The Best Ladies Stainless Steel Watches By Bulova, Citizen, Michael Kors and More

Women's stainless steel watches look great and last long. Stainless steel is an attractive silver-tone metal but steel watches come in many shades from untreated to polished or often IP coated silver-tone, black, gold, rose gold or two tones. Additional touches such as crystal-set bezels, diamonds, mother-of-pearl dials or colored faces add touches of feminine elegance to steel, which has a masculine vibe.

Stainless steel is the most widely used metal in watch making. Stainless steel is prized for being very strong and durable. It is highly resistant to rust, corrosion and stains. It is used as both a case and band material. Stainless steel watches have these qualities and are versatile and suitable for both casual and formal occasions and all kinds of weather. 

There are affordable stainless steel ladies watches in the under $100 and under $200 price points and there are also expensive luxury steel watches. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the first steel watch with the price of a solid gold watch. 

Best Stainless Steel Watches for Women by Top Brands

When shopping for the best stainless steel watches for women for every budget, consider these top rated brands:

Ladies Bulova watches in stainless steel

Skagen ladies mesh band stainless steel watches

Seiko ladies stainless steel watches

Fossil ladies stainless steel watches 

Rolex stainless steel women's watches

Women's Stainless Steel Watch Styles

Stainless Steel As a Watch Material

What Is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is an iron-carbon alloy, mixed with chromium, nickel, molybdenum and traces of other metals. Chromium makes it scratch resistance, nickel provides a smooth and polished finish and molybdenum makes it extremely hard.

It is extremely strong and durable and highly resistant to rust, corrosion and stains. Steel is also the most scratch resistant among the basic metals, especially when hardened.

Stainless steel has an attractive silver-tone metal. It is available in many different finishes. It can be highly polished to look like a precious metal although this finish easily show fingerprints and smudges. Brushed stainless steel has a soft, milky quality that resists smudges and is easy to maintain and keep clean.

It is often coated via PVD (physical vapor deposition) methods such as IP (ion plating) to achieve attractive finishes:

  • Gold Plated Stainless Steel- Stainless steel with a coating of gold- yellow gold or the fashionable rose gold tone for the beautiful and luxurious look of gold.
  • Two Tone Steel Gold Plating- Beautiful, versatile and cost friendly gold and silver two tone watches.
  • PVD Titanium Plated Steel- An interesting plating of the sturdy stainless steel with the dark grey tone of titanium.
  • Platinum Plated Stainless Steel- A luxurious, elegant and strong silver tone plating for beauty and quality.
  • Black Ion Plating on Steel- A sleek black coating to change the look of steel and create sophisticated black metal watches.
  • Stainless Steel and Plastic Resin- This combination results into quality, beauty and versatility.

Types of Stainless Steels

There are different grades and quality levels of stainless steel. Manufacturers produce more than 150 types of stainless steel alloys. 

316L is the most common steel alloy and is also referred to as surgical steel. It is the most widely used in watches and jewelry making. It contains little carbon, relatively high chromium levels, and a small amount of nickel. 316LVM is a 316L variation produced in a vacuum for a smoother surface. 317L is similar to 316L but has a slightly higher nickel content.

302L and 304L stainless steel alloys have a relatively higher nickel content.

Most high-end brands use high grade steel and some have their own alloys. For example, Rolex uses a medical grade super alloy known as 904L. Audemars Piguet, Chopard and Breitling also have outstanding steel watches.

Properties of Stainless Steel Watches

Resistance to Corrosion: Iron, the primary component in all steel alloys, rusts easily but stainless steel is highly resistant to rust or corrosion. The chromium in the alloy forms a thin, invisible film of chromium oxide on the surface of the metal that prevents iron oxide, or rust, from forming.

Low Reactivity: The chromium oxide film that keeps tarnish and rust from forming on stainless steel also prevents it from reacting with many other chemicals. The films keeps the metal from staining and discoloring. This's why stainless steel is an excellent watch material for divers, swimmers, and other aquatic athletes.

Excellent Durability: Stainless steel is strong and highly durable. It is sturdy enough to withstand years of use. It features a highly lustrous and durable finish not prone to nicks, scrapes or warping.

Nickel Safety: Nickel is a constituent in all stainless steel. Surgical steel typically contains small amounts of nickel, but certain formulations and processes utilized in its manufacture create a very tight bond where the nickel salts do not leach out  and cause an allergic reaction. This is why it is used in surgical instruments and medical implants. However, the nickel salts in some other stainless steel alloys may leak out over time and trigger allergic reactions.

Steel vs. Titanium Ladies Watches

Steel is the most widely used metal in watch making. Steel watches last long and it is easy to fix signs of wear and tear.  

Titanium has a dark gray color. It is extremely hard and also lightweight. It is hypoallergenic, extremely durable and resistant to dents and corrosion.  

Stainless steel or titanium watches? It depends on the purpose of the watch and your budget.

For normal everyday watches, stainless steel is ideal. For budget, titanium is more expensive than steel and is typically used in high end watches.

However, titanium is the ideal choice for sports, swimming and diving watches. It is lightweight and therefore comfortable. It is also resistant to dents and corrosion.

Titanium is also the go to if you have sensitive skin. Allergic reactions to titanium are rare.

Here are the Top Titanium Women's Watches Plus More Information on Titanium Watches

Stainless Steel Ladies Watches Shopping Tips

A good steel case or bracelet costs much more than a cheap one The way they are made and polished is also as important as the base metal used.

Examine the watch to ensure it looks good, feels comfortable and looks durable. These are all signs of good metal quality.

Ensure that the clasps function properly, surfaces next to skin are smooth and that there are no visible breaks, weak points, burrs, points or unevenness. 

Stainless Steel Watches Care and Maintenance Tips

Care for and maintain your stainless steel watch well and it will look good and last for years:

Keep it away from other watches and jewelry. Being extremely hard, steel watches can damage items made out of precious metals, such as gold, which are softer.

As hard and strong as steel is, it is not completely scratch proof. It wears and tears easily if worn in hard conditions such as sports and outdoors where it is exposed to knocks and scratches.

Wipe with soft cloth and mild detergent to keep it clean and looking good. You can rinse the bracelet in water and then wipe with a soft cloth. Avoid water exposure to the other watch parts and polish gently along the grain of metal.

For water resistant swimming or diving stainless steel watches, always rinse your bracelet after exposure to salty or chlorine water.  

Stainless steel is not 100% stainless or scratch resistant and may require some cleaning and polishing in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner or with a polishing cloth from time to time. However, regular buffing or tarnish removal is not necessary and since it is easy to damage a watch’s finishing during polishing, it is better to have the watch polished professionally by an authorized watch repair center when necessary.

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As the Chinese Proverb goes: ''An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold''. Well, you can buy a great timepiece to help you manage the precious gift that is time while expressing your style!