A Fine Time for Simplicity: 12 Minimalist Watches

Fashion designer Jil Sander once argued, “I am convinced that there can be luxury in simplicity.” And in a world of information overload, non-stop notifications, and the hindrance of a “more is better” culture, there is indeed luxury to be found in design embracing the simplification of compositional relations between a person and the information they seek.

Watch design has veered into this reductive aesthetic, pushing forth material and unitary plain geometry to the forefront of wrist fashion. In an era of smartphones, we no longer need watches, but perhaps we want them more than ever. Here are a dozen minimalist watches that fall into that “want” category:


Long Distance Classic by Kitmen Keung: the same mind behind my favorite mouse pad designed a watch of equal simplicity and utility, a refined dual dial timepiece.


névo: The pared down design belies the nevo’s slew of smart connected device features: eleven bright embedded white LED indicators light up around the névo dial to indicate how close the wearer has gotten to achieving their goal of steps, distance, or calories burned, Bluetooth connectivity ties together smartphone notifications via the névo silent vibrating alarm, and dual batteries within power the watch and connected features separately working without the need to replace batteries for months instead of daily recharging.


Uniform Wares M40: The contrast between the gray dial face with tan nappa leather keep this design warmly attractive despite its pared down design. Swiss made movement inside and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protects the front with anti-reflective coating that iPhone users could only wish for.


Classic Engineering Vario: Colombian designer Eduardo Umaña’s background is in engineering, and it shows with his tastefully simple and elegant watches which forgo ostentatious details for operable beauty. Designed and machined in the USA, assembled in Switzerland, with vegetable tanned full grain leather by Guild of Holland, these timepieces are an international effort at a reasonable price (soon to be available at the SF MoMA Store when it opens this coming May 2016).


NOMOS Glashütte Lambda Weißgold: The Lambda Weißgold is arguably a peculiar choice amongst these other minimalist timepieces, as its three overlapping dials present a more ornate presentation, and its three-quarter plate is bejeweled with a 29 jewel sunbeam design, a fanciful detail only revealed when flipped over. But the delicate typographic and graphic layout keeps this watch safely on the side of unfussy modernity.


TID No.1 Black/ Walnut Wristband: Minimalism gone rugged by the Stockholm based design studio, Form Us With Love. The slightly chunky stainless steel, black ion coated matte finish communicates durability, while the accuracy of Japanese quartz action keeps the timekeeping precise within.


The Chester: Studio Dreimann’s watch is inspired by the detailing of an old Chesterfield couch, complete with subtle tufting details at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions within its sensual alloyed metal body and domed glass design.


MONA HMS-Date Superterra: Montres Originales Nardon et Ardilouz, MONA, offers an array of simple face design watches (including the very limited edition MONA x The Graduate Store Braddock edition), but it’s their Superterra designed for “elegant youngsters as well as family men” which seems to offer the most fashion adaptable design.


The Ora Lattea: Designed by Denis Guidone for Milanese Nava Design of Italy, the Ora Lattea is a sly and humorous take on the minimalist timepiece – maybe even a little indecipherable at first. In motion the floating dot hands orbit in planetary motion, the biggest dot represents the hour and the smallest dot represents the minutes and the middle dot the centerpiece of this timekeeping solar system.


People People Pocket Watch: Not many wear pocket watches today, but maybe more would if they looked as modern yet timeless as this leather strapped, single piece of aluminum face pocket watch from Stockholm, Sweden.


Minus-8 Zone: A simplified watch with a case of split personality, the bold graphic Zone is powered by Japanese quartz for keeping the time, and more interesting, an NFC chip inside allows wearers to program single task actions with NFC-connective smart devices.


South Lane Avant Pure Ostrich: The Avant is available in an even more purified all-black edition, but there’s something kind of wonderful about the contrast between luxurious detailing of the green textured strap and copper hued arms against the plain minimalism of the Avant’s face.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at