If you put on a watch every day then it’s worth investing in a timepiece that you really love, given the cost per wear. That does not mean you need to splurge to four-figure sum though. More than half on this list come in at less than £ 150.
Styles range from wall back and understated – you’ll notice minimal-looking wristwear is big in Watchland – to something slightly more blingy or bold. These are majority specialist watch brands that put an emphasis on design and function. Some, like Rotary, have a long history, while others (Cluse, Olivia Burton and Larsson & Jennings, we’re looking at you) are brands that have made a big impact since launching in the last five years.
As well as the look of the watches, we’ve mentioned the movement (the set up that powers the hands around the face) where relevant. All of which are powered and use quartz movement, known for being super-accurate and low maintenance (compared with more fiddly mechanical movements). Swiss and Japanese quartz mechanisms are widely considered the superior systems, but all these on the list will keep you punctual.
1. Cluse La Roche
Amsterdam-based Cluse may have only been running since 2014 but the watchmaker has become a firm favorite with bloggers and Instagram influencers. We can see why: the pieces are minimalist-looking – its mantra is “simple is not about being plain” – yet have out-of-the-ordinary touches and interchangeable straps in Insta-worthy hues. Plus, most models are under £ 80. If you have slightly more to spend, the La Roche caught our eye, with a large 38mm marble dial. Each one is different thanks to the qualities of the natural stone. The rose gold finish glams it up but the gray leather strap keeps things sufficiently muted and cool.
2. Olivia Burton Women’s Enchanted Garden
Olivia Burton’s pretty floral watches are eye-catching amid the sea of minimalist dial designs (indeed, there are plenty of those in their collection, too). The nature-inspired patterns are part of the British brand’s Enchanted Garden collection. Here, soft purple hues are off-set by the dark 38mm face and slim navy strap. It has gold-plated casing and there are versions in lighter colors if that works better for you.
3. Fossil Jacqueline Three-Hand Date Leather Watch
The reliable US maker has a huge range of women’s watches but our favorites are those with the quality leather straps. The Jacqueline comes in 14 different colors and styles, ranging from a pearly dial to a pretty, pale pink strap to this more unusual green. You can also interchange it with any of Fossil’s 14mm straps. The rose gold tone and numerals keeps things simple, but we like the little interesting touches, such as the distinctive red second hand. The Jacqueline can take a very brief dunk but do not wear it in the bath or swimming.
4. Larsson & Jennings Norse Gold-Plated Watch
5. Rotary Petite Stone Bracelet Watch
This watch feels like a lot of jewelery as it does a timepiece, thanks to the sparkly Austrian crystals set around the 25mm dial and the slim stainless steel bracelet. It works with Japanese quartz movement and, like many watches from the Swiss maker, is waterproof (you can swim in this one) and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
6. Daniel Wellington Classic Glasgow
After a classic-looking watch with a twist? Try Daniel Wellington’s timepieces. The Swedish founder was inspired by a meeting with a British traveler (can you guess his name?) Who wore to watch with a stripy Nato strap, the tough nylon bands issued by the MOD. You get a clean-looking, minimalist dial – choose from slimline rose gold or silver casing – contrasting with the textured strap, which comes in five different color combos including this navy and white. If Nato colors do not work, then all the straps are interchangeable and there are six sleek black or brown leather options to choose from.
7. Marc Jacobs Ladies Riley Bracelet Watch
Marc Jacobs makes some seriously covetable watches and the brand is perhaps best known for its bracelet-style offerings. The Riley is one of our favorite, the dial is smaller than some of the range (27.5mm), but you get four large numbers and a chunky three-link bracelet. We like the rose gold-tone one, but it also comes in silver. This one is water resistant to 50 meters.
8. Mondaine Evo Petite
Based on the design of a Swiss railway clock, Mondaine’s Evo watches are instantly recognizable. On a clean white dial with black hour and second markers and a leather strap, this manages to be both bold and understated at the same time. We’d go for the striking red option, but you can also get a black strap and dials in various sizes. This is the “petite” version with the 26mm casing.
9. Skagen Freja Gold Case
The slimline Freja, with 12 and 6 as the only two numbers on the dial, is a case in point. We like this one with a rose gold strap and a silver dial, but it also comes in other shades. If you like something more delicate, it also comes in the “refined” version, with a smaller face and thinner strap.
10. Picto Rosendahl Small Black Silver Watch
Picto was produced for the Rosendahl Design Group in 1984 and it’s become something of a classic (there’s one on display in New York’s MoMa, no less). Tell the hour from the steel dot on the rotating dial, while the minutes are shown with a more usual hand. You will get used to telling the time this way. The strap made of leather and it comes in a number of different color options.
11. Uniform Wares M40 Chronograph Watch
Another nice young brand in the world, Uniform Wares was started in 2009 by two British product designers who could not find a minimalist-looking watch that they could wear every day, sort of like a “uniform”. The result is sleek-looking watches that we are lusting after in the office. If you like a big dial, the 40mm chronograph watch is a favorite. It’s the little details that make these stand out: the studied lack of branding and the textured leather strap. It’s water resistant – swimming in shallow water is in, scuba diving is out – and uses Swiss-made quartz movement, a fact reflected in the price.
12. Aark Collective Classic Tortoise
From two numbers to no numbers, we love this watch with a tortoiseshell rim by Aussie brand Aark. The designs are shamelessly minimalist – no branding here – but also super-striking. The casing is chunkier than some on the list and the black Italian leather strap makes it a bold bit of wristwear. It uses Japanese quartz movement and also comes with a black dial.