Are you an investment banker, lawyer, consultant, or young professional looking to make the right impression with your bosses and clients? There’s no better way to do it than having the right watch on your wrist.
Do you work in an office that’s still a little hierarchical? Maybe you’re a little afraid of your boss, the Sunday scaries hit you especially hard, and you’re eating dinner alone at the office a couple nights a week. It’ll all be worth it, we tell ourselves. Those student loans aren’t going to pay themselves, we tell ourselves. “Just two years,” we tell ourselves. However we justify it, it’s the small pleasures that get us through the monotony of corporate life in the meantime. Small pleasures like a nice watch — a friendly companion you look down to throughout the day who says back to you “just four more hours and you can go home.”
But in professional, hierarchical settings, it’s important for young professionals to have the “right” watch. This means your watch can make a statement, but you can’t be flexing on your boss. It can signal to other watch enthusiasts that you’re into watches, but you probably shouldn’t be wearing around your (or your boss’s) grail yet. We know young professionals’ styles and preferences can range from the sporty and casual to the dressy and formal, so we’ve gathered a variety of watches here.
With the ground rules set, let’s get into the watches.
Tudor Black Bay 58
Sorry, I’m going to say a Rolex Submariner is off limits for a young professional. If you’ve been working for a few years and have a year-end bonus or two burning a hole in your wallet, go for it. But if you’re a young professional still new to the workforce, opt for the less flashy Tudor Black Bay 58. Tudor is Rolex’s sister brand, making cheaper watches but utilizing manufacturing processes similar to those used by Rolex. The Black Bay 58 measures 39mm in diameter (just a touch under the Rolex Submariner’s 40mm), and the curved crystal, black bezel and matte black dial along with the gilt finishings give it a warm vintage-inspired look that’s not blingy or attention grabbing. Just a great modern watch inspired by the classic Tudor Submariners of days past. Wearing this watch shows you’re into and respect history, but you’re ready to do things your way. It kind of makes sense a young professional would look to Tudor for his/her first watch: it’s Rolex’s baby brand, making watches that are not only cheaper, but ones you can get without having to sit on a wait list for months on end.
MSRP: $3,625 (on bracelet)
For more, read our review of the Black Bay 58 (along with the Tudor Black Bay 36, another worthy choice).
Breitling Navitmer 8 B01
Look, the Breitling Navitimer is a lot of watch — a little too much, if you ask me. The beaded bezel stands out, and the dial has a lot going on. That’s why I’m recommending the Breitling Navitimer 8 here instead. The entire Navitimer 8 line is meant to be a modern interpretation of the classic pilot’s watch, and it looks a lot more at home on a young professional’s wrist than a traditional Navitimer does. I like the reverse panda dial version because it invokes the original Navitimer most, but there are a number of solid options in the Navitimer 8 collection. This three-register chronograph is powered by Breiting’s in-house Calibre 01. Overall, the impression it gives isn’t dissimilar to that of the Black Bay 58: I respect tradition, but I’m going to do it my way.
MSRP: $7,100 (Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph 43; the Navitimer 8 collection starts at $3,900)
For more, visit Breitling’s website
Nomos makes a bunch of great affordable watches for young professionals; read our brief history of Nomos for more. The minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic is so appealing to millennials and makes for great Instagram photos, let’s be honest. But the brand is also making legitimate, fully in-house movements in Glashutte, Germany, right next to upscale manufactures like A Lange and Glashutte Original.
In 2015, Nomos introduced the DUW 3001, an in-house automatic movement that, while just 3.2 mm thick, also manages to maintain time extremely accurately and efficiently. It first featured in the Nomos Minimatik, a new model that, while still measuring just 35.5mm in diameter, stood out from other Nomos designs with its softly curving shape and lugs. With the Minimatik, you own a little piece of Nomos’ history. The joke is Nomos is for designers, architects, and the otherwise design obsessed. But there’s no reason other young professionals can’t appreciate what the brand has to offer.
For more, visit Nomos’ website
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39
Okay, I said at the top you might not want to get, for example, a Rolex Submariner. But if you must get a Rolex, this is the one. The Oyster Perpetual line is Rolex’s entry-level, time-only collection, available in a number of sizes and dial colors. But the all-white (“polar", if you will) 39mm OP is the one for young professionals to spring for. It’s just so clean, and has the wrist presence you want from a Rolex without having too much bling. Inside, there’s the Rolex manufacture caliber 3132, a COSC-certified movement with a 48-hour power reserve. It’s a Rolex a young professional can comfortably wear without worrying about standing out too much.
For more, visit Rolex’s website
Itay Noy Reorder
Time for a funky independent. There’s nothing millennial young professionals love more than an internet-first ecommerce brand. I recently came across the work of Itay Noy, an independent watchmaker based in Jaffa, Israel. He’s been creating watches for about 20 years, all made to order and assembled by hand. He makes about 150 watches each year, doing everything completely in-house. In 2019, he introduced the Reorder — a crazy dial with traditional analog hands at the center, but with the hours scattered seemingly randomly across the dial. But, they’re actually revealed in order, counter-clockwise, as the hours tick by. It’s an innovative take on the dial, and possibly the most fun you can have short of springing that $30,000 plus Ressence. The dial kind of reminds me of the Hermes Slim d’Hermes GMT, another watch I love.
For more, visit Itay Noy’s website
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
If you’re looking for a TAG Heuer, I’d point to the Fragment Design Carrera Calibre Heuer02 as the best currently available re-interpretation of the original 2447 Carrera, but it may have sold out by the time you read this. There’s also the tried-and-true Monaco collection, but something about those watches just doesn’t do it for me.
Instead, I’m going to recommend the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph, released at Baselworld 2019. It’s a simple, do-it-all sports watch steeped in Heuer’s racing history. On the Dash did a great history on the Autavia and the significance of the new model, the first three-hander to bear the Autavia name. It’s a 42mm watch that comes in a variety of dial and strap/bracelet combinations; by the way, TAG Heuer has also introduced some handy quick-change strap technology to the watch, making it easier to swap out the straps.
MSRP: $3,950 (on bracelet)
For more, visit TAG Heuer’s website
Baume & Mercier Classima
I often think of Baume & Mercier and Montblanc together: two oft-overlooked brands (in terms of their watches, at least), now owned by Richemont, that are having something of a re-birth making great, moderately affordable timepieces.
First, Baume & Mercier. As much as I love the Clifton Baumatic collection, I’ll point to something slightly dressier (and cheaper) here, the Classima. As a young professional, perhaps you want to class it up in the office — if you need another cheap watch for the weekends to fill out your collection, pick up a Timex Weekender for $30 or a Seiko 5 for $75. The Classima comes in a number of dial and hand color combinations, all measuring 42mm and packing an ETA movement inside. What’s more, it comes cheaper than most watches on this list, just under $1,000.
For more, visit Baume & Mercier’s website
Montblanc 1858 Collection
Montblanc’s 1858 Collection has a little something for everyone: from a $30,000 monopusher chronograph to $2,000 time-only automatics. The two-hand Automatic 40mm is a great introduction to the line, as is the small seconds automatic, but the line’s chronograph really shines. While there are a few different dial options, the green dial with bronze case released at SIHH 2019 has to be the best. The watch itself measures 42mm and is powered by Montblanc’s own MB 25.11 calibre — the 1858 collection is inspired by Minerva, an historical movement manufacturer that Montblanc bought about 10 years ago and has slowly integrated into its processes to become a more vertically integrated watch maison. Everything about the 1858 Collection (and the equally vintage-inspired Heritage Collection) shows that Montblanc is taking watchmaking seriously.
MSRP: $5,000 (chronograph)
For more, visit Montblanc’s website
I’ve really liked the Cartier Santos since Cartier made efforts to “re-introduce” it in 2018. The new Santos is respectful of the watch’s history (the first men’s wristwatch; read our history of the Cartier Santos for more), but with moderns lines (not to mention a modern movement), that make it a thoroughly 21st Century watch. It comes in a number of metals, sizes, and straps (with Cartier’s quick-change strap system), so you should be able to find something that fits your style.
And then, in 2019, Cartier released the Santos Dumont, a true homage to some of the early Santos models. Even though it’s got a quartz movement, I absolutely love this piece.
While the Tank is the quintessential dress watch from Cartier, the Santos is worthy of a look if you want to stand out just a little bit.
Read our history of the Cartier Santos
Unimatic Modello Due
Unimatic is an Italian microbrand making dive watches with a signature style that I can best describe as “chunky minimalism.” The watches tend to have the classic dimensions and silhouettes you’d expect from a dive watch, but the actual aesthetic is incredibly minimal: the dial, indices, and hands are completely form-follows-function.
My favorite of the current editions are the U2-C and U2-CN. Both measure 38.5mm in diameter and are powered by a Seiko NH35A automatic caliber. There’s also 300m of water resistance, creamy lume (Super-LumiNova), gilt trim, and a vintage-style black matte dial. Together, these elements create a striking effect: a watch that somehow achieves a modern aesthetic while still having a vintage feel. Does that make sense? It’s kind of like the Black Bay 58. There’s a stainless steel or a DLC case option — the all-black DLC is especially sexy. By the way, there are also some previous Modello Due models that are worth a look, if you can find them on the pre-owned market.
MSRP: €400 (steel case); €500 (DLC case)
For more, visit Unimatic’s website
Seiko Presage (they’re all good)
You really can’t go wrong with anything from Seiko’s affordable Presage line, launched in 2016. The porcelain dial SPB095 and SPB093 released at Baselworld 2019 are great additions to the line, as is the SPB085, released in late 2018, which uses a variety of lacquer techniques to achieve a dial with rich depth and colors. All of the watches come in under $2,000 and measure 40.5mm in diameter. These come after the 2017 release of Ref. SPB0073 and SPB075, which first introduced enamel dials at an accessible price point.
Grand Seiko SBGA387
Grand Seiko might be the perfect young professional flex. They offer a ton of affordable watches on the dressier side of things, and the finishings on the watches are literally second to none. The SBGX259, 261, and 263 are the most subtle: all three measure just 37mm x 10mm and feature Grand Seiko’s 9F quartz movement (and a lower price to match). The aesthetic is simple as can be, but the polishing and surfaces are still quintessentially Grand Seiko.
But, if you’re getting your first Grand Seiko, the safest choice is a Snowflake dial. You can’t go wrong with the original SBGA211, but look to the U.S.-only limited edition SBGA387 for a bit of color. It’s still got the signature Spring Drive movement, but the dial has a touch of blue (“Frosty,” if you will), which really makes that steel blue seconds hand stand the fuck out. What’s more, it’s got a 44GS case (read our intro to vintage Grand Seiko below to learn wtf that means)
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control Date
In my opinion, Jaeger LeCoultre makes some of the classiest dress watches around. For a young professional looking to build a collection, I can think of no more solid a foundation than a Reverso. The Polaris is equally worthy on the sporty side.
But there’s something about this Master Control Date with a sector that I keep coming back to. It’s dressed up like the rest of JLC’s Master collection, but the sector dial, syringe hands, and splashes of blue make it a little cool — for a brand that I don’t associate with being cool, that’s an accomplishment. The watch measures 39mm x 8.5mm, a borderline skinny proposition compared to some of the others on this list.
For more, visit JLC’s website
Omega Seamaster 1948
Like most of these lists, we had to include Omega. The watches aren’t crazy expensive, and there are classics up and down the catalog. What’s more, wearing an Omega is never going to offend anyone’s sensibilities: they’re respected, if a bit staid. The DeVille collection is basically their entry-level dressy watch, but the designs are kinda meh. The Speedmaster is great, but I’d go pre-owned or vintage there.
I really like the Seamaster 1848 Omega released in 2018 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the original Seamster. There’s a small seconds and central seconds version (and even platinum versions if you really want to splurg for some reason). Both versions measure 38mm, have Omega’s COSC-certified co-axial movement, and feature 18k white gold indices that give the watch just a touch of luxury. The watches are also limited to 1948 pieces (Omega sure loves the limited edition thing).
MSRP: $6,400 (central seconds); $6,900 (small seconds)
For more, visit Omega’s website