It's no secret that we're living in an increasingly informal world these days. There aren't too many occasions for getting seriously dressed up (at least not for most of us), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a nice dress watch in your arsenal anyway. The best dress watches can be dressed up or down too, so you can make that jeans-and-a-sweater look feel even sharper than it already is with the right timekeeper. The only rub is that a great dress watch can sometimes set you back quite a lot of coin – though it doesn't have to.
Here our editors round up their favorite dress watches that come in under the five-figure mark. Some are precious metals, some are stainless steel; some sit closer to "everyday" watches while others are going to be relegated to special occasions; some are traditional and some are quite modern. The thing they all have in common? You would be a very happy person indeed with one on your wrist.
Rolex Datejust 36
I picked this new 2019 update to the Rolex Datejust because it's a great dress watch that costs less than $10,000. But I think it is also a fantastic everyday watch, which means that this is a timepiece that you can wear pretty much any time, and in a wide variety of of contexts, and not feel the least bit self-conscious about its appropriateness. Assuming someone really wanted to be a one-watch guy, but he knew he'd have to throw on a jacket and tie a tie from time to time, a 36mm Datejust would easily fit the bill. I think its pairing of a black dial with white metal case and markers is striking, and the Jubilee bracelet basically looks perfect matched with this 36mm case size. On top of that, you get a watch equipped with the latest generation of Rolex automatic movements (in this case cal. 3235) which have 70 hours of power reserve and the new Chronergy escapement. —Jon Bues
Vintage Piaget Caliber 9P
Piaget is known for its dress watches more than its sportswatches. Their modern-day versions often have a quartz movement with lots of diamonds, but my favorite genre are the small dress watches with the ultra-thin manually-wound 9P movement from the 1960s and 1970s. These slim watches often come in a precious metal with different dial variations, but one thing is always consistent – they are always very chic. —Cara Barrett
Prices vary, but for vintage 9P watches in gold expect to pay between $2,000 to $4,000, depending on model.
Cartier Santos-Dumont Steel, Quartz
One of the most remarkable things about so many Cartier watches is that they feel, in a way that is difficult to describe, as if you are wearing something special when you have one on. This is true of a number of models, but to my way of thinking, the Tank and the Santos-Dumont watches especially radiate the durable appeal that represents Cartier at its best. One of the wonderful things about the recent offerings from Cartier is that this appeal exists, more or less irrespective of expense. You can find it, certainly, in precious metal Santos-Dumont watches, but it is every bit as present in the small, quartz steel model introduced at this year's Baselworld. You put it on, and it is so delightfully chic that one is actually forced to use the word, and you understand immediately why it has been such a cornerstone of Cartier design for over a century. —Jack Forster
Grand Seiko SBGK005
I'm not really a dress watch guy, but the Grand Seiko SBGK005 struck a chord I didn’t even know I had in me. I think it’s objectively beautiful, but I also like that it's just funky enough to not get lost in mainstream dress watch design. You know, the ubiquitous sub seconds at six o'clock, minimal dial, etc. The SBGK005 has this beautiful bubble-effect from the domed dial and crystal, it has stubby lugs, and the hour markers actually sparkle. It all makes for a watch that’s a true looker and slightly unusual – in a great way. If any other watch manufacturer told me the dial was inspired by the texture of a mountain I’d think it was some weird marketing schtick, but when Grand Seiko tells me the dial is reminiscent of Mt. Iwate near the studio where the watch is made, it genuinely evokes an emotional reaction when I look at the dial and details. —Cole Pennington
Omega De Ville Trésor 40mm
When I first saw the latest collection of Trésor dress watches back in May, I was truly blown away. Sure, on the face of it, these are simple three-hand-date pieces in a middle ground size from one of the biggest watchmakers in the game – but that's precisely why they're so exciting. This is a pretty basic watch that's been improved upon to the point where it's now something exceptional. In addition to the comfortable case, you've got your choice of a few beautiful dial options (I really dig the textured blue and the clean white) and the movement inside is about as high-tech a mechanical caliber as you'll find anywhere, with the co-axial escapement and METAS Master Chronometer certification. And while $6,500 is definitely still a pretty penny, you are getting so much watch for the money here that it starts to feel like a genuine steal. And, oh yeah, they're just damn handsome, too. —Stephen Pulvirent
From $6,500; omegawatches.com
Cartier Tank In Yellow Gold
While this suggestion could offer several outcomes, pick whatever Tank you want, but it has to be a Cartier Tank in yellow gold. Smaller, bigger, vintage, new – I don't care. You want a killer, buy-it-once-and-wear-it-forever dress watch, buy a Tank and get back to your somewhat more stylish existence. From quartz to automatic, Solo to Américaine to lovely Louis (and even the related Santos Dumont), you can't go wrong with the subtle but entirely confident and ever-stylish design of the Tank. For my wrist, something a bit on the larger size would have me quickly finding ways to dress up far more often. New, the quartz Tank Louis Cartier is available from Cartier, at just a hair under $10,000. —James Stacey