10 Minimalist Watch Brands You Can Actually Afford

Minimalist watches are all the rage, but if we were really honest, a modest ‘DW’ on your watch face is just a tad too mainstream. Yes, people gladly pay good money for design and quality, but why stick to one brand when we know there are brands out there — some more affordable in fact — with the same keen eye on subdued, timeless and elegant watchmaking?

Maybe you’ll find an alternate design that’s just as gorgeous without making you broke, or one that’s just as pricey but with a more unique aesthetic. Time to watch your spending and still update your ever-stylish wardrobe.


VERK

There’s something about the Swedes and their taste for design — whether it’s the Scandinavian-chic of IKEA or Swedish watch brand VERK, so of course we’re looking North for our minimalist fix. And it’s here that VERK truly shines; they offer German-made, high-quality watches for those who care for what they own, with a name that means “the end result of one’s work”.

This takes into account the craftsmanship and attention to detail behind each timepiece, and the brand’s responsibility in every part of the watchmaking process, from where each component comes from, as well as their assembly in the city of Pforzheim, Germany. In fact, they’re so confident about their products that each VERK watch comes with a 5 year warranty.

 

ETT 01 – Gunmetal/Mesh, $385 ; ETT 03 – Gunmetal/Tan, $350 ; ETT 05 – Silver/Black, $350 ;  ETT 06 – Silver/Tan, $350

That keen eye for Scandinavian minimalism, along with some Bauhaus appreciation, finds itself in the Stockholm-designed watches. These use a Swiss two-handed movement, from world-renowned manufacturer Ronda, and feature a 316L steel case with a combination of brushed and polished finishes.

The design recalls elements of the past, yet with a timeless, understated sensibility that’ll take you through any era. Even the watch names are just as unencumbered! We’d ideally like to start off our list with a more affordable brand, but really, you pay for this quality — and it’s worth it.

Available at verkstore.com.


MVMT

Once we heard the words “style doesn’t break the bank”, straight from the founders’ philosophy, we were sold, because have you seen these watches yet? They’re as stylish as can be. The American brand was started by Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante, who dropped out of college in order to pursue this dream of theirs — oh, just reinventing the watch industry, that’s all.

What they have is a direct-to-consumer model that took the world by storm, since they offer plenty of well-designed, well-crafted watches that weren’t ridiculously expensive too. There’s no traditional marketing, or retail markup due to displaying at physical stores; everything’s sold directly to us, with a following gained organically, through social media, word of mouth or otherwise. After looking at their collections, you’ll wanna tell the world too.

 

Signature Series 38mm Rose Gold/Peach Leather, $149 ; Boulevard Series 38mm Sunset, $209 ; Nova Series 38mm Orion, $279

The Boulevard Series takes inspiration directly from street names in Los Angeles, while the Sunset is a beauty in rose gold stainless steel, plus a pearl dial. One of their bestsellers, Orion, includes a dual timezone feature like the others in the Nova series, and has a cool case made of brushed titanium stainless steel, along with rose gold details and a metal bracelet strap. As for this feminine piece from the Signature series, it’s both classic and refined.

Available at mvmtwatches.com.


Swatch

Maybe “minimalist” wouldn’t be the first word when you imagine a Swatch watch — think fun, inexpensive and cool, instead. But that’s not the case for the SKIN collection, a range of designs that celebrate the world’s thinnest plastic watch. The little details keep the pieces interesting; for instance, a two-tone wave pattern you’ll only notice when peering at the side of the watch, which is only possible due to an advanced double injection technique that vexed even Swatch’s highly-skilled engineers. Plus, it’s Swiss-made, so you know the highest quality is assured.

 

SKINNOIR, $167 ; SKINBOOT, $230 ; SKINROSEE, $230

Recently, we’ve been enamoured with the SKIN Irony collection, the first metallic version of Swatch’s ultra-slim SKIN line — it’s just 5.8mm in fact! These styles retain the minimalism of the original, though now in polished stainless steel. Go for a classic monochrome design with a matte black strap, a subtle piece that shimmers under the sun due to its metallic rose gold dial, or a classy number with a stainless steel bracelet.

Available at Swatch stores and online at swatch.sg.


AÃRK Collective

Um, this is just so beautiful that it’s difficult to even start — why do we love AÃRK? It bears repeating. First off, their appreciation for simple, geometric design that’s clean and pristine, yet you know that a lot of thought has gone into every shape or line.

We know that it was founded by four Melbourne-based creatives, despite its very Scandinavian name and aesthetic, but no fuss, because their designs are utterly deserving, a balance of function and beauty, as they imagined them to be. We have to admit though, most of the watches fall outside the range of affordable, but here are two that fit right in.multi

classicwhitepeach
Classic White Peach, US$109

Did we mention that their product images are just as beautiful too? Anyway, the Classic, shown here in White Peach, takes your refined, minimalist lines with a twist — it actually looks fun.

The outer shell is made of durable PU plastic, though with a stainless steel case that protects the Japanese Quartz movement. Everything else is custom-moulded including that cute pattern on the watch dial and the little triangle knob, while there are currently four other colours on their website.

 

Multi in Morning, Noon, and Midnight, USD119

As for the Multi series, what caught our eye was the two-toned leather strap, one that perfectly matches its watch face. Designed in collaboration with Daniel Emma, and available in three shades, “Morning”, “Noon” and “Midnight”, you can imagine that they’re inspired by different times of the day, which leads to a greater appreciation of the individual colour hues, presented boldly in a minimalist watch face — a subtle matte, by the way — that doesn’t waste its time on numbers.

Available at aarkcollective.com.


ROSEFIELD

Hailing from New York City, you already know that these will stand out for their immense sense of style, and yep, you won’t be surprised. Their savvy watches marry the best of Amsterdam and NYC (kinda like NY and LONdon, how we got our name), by combining Dutch minimalist design with the fashionable and contemporary aspects of the bustling East Side metropolis, which you can tell by looking at their various lines, named after different iconic neighbourhoods in the city.

 

The West Village Elephant Grey – Rose Gold, $169 ; The Bowery White – Black, $159 ; The Upper East Side White Pearl – Silver, $179

The Bowery takes it name between the boho-chic and classic vibes of the area, hence its vintage look that includes a thin watch case with elegantly stitched leather straps. You already know from, well, Gossip Girl, that the Upper East Side is full of decadence and chic dressing, so it’s no wonder that the range features polished watch faces and link bracelets.

As for The West Village, said to stand out for its European flair, the watches are held together by a velvety nuback leather strap, with delicate metal rings decorating the strap, instead of a leather band.

Available at Zalora and City Chain stores. rosefieldwatches.com


CLUSE

For another take on the classy, minimalist watch, we turn to CLUSE, a brand that’s founded in the beauty in simplicity, elegance and minimalism, while aiming for watches that’ll complete your outfit in the best way possible. We can vouch for these.

Every piece from this Amsterdam brand deserves to be taken seriously by the fashionable set, despite the low price points, mainly because they manage to be both trendy and timeless; details like rose gold and marble are spot-on this season, yet the designs can be worn in the 80s, now, or the 2040s (probably), since they’re sophisticated and clutter-free.

 

Minuit Mesh Rose Gold/Black, $180 ; La Bohème Gold White/Caramel, $149 ; La Roche Petite Rose Gold White Marble/Nude Watch, $219

Like many of the other brands, the straps can be customised or come in different options; La Bohème is a classic model that impresses, the La Roche keeps things interesting with a marble dial, which creates a natural veining pattern, set against brushed rose gold, while the Minuit is a lightweight mesh bracelet design that you’ll wanna wear on date nights.

Available on Zalora and clusewatches.com.


HYPERGRAND

You’ve probably seen this pretty often at multi-label stores here in Singapore — and that’s because this minimalist watch brand is actually based in Singapore, a fact that we’re always eager to point out, simply because every one of their timepieces look so sleek, chic, and are of a brilliant quality.

We first took notice of their nato strap designs, five tone-printed, though they’ve since expanded into fine-grained leather straps as well. Still, a lot of the perfectionist design qualities remain the same, with the utilitarian and modern industrial vibes that made them famous in the first place, and a versatility that’s perfect for both work days and weekends. Isn’t that just (hyper)grand?

 

Rose Mesh, USD99 ; 02NATO PANAMA, USD79 ; Signature White Classic Black, USD99

Take these. A simple watch, with an elegantly thin profile, contains precisely crafted Excalibur hands, that lend a refined detail to the piece, and is accompanied by a small second hand that’s symmetrically placed at the 6 o’clock mark. The 02NATO is an update from the bestselling model, and comes with a sandblasted treatment on its outer case, with an artistic canvas strap. And while the brand typically features more rugged unisex pieces, we also spotted a petite rose gold watch, this time with a 33mm brass dial.

Available at hypergrand.com and authorised resellers, including Cumulus, Rockstar, The Editor’s Market (Cineleisure) and The Assembly Store.


KOMONO

KOMONO means “small things”, that’s what we know from the brand, but by no means can their vision be considered small. The Belgian watch brand was birthed in 2009 by founders Raf Maes and Anton Janssens, both rooted in the tradition of fine quality and craft, as well as an eye that looks outward and to the future, on design, aesthetics, and global trends.

We first knew them for producing colourful designer-like straps, a painterly palette of royal blooms, for instance, or cute graphic art, but it seems like their newer designs have pulled back on that, with a focus on strong silhouettes and textures.

 

Lexi Marble White Marble Brown, €89.95  ; Estelle Cutout Blue Cognac, $139 ; Harlow Taupe, $209

The Lexi is a tried-and-tested design that’s also a certain crowd-pleaser, and instead of a plain face, go for a marble design that looks extra luxe against the brushed gold metal case. We like the Harlow’s minimalist face, though we think it looks particularly fine in matching taupe-grey tones.

The Estelle comes in several designs, but we like those that don’t just have a plain white or plain black watch face; the mirrored version is stunning when it catches the light, balanced with a textured leather strap, while others see straps with perforated cutouts, just enough detail to stand out.

Available on Zalorakomono.com and authorised resellers, including Cumulus, Common Thread, Club21B and Rockstar.


PLAIN SUPPLIES

If you’re a firm believer in the whole “less is more concept”, particularly in this age of consumerism consciousness, then you’ll fall head over heels in love with homegrown brand PLAIN SUPPLIES, except, you know, not that excessively in love. A look over at the brand’s very aesthetic feed confirms their dedication to modern, well-designed products that favour simplicity and clarity; everything from leather goods to these functional watches that are built to withstand hard knocks from our everyday life.

 

M90 Rose Gold 39, $129 ; Signature 36 Rose Gold – Stainless Steel Mesh, $79 ; Blackout 36 – Black Leather, $69

One collection we’ve been loving is their recent collaboration with Disney — except, instead of going all out with the Mickey mouse ears, they’ve kept the watch designs distinctively minimalist, featuring instead just the most subtle hint of motifs in its matte design.

Other key ones to look out for are the stainless steel mesh series, in which the rose gold one is a clear stunner, or the most stunning all-black timepiece that’s the most truly black beauty we’ve seen in a while, from its matte black straps and case to its negative space face — all of which, house a Japanese Miyota movement. Btw, how is this the most affordable of the lot?! Instant cop!

Available at plainsupplies.com and selected retail and specialty stores.


Denis Guidone

Nava Ora Lattea White, USD129.99 ; Nava Ora Unica Black, USD129.99 

Finally, we’ll leave you with the most interesting designs of the lot — not by a single brand, but a Milan-based designer called Denis Guidone, who brings his studies in architecture to the world of product design, including lighting, furniture, and yep, watches.

These are the curious results of his collaboration with a Milan design studio, Nava, and if at this point you still think that everything sounds far too serious, we’ll have you know that his pieces are fun, imaginative and definitely unexpected. The first watch does away with hands, and instead uses dots to tell the time, with a design that recalls the image of the solar system, now in black and white.

For the Ora Unica, you might at first be thrown off by the squiggly line — how on earth do you determine hours and minutes — but here, we’re told to look at the position of the inner end for the hour, and the outer end for the minute. It does take some getting used too, but nobody else will be able to steal a glance at your watch, it’d be your little secret (unless they happen to read this). Don’t blame us if you’re late though.

 

Black Sometimes Watch with Black Band, USD140 ; Diagram 17 Watch, USD140 ; Diagram 17 STEEL, USD140

In another project, this time with Projects, we get these beauties — first, the Diagram 17 piece with its strong graphic elements, based on a drawing by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, said to be one of the first abstract painters in history, and then, the Black Sometimes piece, with three broad lines, short, medium, and long, that move dizzyingly as the day goes by. Each line has a purpose; the medium and long ones mark the hours and minutes, while the middle one marks seconds.

Head over to the website to see how these watch hands look like in motion, and we promise you’ll be mesmerised. They look like they’re freewheeling through, uh, both space and time, while at some point, you’ll know they’ll all meet in a straight line to the joy of the perfectionists. How these stay below the $250 price point is beyond us.


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