The 20 best watches for designers

A watch is a very personal thing. Not only do we choose them on their style (and indeed how they match our overall look) but also because of their features, history, and perhaps even brand. But overall, of course, it's how a watch looks that draws our attention.

Whether you're after a simple timepiece, a retro classic, a watch with a difference or one of the new raft of smart devices that enable you to receive notifications on your wrist, here we've picked a top selection – with the help of a few design experts and friends of Creative Bloq.

01. Apple Watch

Hugely anticipated and perfect for iOS users, the Apple Watch is a gamechanger

There's no way we could kick off this list with anything other than the Apple Watch. There's probably not much you don't know about Apple's smartwatch – it runs an ever-increasing number of your favourite apps, links to your iPhone and is available in three collections: Sport, Watch and Edition.

The top-end Edition watches ship for over $20,000, and top design houses are now getting involved in further personalisation options, but we think you'd probably be just as happy with one of the more basic versions. Either way, the digital crown and Apple's usual delightful design and UI touches are winners – even if you're not an Apple fan.

02. Braun BN0171

It may not have many bells and whistles (well, none) but the Braun BN0171 is still a modern classic

What designer doesn't appreciate the simplicity and subtleties of a Braun timepiece? The BN0171 is probably the exemplary case in point, with a full ceramic case and bracelet and the iconic yellow second hand – and pretty much nothing else. Still, this doesn't stop it from being a stunning watch – it looks fantastic in both stone beige and black.

In terms of features, well, like the design, it's pretty sparse (plus it's only water resistant to 3ATM). But that doesn't stop it from being a truly desirable 'physical interpretation of Braun's less is better philosophy'. T3 magazine art editor Luke O'Neill wants one on his wrist.

03. Mondaine Official Swiss Railways Watch

The Mondaine Official Swiss Railways Watch is a design classic – and the favourite of many designers thanks to its simplicity and elegance

The Mondaine Swiss Railways Watch, based on the 1944 Official Swiss Railways Clock by Hans Hilfiger, was first released in 1986 and today looks as stylish as it ever did. There are three collections available: the Stop2go, the Classic and the Simply Elegant. Whilst all three are utterly charming, we particularly like the Stop2go, which runs a little fast for 58 seconds, and then stops for two seconds at the full minute.

Dave Greasly of branding agency sidebyside loves his Mondaine, even though "the date is always wrong and it's seven minutes slow!". Mondaine also makes the Mondaine Helvetica – a simple, stylish collection of watches echoing the form of the quintessential Swiss typeface.

04. Michael Bastian and HP Chronowing Limited Edition Black

The Chronowing combines a modern gents' watch styling with the ability to read notifications, control your music and more

When you hear the words 'HP' and 'Smartwatch' the Chronowing is probably the last thing you'd have in your head, but thanks to teaming up with renowned designer Michael Bastian, the Chronowing is an elegant (although very masculine) timepiece that blends rugged yet slick looks with the control you want from a modern smart watch.

The Limited Edition black version is our favourite, but both models offer the ability to change wrist straps for a different look. The smart watch functionality works with both iOS and Android and enables you to receive notifications, control music, manage your calendar and more – all from your wrist. Battery life is stated at a week, too.

05. Suunto Elementum Terra

The Suunto Elementum Terra looks as good when suited and booted as it does when out hiking. It's a versatile, sturdy timepiece – and should be for £559 for a digital watch

Although your day job may not involve trekking and climbing up mountains, the Suunto Elementum Terra could still be the timepiece of choice for you, mainly thanks to its sporty, streamlined look and host of cracking features. Top of the list is a unique 3D compass, giving you accurate compass readings even if you aren't level yourself. Then there's the altimeter and barometer.

And of course it's tough – the stainless steel case with sapphire glass able to withstand whatever you throw at it (literally, probably). Artist and designer Tysall is a big fan.

06. Uniform Wares C41

Swiss-made with great attention to detail, the Uniform Wares C41 is a modern classic. Its M-Line collection – starting at £240 – is also worth checking out

Designer and letterer Steven Bonner recently bought one of these minimalist beauties – and we can see why. It's a simple, wonderfully-crafted chronograph. The C41 is by Uniform Wares – an independent, luxury British watch maker that 'fuses clean, modern design with precision quartz engineering'.

The PVD grey Brushed Milanese mesh has to be our favourite – with a striking white face and twin register chronograph with date. We also adore the classic strap on this model. It's also available with a variety of different straps, including the sublime Grey Parisian alligator (but that one will cost you £960).

07. Mr Jones The Last Laugh Tattoo Edition

Tell the time by looking at the skull's teeth – it's not the most conventional of timepieces but is sure to be a talking point

How's this for a watch with a difference? The Last Laugh Tattoo edition features specially commissioned artwork by British tattoo artist Adrian Willard. "The design comes from the Mexican Day of the Dead festival," he says. "It has become a very popular image in the tattoo world over the years and has replaced the regular skull in the mainstream tattoo trends."

Powered by a 20-jewel automatic mechanical movement, the time is displayed on the skull's teeth – the two front teeth show the hours while the lower jaw shows the minutes. The striking face is paired with a black leather strap with turquoise stitching detail.

08. Withings Activité

It looks like a classic timepiece but functions as a fitness tracker. There's no real reason not to like the Withings Activité. And the cheaper 'Pop' represents great value at £199.95

The Activité from Withings just goes to show that not all fitness trackers need to be a rubber band with an LED/OLED display. This sharp model combines a Swiss made timepiece with a fine calf leather strap and scratch-proof domed glass with a top-quality tracker, enabling you to count your steps and analyse your sleep by using the companion app for iOS or Android (and includes a silent alarm). It also will track your swimming laps and has an incredible eight-month battery life (and when this runs out it can easily be replaced).

09. Nooka Zex Night

Unconventional yet stylish, the Zex Night has a large hexagonal design and comes with a sharp leather band

Possibly the most unconventional watch in this list, the Nooka Zex Night looks rather link a emoticon from a distance. But, get close up and you see a very cool, and easy-to-fathom, watch face (we're obviously not big fans of having to jump through hoops to work out the time on a device).

Telling the time is easy. The dots to the left of the face show the hour, the band across the bottom show the minutes and the three dots above this show AM, PM and alarm. It is quite a large timepiece though at 53mm – the Zex 45 Night may be more suitable for those looking for a smaller design on their wrist.

10. Nava Ora Unica dial

Italian company Nava is known for its striking, if somewhat unconventional watch designs – and the Ora Unica dial is no exception

We'll continue the theme of unconventional watches for just one more entry – this time the Nava Ora Unica dial. Whilst it looks like a struggle to tell the time on this minimalist scrawled face, it's actually a cinch. The short end of the scribble, close to the middle of the face points at hours; the long end at minutes. It's 36mm in diameter, features a genuine leather strap and has a Miyota 2039 movement.

Next page: 10 more essential watches for designers