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Best Dress Watch Under $1000

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The Orient Bambino has long been a favourite among budget-conscious dress watch buyers. That remains true with this vintage-inspired edition from the venerable Japanese watchmaker. The redesigned in-house F6722 automatic movement hacks and hand-winds the 2nd Gen Bambino, while its cream-coloured dial with roman numerals and domed mineral crystal gives off traditional feelings. For around $150, it’s a pretty classy piece.


Timex has had a revival in recent years by resurrecting some of its heritage designs, and this 2018 release was the runaway hit that started it all. The watch was a departure for the iconic American brand, opting for a 34mm case, hand-wound movement, lume-free silver sunburst dial, and tall acrylic crystal over the quartz movements and Indiglo of Timex’s modern catalogue. The watch appears to have emerged from a gateway from 1963, which is a wonderful thing.


As previously stated, rules are designed to be disregarded, which leads us to this dress chronograph. It’s important to note that dress chronographs aren’t really new. They were popular in the 1930s, and legendary watch collector (and titular brand owner) Dan Henry was inspired to create this piece. The watch’s Art Deco design is obviously influenced by the era in which it was created, yet its symmetrical busy dial is just as appealing now.


Following the popularity of Seiko’s initial Cocktail Time watch several years ago, the company produced an entire line under their more expensive Presage label based on the concept. The reference shown here is based on the original model, and it’s still the greatest in our opinion because to that jaw-dropping ice blue radial sunburst dial. The faceted dauphine hands, polished shark tooth indexes, and dark blue leather strap round off this gorgeous timepiece.


Baltic founder Etienne Malec established the firm as a tribute to his late father and his collection of old timepieces, and as a result, the Paris-based microbrand produces some of the most elegant vintage-style watches available. The HMS 002 is a crisp three-hander influenced by the 1940s. The watch, which has a stepped sector dial and conservative Arabic indicators, is somewhat evocative of some old pieces from Swiss luxury brand Longines – but at a considerably lower price.


Tissot’s current Visodate reissue was always going to be one of the best sub-$1,000 dress watches of the last decade. However, the Le Locle brand recently revamped this fan favourite to make it an even better value proposition than before. The watch now features the company’s Powermatic 80 movement with an impressive 80-hour power reserve, as well as updated vintage dial text, a curvier and more slimline casing, improved finishing throughout, and new hues including this stunning champagne sunburst option. Tissot, bravo.


Bulova, like fellow American heritage brand Timex, is seeing a rebirth. And, like Timex, their resurgence is being fueled by a return to their illustrious history. The Breton is part of the vintage-inspired Joseph Bulova collection. The line, named after the company’s founder, consists of Swiss-made watches with designs inspired by Bulova’s rich archives. With its tank-shaped case, blush dial, and lizard grain strap, this watch would have looked quite at home on the wrist of Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart. But you can do it as well.


Stainless steel watches are frequently regarded as dress watches these days, however purists may prefer a precious metal such as gold. While you won’t find a solid gold watch for under a grand, you can get one that’s been completely soaked with gold PVD treatment, such as this Zodiac. The contemporary Olympos is a revival of a funky Zodiac dress watch from the 1960s that retains its famous manta ray case while adding modern elements like a sapphire crystal and the basically-in-house STP 3-13 automatic movement with a rarely-seen-at-this-price swan neck regulator.


The Max Bill, which has remained almost untouched since its inception 50 years ago, is a classic example of Bauhaus design. Variations on the concept account for a sizable portion of Junghans’ catalog, which includes everything from chronographs to a solar-powered version. However, with its plexiglass crystal, 34mm case size, and wealth of simplicity, we favor the original hand-wound edition. Some things simply cannot be improved, and the Max Bill Hand-Winding is one of them.


As you’ve probably seen, there are a lot of vintage-inspired watches on this list, which is due to the fact that dress watch styling peaked in the mid-century, when they were the flagships of watch makers. Take, for example, Hamilton. With its domed sapphire crystal, superior ETA 2892-2-based movement, and amazing attention to detail, such as the curving minute hand that follows the sloping edge of the dial, the modern-day Intra-Matic is a real value proposition. Of course, the Don Draper-esque throwback look helps as well.


Certina frequently works in the shadow of fellow reasonably priced Swatch Group stablemates Hamilton, Tissot, and Mido, although this is due to how Swatch marketing and distributes the brand rather than the timepieces themselves. Certina truly produces excellent products, such as this 60th anniversary celebration of their DS line. This expensive-looking dress watch with a green dial has a high-quality Milanese mesh bracelet, an anti-magnetic 80-hour power reserve movement, and a large date complication for a bit of whimsy.


Zelos is a microbrand noted for their massive and tough dive watches, as well as their creative use of materials such as titanium Damascus and meteorite. So it came as a surprise when they produced a dress watch in 2020, but they outdid themselves. The Nova’s movement, a hand-wound ETA 7001 with Côtes de Genève finishing and blued screws, is outstanding for the price, but the main pull of the Nova is its style, which brilliantly blends vintage cues (look at that linen dial) with modern touches (it has surprisingly good lume).


Stowa is correct in calling this watch the Marine Classic, as it is based on the company’s 1939 Marine observation timepieces. We try to keep it as classic as possible while using it as a dress piece, so you can change the indices, date, and movement. That means Roman numeral indices, no date, and a hand-wound embellished Sellita SW215-1 movement (though that will set you back a little more than $1,000). Regardless of the setup, you’ll get genuine thermal-blued steel hands and a high-polished white enamel-look dial.


B&M is a true premium brand, and they rarely create timepieces for less than $2K, let alone $1,000. Surprisingly, they actually offer this quartz dress watch at a discount. If quartz offends you, consider what you’ll get with this piece: A stunning dress watch from a prestigious brand, with luxury-level finishing throughout, a premium leather strap, and high-end details such as rhodium-plated hands.


What does this watch not have to offer for under a thousand dollars? Swiss heritage label? Check. Duophine hands with two finishes? Check. Beautifully crafted ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement? Check. Seconds hand made of thermal-blued steel? Check. Is that an eggshell-textured dial? Check. AR-coated sapphire crystal on both sides? Check. This Mido has a lot to offer, and it does it all in a case that is insanely thin at just a hair over 7mm. For a hand-wound or quartz watch, that’s regarded minimal; for an automatic, it’s ludicrous — especially at such a low price.


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