The less-is-more appeal of 10 minimalist watchesBorna Bošnjak
I first encountered the term “minimalist” at the tender age of 10, trying to figure out why anyone would enjoy staring at a wonky, red square on a white canvas at the opening night of Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Still, I found myself strangely drawn to the painting. It seemed like art critics of the early 20th century and my parents had the exact same word in mind when describing Kazimir Malevich – minimal. The word first cropped up in that time period, used to describe his Black Square, a contemporary piece of Red Square (i.e. Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions if you wanna get fancy with it) that captured my attention. Now permeating all forms of art, minimalism has become a way of life for some – using only what is most essential, helping to reduce wasting of resources and all the while finding enjoyment in the things that truly matter. While I’m sure many could benefit from a spot of decluttering, minimalism can also be an opportunity to maximise the potential of the material things that you do choose to have. And what better way to do so than through minimalist watches?
Swatch Once Again GB743
The watch that my mind immediately jumps to when I hear “Swatch“. It’s one of the simplest, most functional pieces that Swatch has on offer, and while you may argue that some of their Skin pieces appear more minimal, none offer form and function the way the Once Again does. Legible dial? Check. Luminescent hands? Check. Day and date? Check. Lifetime free battery replacements? Check. Best of all, it’s cheap as chips. Price: A$85
If you’ve ever had a little square alarm clock by your bedside, it’s highly likely to be from Braun. The function-driven design by industrial design icons Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs made its way into watches too. The Braun AW10 released during Baselworld several years ago stays true to the principles set out by one of its designers – “less but better”. Price: £205
A revamp of another classic design, this time taken from Swiss railway clocks that tick in time with the departure of the trains. The Mondaine Evo2 gets a re-designed case, measuring in at 35mm but with long, statuesque lugs giving it plentiful wrist presence. Powered by either a Ronda quartz or Sellita SW200 movement, Mondaine retained the large lollipop seconds hand that’s become a signature of the brand. Price: A$469 (nice) from the T+T Shop.
Unimatic Modello Due
Minimal doesn’t have to mean small, dainty and fragile. In fact, utilitarianism should be at the very forefront as far as considerations go, paired with “as little design as possible” – thank you, Mr Rams. The Unimatic brand and its creations are the result of a joint effort between two industrial design boffins from Milano, and it shows. Surpassing the superfluous and frankly not very useful “diving” bezels that the brand fits to some of their other watches, the U2 Classic Modello Due opts for a clean-cut, lean aesthetic. Price: €400 exc. taxes
Junghans max bill Automatic
Another product of a Bauhaus design legend, the Junghans Max Bill is the watch that first comes to mind when someone asks me for an alternative to the curse that is – and I dare not utter such words here – D****l W*******n. The designers striving to create the absolute most simple, yet not boring, design can be boiled down to his quote: “Watches… as timeless as can be conceived without forgetting the time.” Price: €925
Stowa Antea back to bauhaus
Letting the creator of Apple’s Snow White design language and Microsoft’s Windows UI and branding design a watch is bound to yield decent results. The Stowa Antea back to bauhaus proves that to be true. Hartmut Esslinger’s influence on an already minimal design is visible in the beautiful typeface and well-integrated branding. Price: starting from €1,000
Nomos Orion 33 Duo
There was no doubt that Nomos would feature on this list at some point, the only trouble was which watch to feature? I was tempted by the Tetra and the Tangente, but chose the most minimal design of all, the Orion 33 Duo. With only two hands and a muted colour scheme, I can easily picture it peeking out from underneath the cuffs of ivory-coloured linen shirts and cable knit sweaters. Price: A$2,570
Sinn 1739 St I S
Should the Nomos be too devoid of colour and too miniscule in sizing, Sinn offers another fantastic, equally German, alternative. The not-so-minimally named Sinn 1739 St I S comes in a 39mm case that offers an elegant sunburst dial with hands I’ve not seen on any other watch, yet protected by robust sapphire on both sides and water resistant to 10 bar. In classic Sinn fashion, the specs seem overengineered for the type of watch that it presents as, which makes it that much cooler. Price: A$3,215
Ressence Type 8C
Hear me out now. I know that on paper, a bright blue watch with a hugely domed sapphire crystal and a 43mm diameter doesn’t seem like the most minimal. However, consider how well-executed the Ressence design language is, making it seem deceptively simple at a glance while hiding so much cool engineering underneath. It may be a case of radical minimalism, but it’s minimalism nonetheless. Price: CHF 12,500
And finally – vintage
Regardless of the amount you want to spend, there’s bound to be something out there – take the pieces above as an example. One, a 150th anniversary Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 3718 (in steel, no less) is an incredibly understated if-you-know-you-know buy with timeless appeal. The other is a quirky, rectangular wonder with a unique bimetal construction and double-branded with Credor and Seiko on the same dial – something you’d certainly never see nowadays. Sure, take this last pick as a bit of a cop-out if you will, but neglecting the multi-faceted proposition that are vintage watches would be ignorant.