In 1972, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and designer of the legendary 911, split from the carmaker to start his own design firm, Porsche Design. Soon after, he launched the Chronograph 1, a chronograph watch with a stainless steel case powder-coated in black. It is generally accepted as the first all-black watch design, with watchmakers like IWC and Heuer following up soon after with their own blacked-out watches.

The problem with these early black watches was that the powder-coated paint scratched very easily. The solution: using physical vapor deposition (PVD) to add a thin, hard coating of black material on the watch case that is nigh impossible to scratch, protecting both the finish and the stainless steel underneath. PVD has since become the de facto method for creating all-black watches, though in recent years, the use of black ceramic has become much more common practice when designing cases.

In either case, modern all-black watches lend themselves to a stealthy, tough-guy aesthetic and, as such, the all-black look is at its best when it’s paired with a purpose-built tool watch. And since all-black watches are far less blingy than polished steel or precious metal counterparts, they work exceptionally well with a pared-down wardrobe, perhaps why they’ve seen a surge in popularity in recent years. They can be found at pretty much any price, ranging from a couple hundred bucks to tens of thousands. These ten examples wear the look best.

Braun BN0171

Ceramic cases are usually reserved for the top of the haute-horologerie food chain (see the end of this list, for example), but that didn’t stop Braun from offering one in a sub-$500 package. The black case and bracelet are mated with a black dial with subtle gray hour markers, with just the white and yellow hands providing the only contrast against a stunningly dark void.

Movement: Quartz
Case diameter: 38mm
Case material: Ceramic
Water resistance: 30m

Seiko Prospex SRPB55 “Samurai”

Seiko’s edgy “Samurai” diver is certainly a watch deserving of a sinister-looking colorway. The sculpted case gets black ion-plating, the textured dial is done up in black, and it’s mounted to a black rubber strap. The gold accents on the bezel add enough contrast for the count-up bezel to be legible.

Movement: Seiko 4R35 automatic
Case diameter: 43.8mm
Case material: Stainless steel with ion-plating
Water resistance: 200m

Squale 50 Atmos

Squale was once a watch-case producer (associated with Blancpain, Heuer and Blancpain, among others) that relaunched in the 21st century as a maker of retro-inspired dive watches. This 50 Atmos is, as the name suggests, water-resistant to 500 meters (50 atmospheres) and powered by a Swiss-made ETA automatic. The black PVD coating suits the sleek case shape of the 50 Atmos well, and the orange minute hand is a nice touch.

Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Case material: Stainless steel with PVD coating
Water resistance: 500m

Sinn 856 UTC Black

Even at the lower end of the brand’s price spectrum, Sinn’s penchant for overengineering shines through. The 656 UTC here features a stainless steel case, hardened through Sinn’s “Tegiment” process, then given a black PVD coating. The case also protects the GMT movement inside from magnetic fields up to 80,000 A/m. Even though the 856 is not a dive watch, it’s still water resistant to a very respectable 200 meters.

Movement: ETA 2893-2 automatic
Case diameter: 40mm
Case material: Stainless steel with PVD coating
Water resistance: 200m

Longines Legend Diver Black

Since its launch way back in 2007, the vintage-inspired Legend Diver has been an overwhelming fan-favorite in Longines’ lineup. Its gotten numerous tweaks over the years, but at Baselworld 2018, the watchmaker gave the watch the all-black treatment (not to mention a revised movement with a 68-hour power reserve). It’s a look that gives this decidedly old-school diver a more modern look, and we can’t help but love the way the mint and tan indices intertwine with the black backdrop of its dial, bezel and case.

Movement: ETA A31.L01 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Case material: Stainless steel with PVD coating
Water resistance: 300m

Tudor Black Bay Dark

Tudor seems to have an endless supply of variants for its heritage-inspired Black Bay collection, but the Black Bay Dark seems to be a dark horse in the lineup. The Tudor’s tough guy looks are complemented by the addition of PVD black coating, and the red accents on the bezel at 12 o’clock and the dial at six, are the only added color this diver needs.

Movement: Tudor MT5602 automatic
Case diameter: 41mm
Case material: Stainless steel with PVD coating
Water resistance: 200m

TAG Heuer Monza

Jack Heuer released the Monza in 1976 as a celebratory gift to Ferrari for winning the 1975 F1 World Championship (Ferrari driver Niki Lauda sealed the deal at Ferrari’s home turf at Autodromo Nazionale Monza). The original Monza had a PVD-coated stainless steel case, and was one of the earliest watches with an all-black design. This modern reissue eschews PVD-coated stainless steel in favor of a titanium case with titanium carbide coating.

Movement: Heuer Caliber 17 automatic (ETA 2894-2 base)
Case diameter: 42mm
Case material: Titanium with titanium carbide coating
Water resistance: 100m

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph “Top Gun”

IWC’s Top Gun-inspired chronograph (not so much the movie but the elite Navy flight program) is one of the finest pieces in the brand’s expansive pilot watch lineup. The watch is notable for its use of ceramic and all-black color scheme, yes, but the real standout on this watch is the gem of a movement inside. It’s an in-house automatic chronograph with a flyback function, which allows the chronograph seconds hand to reset to 12 o’clock and seamlessly advance forward again, with all the swiftness of a perfectly-exected windmill high-five.

Movement: IWC 89361 automatic
Case diameter: 44m
Case material: Ceramic
Water resistance: 60m

Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial “Black Black”

The aptly named Speedmaster “Black Black” is watchmaking’s take on “none more black.” A followup to the Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon,” the Black Black still reps a case chiseled from ceramic and a black dial. But it doubles down on the darkness by giving all its dial elements (hands, indices, branding, etc) a black treatment as well, and using black-colored SuperLuminova, which you’ll definitely need because otherwise, it’s one hell of a difficult watch to read.

Movement: Omega Co-Axial 9300 automatic
Case diameter: 44.25mm
Case material: Ceramic
Water resistance: 50m

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar

You may think the in-house, ultra-thin perpetual calendar movement is the highlight of this watch. But, really, it’s the hand-finished ceramic case and bracelet. Why? Consider this: the Royal Oak’s intricate bracelet in stainless steel takes six hours to complete. In ceramic? Try 30 hours. Needless to say, the stealthy black look of ceramic suits the Royal Oak’s iconically edgy design incredibly well, and when paired with one of the finest movements in the business, you have one of the finest pieces Audemars Piguet has ever released.

Movement: Audemars Piguet 5134 automatic
Case diameter: 41mm
Case material: Ceramic
Water resistance: 20m
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