At Marie Claire, we believe that watches are essential. But it can feel like some watches are doing too much—tracking your steps, your texts, and your heart rate. What if you want a watch that does less in the logistics department, and more in the style realm? Consider the watches on this list our gift to you. We've gathered the very best in luxury and budget, in every material out there, from watches of silicone and rubber to stainless steel and solid gold. We even turned to Brynn Wallner, (opens in new tab) founder of the mega-popular Instagram account and website Dimepiece, for her advice on all things watches. Keep reading to check out her (affordable!) picks, discover which of the best watch brands are trending, and see the best watches for women on the market this year.
Watches have been an iconic status symbol for decades, but they’ve seen a resurgence in pop culture of late. The reason, at least according to Wallner, is thanks to “spikes in sales, record-breaking auctions, exciting collaborations—like Tiffany & Co. x Patek Philippe—and an overall increase in coverage via social media.” Celebrities like Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajowski, for instance, have recently been spotted wearing timepieces from brands like Cartier and BREDA, respectively, with even the most casual of summer outfits, proving that watches are one of 2022's trendiest accessories.
“When something gets so much attention, it becomes difficult for people to ignore. Soon, you start seeing watches everywhere and realize how impacted by the news/social cycle you are,” says Wallner. “Once you dig deeper, past the hype, you realize how special watches can be.” She notes that smaller watches like Zendaya’s and Hadid’s are actually a major trend in the watch world right now. “Small watches are becoming more coveted for men and women alike,” she notes. (If you’re not a watch aficionado, a small watch is generally anything measuring under 36 millimeters.)
Yes, watches can come in at a higher price point than many accessories, but purchasing a watch is more than a single expensive purchase. “They're often an investment from a financial standpoint, yes, but above all, they're a sentimental investment,” Wallner says. “The relationship one forms with a watch is more intimate than with any other luxury item, like a handbag or shoes. A watch, when worn regularly, becomes a part of you, something you wear for life and then pass down to future generations.”
This shift in perspective has been felt on the retail side: luxury re-commerce website FASHIONPHILE has noticed an increase in ultra-luxury watch brands, including Audemars Piguet (opens in new tab)and Patek Philippe (opens in new tab). Jorge Ramirez, (opens in new tab)Timepiece Manager at Fashionphile, says that the site sold “three times” the amount of both brands since August 2021, noting a 175 percent increase for the former and a 191 percent increase for the latter. ”I believe people started realizing the value in the pre owned and secondary watch market," he says over email. “Not only for brands and models you can only find in the secondary market—primarily Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe—but also for brands like Cartier, Omega, Hublot and the rest of the brands we sell, which you can find way below retail value in excellent condition and in some cases even in new condition.”
The Best Watches for Women
Best Classic Small Watch
If you’re looking for a simple, timeless timepiece, consider this watch from Tory Burch. It’s dainty at just 24mm, so it'll blend in with the rest of your jewelry with ease. It’s made from gold-tone stainless steel rather than solid or plated gold, so you can get the look for less.
Best Classic Silver Small Watch
If silver is more your go-to than gold, check out this 31mm watch from Nixon. The deep navy face and rose-gold accents give it a modern, masculine, feel, but the size makes it work if you have a smaller wrist.
Best Small Watch With A Super-Thin Strap
Not every watch needs a thick strap! This one from Shinola has a dainty option that looks more akin to a bracelet than a traditional timepiece. At 33mm wide and made from sturdy stainless steel, the elegantly braided clasp works for day and nighttime wear.
Best Small Watch With Mixed Metals
While others on this list mix-metals in a subtle way, this watch from Coach is all about combining silver and gold. The crystal embellishments where the numbers would usually go add a bit of sparkle.
Best Small Watch on Amazon
If you want your watch to get here in 24 hours, pick up this classic option from Timex that's available on Amazon. It has no frills, retails for under $50, and will age like the most chic family heirloom.
Best Wrap-Around Small Watch
For a layered look, pick up this wrap watch from Fossil. Plus, it’s pretty customizable: pick from two face-color options (white and multicolored purple) plus several strap colorways including deep brown and beige.
Best New Designer Small Watch
A designer watch is a great gift, yes, but it’s also a great way to treat yourself if you’re not looking to buy a new bag or a new pair of shoes. This dainty Swiss-made Salvatore Ferragamo watch is made from stainless steel, has an adjustable strap, and quartz detailing.
Best High-Contrast Small Watch
Watches with black detailing always feel modern (and will match your all-black fall ensembles, too!). This one from Ted Baker London combines the edginess of the colorblocked face with a delicately-braided, thin, strap.
Best Micro-Mini Watch
Oh, so you want a watch that’s barely even there? This one from Gucci (which you can buy on Fashionphile!) is priced at under $300 and is emblazoned with the brand’s iconic name across the mini face. It’s even outfitted with a tiny sapphire crystal for added sparkle.
Best Glitzy Gold Watch
There are gold watches, and then there are blingy gold watches. This one from French-girl favorite brand Isabel Marant definitely falls into the latter category. It’s water-resistant up to 40 meters, has a razor-thin mesh band, and has a pared-down design that perfectly complements the shimmery band.
Best Classic Silver Big Watch
This Gucci watch has an oval-shaped face as opposed to a classic circular one, giving it a retro feel. However, the silhouette starkly contrasts with the bold black design on its face. It comes in its original box courtesy of Fashionphile, and is outfitted with a sapphire crystal.
Best Rose Gold Big Watch
Yes, this rose-gold watch is cute—and it also comes in two other colors. The traditionally feminine colorway contrasts with the black contrasts with the bold color of the watch’s face. From the iconic link design on the strap to the chunky, oversized design, it’s bound to make a statement.
Best Two-Tone Big Watch
I love when two brands team up on a cute collection, especially when one of those brands is internet-adored brand Cynthia Rowley. This pick from the collaboration features a stainless steel face and a soft silicone strap for all-day comfort. It comes in two colors and even features a date feature right on the face.
Best All Black Big Watch
If you’re someone who wears all-black from day-to-day, make your watch follow suit. This one from MVMT is perfect because it will always coordinate with your outfit thanks to the singular colorway. It also has a two-year warranty if you ever damage it.
Best Tortoiseshell Big Watch
Acetate watches like this one from Nixon can feel more casual when compared to a classic larger watch made from steel or leather. Choose from a classic brown tortoiseshell or opt for one that comes in white, blue, or pink.
Best Playful Big Watch
I’ve been a longtime wearer of Swatch watches, and for good reason: They're lightweight and often come in a multitude of fun colors and prints. Case in point: This bright red and white option perfect for Valentine's Day and beyond. Feel free to wear your heart on your wrist. Plus, Wallner recommends Swatch as one of her favorite affordable watch brands.
Best Blingy Big Watch
For a watch that is sure to make a statement on your wrist, go blingy or go home. This Michael Kors pick is the perfect fit: The pave details! The bright gold colorway! The exaggerated numbers on the face! It has it all.
Best Menswear-Inspired Big Watch
For a borrowed-from-the-boys aesthetic this fall, opt for a woman's watch like this one from Tissot. The croc-embossed strap and the classic large face make it look like an heirloom that’s been passed down through generations, without the effort.
Best Graphic Big Watch
Bold and colorful, this blacka-and-white watch clocks in at 40mm wide for an extra-large feel. The leather strap is interchangeable, so you can swap out different bands to fit your mood (and your outfit).
Brynn Wallner's Favorite Watches
When asked about her favorite affordable watch brands to shop, Wallner had one answer: “I love BREDA, a smaller watch brand with a sharp focus on design and affordability. My favorite watch of theirs is the Jane (Tethered) for a chic look or their Play for a sporty moment."
The Watches Trending for 2022
Sure, you’re buying a pricey item, but you can still incorporate a few trends into your purchase. Ramirez says: “Stainless steel still continues to be the more popular style among different metals used by watch manufactures,” so you’ll have no trouble finding one if that’s what you’re after.
As for specific trends to look out for? Color! “The trend that we are still seeing is colored dials, with many different brands using greens and blues, which we should continue to see for this season,” he says.
How to Style Watches in 2022
Gone are the days of wearing only your watch and nothing else. Mixing metals and stacking your watch with the rest of your jewelry is not only trendy, but Wallner actually encourages it. “! I love a two-tone moment,” she says. “I wear my steel Cartier Tank Française with my gold rings and it looks very chic.”