The Best Budget-Friendly Thin Watches To Upgrade Your Wrist Game

The Best Budget-Friendly Thin Watches To Upgrade Your Wrist Game
Timepieces don't have to be tanks.

Keeping it simple is a bit too overlooked these days, whether within your wardrobe or your watch collection. There’s a reason timepieces have gotten more visually striking (and more than a little cluttered) over time, perhaps to keep up with bold fashion designs. But let’s take a step back for a second. It’s a nice move to have one of the best bold watches close at hand when you want to add a distinctive pop, sure, but don’t overlook the wardrobe value of having one of the best thin watches on your wrist.

What exactly makes a watch a “thin watch,” per se? These models feature an almost impossibly slim case thickness (usually between 6 and 8.5mm), plus minimal internal and external construction – that includes slimmer watch lugs and a more sleek internal watch movement (quartz among the models seen here). While dive watches, for instance, feature a sturdy case and a bulky bracelet to hold a water-resistant, ocean-ready watch, a thin watch strips out those bells and whistles. 

Because of that clean look, thin watches are commonly more dressy and worn with tailoring or with minimal looks (on the other hand, you might pair a rugged field watch with an equally rugged waxed jacket and henley). But a more simple build also means a lower price tag, in most cases. Taken altogether, a thin watch is crisp, clean, minimal and (for our selections), affordable. Add a dose of minimalism to your wrist game with our favorite options. 

image of a watch with black leather strap and black face dial

Bulova Classic Quartz Stainless Steel Watch

Bulova’s take on the classic thin dress watch is about as timeless as it gets, although the case diameter is slightly larger than old-school models at 40mm (the case thickness measures just 5.6mm). Bulova adds unique touches beyond that, like a grey dial that contrasts nicely with the white and gold-tone indices. They’ve even stripped out a date window for a super-clean look. The croc-textured black leather band is also timeless when worn with black patent leather shoes on the dressiest of occasions. It’s almost as if this watch was designed to be worn with a black suit – perhaps that’s why Bulova was the watch brand of choice for Ol’ Blue Eyes, Mr. Frank Sinatra. 

New to the Bulova? They also made the other Moon Landing watch

image of a thin watch from Fossil with brown leather strap and white face dial

Fossil Minimalist Three-Hand Watch

Fossil makes all kinds of watches these days, with a particular focus on smartwatches and an array of bold sport watches. But simplicity is underrated, and that’s what makes the slimmed-down Minimalist so impressive. The case size offers a more noticeable style on your wrist at 44mm, and the beige dial also plays nicely against the stainless steel case. Look closely and you also spot a 60-second dial ring for added functionality and visual interest. Fairly priced at $130, you can stretch your dollars even further by throwing in an interchangeable silicone strap for $30.

image of a seiko thin watch with black leather strap and white square shaped dial face

Seiko Stainless Steel Leather Dress Watch

Keep in mind, not every thin watch needs to feature a perfectly round dial. Seiko’s take on the style (featuring a case height of 6.98mm) is an Art-Deco throwback in shape and dial design, with a dial shape reminiscent of much more expensive “tank watches.” The alligator-textured black leather strap is another distinctive touch; taken in conjunction with the white dial and black numerals, it’s perhaps the perfect black leather watch for the price, and the 40mm case diameter ensures it won’t vanish on your wrist despite its irregular shape. 

image of a watch with brown leather strap and white dial face

Skagen Signature Three-Hand Minimalist Watch

Skagen takes its design cues from what it calls a “modern, minimalist and playful” perspective – never a bad trio to have in a wristwatch. With the aptly named Minimalist Watch, this lends itself well to a visually intriguing dial, with dot markings in between (and at the top of) the clean numerical lines. The round 40mm case diameter isn’t too different from other thin watches, but the style blend of a charcoal case and a brown leather strap is distinguished and stylish. For good measure, 75 percent of 1,000-plus reviews give this watch 5 stars.

A similar Skagen was featured in My Life Story In 4 Watches

image of a timex thin watch with black leather strap and white face dial

Timex Fairfield 41mm Leather Strap Watch

Timex has done an impressive job across the past handful of years evolving its designs and its quality (just look at collabs with the likes of Todd Snyder). The Fairfield Watch is a mainstay of the Timex line, and priced at just $89, it could be a solid entry into the world of thin watches. The black genuine leather strap and silver case are subtle and straightforward, but it’s the Indigo light-up watch dial – with just a press of the crown – is a uniquely Timex touch. Note that the case height is, on paper, thicker than some of these other options at 8.5mm.

image of a silver casio thin watch with a rectangular shaped dial

Casio Collection Watch

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Not all thin watches have to be of the ultra-dressy variety. It’s a good thing to give yourself options in your watch rotation, like this casual and durable Casio timepiece with an easy-to-read display and alarm chronograph functionality. At 6mm thick, this laidback digital watch just means business: No wild, expensive movement or added bells and whistles. This is the kind of timepiece to throw on when you want to wear a watch in the most easygoing way possible (say, with a breezy cotton pocket tee and tailored joggers on a lazy weekend morning). 

Casio black resin thin watch
On the right featuring our DIY leather watch strap project

Casio Black Resin Watch

Casio nearly has the market cornered as far as the best affordable watches are concerned, especially if you want a toned-down timepiece you can wear in more ways than one. By that, we mean this super-simple black resin watch – a supremely lightweight material – is the ideal watch to try swapping in your own leather strap, for instance. It’s been a Casio mainstay for nearly two decades, with a nice bit of visual interest thanks to gold-tone markings popping off against a black dial. Like its other Casio peers, it’s a watch made to be worn in situations when you want to tell time quickly without wearing an extremely expensive timepiece. 

Daniel Wellington thin watch

Daniel Wellington Classic Bristol Watch

There are certain watches that come to define the very category in which they sit – case in point, if you’ve got Instagram and have been in the market for a thin watch, perhaps you’re familiar with the ever-popular Daniel Wellington brand. But there’s a reason for that (beyond the sub-$200 price tag). With a precise Japanese quartz movement and a case thickness of just 6mm, the Bristol delivers super-clean style by removing all numerals from the dial design, perhaps the epitome of a thin watch. Your choice of different leather, dial and strap color options seals the deal. 

image of a watch with brown leather strap and blue face diel

Nordgreen Native Brown Leather Watch

Danish design often takes a “less is more” approach, which shines through in both the ultra-slim case and crisp dial of another sub-$200 thin watch here from Nordgreen. Like the DW watch above, this timepiece clocks in at 40mm, but is ever-so-slightly beefier: The case thickness measures 8.35mm. It’s a solid pick if you want something a bit more substantial on your wrist. Nordgreen goes a bit more distinctive with its logo placement, and the combination of a navy dial, silver case and brown leather is also a standout selection. 

grey Sthurling thin watch

Stuhrling Original Leather Watch

Shake things up ever so slightly with this low-contrast take on the sharp dress watch. Instead of a black strap and a silver case, the silver-colored case and dark face blend nicely with a grey calfskin leather textured strap. The thin hands and slim dial markings, plus a circular date window (worth a second glance) blend seamlessly to turn this into a watch that looks much more expensive than its sub-$50 price tag.

Bering solar thin watch

Bering Time Solar Slim Watch

Bering’s slim watch is yet another timepiece that reflects its minimalist Danish origins, but here’s the kicker: Although it looks quite sleek, the case is actually 9mm thick. We’re willing to give that a pass, since the entire timepiece is about as stripped-back as can be. The stainless steel mesh strap is an impressive, streamlined touch, and the watch’s indented, quadrant dial design is nicely offset by four instantly recognizable, almost futuristic numeral markings. How else can we say it? This watch is just plain cool, and it’s a stellar value.

MVMT gold thin watch

MVMT Minimalist Watch

MVMT pushes the boundaries of a true “thin watch” – this case diameter also measures 9mm. That being said, it’s relatively rare to find a slimmed-down watch set on stainless steel links, let alone gold links for a touch of extra flair. MVMT replaces the 12-o’clock dial marking with its logo, which pops against the black dial, as do gold dial lines in place of numerals. Priced at just over $100, this is the kind of “special occasion” watch that plays up a notch – it looks more expensive than it is, and it stands out (but not too much!) when worn with, say, a white polo, olive chinos and brown suede loafers.

Beau has been a Primer reader since 2012. In the years since then, he's worked in menswear public relations and social media in New York City while running his own blog, The Style Guide. When not enjoying a Brooklyn craft beer, Beau also covers watches, whiskey, music and more for sites like Maxim and InsideHook.