Monochrome Watches
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Buying Guide

Best of 2021 – Our Favourite Dress/Elegant Watches of the Year

It's all about the elegant, time-only watch today... But not necessarily the formal ones!

| By Brice Goulard | 7 min read |

Since the end of 2021 is fast approaching and following our recent buying guides, we continue to look at the best watches introduced this year in most categories. After the best chronographs, our favourite watches by independent watchmakers or the top dive watches, it’s time for us to go elegant and dressy. But, MONOCHROME being MONOCHROME, we had to do it with a twist. Elegant doesn’t necessarily mean formal or classic. Long gone is the time when the dress watch was only defined by the Calatrava. Watchmakers have understood that elegance can be combined with boldness and originality. And here are our favourite elegant dress watches of the year, and all have something pretty unique to showcase.

Editor’s note: this list reflects the preferences of MONCHROME’s editorial team and results from an internal vote. This list is, of course, non-exhaustive and remains subjective. If there are other time-only, elegant dress watches launched in 2021 that made an impression on you, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

Armin Strom Tribute 1

As said, we’re not necessarily looking here for the classic dress watch… Case in point, this stunning new watch by independent watchmaker Armin Strom. A brand that has long been focusing on bold designs and openworked (in-house) movements, some of them with out-of-this-world regulators, this year the duo behind the brand has decided to launch their own vision of a compact, elegant time-only watch. And the Tribute 1 is, in this instance, quite fascinating. It manages to combine a restrained look and dimensions with modernity and character. The case, at only 38mm, is refined yet contemporary. Same goes for the dial, which showcases some of the mechanics. And inside is a powerful in-house hand-wound movement that is on par with the rest of the watch – which also is the most “accessible” model of the brand. More details about the Armin Strom Tribute 1 in our hands-on here.

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Armin Strom Tribute 1 Limited Edition blue

Quick facts: 38mm diameter – stainless steel case – grained dial in blue or black with visible barrel and white gold hand-finished bridge – calibre AMW21, in-house, hand-wound, 3.5Hz and 100h power reserve – alligator strap – limited to 100 pieces per colour – CHF 13,900

Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour

Refined but complex, minimalistic but full of character, supremely elegant yet original. Chopard is a brand that knows how to create elegant watches, but this Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour is clearly next level. Standing out with clear graphics and elegant minimalism, the first jumping hour watch within the Chopard collections indicates the hours in digital format via an aperture in its pure white Grand Feu enamel dial. The design and finishing are outstanding, the overall elegance undeniable. And when you turn the watch over, you can see an ultra-powerful movement with no fewer than 4 barrels for 8 days of power reserve – and, of course, a high level of decoration. All the details in our review here.

Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour

Quick facts: 40mm diameter – ethical 18k rose gold case – Grand Feu enamel dial on ethical 18k rose gold base, with black transferred Grand Feu enamel indications – Chopard calibre L.U.C 98.06-L, in-house, Hallmark of Geneva, hand-wound, 4Hz and 8-day power reserve – matte brown alligator strap – limited edition of 100 pieces – EUR 44,500

Grand Seiko Elegance Europe Edition SBGW267

We’ve said it already, but the Grand Seiko SBGW231 is certainly one of the best examples of a time-only, Calatrava-style watches not to be produced in Switzerland. A perfect “sleeper” watch… But in its classic form, it’s also a bit too shy and could live with a bit more boldness. Problem solved this year with this SBGW267, a Europe-exclusive edition that adds textures and casualness by using genuine Japanese influence. The main update concerns the dial, which receives a texture inspired by architecture – traditional Japanese paper called washi, to be more precise. Also, it gets a slightly warmer silvery colour and is worn, for a more casual look, on a light brown calfskin strap. Inside is the classic but powerful hand-wound calibre 9S64. It also exists with a dark brown dial under the reference SBGW269. More details about this duo of Europe-exclusive models here.

Grand Seiko Elegance Collection European Edition SBGW267 SBGW269

Quick facts: 37.3mm diameter – stainless steel case – curved dial with fibre-like ‘washi’ pattern in silver colour (also available in dark brown) – Grand Seiko manufacture calibre 9S64, hand-wound, 4Hz and 72h power reserve – light brown calfskin strap – available from Europe-based boutiques and retailers – EUR 4,800

Laurent Ferrier Square Micro-Rotor Retro

It’s no surprise to see Laurent Ferrier being part of this list of our favourite dress watches… The independent watchmaker has, for multiple years already, demonstrated its savoir-faire when it comes to making elegant watches. The brand has always focused on an understated, smooth design that embodied undeniable retro inspirations, mostly from the 1920s to the 1950s. And the new Square Micro-Rotor Retro is bringing this flair again, with a theme inspired by the late 1930s. Specifically, the steel and silver dial model with its geometric rigour, minimalism and graphic stylisation is a demonstration of expertise… And under the sapphire caseback is the handsome, superbly decorated automatic micro-rotor movement with silicon escapement featuring a double direct impulse on the balance. All the details are in our hands-on article.

Quick facts: 41mm x 41mm – stainless steel case – Opaline silvery-white dial with circular satin-brushed hour circle – Calibre FBN 229.01, proprietary, automatic micro-rotor, double direct impulse natural escapement, 3Hz and 72h power reserve – khaki velvet alligator strap – CHF 45,000

Longines Silver Arrow

Moving on to something slightly more accessible, we’ve been fairly impressed by the new Silver Arrow re-edition launched by Longines earlier this year. A classic of the brand, with elegance yet a twist, it made a remarkable comeback in a faithful, compact yet modernized way. Longines is known for being one of the best brands when it comes to heritage models, and this new Silver Arrow is no exception to the rule. If the case feels simple at first, it shows nice, discreet details such as the pointy lugs and facets. Moving on to the dial, there’s once again great attention to detail, with these complex and original applied, striated markers giving the watch a lot of character. Inside is a modern movement with an extended power reserve and anti-magnetic properties. The best of both worlds. A pretty impressive package for a watch priced below the 2K mark. More details in this article here.

2021 Longines Silver Arrow - L2.834.4.72.2

Quick facts: 38.50mm diameter – stainless steel case – domed silver dial with opaline finish and striated/polished indexes – Calibre L888.5 (base ETA A31.L11), automatic, 3.5Hz and 72h power reserve – brown matte calfskin leather strap – EUR 1,950 

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 40mm

The Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921, a unique cushion-shaped model with a diagonal display, celebrates its centennial in 2021. And this year, it came back in a slightly more refined, more discreet attire, with a white gold case but still the same sense of originality and dandy elegance. What doesn’t change is the overall look of the watch, with this combination of old-school driver’s inspiration, the diagonal layout, the oversized Breguet numerals, and this oddly attractive design that makes this watch so desirable. Powering its quirky display is the in-house, hand-wound calibre 4400 AS with high-end decoration, as attested by the Poinçon de Genève hallmark. More details in our review here.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 40mm White Gold

Quick facts: 40mm diameter – 18k white gold case with crown at 1 o’clock – grained silver-tone dial with black painted Arabic numerals and railway minutes track – calibre 4400 AS, in-house, Hallmark of Geneva, hand-wound, 4Hz and 65h power reserve – dark brown calfskin leather strap made by Serapian – EUR 36,100

4 responses

  1. This list maybe outside the (Calatrava) box, but it is clearly done with great taste! Not a single watch here that I would not love to strap on.

  2. This was a particularly excellent selection. The writer clearly knows his stuff.

  3. I like the pee soup green strap ! I mean it looks like it was hit HARD by the kid from the exorcist!
    Yet , it works !

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