A gentleman has an arsenal of watches to complement his wardrobe, and when the occasion calls for him to look his best, a men’s dress watch is the only option.
With its classic and timeless good looks, subtlety and understatement are key for the dress watch. It is only upon closer inspection that the timepiece reveals its details and the quality of its construction.
As you search for your next horological acquisition, keep the following guidelines in mind.
Dial & Complications
The dial is the first thing you notice on any watch and the dress watch is no different. Generally speaking, formal timepieces are very simple. The look is clean and minimal, perhaps with nothing more than hour and minute hands.
The simplicity can carry over into the finishing of the dial, or it can be balanced by something more elaborate (engraving, guilloche, lacquer and enamel). Many calendar watches, be they triple calendar, annual calendar or perpetual calendars, are known for classic dial layouts inspired by historical models. These can also be suitable for dressy occasions.
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Right Case For The Right Occasion
Consider the size and style of the case. The cases of dress watches tend to be visually soft, with rounded edges and subtle details. Crown guards add bulk, creating a more casual, tool-watch feel. In contrast, a dress watch’s soft case gives it elegance and subtle style.
The size tends to be smaller, emphasising the notion of restraint. White metals (steel, white gold or platinum) are more understated, while rose gold has a warmer feel and yellow gold is the most nostalgic of the precious metals.
The strap is often overlooked, though it has the power to completely change the aesthetic of a watch. Leather straps are de rigueur for dress watches. White metal is usually paired with a black strap and rose gold with dark brown. Yellow gold can be paired with either a brown or a black strap.
Many fine dress watches have alligator straps to up the class factor and offer the ultimate luxuriousness. This does not mean, however, that dress watches are limited to leather straps. Some are mounted on bracelets and look every bit the part. It’s all down to personal preference.
Dress Watches To Keep An Eye On
A dress watch is worn when you want to look your absolute best, so it should be something you’re proud to have around your wrist. There are timepieces to suit all styles and price points. Take your time choosing the one that’s right for you. Here are a few favourites for inspiration.
Tissot Heritage Visodate Automatic
An affordable price point and classic good looks make for a dress watch that offers serious bang for your buck.
Longines Master Collection – Triple Calendar Chronograph (Model L2.622.214.171.124)
A complicated timepiece that still looks the part of the dress watch. The barleycorn pattern on the dial complements its classic style.
Cartier Tank MC
Available in steel and gold models, the watch has the signature Cartier Roman numerals and a guilloche dial that adds depth to the strong, square case. Add to that the killer 1904MC movement and a fantastic alligator strap on the famous Cartier deployant buckle.
Omega DeVille Omega Co-Axial Chronograph 42mm
The chronograph is usually a more utilitarian complication, however the Omega Deville is an example of a dressy chronograph. The dial’s multiple levels draw attention to its subtle detailing. The watch is available in steel and gold models, and on leather or bracelet.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle Small Seconds
The ultimate in discretion and refinement, the Vacheron is the quite possibly the dress watch. Its size and simplicity make the watch understated, while the case sticks to a traditional look reminiscent of watches from the 50s and 60s.
Housed inside is the Calibre 4400 AS, a finely finished, in-house movement bearing the Geneva Seal. An heirloom piece if ever we saw one.
Chopard L.U.C 1937 Classic
Slightly more modern in feel, the L.U.C 1937 Classic features applied Roman numerals on the dial that add a touch of class to the watch.
The art deco style of the hands further emphasises its classic nature, and the strap is exquisitely crafted with crocodile skin on both sides of the strap – black with square scales on the outer and brown with round scales on the inner.
The movement is the in-house 01.01L that is chronometer certified by the COSC. A true modern classic in our books.
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon
Embodying the typical thin and classic style of signature dress watches, the Master Ultra Thin Moon demands the limelight with a poetic moonphase complication. The case is ideal for a dress watch, falling on the smaller side of 39mm which is also relatively slim – perfect arm candy for slipping under most shirt cuffs.
The watch also comes in numerous dial and metal variations to effortlessly combine class and complexity with ease.