Personal style can be a fickle mistress. What looked good for you in your early 20s might not work well when you’re 30, not just because your own face and body go through changes but also because how you communicate who you are through your wardrobe can and should evolve over time. Sticking with basic principles of style keeps things safe, but you can certainly deviate in other areas without risking totally misguided style.
Fashion trends also change year after year. Bootcut jeans were replaced by slim fit denim, business casual is slowly being pushed out by smart casual which is being challenged by loungewear, and it’s no longer too edgy to wear pristine sneakers with a suit. And while the classics like work boots, button-up shirts, and blue blazers never seem to go out of style, sometimes it just feels good to break the mold with a key piece.
That’s where a boldly styled wristwatch can play a key role, and it can be at any price point. No, it doesn’t mean breaking out that gold nugget watch grammy bought you from the Franklin Mint, but it should mean taking the right risks to depart from what’s conventional. Although we’re not recommending you get rid of that classic Omega Speedmaster you inherited from your father (because that will never go out of style), we are advocates of exploring more unique watches without draining your bank account.
Here are our choices for boldly styled watches that can change the way you look without undergoing a total makeover.
Roue CHR One Chronograph ($235)
Vintage motoring horological style doesn’t have to be old school. Roue has reinterpreted the ‘70s automotive chronograph for the modern age with less bulk and more elegance without detracting from the sportiness. The Roue CHR One’s case is a svelte PVD-black coated stainless steel that’s punctuated by a matte gunmetal dial with cream and yellow for contrast. There’s also the commensurate tachymetre inner bezel ring and a luscious black leather rally strap, as well as a rubber sport strap. The profile is slender, the wear is unobtrusive, and the style is head-turning. Everyone will think you just came from weekend track time.
EONE Bradley ($277)
Perhaps the label of most distinctive timepiece belongs to the EONE Bradley. What was designed to provide easy time-telling to the visually impaired resulted in what will surely be a modern style icon. Instead of a traditional dial and hands, the Bradley provides exposed moving ball bearings set in a recessed track (minute on the dial, hour around the case’s edge) that can be felt, as well as seen. The quartz movement watch comes in a variety of colors, all of which favor the bold.
Projects Watches Diagram 17 ($140)
More than a watch, the Diagram 17 is art for your wrist and will surely act as a conversation piece just about anywhere you go. Rather than a straightforward three-hand watch, the 40mm stainless steel Diagram 17 uses modern art-style hands a-la Wassily Kandinsky-like curved and angular lines that draw new interpretations every time they move. It may take some patience to tell the actual time, but now that you have plenty of it, why not?
Undone Aqua Carbon ($475)
Dive watches are nothing new, but when it’s done up in all black and personalized, that changes the game. The Aqua Carbon is but one of the permutations you can drum up on their website, but it’s not for the faint of style. The chunky ceramic bezel is as tough as nails, and its paired with a 42.5mm diameter black case, sapphire crystal, and a 42-hour power reserve Japanese automatic movement. You can choose your dial, hands, bezel, strap, and even add a cyclops window to the date and add personalized lettering. The boldness of all black isn’t something everyone can pull off, but the Aqua is one great way to do it.
This is one of our favorites because it looks just as bold now in this re-issue as it was when it bowed for one year in 1970. The large 46mm high-performance quartz chronograph has a gorgeous red-white-and-blue colorway with three subdials. The red and red-tipped hands pop in sporty fashion, and domed sapphire crystal protects it all. Finally, a mesh steel bracelet adds class.
Skagen Jorn ($61)
Skagen timepieces are tremendous values without abandoning cutting edge style. Their Jorn sport/dress watch isn’t bold by virtue of its modest 41mm diameter and downright slim 8mm thickness but because of its matte grey dial, orange bezel highlight and orange second-hand. It’s the kind of watch you can wear with a crisp suit or just on your casual Zoom call with workmates (deploy it hand to chin, pensive-like). The slim stainless steel bracelet matches the case nicely, and it will surely get noticed more than its modest price point would indicate.
This motoring-inspired timepiece just happens to be revolutionary today with its one-handed timekeeping. Once you acclimate yourself to its functionality, it’s actually refreshingly simple to tell what time it is. Accurate Swiss quartz movement manages watch duties, and the black and white dial of the 42mm watch pays homage to the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The orange highlights contrast well against the face and perforated racing strap, which provides all-day comfort. While the numerical font choice is truly modern, the elegant onion crown and the curved wire lug style smartly keep one foot of the Distinct 3.0 firmly planted in the past.
BOLDR Expedition El Capitan ($599)
While it may not be easy being green, the El Capitan pulls it off masterfully. The Swiss Automatic watch was designed to travel, hike, and take on the outdoors while drawing attention with its bold verdant coloring. Not only is it shrouded in a tough matte-finish 41mm 316L stainless steel case, but it also boasts 20,000A/m magnetic resistance, Swiss automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve, a double domed anti-reflective sapphire lens, and a rotating inner bezel. The final touch is the stitched green canvas strap that matches the dial. It also comes with a green rubber strap but can also swap out numerous other versions for a style change.
Torgoen T16 Chronograph ($450)
Pilot watches are most often designed in classic colorways, but the T16 gets even more daring with its black stainless steel case, as well as black crown/pushers, and black buckle. The lumed vintage tan hands, numerals, and markers, allow the red subdial hands to set off the face nicely. But it’s not all show without go thanks to a tough K1 mineral crystal lens that resists scratches and impact, and 100 meters of water resistance. The choice of a thick brown Italian leather strap nods to the past, preventing the T16 from departing from its roots too much.
Makara Sea Serpent ($549)
Derivative watches are everywhere, and it’s oftentimes hard to tell a Seiko from a Rolex at a distance. There are no worries mistaking the octagonal bronze Sea Serpent for anything else. Not only is the case uniquely shaped, but the CUSN8 solid bronze metal will also patina wonderfully over time, adding even more personality to the watch. Orange tipped hands against the navy blue dial provide even more style, but the pièce de résistance might actually be the “brass knuckle” buckle that secures the wide 24mm rubber strap. Underneath it all is a Miyota automatic movement, and sapphire glass tops it off. The Sea Serpent would be just the right bold accent piece for any of these outfits.
Martenero Bayshore ($395)
Martenero loves to reinterpret watch genres, and the Bayshore is its latest. An original take on the classic dive watch, the chosen colorways are what draws the eye rather than the size or the dial layout. The first quarter of the uni-directional bezel gets a contrasting color from the rest of the bezel and from the dial itself. The tapering flat-link bracelet, the screw-down crown, and the 39mm diameter are all traditional, but the introduction of a blazing red dial and bezel make it ultra-fresh.
Geckota G-01 Diver ($318)
Cushion style cases have been around forever, and they’re still prevalent in horological circles by the likes of pricey Panerai and Vacheron Constantin. Fortunately, the affordable Geckota G-01 provides a robust cushion case with a colorful fine brushed fumé-style dial that pays homage to the ‘60s without looking dated at all. Gold trim gilds the markers and hands, and the color transitions from the center to a darker hue at the dial’s edge. The bold color might be different, but the classic shape, automatic movement, and sapphire glass mean the G-01 Diver was meant to last beyond trends and tastes.
Spinnaker Dumas ($400)
Although the Dumas comes in a variety of colors, its the dive watch’s 44mm octagonal case with shrouded lugs that jumps out at you. Chunky and angular, the Dumas is a sport/dive watch extraordinaire that can manage 300-meter dives, as well as really aggressive bar hopping. Sapphire glass adds resilience, and a Seiko NH35 automatic movement manages accurate time. The chunky but refined shark mesh bracelet looks fantastic against the lines of the Dumas, and we can almost guarantee no one else you know will have one.