White-out designs and stealthy black go in and out of fashion, but seeing a resurgence of stealthy cool this year underlines that black is black. And sometimes that is just right.

Whether you want literal stealth wealth to go with your fave black suit or are employed as a secret operative, that’s your business. But for whatever reason, there is something about a lack of color that brings out the best in a good watch design.

black is black

Blancpain × Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms Ocean of Storms

Without eliciting quite the hype generated by the MoonSwatches (thankfully), the Bioceramic collab has taken a mechanical turn. Powered by the automatic Swatch System 51 caliber, Blancpain dropped a plastic (sorry, Bioceramic) bombshell. I never quite got on board the MoonSwatch train, but this Scuba Fifty Fathoms is something I can see myself wearing, especially the striped-NATO-accessorized Ocean of Storms. I’ve always admired the modern Fifty Fathoms despite its 45mm size, but this predated this year’s new 42mm versions by being a manageable size and cheap as chips. Sure, €400 will buy you a much better-made mechanical watch, but that’s not the point. Squint, and with its bulbous bezel, this looks and feels like a bona fide and very light dive grail.

Bamford Neprosolar

George Bamford loves vintage watches and has already remixed the spaceship-like Casquette by Girard-Perregaux. The £582 wrist-craft you see here is the alluring result of Bamford reviving a small but brave Swiss brand that developed some pretty spaced-out watches in the ’70s. All black and looking like nothing else on the planet, this Brutalist chunk of dark futurism caught my eye immediately. The right-side activator button actuates the driver’s watch angle of the blue OLED display, while the top-side solar panel provides sustainable power. Together with the recently released Toledano & Chan B/1, I’m hoping this marks a return for ultra-angular wristwear. The first batch is sold out, but make an inquiry with Bamford London, and you might get lucky.

black is the new black

Breitling Avenger B01 Chrono 44 Red Arrows

Breitling continues its airborne focus, and I’ve always had a weakness for the squadron editions. This spring, the RAF’s famous Red Arrows got two new models that are also available to us meager civilians. I still mainly enjoy smaller watches, but something about the confidence boost of a 44mm tool still gets me. The Avenger B01 Chrono 44 Red Arrows has the classic Breitling rider tabs on the bezel and a massive 44mm case with a respectable 15.2mm thickness. Rendered in matte black ceramic, it’s light play for such a large watch. Plus, the bright blue dial and straps make it a tempting proposal, especially when backed by the solid B01 caliber. You can get one for €7,950 from your Breitling AD.

black is the new black

Dior Chiffre Rouge

Dior is not the first name that comes to mind when discussing stealthy tool watches, but that’s one of my goals. Black DLC doesn’t have to spell Tool with a capital T or be 007-mission-ready. That connection could be made with Dior’s €7,600 38mm Chiffre Rouge. Surely, this dark menace would be perfect on the wrist of Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre (get it?)should he return to the Bond franchise? The black DLC-coated case balances an architectural pattern on the dial and strap, while a broader right case side makes for an asymmetric charm. The three fire-red accents of the seconds hand, date window, and crown ring make the design. I might be biased with my love of broad lugs, but the Grand Seiko-ish vibe of the black case bodes very well for Dior’s 2024 watches.

black is the new black

Seiko Prospex Solar Speedtimer SSC923

There has never been a shortage of blacked-out cool from Seiko, and a personal fave is the 5 Sports GMT. But early this year, the brand brought back the Black Series of the Prospex line, and I must say I’ve been tempted. For me, an all-time best in that range was the 2020 Marinemaster SBDX033, but this year’s Solar Speedtimer SSC923 has a lot going for it. With a hard-coated steel case and comfortable 41.4 × 45.9mm size, the V192 solar-powered chronograph offers big value. It comes on a tough 21mm nylon strap with a folding clasp and a €700 retail price. I’m not saying this is anything like the Breitling. However, at a tenth of the cost with a teal-lume-popping dial and an accurate, sustainable heart, it is a great sports watch with a stealthy twist.

Black Is The New Black

Wild card: pocketable stealth by Shinola

Neither you nor I would expect to see this, making my wild card all the more charming. Elijah McCoy, one of the world’s first known Black American inventors, is honored as part of Shinola’s Great Americans series and lives on in the quality term “the real McCoy.” He inspired the unlikely combination of 19th-century retro chic with no strap. Instead, you wear it on a chain. It’s a black DLC-coated pocket watch by the all-American brand Shinola. Matte black is the background for “Old Radium” lumed numerals, with gold hands and a big crown making for a nice contrast assisted by red pops. A Sellita SW210-1 caliber powers this 45mm pocket watch that retails for $1,750 on the Shinola website.

Honorable mentions

This year, we’ve seen a few menacing pieces of wristwear, so I’m sure this list could stretch further. What about the new and very accessible Boldr Odyssey Black Dragonfish? And if we also include digital cool, G-Shock never disappoints. As I write this, I’m wearing my GADA G, but Jorg got me wanting the extra-large asymmetric MRG Frogman. Those deep red details and seriously tough 49.7mm case awakened something in me. If I had an unlimited budget for blacked-out chic, I’d probably have a closer look at the immensely tempting ceramic Zenith Skyline Tourbillon that Lex covered back in February. Rose gold details on an all-black dial with a tourbillon is one killer combo.

So, Fratelli, are you up for some black-cased chic or still on the all-steel retro train? Let me know your deepest, darkest feelings in the comments below (and incognito if you’re an 00 agent).