The dress watch: a must in any man’s collection and a very particular type of watch. They’re usually acquired for a single purpose, that being to pair them with suits, tuxedos or any other formal clothing. For most people, that’s about it.
Generally, there’s not much to a dress watch, refined simplicity and precious metals like gold being the hallmarks. You can also find some pieces by brands made out of steel to keep things accessible, but the look’s much the same.
Other typical characteristics of dress watches are that they are generally smaller in size (34mm-42mm) and usually very thin. Elegance is key, which is why most of them only tell the time and are reduced to an hour and a minute hand. It’s supposed to be super simple and barely noticed.
In today’s world though, collecting has evolved from its classic beginnings and the etiquette of when to wear which type of watch has been loosened like a black tie dress code. Nevertheless, there still are a couple of dos and don’ts that you should bear in mind when considering wearing a dress watch.
The first and most hard-and-fast rule is not to get these things wet. In general, they’re water resistant to 3 bar (30m) which in layman’s terms means a splash and they’re doomed. In that way, dress watches really haven’t changed. What to wear them with on the other hand, has.
With rappers sporting Patek Philippes in joggers and sweatshirts, it seems like anything goes. In a sense that’s correct; it doesn’t always need to go with a suit. You can easily pair them to jeans and a shirt, for example. Just make sure to avoid anything too casual. No matter how much swagger you think you have, you don’t want your watch eclipsing your entire outfit and ripped jeans and a faded t-shirt will instantly have people thinking you got your limited edition from a Chinese market stall.
The same principal applies to the type of strap or what I like to call the “dress of the watch”. Dress watches are elegant so don’t make the mistake of wearing them on rubber straps or metal bracelets.
The right way is pairing them with black, brown, blue or in rare occasions white leather straps. They should match the thickness of the case and ideally be made from crocodile or alligator leather, the glossier end of the spectrum.
In the event of really wearing a dress watch to a formal event there are some things to keep in mind. You should match the colour of the dial to time of day – dark colours for evening, lighter for during the day. Also make sure the watch is appropriately sized to fit your wrist and sits neatly under the cuff of your shirt. Nothing looks worse than your watch constantly catching on your cufflinks. Finally, be wary of the strap colour. Like your shoes and belt, the strap leather should match.
That all said, the biggest don’t of them all is to avoid wearing them. For me, a dress watch isn’t just for a special occasion; no watch is. They’re supposed to be worn and not to be kept in a box hidden away in the rare case you might deign to wear it. A dress watch can be your daily wear piece as much as any other; just make sure you wear it right. Follow Nikolaus on Instagram at @nikolaushirsch.
Carl Suchy & Söhne Waltz No. 1, €8,495 (EUR)
With its textured dial and revolving second counter at 6 o’clock, this piece from Austrian watchmaker Carl Suchy & Söhne is elegance with a twist. The simple black on steel look is enhanced by the mix of horizontal and vertical guilloche, creating a restrained look where detail is king.
Available at Carl Suchy.
Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Re-creation, £23,500
It’s been 60 years since Grand Seiko first launched in Japan and this anniversary piece is a flawless recreation of the model that made it famous. As classic as it gets, the finishing is impeccable, a testament to the watchmaker’s signature attention to detail and svelte, elegant case size.
More details at Grand Seiko.
Hermès Slim D’Hermès, £5,355
Flexing its design chops in the often constrained sphere of dress watches, Hermès has created one of the finest steel dress watches around. With some cool, modern typography and a multi-layered dial it’s one on our wishlist. Very high up, at that.
Available at Hermes.