What’s a Dress Watch and how do you wear one? If you think you know dress watches you may have to think again, although there are differing views on what makes a dress watch there are a number of things that remain intransigent. This is a world of classicism versus modernism where the purists have very exacting rules about what a dress watch is and how it should be worn. But in this modern age, the ‘modernists’ of the watch world maintain that in a modern world of minimal formality there are only a few basic rules that need be followed.
Your puritans maintain the dress watch above all else should be thin as it was always designed to be. From day one when pocket watches were built as thin as possible to avoid ruining the cut of a fine suit, gave way to wrist watches, the single most important feature is its subtlety. Some top Swiss watchmakers that still excel in building watches that fit this definition of a dress watch are Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe. These brands that are used as an example also inform us that like wearing a tailored suit your dress watch should be an object of perfection and above all appropriate for its surroundings. To push the envelope on this exacting requirement Puritans also suggest the dress watch whether manual or automatic should never be loaded with features, indeed the best examples of dress Watches even dispense with the second hand.
Vintage Vacheron Constantin Ultra Thin Dress Watch, 1955
However, if you are not considering spending a large fortune on a collectors’ piece just to tick all the boxes, there is a beautiful example of a modern watch that fits all the criteria yet remains obtainable priced at $845 and it’s called the Hamilton’s Intra-matic
Modernist will agree that the watch should make you feel good about yourself and your surroundings and appropriateness is always a relevant point. However, the strict rules and requirements for supremely expensive watches are no longer seen to be appropriate in this simpler and relaxed sartorial age, where attire is rarely a make or break issue.
So, what is a Dress watch and how DO you wear it?
First of all, you are ‘keeping time’ not ‘flashing time’ as GQ magazine puts it.
The modern dress watch is to be worn the same way as the old-fashioned dress watch, in that, all it needs to do is ‘look good’ wherever you are and whether wearing a dress suit or a dress shirt and casual pants. A plane dial, thin case with automatic movement and a simple leather strap check all boxes but this would be more of a guideline than a rule. Lacking one of these features or adding to them will not see you ostracized by the dress watch police.
A nice example of a totally affordable dress watch would be the Skagen Ancher $145.
How do we Wear a Dress Watch
So we know watches are not all created equal and come in all shapes and sizes, in different materials sporting multiple features. We also know that the dress watch is about the more subtle art of dress, just like wearing jewelry you don’t want to wear all your best jewels at one time, and you don’t want shout when you can talk, essentially, ‘less is more’.
Now we know what to wear we need to understand some guidelines. What to wear with what?
Your everyday watch is reliable and durable and maybe it has a matching theme with a suit or favored work wear. But in genera, it will be a neutral and maybe built from stainless steel with stainless bracelet, or perhaps a rubber material with matching bracelet. Your formal watch to be worn at functions like weddings, funerals and dinner parties should have something a little different. For example, the piece should be built from precious metals such as silver, gold or platinum with a diameter not exceeding 41mm with analog display.
Returning to the jewelry theme, your formal watch should be constructed from the same materials as your other accessories like jewelry items, for example, silver with silver, not silver against gold.
A typical dress watch will have a thin black or brown leather band to wear at events that require semi-formal wear, like Suit or Sports casual for men, or a smart dress for women.
Again try to work with your accessories and take care to match your watch strap or bracelet with your waist belt, which helps to complete the assembly.
Oddly, you may also want to consider which wrist you are using. Normally the watch is worn on your favored or non-dominant wrist during the day, but is it a requirement at a formal event? What do you think? It’s your choice.
The Best Men’s Dress Watches
Okay so money is no object and you want something special, so let’s have a look at how the ‘other half’ live. For this, I’m going to take a look at five top picks.
So how have we decided which of these watches is better than the other?
It’s been a mixture of prestige brand name, the cost of purchase and the number of boxes on the ‘what makes a dress watch’ checklist. Put all these together and throw in a bit of personal preference and you have your Best Dress Watch for Men list.
Out of all the amazing timepieces, we narrowed our wish list down to 10 and then again to 5 list by price descending. What do you think? Do you have a better list?
A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin: $25,000
This beautiful piece is called the thin for a reason, at 5.9mm in height, it’s a lovely example processing all the key features required of a top peg dress watch. This is slim discrete minimalism at its best, only indicating hours and minutes with a subtle black leather strap.
Patek Philippe Calatrava: $23,000
This Rose Gold Calatrava with mechanical movement sounds extravagant on paper, with a seconds sundial, hobnail patterned bezel, enamel dial with alligator strap, but it all comes together to make a subtle blend of presentation over complexity.
Grand Seiko: $22,500
This is a humble name amongst giants and rightly so. This piece comes in a number of cases of 37.6mm diameter and 12.9 thick, sporting hours, minutes, seconds, date feature and an offset crown. All this presented on a subtle leather strap.
Chopard L.U.C XP: $15,400
Above all this piece was select because of its simplistic beauty. In 18-carat white gold it’s the quintessential expression of classic elegant beauty featuring minute and second indicator over sharp eye catching marking. Its case is a reassuring 7.13 mm thick housing a self-winding movement with a 65-hour power reserve.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control: $4,500
This example in pink gold with alligator bracelet is a self-winding with hour, minute, seconds and date indicator over a silver dial. The back of this 8.5mm casing is sapphire revealing its automatic movement with 22 karat oscillating weight.
These pieces are all first class in our view and the descending price order does not necessarily represent where in the list they should be in terms of the best or favorite. This, of course, is always a very personal choice.
We can, however, give our own personal view, after taking into account all the information we have at hand, with is cost, brand, looks, complexity, and reliability. So to this end, we are offering an outright winner in our eyes.
In position 1, taking first prize for the best dress watch for a man is the Chopard L.U.C XP at approximately $15,000 is our winner for having the most beautiful and exquisite presentation, checking all the possible boxes, and generally giving everyone here the ‘warm fuzzies’.
If you have any ideas or perhaps you want to disagree with this choice, we invite you to leave a comment or perhaps post us your top 5 dress watches?
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