22 Watches That Go Seamlessly from the Beach to the Boardroom
It’s that time of year. Far and away, our most popular article of 2018 was The Best Everyday Watches of 2018. Turns out a lot of people are searching for the best everyday watch, the best go-anywhere-do-anything (GADA) watch, or the watch to make the perfect one-watch collection (yes, you can have a one-watch collection. That’s a hill I’ll die on).
With the 2019 trade shows (meh as they were) in the rearview mirror, it’s time to update the list for 2019. In 2018, I looked at the best watches that you could still buy new. For 2019, we’re changing the rules. I’m going to look at the best vintage, pre-owned, and new everyday watches out there.
A reminder: there are no real requirements for an everyday watch besides general durability and comfort. We’re talking about watches that can be dressed up or dressed down. Watches that look as good with a suit as they do alongside a t-shirt and jeans. Lume and water resistance are nice, but not necessary. An everyday wearer can come on a bracelet or strap, as long as it sits comfortably on the wrist. And while we’re willing to pay good money for a watch we’re going to be wearing every day, we can’t spend so much that we feel we have to baby it through every door jamb.
First, up, the best everyday watches you can buy new. I’ve broken them down into three categories: (1) the Under $2,000 Club, (2) the Microbrands, and (3) the Classics.
The Under $2,000 Club
First up, the quintessential G-Shock from Casio. Sure, it’s not as dressy as some of the other watches on this list, but Casio built its G-Shock line on the tenants of durability, toughness, and going anywhere and doing anything. I’ve seen people roll into an office with these on, and I’ll give them a “hey, nice watch” just the same as I would someone wearing a no-date Submariner. It’s just a cool watch. If you don’t like this exact one, Casio has a ton of others to choose from; just go with a positive display to ensure maximum legibility.
Swatch Sistem 51
Swatch’s Sistem 51 collection features a machine-made automatic movement comprised of just 51 parts; the movement also features an impressive 90 hour power reserve. You can pick up a Sistem 51 in a plastic case, or the slightly dressed up Irony line, which features cases made of stainless steel. I prefer the Irony line as an everyday option, but why not have some fun with the original, sporty plastic variety? Oh, and the white version is perpetually popular, for good reason. The watches measure a bit large at 42mm in diameter and more than 13mm thick, but they remain light, sporty, and fun.
Price: starting at $150
Find on Swatch.com
Seiko Sarb 033/035
I’m trying not to do any repeats from last year, but the Seiko Sarb 033 (black) and Sarb 035 (white) are too good not to mention. These 38mm timepieces are perfect everyday watches, with Seiko’s 6R15 automatic movement, sapphire crystal, and 100mm of water resistance. While Seiko ended production on the SARB series (these two watches, plus the SARB 017, the “Alpinist”) in early 2018 — save for that blue Alpinist from Hodinkee — they can still be readily had on forums, Amazon, or eBay. They’re fairly priced around $400, a nice sweet spot for a respectable everyday watch that you won’t feel guilt beating around.
So much of Glashutte-based Nomos’ collection is a study of balance: classic Bauhaus designs with subtle touches of modernity, sizes that don’t offend the sensibilities of men or women, and a number of everyday watches with luxury features that won’t break the bank. Last year I featured the Club line as the best everyday pick, and I would continue to submit that — in the under $1,000 (pre-owned) space — the Club (particular the Campus, with its subtle plots of lume) is still one of the best everyday watches from any brand. In the interest of diversity though, I decided to feature a different Nomos this year.
While the Tangente is perhaps the most famous Nomos, the Orion is the simplest, purest expression of what a watch (and what a Nomos) is. Simple gold-finished stick markers, blue steel hands, small seconds, silver-white dial, and a manageable 35mm case. Nothing more, nothing less. In that way, the Orion is what Nomos is all about. It doesn’t have the lume, water resistance, or other finishings of some of the watches on this list, but it doesn’t need them.
Price: starting at $2,020
See the collection from Nomos.
Sinn 556A or 556i
German brand Sinn is known primarily for making a variety of no-fuss, classically-inspired sports watches. Perhaps the best expression of this is the Sinn 556 collection, a great collection of sports watch that aren’t trying to be anything but. Both are 38.5mm in diameter, with classic matte dials and plenty of lume on the indices. The 556A (above) adds large 3-6-9 indices. Both are water resistant to 200m, and feature an ETA 2824-2 inside. Both models are perfect expressions of no-nonsense German engineering that get the job done.
Price: Starting at $1,090
For the full collection, visit Sinn.
Stowa Flieger Klassik
One more German brand. Stowa is kind of the perfect fusing of Nomos and Sinn. It draws on classic watch designs — pilot’s, “marine”, and Bauhaus watches — and distills them down to their purest expression, in a modern form. That means prices under $1,000, ETA or Sellita movements, and often times no logos on the dial.
Stowa’s Flieger, or pilot’s watch collection features a number of options, but the simplest are its best: the Flieger Klassik 36 and 40. Both sizes feature an ETA 2824-2 movement, blue steel hands, and a simple black matte dial with superluminova and sapphire crystal to finish the look. The design draws on the pilot’s watch designs of the World War II era, when these things were real tools.
Price: starting at EUR 882
See the Flieger collection at Stowa.
Oris Diver Sixty-Five
While Oris makes some real heavy-duty divers as well, the Oris Diver Sixty-Five is one of the best at what it is: a simple, vintage-inspired dive watch. Better still, it comes in both a 36mm and 40mm option, offered in both black and blue dials. Both come with subtle gilt accents on the hands and hour markers to add to the vintage flavor. And while I would normally prefer a 36mm size, the 40mm version has a nicely executed date window at 6 o’clock, while the smaller version features a clunkier 3 o’clock window.
Price: starting at $2,175 (on bracelet)
For more, visit Oris.
Weiss Standard Issue Field Watch
I featured Weiss as one of the “true Americans” in our guide to the best American-made watches in 2019 because of what founder and watchmaker Cameron Weiss is doing out of his LA-based studio. Weiss’ 42mm American Made Field Watches are completely hand-crafted by Weiss himself in LA, including the brand’s own caliber 1003.
While the American Made Field Watch will set you back $2,500, I actually prefer the aesthetics of the Weiss 38mm Standard Issue Field Watch. Instead of crafting a movement completely in the United States for this one, Weiss assembles and finishes an ETA 7001 in the U.S., creating what he calls the Weiss caliber 1005. It’s a fine looking manual movement, and at just over $1,000, it’s the best you’ll get for a watch with such a strong connection to American soil.
Price: Starting at $1,150
For more, visit Weiss Watch Company.
Oak & Oscar Humboldt
I’ve featured Chicago-based Oak & Oscar before, and with good reason. Launched in 2015, it has since released three limited-edition watches. But in November 2018, Oak & Oscar launched its first non-limited watch, the Humboldt. It’s the brand’s best everyday option yet: 40mm, 12 hour rotating bezel, bracelet and strap options, all in a package that’s a nice cross between a dive and a field watch that I haven’t really seen from other brands.
The Humboldt is powered by an ETA 2982-A2 movement, an automatic movement with a 42 hour power reserve (yes, they call it a “workhorse” on their website, but we’ll give them a pass on the cliche this time). Oak & Oscar designs everything in house, and has created amazing sandwich dials, its own font for the date and indices, and its own steel bracelet (which you can get on the Humboldt). The brand also has straps that use leather from Chicago’s own legendary tannery, Horween Leather (you’ll also see Horween straps offered by brands like Nomos, Crown & Buckle, Hodinkee and others. It’s basically the gold standard for leather straps).
For more, visit Oak & Oscar
Price: Starting at $1,450 ($1,650 with bracelet)
Monta Atlas GMT
Usually, I look at time-only (or time-and-date) watches for everyday options, but man did the new Monta Atlas GMT change my mind. Sure, Monta has its simpler field watch the Triumph, and consumers quickly bought up the Skyquest, a more “robust” GMT option, but the Atlas GMT is the perfect in-between of those two fan favorites.
The Atlas features a 38.5mm case, a Sellita SW330 movement, and 150m of water resistance. The dials are lacquer, and come in a blue, white, and charcoal option, all with surprising depth. The GMT hand is interesting yet subtle, not overpowering the other features of the dial, including Monta’s “signature” indices. Oh, and like Oak & Oscar, Monta is based out of the United States, coming to you from St. Louis, Mo (from the same guys who brought you Everest Bands).
Price: Starting at $1,420 ($1,615 with bracelet)
For more, visit Monta
Unimatic Modello Due
While the Italians have had an outsized influence on what we deem to be collectible in the world of vintage watches, there’s not enough Italian-influenced design in the modern watch world (in my opinion). Unimatic is changing that though. Its field and dive watches are military inspired (think Panerai, kind of), with a modern, minimalist twist.
The Modello Due is the brand’s interpretation of a field watch, and with 300m of water resistance, superluminova, and double-domed sapphire with interior anti-reflective coating, it truly is ready for anything. Further, it’s got gilt accents, a black matte dial, “ladder” hands and a reverse lollipop seconds hand that give the Due a perfect vintage feel without overdoing it. Inside the 38.5mm case is a durable automatic Seiko movement.
Price: Starting at EUR 400
For more, visit Unimatic Watches.
Autodromo Group B
Like a lot of people, I’ve always loved the Autodromo Group B. The dial, integrated bracelet, it’s just so perfectly 80s retro. And then as I was preparing this article, they went and dropped the new Group B - Corsica Blue. It’s a worthy addition to an already strong collection. The entire Group B collection features the Miyota 9015 automatic movement (a microbrand favorite), sapphire crystal, a titanium and steel case with a stainless steel integrated bracelet, with the case measuring 39mm by 9mm.
For more, visit Autodromo
Now, time for the classics. You might know these, but they’re worthy of your attention, in 2019 and always.
IWC Mark XVIII
The IWC Mark XI is the definitive pilot’s watch. And while the Mark XI has a storied history since first being produced in 1949, the modern Mark XVIII is a worthy heir to the historic IWC Mark line (there’s even a Mark XVIII “tribute to Mark XI” if you can get your hands on a pre-owned one).
While the classic black and white dials are fine options, the Mark XVIII’s limited editions really shine. The blue-dialed “Le Petit Prince” edition is perpetually popular, but this year’s “Spitfire” releases are perhaps the best yet. The bronze case version ($4,900) is the go-to here, and the bronze case will certainly develop a nice patina in a comparatively short time. If you’re looking for something a little smaller, the special edition Pilot’s Watch 36 from the Rake is also well executed.
Price: Starting at $4,150
For more, visit IWC
Tudor Black Bay 58
Last year, I highlighted the Tudor Black Bay 36 as Tudor’s best everyday option. Well since then, I’ve owned both a Black Bay 36 and a Black Bay 58, and I have to hand the (Tudor) crown to the Black Bay 58. At 39mm and under 11mm thick, it’s a modern dive watch with svelte vintage proportions that make it perfect for everyday wear. It’s also got a COSC-certified in-house movement with 70 hours of power reserve. Outside of Rolex, it’s one of the hottest modern watches out there, and with good reason: the steel case and bracelet have a beautiful satin-like finish and the gilt accents on the dial and bezel give the watch a vintage feel you simply don’t see anywhere else.
Price: $3,625 on bracelet
For more, visit Tudor.
Cartier Santos Dumont
The new Cartier Santos-Dumont is the 2019 release I’m most likely to purchase for myself. Cartier updated the Santos model in 2018 after a long break of doing nothing with the collection that claims the moniker of the “first men’s wristwatch,” and in 2019 doubled down on its efforts to bring the Santos back to life. The entry-level Santos-Dumont is its effort to bring the Santos to the mass market: quartz movement, two sizes, and available in steel, gold, and two-tone, there’s something for pretty much anyone who’s ever window shopped at a Cartier boutique.
The new Santos-Dumont starts at $3,650 for the small 27.5mm model in steel, while the larger 31.4mm model costs $3,900. The price tops out with the rose gold 31.4mm model, priced at $11,800. The lowest priced mechanical Santos is priced at $6,250, so the Santos-Dumont offers an interesting value proposition for those who appreciate Cartier’s design aesthetic (or just want a Cartier watch), but don’t want to ball out too much.
For more, visit Cartier.
It’d be easy enough to pick the the Longines Legend Diver collection or the Longines Heritage Military in this spot, but this list already feels chocked full of homages, so let’s try something different. Hey, it was nominated in the Oscars of Watches, after all. While perhaps receiving less press than Longines’ worthy “heritage efforts”, its Record collection is no less worthy noteworthy. It’s the first collection from Longines to be entirely COSC certified, meaning all of the watches are extremely accurate.
While the 18k pink gold and blue dial version may be the best of the bunch (it was nominated for that GPHG award), it’s also one of the more expensive, priced at $5,850. The collection also has cheaper steel and two-tone options in a number of case sizes, leaving a little something for everyone.
Price: Starting at $2,000
For more, visit Longines.
Omega Aqua Terra
Say what you want about Omega’s catalog, but it’s full of versatile collections. The Speedmaster, Railmaster, and Seamaster can all arguably serve as everyday watches. But the Seamaster Aqua Terra is quintessentially everyday. Sporty, 150m of water resistance, and reasonably priced, they never go out of style. With offerings as small as 28 or 30mm, there’s something for everyone in the Aqua Terra collection. Most of the collection measures 38.5mm or 41mm, where Omega uses its co-axial movement in any number of case and dial combinations. Omega changed the teak-inspired dial from vertical to horizontal grooves a few years back, and I do like it better. The classic blue dial (above) with light blue center seconds hand is a personal favorite, perhaps staying truest to the nautical inspiration. See the full collection at Omega.com.
Price: starting at $5,400 (38.5mm co-axial version)
Rolex Explorer (Ref. 214270)
Always and forever, the Explorer will be on any “best everyday watch” list. What else is there to say? Originally released in 2016, the current iteration of the Explorer is the Ref. 214270. It modernized the Explorer collection, bringing the size up to a modern 39mm (the Explorer had historically been 36mm), but the aesthetic is otherwise similar to what the Explorer has been for years. It’s all just classic, pure Rolex: 904L steel, Oystersteel bracelet, the 3-6-9 dial, and the COSC-certified Rolex calibre 3132 movement. Sure, the modern version is more luxury and less sport than, say, the vintage Ref. 1016, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For more, visit Rolex.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34, 36, 39 (“Polar”)
And sometimes, it’s just too difficult to choose one Rolex. I love the “polar” Rolex Oyster Perpetual: it’s more simple than even the Explorer, and is the best execution of Rolex’s entry level collection. The all-white dial is just so clean, and as the only real “polar” option besides the Explorer II among Rolex’s offerings, it’s a fun choice.
Rolex introduced white and black dials to the Oyster Perpetual collection in 2018, and I’m glad they did. The monochromatic look is slick and modern, and with the OP offered in 26mm, 31mm, 36mm, and 39mm options, it makes a viable choice for wrists of all sizes.
Price: $5,700 (39mm)
For more, visit Rolex.
Grand Seiko SBGX 259 and 261
I know, a quartz watch for more than $2,000. But Grand Seiko’s 9F quartz movement isn’t just any quartz movement. The company has vertically integrated its process, mining quartz, assembling by hand, and obsessively adjusting it (go to their website, they’ll be happy to tell you all about it). Sure, some of it is marketing fluff, but some of it’s real. And the quartz movement inside doesn’t change the fact that the case, bracelet, dial, and everything else is still finished at the height of Grand Seiko’s demanding quality standards. The dauphine hands are sharp as a knife, the steel is flawlessly brushed, and everything is just as you’d expect from a Grand Seiko costing twice as much. Framed that way, it’s an amazing get for two grand. It’s a beautifully simple watch and measures just 37mm by 10mm, smaller than much of the Grand Seiko mechanical and Spring Drive collection. Like the SARB featured above, it’s offered with either a white or black dial (I prefer black). For an everyday watch, why not go with a relatively affordable quartz option? You know you won’t have to worry about the movement for years, which is something you can’t say about a mechanical movement.
For more, visit Grand Seiko.
Patek Phillipe Ref. 5212A Weekly Calendar
This watch really surprised when it came out at Baselworld 2019. A new complication from Patek Phillipe? In stainless steel? Many were no doubt running straight to their local authorized dealers, and with good reason. Given that it’s practically impossible to get a certain other stainless steel Patek, this new Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212A Calatrava is a completely worthy alternative. The movement isn’t exactly new — it’s based on Patek’s automatic calibre 324 — though some improvements and modifications have been made. The watch measures 40mm by 10.8mm.
A lot of ink (both positive and negative) was spilled on the font used on the Ref. 5212A’s dial: it’s meant to emulate handwritten characters (specifically, Patek CEO Thierry Stern’s penmenship — some designer was really kissing ass the day they decided this). No doubt it gives the watch a different character, as does the tan calfskin strap, a clear departure from the buttoned-up alligator straps Patek is known for.
For more, visit Patek Phillipe.
Bell & Ross BR 03 Collection
When I was reviewing this list, I noticed everything on it (besides the Santos-Dumont) was round, or at least roundish. So I had to add the BR 03 collection to the list for the geometrically curious. It’s offered in dive watch, ceramic, and stainless steel versions. You can’t go wrong with the classic stainless steel and black dial, but the stainless steel “Golden Heritage” version is also well executed. The ceramic offerings are thoroughly modern and perfectly fit Bell & Ross’s modern aesthetic and stated goal of producing time instruments for real aeronautical professionals. A 42mm square case can wear a little big, but the short lugs do help.
Price: Starting at $2,900
For more, visit Bell & Ross.