bill 027/3400.00 is truly as good as it gets. The convex plexiglass dial window with scratch-resistant coating is a plus if you’re prone to dropping or bumping your accessories, and sits inside a round, polished stainless-steel case with the Max Bill signature on the back. Its black strap is made from genuine, soft, lightweight calfskin leather, and secured with a stainless-steel buckle.
4. HAMILTON’s Intra-Matic H38475751
What’s a watch list without a great Swiss piece? Hamilton’s H38475751 is our second entry on this list with a fully-automatic movement, which is exposed by a sapphire crystal skeleton back. The ETA Caliber 2892-A2 has a power reserve of up to 42 hours – the third highest on this list.
Because the Intra-Matic is a series of watches, you have a few more options when it comes to the 38mm design. Choose either a silver or black dial with a round stainless-steel or gold-plated stainless-steel case and buckle. The silver dial comes with black hands and dial markers, and the black dial comes with silver-tone hands and dial markers. All four have a date window in the 6 o’clock position and are water resistant for up to 164 feet.
With a black strap made from genuine calf-leather and secured with a tang clasp, this simple, American-inspired watch is for the no-frills individual.
5. VARIO's Eclipse Dress Watch
This timepiece carries the most customization options on the list. Designed in Singapore, the Eclipse 316L stainless steel case’s rear engraving was inspired by the watch’s connection to the ‘Heavenly Hound’ mythology.
Current colour options for the watch’s convex sunburst dial include silver, red, green, blue, grey and black with steel bevelled hands and markers. The crystal is 3mm high double domed sapphire with an anti-reflective inner coating, which makes it more handsome and more visible even in harsh sunlight.
Eclipse has two movement options, both with a 40-hour reserve. The first is the Miyota 6T33 hand-wound mechanical movement that moves at 28.8kbph (High Beat) with 40 hours of reserve power. The second is the Seiko VH31 Sweeping Quartz movement, which gives you the sweeping seconds movement of a mechanical watch without the need for winding, and gets 4 ticks every second for greater accuracy. The Seiko VH31 is especially rare as sweeping seconds quartz movements are hardly ever seen outside mechanical watches, and this one can run continuously on a battery for up to two years which is pretty impressive given it ticks 4 times every second.
Strap options include several Harris Tweed colours, and ZRC French-made full grain leather. Harris Tweed is highly regarded as one of the most breathable, durable, and versatile watch strap materials and ZRC leather is both biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
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