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The 7 Best Dufa Affordable Watches (A Buyers Guide)

Posted on February 01 2021

Dufa Watches

Dufa is a watch brand that produces beautiful Bauhaus inspired timepieces.

They take the best traditions of the iconic Bauhaus school and fuse that with modern watchmaking technology. Their extensive range includes mechanical and quartz models, all powered by branded Japanese movements.

The modern Dufa brand is a revival of the original German company and aims to recreate the best of German watch design. Their watches are firmly positioned in the affordable category and are inexpensive alternatives to established German brands like Nomos, Stowa and others.

I’ll take you through a little of the original company’s history, the Bauhaus influence on watch design and then present a list of the seven best current models.

The History of Dufa Watches


The current Dufa watch brand is a different company to the original, but as a watch buyer, it’s still interesting to know the back story - which isn’t much - and where it fits into German watchmaking.

The original Bauhaus German art school was created in 1919 by Walter Gropius - a name that you’ll see referenced in the Dufa range. Bauhaus - which translates as “construction house”, or “School of building” - aimed to blend together the disciplines of architecture, design and art.

Around the same time, Dufa watches were being produced at the Etzold & Popitz watch and clock factory. It appears that the brand changed hands and by 1930 was bankrupt.

By 1933 the Bauhaus school had also closed. It was disbanded, and the teachers fled Germany before and during WW2. Bear in mind, the names who taught at the school included Wassily Kandinski and Paul Klee.

But the ethos of the school continued, with German watch brands beginning to release their first Bauhaus inspired pieces in the late 1930s. These early manufacturers included Lange & Söhne and Stowa.

A particularly notable release was Junghans Max Bill watch. Bill was a student at the Bauhaus school during the mid-1920s and went on to produce work as an architect, artist, painter, typeface designer and graphic designer. He began by designing clocks for Junghans, before creating Bauhaus inspired watches in the 1960s’.

It’s a style that has remained popular - it’s clean, minimalist and recognisably German. Steve Jobs credited the style as a major influence on his products style and it’s a widely used aesthetic in modern watch design.
In the 1980s the Dufa brand was revived before quickly going out of business again.

It’s no surprise that in 2016 the Dufa brand was again relaunched to capitalise on popularity of Bauhaus.

Who Owns Dufa Watches?


Dufa is one of a number of brands owned by the British registered company Dartmouth. Their watch brands are probably quite familiar to you and include Spinnaker and Avi-8.

Dartmouth is in turn owned by Hong Kong-based Solar Time Ltd. This company has offices in Hong Kong and London and a presence in the US. They’re a large and influential watch manufacturer that owns several brands and builds watches for other licensed brands.

In reality and despite the German history, Dufa is a now Hong Kong-based brand.

Where are Dufa Watches Made?


Solar Time, the owners of the Dufa brand, are based in Hong Kong. They own a watch manufacturing facility in China where their watches are produced.

Importantly, like many watch brands at this price-point - affordable, but not budget - they use Japanese movements. For example, in their Freitaucher automatic model, they use a reliable 24 jewel Miyota movement.

Miyota is a large Japanese movement manufacturer owned by Citizen.

Are Dufa Watches Any Good?


I’m doing a post on Dufa watches precisely because I like the brand and its watches. Part of that appeal is the quality.



As always, the quality of their watches needs to be judged against comparable brands.

Dufa watches are not competing against Nomos Bauhaus models.

When compared with similarly priced brands they stack up well. They are Chinese-made, but with the major component - the movement - being supplied by well-regarded Japanese companies.

In terms of specifications, I’m confident in saying that you get the quality expected at this price-point. Full stainless steel cases, mineral or sapphire crystals and decent water resistance where appropriate.

The 7 Best Dufa Affordable Bauhaus Watches 


Dufa isn’t quite a one-trick pony, but there is certainly a distinct theme running through their range.

The majority of Dufa watches take inspiration from the Bauhaus school. That means minimalism, architectural influences and straightforward Germanic pragmatism.

Within that niche, I’ve selected the seven watches that I believe are the best models currently available.

Dufa Freitaucher Gate Grey

This is the best watch currently available from Dufa.

Granted, this is my opinion, but I think I can make a good case for this being your first Dufa purchase. The design is distinctive - a seamless blend of Bauhaus minimalism and 1960s diving chic. And it has everything that a legitimate dive watch requires.

Stylistically, this is a simple and slim vintage dive watch.

At 41mm wide it’s a comfortable size, with the 12.5mm height making it very wearable. It’s that slimness that I find appealing. The bezel is also thin, with plain unobtrusive numbers that honour the Bauhaus ethos.

There are three variations of this watch - black, white and grey. The grey is particularly attractive, with the blue accents adding a touch of flair. This works well when contrasted with the straightforward case and neat minimalist dial. In addition, it gives the 6 o’clock date window a little edge.

What also works really well for me is that this watch has the hallmarks of a vintage skin diver - the large crown, without crown-guards for example - but with enough of the Bauhaus design cues that it remains faithful to the brand's core.

For me, this is the best Dufa release. The fact that it has a Japanese automatic movement and a domed sapphire crystal is just confirmation of this.

Dufa Freitaucher Gate Grey

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 12.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 150M Water Resistance

 



Dufa Breuer Automatic Sahara Sand

If you want an automatic watch, but with a more recognisably Bauhaus ethos, then the Breur is the most obvious choice.

Built in tribute to Marcel Breuer - Bauhaus student, architect and designer of two iconic chairs - this model is clearer in its inspiration.

It’s a smaller watch, with the 38mm adding a vintage authenticity to the design. It’s also slimmer.

But that is what we want when we’re selecting a Bauhaus watch. Subtly, simplicity and pared-down features are the DNA. It doesn’t work on a large piece.

There are some design elements here that will be obvious if you’re familiar with German watches. I’m thinking of the uncomplicated case, black numerals and smaller outer ring of minutes. Neither are the fine blue hands new to you - not if you’ve been lusting after a Nomos Tangente.

The colour is tasteful - Dufa describes it as sand. It’s less pure than white and softens the watch, hinting once more at a vintage style.

This model ticks the boxes that a Bauhaus watch fan is expecting.

It does so at a more accessible price than some of the bigger names. Still, the specs are good. Once more there is a Japanese mechanical movement and this model is equipped with a mineral crystal.

Dufa Breuer Automatic Sahara Sand

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 10.3mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Dufa Kroyer Saetter Lassen DF-9031-03

In a previous post, I noted the appeal of collaboration watches. When designers from different schools combine their creativity the results can be great. This Dufa model is a notable example.

Kroyer Saetter Lassen is a Danish design studio well-known for their work with Ikea. They work with interior and furniture design, their Scandinavian minimalism being an ideal match for Dufa.

Their signature model has elements of both styles.

The Bauhaus influence remains central, but there are also features that give a nod to modern Northern European design. The colour palette, for example, would be ideal if used in a Copenhagen apartment.

The style is more minimal than the Breuer - simple indices rather than numbers and no date window - but the red sub-second dial creates the impression of a more colourful watch.

Again, the strap is a pale beige. That really softens the design, making this if not a feminine model, then at least a unisex piece.

At 38mm, it is on the smaller end for a modern watch, and at 8mm thick - the slender profile achieved by using a quartz movement - it’s a lightweight, fun watch.

With a watch like this, the appeal is in the design and the collaboration. Specs don’t really come into play beyond the basics. Dufa has therefore kept it simple. A quartz movement, a leather strap and water resistance that just about makes it splash-proof.

Dufa Kroyer Saetter Lassen DF-9031-03

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 8.1mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Dufa Gunter Automatic DF-9033-22

The Gunter Automatic is a real contrast to the Kroyer Saetter Lassen and demonstrates the variety that can be achieved within the Bauhaus theme. It’s a larger, more masculine piece upgraded to include a mechanical movement.

Inspired by German brutalist architect Gunter Bock, this model has a more angular case - with hidden lugs. Of the watches on my list, this is the most Germanic in terms of efficiency. This is a timepiece in the strictest sense.

In the same way that brutalist architecture would have straight lines, small windows and a blocky appearance, the Gunter's dial and hands are similarly designed - clear and functional.

But, in keeping with the Bauhaus ethos, there are still curves and circles - again, a successful combination of styles. The colours, however, are reminiscent of the brutalist use of plain concrete and the watch keeps the colours to a minimum.

If Bauhaus is a little too quirky for you, try this larger more masculine automatic.

Dufa Gunter Automatic DF-9033-22

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 9.5mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Dufa Van Der Rohe DF-9002-0D

Having stressed the variety of styles within this small niche, I want to present the best colourful model.

Again, the inspiration for the design comes from a notable German architect. This time, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - the final director of the Bauhaus school.

It’s a fun modern quartz chronograph that contrasts bold colours with a plain black background.

The Van Der Rohe is a busy watch by Dufa’s standards with three sub-dials, one of which cleverly incorporates the date window. It’s maybe a little ironic that Van der Rohe was well-known for his aphorism less is more.

Still, Bauhaus was more than just minimalism and this model comes at the style from a different angle, concentrating more on the lively, colourful aspects. I particularly like the use of red, blue and yellow on both the dial and the strap.

The yellow number one and the top two dials create ‘100’ - this collection was created to celebrate 100 since the Bauhaus school was founded. It’s lighthearted and unusual - I like it.

As you’ll have noticed, most Dufa watches are modestly sized and this model is no exception. It’s only 10mm thick and has a diameter of 38mm. Like all of the brand’s chronographs, it is powered by a Japanese quartz movement.

If you want more colour and flamboyant confidence than the brutalist models, take a closer look at the Van Der Rohe.

Dufa Van Der Rohe DF-9002-0D

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Dufa Bayer DF-9016-22
If the budget isn’t your number one concern, and you like your watches to have Swiss mechanical movements then the Bayer could be the best Dufa watch for you.

It’s a charming piece that consolidates the Bauhaus ethos of Dufa with the watchmaking prowess of the Swiss. The result is a plain, yet colourful model that prominently displays the Bauhaus typeface.

That’s important here because the Bayer takes its inspiration from Herbert Bayer, a typeface designer who studied and taught at the Bauhaus school.

As with most Bauhaus designs, the beauty lies in simplicity. In this case, that means a clean white dial, uncomplicated round case and a Milanese style metal bracelet. However, the blue numerals, markers and hands add a bold use of colour and are arguably the first feature that you notice with this watch.

Of course, the large numbers are Bauhaus influenced and are what defines the overall aesthetic.

But let’s not forget the specs with this watch. It’s more highly-priced than some of the other Dufa models because of its movement.

It is powered by a Swiss-made Sellita automatic movement. For many, myself included, that is going to be the major reason that you would choose this over an alternative, similar styled model.

This watch has German heritage and design with Swiss workmanship. That’s a potent mix and well worth a closer look.

Dufa Bayer DF-9016-22

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 



Dufa Gropius Moonphase DF-9032-01

The final watch is the best brings together the Bauhaus style and modern watch design, while adding a little colour and flair. Fittingly, it is named after Walter Gropius - the founder of Bauhaus.

It’s a handsome 38mm watch that uses a quartz movement to deliver a moon phase complication at an affordable price.

As you’ll have seen in this article - I really like the combination of white dials with blue accents. Similarly, I’ve emphasised the use of beige to subtly add colour. The Gropius includes all of these elements and in addition, includes a pretty Moonphase sub-dial.

It’s clear that a number of the design cues used in other models have been built into this piece and the finished design is an ideal modern Bauhaus watch.

Once more it is modestly sized in both width and depth. The 18mm strap reinforcing that slender and graceful aesthetic you’d want in a piece like this. It doesn’t have the Swiss automatic movement of the Bayer - but it’s also less than half the price.

If you want the best of Bauhaus in one affordable watch, this could be the place to start.

Dufa Gropius Moonphase DF-9032-01

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 9.2mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

Conclusion


Dufa is a Hong Kong-based watch company that has revived a defunct German watch brand. Since launching in 2016 they’ve built an extensive collection of Bauhaus watches.

Their watches tend to be mid-sized and minimalist, although they do have a few models that are larger and influenced by both Bauhaus design and Brutalist architecture.

There is quite a range of prices and specs, with the most inexpensive models featuring Japanese quartz movements and the most expensive models boasting Swiss-made automatic engines. In the middle of their range sit the Japanese powered mechanical models.

As ever, part of the appeal of the brand is the stories behind the watches.

Dufa has used the Bauhaus style as a general theme for the brand, and for each model they’ve taken inspiration from a particular artist or architect. Architecture and watch design is a great mix, having been adopted by Swiss brand Mido and the new Italian brand Meccaniche Veneziane.

It’s worth taking the time to have a closer look at each of the Dufa watches that I’ve highlighted. And of course, add your own thoughts on the brand below.


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