Six dress watches for under £3,000 that punch well above their weight…
Ah, the humble dress watch. A purposely simple watch that doesn’t favour versatility and toughness, but rather elegance, style and an understated appearance that is capable of blurring into the background.Here we wanted to shed some light on some of the most interesting dress watches available today for less than £3,000. Now that’s a noticeable chunk of change, but spend it wisely and you could easily end up with a stunning dress watch that could serve you well for a lifetime. And hey, if you want to wear the watches in a regular rotation with your other pieces, why not?
Both modern and vintage offer some incredible options, many of these can be bought for different reasons. Let's take a look at some of our top picks…
The Must De Cartier Tank - £1,000 - £1,500 (pre-owned)
An obvious place to start is with Cartier. The Tank was created in 1917 and is one of the most iconic pieces of design ever let alone in the watch world. Cartier is arguably one of the first brands that birthed the dress watch and its core aesthetic hasn't really changed that much since.
You might be surprised to learn then that you can get into the Cartier world for a subjectively small amount of money. The example we see above is a Must De Cartier Tank with Breguet numerals.
Back in the 70s, Cartier was struggling. The quartz crisis had meant that mechanical watches weren’t popular as this new technology was on the scene; Cartier needed to react. This necessity birthed the ‘Must De Cartier’ range. Watches (among other things) that on the surface seem to be the same as their mechanical, precious metal counterparts but really they were silver cases with gold plating and were quartz powered. This change lowered the price point resulting in a huge commercial success for the brand. Not only that, but it also allowed Cartier to move away from the silver dial and roman numerals that defined them to have a little more fun with colourful dials, different numerals etc.
Nowadays these Tank models can be found between £1,000 - £1,500 in good condition. There are two sizes available and unless you have an extremely small wrist, the ‘mens’ size will be the one to go for (it's 23.5mm x 30.5mm, even for a rectangular watch this is rather small).
If you’d rather something a little bigger, the modern Tank Must watches recently released are brilliant choices available within budget. You might think that this sort of money on a quartz watch is crazy, but after wearing the Must De Cartier for some months now I can confirm you actually come to love the fact it's quartz.
And yes if you hadn’t realised already, I love the Tank so much that the Must De Cartier is actually my personal watch.
Watch straps for the Cartier Tank
Although the Tank performs surprisingly well in casual attire, it really does excel at smart/smart casual. It may sound a little boring and predictable, but pairing the watch with an alligator print strap like our Lierna just sets it off so well. You can have some fun with the colours here, I found going for the Dark Brown really accentuates how prominent the gold is on the watch and almost elevates it to a whole new level of elegance.
NOMOS Tangente 167 - £1,840
From one timeless design language to another: Bauhaus. The term Bauhaus actually refers to a design school based in Germany designing all things from kettles, chairs, lamps and architecture. When it comes to watches, it is synonymous with a stripped back, pure, direct approach to design.
NOMOS is one of the leading examples who execute Bauhaus design extremely well, whilst also adding their own touch. Simple doesn’t mean easy, and stripped back doesn’t mean lacking.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a watch that offers a complete package as much as the Tangente. With their unparalleled focus on simply telling the time this watch is as pure as they get. The in house movements inside these watches are fantastic performers with a level of finishing unheard of at this price point.
This exact model is the 167 Tangente which starts at £1,840, however, go for the 166 if you want to save a little money and opt for a closed caseback (£1,620).
Watch straps for the NOMOS Tangente 167
For those times when things get a little more formal the Besford leather is my pick of the bunch. This strap has every single quality expected from a leather strap. It’s made with a simply gorgeous supply leather that is lifted by an equally soft lining.
The Ophion OPH 786 Vélos - €3,150 (approx £2,700)
So we’ve had a look at a couple of brands who you have more than likely heard of before, so let's change things up a little and show you something you probably haven't. Ophion is one of those fantastic brands you come across and question as to why people don’t talk about them more. Ophion was created to capture the essence of haute horology that is often locked away behind five or six-figure price points. Ophion exists to offer the same knowledge, unique understanding and most importantly an elevated set standard when it comes to designing and creating their watches.
Our pick from their range is the OPH 786 Vélos with the white guilloche dial, heat blued hands and Breguet numerals display caseback showing a decorated movement offering 5 days of power reserve. The watch is also just 39mm wide with an 11mm thickness and a lug to lug distance of 46.5mm. So yes, what we’re looking at here is a gorgeous time-only watch, but what is really going on? How can Ophion offer this watch for less than £3,000?
To start with rather than having a hand guilloche dial which is expensive and time-consuming, Ophion opts for a CNC machined one. The movement is outsourced to also keep manufacturing costs down but the finishing is done to Ophion’s exact standards with hand hammering and a machine chamfering on the interior angles.Arguably one of the most important aspects of a watch (especially a dress watch) is how it feels and wears on the wrist. This is Ophion’s biggest strength, as the teardrop case design is not only oozing elegance and uniqueness, but each lug has to be welded onto the case individually adding further complexity. They then need to ensure the fit is invisible to the eye, something that takes immense expertises.
So who do you think they approached to create these cases for them? A company called Voutilainen & Cattin SA. If you’re a big independent brand fan you’ll recognise the ‘Voutilainen’ aspect of that company's name as Mr Kari Voutilainen, famed Finnish born watchmaker with over 30 years of experience creating some of the best independent watches on the market. His name sits right next to Dufour, Journe, Roger Smith and Rexhep Rexhepi. Basically, he is the real deal and in turn, the cases made via Voutilainen & Cattin SA.
When wearing haute horology watches one thing that has always been extremely apparent to me is how they feel on the wrist. Be it a Grönefeld, Kari, AkriviA or a Czapek all of these watches are special to the touch, they wear like no other watch. It’s a feeling I haven’t been able to emulate with any other watch at a lower price point, until this Ophion.
Watch straps for the Ophion OPH 786 VélosWhen it comes to watch straps for the 786 we recommend sticking with the classics and letting the watch do the talking. If you go for this silver guilloche dial we’d go for a beautifully textured brown strap like our Dulas Vintage strap in Brown.
Looking to dress the watch up? You’ll want to go for a Textured Painswick in Black Alligator print. In terms of outfits, the obvious choice here is to keep it classy and formal, but I believe this watch deserves more than being reserved for a special occasion. Casual weekend? Throw this on and watch the compliments roll in...
Vintage Omega Seamaster Time only - (pre-owned) approx £1,500 - £2,000One market that is growing virtually every day within the industry with many popular models spiking in price over a short space of time is vintage. One example of a watch that is the opposite of this is vintage Seamaster models from Omega. Modern watch fans might be confused to see the Seamaster name being used on an elegant, dressy watch but the name has been used by Omega on an almost endless amount of variations before becoming widely known as their diving watch.
The exact example we have here is from 1947 and, in a sentence, is one of the best ‘affordable’ vintage watches available today. This watch comes in at 34mm wide, however thanks to its chunky, wide lugs it wears closer to a 35.5mm. Watches of Lancashire allowed us to borrow this piece for this article and they have a very similar example available here and boy, is it worth it.
These watches from Omega have it all. A fantastic movement, clean aesthetics, a mindblowing history and an appearance that is timeless. Over the years the prices for these watches have always been appealing. I remember when they could be had for around £500 and since then (around 5 years ago) they have increased to around triple that. Of course, depending on condition and material used, you could pay a little more or less than that, but we’d recommend aiming to spend around £1,500 - £2,000 for an extremely clean steel example.
Now, I'm no expert when it comes to accurately predicting the future value of watches (not many people are) but for my two pennies worth, I could easily see these 3,6,9 examples only increasing in price. Considering the brand, history, wearability and elegance I’m confident they would still be worth it even if the price doubled.
Watch straps for the Omega Seamaster Vintage
This Omega is the definition of a blank canvas as it truly works on a huge range of straps, outfits and situations. Dress the watch up with a smart outfit and a brown leather strap, pair it with a crisp shirt, pair of jeans and brown shoes.
A fantastic watch that has already lived a long life and yet is prepared to live another one all over again. Check out this specific watch via Watches of Lancashire here, or an extremely similar example now available for £1,600 here.
The AnOrdain Model 2 - £1,200
Next, we have quite an under the radar pick, but one that in many circles is adored immensely. anOrdain is a Scottish based watch brand that have been creating and releasing mechanical watches with one distinctive special feature. Every watch is fitted with a handmade (in Scotland) enamel dial. No, we’re not talking about those super glossy dials that are ‘enamel like’, we’re talking full-on enamel, powered glass that has been heated up to over 800 degrees around seven or eight times before ‘anOrdain’ is added to the dial.
The best part? You can add an anOrdain to your watch box for well within budget starting from £1,200. Here we’ve gone for the Model 1 which has experienced incremental changes over the years. The latest version comes in at 38mm wide with an 11mm thickness and a lug to lug of 46mm.
Fantastic wearable dimensions that are discrete enough to let that dial do the talking. If you want to push the boat out and go for something special you’ll want to take a look at their fumé dials.
Finding genuine enamel dials at the price point is almost impossible due to how much talent and time is required to successfully make them. Brands like Breguet and Greubel Forsey come to mind when we think of enamel, so the fact that anOrdain is on the scene offering their knowledge and understanding of what is desirable is refreshing.
Watch straps for the anOrdain Model 1
The Model 1 from anOrdain is available on a black shell cordovan leather strap, which should really tell you all you need to know in terms of where to wear this watch. Shell cordovan is a gorgeously soft, thick and shiny leather that gets better with age.
When we looked at the Cartier Tank earlier we mentioned how a brown strap effectively dressed the Tank up adding some additional warmth. Well, here a brown strap (like the Dulas leather strap here) actually tones the watch down and has the piece leaning more casual than smart.
Stick with the classic colours such as grey, blue, black and white and you’ll notice how the watch effortlessly falls into place; just like a dress watch should.
The Longines Flagship Heritage - £1,100
We couldn’t create this list of dress watches and not include Longines. Specifically, we’re talking about their Heritage line where the Flagship model lives. This is actually a watch we included as our dress watch pick a couple of years ago in our 10 for 10 series and for good reason. The Flagship is a stainless steel watch, however, the hands and raised hour markers introduce some gold tone to the dial, elevating the watch and leaning into a more formal look.
Coming in at 38.5mm and costing just £1,100 the watch has a brilliant balance of value for money, heritage (of course) and reliably watchmaking.
Date windows always divide people, especially on dress watches. For the most part, I agree with those that say they shouldn’t appear, however, its 6 o'clock position on the Flagship, neatly placed below the subdial retains the watch’ sense of balance and will help the piece usability in smart/casual situations.
What Longines do right far outweighs what they do wrong, especially with their Heritage line up.
Watch straps for the Longines Flagship Heritage
This is surprisingly similar to the NOMOS when it comes to watch straps and outfits. A mesh is a brilliant option for those times where you’re between smart and casual attire. It’s a more versatile look that won’t be impacted if you decide to wear a black suit with black shoes or a blue suit with brown shoes.Of course, an exotic print strap is an unapologetic approach to have if things get a little more dressy.
I’ve always adored a charming dress watch but in recent years it’s hard to not get attracted to the versatility and popularity of steel watches with bracelets.
But the dress watch is a timeless classic that isn’t going anywhere. In fact, with the continuous growth in popularity of gold watches, brands such as Cartier breaking auction records and individuality actively welcomed in society, the dress watch is a hot commodity right now.
looking for the perfect straps for your dress watch? Click here to see our suggestions...