Since the early noughties mechanical watches have been getting ever chunkier and more ostentatious as horology becomes increasingly gripped by bling. At the same time, Fitbit and the Apple Watch have driven an explosion in high tech watches.
However, minimalist watches – those stripped back in detail and technical complications – have silently been growing in popularity. Many people are now looking for simple watches with clean designs that exude a sense of sophistication – and won’t bother you with updates a million times a day.
Needless to say, we’re big fans of this trend. Here’s our roundup of the best minimalist watches you can buy in 2019.
Junghans Max Bill
Max Bill was a pioneer of minimalist design. Trained at the Bauhaus school, he became a revered voice in architecture as well as industrial, graphic and typeface design. The books he wrote while a professor in Zurich remain influential to this day – especially to those who follow the Ulm School of Design (which Max founded).
He teamed up with German watch manufacturer Junghans in 1962 to create a set of mechanical watches that have become iconic. They are towards the more expensive end of this list but are guaranteed to get you compliments.
Brathwait The Classic Slim
Brathwait is one of the many watches to come out of Kickstarter – but unlike a lot of its ilk it’s actually gone on to become a success. Their philosophy is to cut out the middle man and give you a transparent breakdown of the costs of manufacture. It means you get features like sapphire glass for a fraction of the price you would pay in shops.
Their Classic Slim is a beautiful example of their stripped back design. If you’re after a mechanical rather than a quartz watch, then their Automatic Minimalist isn’t bad looking either. We’ve bought both and can confirm they are straight up bargains.
Mondaine Official Swiss Railways Watch
In 1986 the Mondaine company obtained the rights to the classic clock design used in Swiss train stations. The thick hands with a splash of red are now globally recognized as a classic in minimalist design.
NOMOS Glashütte Metro
Nomos only goes back to 1990, but they have built up a formidable reputation for making high-end watches. All of their movements are produced in house which allows them to make luxury watches for sub $2000. It still puts them at the pricey end of this list though.
Braun Classic BN0211
You probably know Braun more as a shaving company, but their Classic watch shows they’re not just a one trick pony.
The classic American watch maker (even though it’s now owned by the Swiss Swatch group) serves Mad Men realness with its timeless Intra-Matic model.
Optik Instruments – 001_Flagship
Another Kickstarter success, the Flagship has an uncomplicated, intuitive and unique design. They tend to be produced in limited batches, so it can be difficult to get your hands on one.
This Stock quartz watch can retail as low as $150 which is an absolute steal for something as well thought out as this. However at 36mm it will only suit those with a smaller wrist.
Paulin Commuter Numerical C
Taking style cues from the Art Deco movement, Paulin has given the Commuter Nautical B a small style flare through its numerals. We love the results.
You can’t have listened to a podcast over the last few years without running into a commercial for MVMT. They have been at the forefront of the low-cost watch movement – and have let everyone know. Their Avalon piece is one of our favorites.
Max Bill Chronoscope
Another entry from the master himself. The Chronoscope adds a few more details but is designed in such a clever way and to such strict principles that it doesn’t feel overcomplicated or cluttered.
Timex Easy Reader
Timex is a brand that commands respect from the watch community. Their Easy Reader will get you a nod from watch geeks and won’t cost the earth.
Greyhours – Light Hours
Using recesses for hour markings allows Greyhours to add date and day of the week details to their Light Hours model while still keeping the minimalist aesthetic. The bold red of this piece is even more effective in real life.
Rossling & Co. Continental Automatic
From an initial investment of $400 in 2013, Rossling & Co. have built a watch company that is present in over 80 countries. They’re great for people who like the idea of a Daniel Wellington, but have the taste to go with a piece of quality.
VOID – The PKG01
Void has taken inspiration from the last 50 years of watch design to create their super slim quartz PKG01.
Taking a radical approach to the idea of time, Slow present all hours of the day on their dial and dump the minute and second hands. The result is you see time in a more natural way and get a much better idea of your progression throughout the day.
Casio Yellow Gold
The only retro digital watch on our list, this old favorite has limited functions by today’s standards, but still looks fantastic.
Swatch – Pretty Much Any Model
Standing for “Second Watch”, Swatch designs no fuss, everyday watches. A quick look through their website reveals almost endless minimalist designs.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
One of the lower-end watches that Rolex do (but still actually the most expensive model we’re featuring) the Oyster Perpetual is a classy everyday watch. We still definitely prefer the Submariner though!
It takes a lot of discipline to create a smartwatch that doesn’t overwhelm the user. It takes a Danish company to create on that can truly be called minimalist.
Nixon Time Teller
Fashion watches almost universally have a bad reputation, but Nixon deserves to be excepted from this. Their Time Teller stands out on the wrist, yet can still be classed as a minimalist watch.
Despite reminding us of Soviet Style watches, the Tsovet is actually designed in the USA. At 36mm it will be too small for people with larger wrists.
Kitmen Keung LD 1.0
While most manufacturers can’t manage to get one watch onto a dial without overcomplicating things, Kitmen Keung has managed to get two. Their LD (long distance) watch allows you to track the time in two cities at once – the dial on the right looking like a shadow of the one on the left.