In our more casual times, the idea of a dress watch might seem old fashioned. It’s rare that suits are donned, shoes are shined, hair combed for a night out. However, there are still occasions when we do want to make a little effort.
We’ve chosen seven situations when you might want to up the ante – when steel bracelets aren’t appropriate and the Apple Watch should most definitely be left on its charging post. Moments when the myriad modern iterations of a dress watch, from classic to iconoclastic, can enhance your sartorial kudos.
Occasion: Black Tie
The Pick: Vintage Piaget Automatic
Despite social situations becoming more relaxed of late, there will be a time in every man’s life when he must don a dinner suit and submit himself to an evening of starched tablecloths, filet mignon and formal dancing. For that you need to bring out the horological big guns – and no one does dress like Piaget.
This gorgeous slimline slice of seventies cool is perfect. Nit-pickers would argue that a date window has no place on a proper dress style (traditionally three-handers with no other dial distractions), but other than that it is a minimalist yet slightly decadent timepiece that will add panache to any tux.
Occasion: Business Formal
The Pick: Nomos Glashutte Metro
Maybe it’s a boardroom meeting or a lunch with important clients, but the idea is to make an impression without coming across flash. This Nomos is ideal. It’s not an instantly recognisable brand so there’s very little chance that anyone is going to immediately know how much you paid for it. It also exudes a quiet confidence.
The dial – with its contrast colour power reserve, pastel dots at 12, 3 and 9, and elongated date font – has a Bauhaus modernism about it. The decision to indicate the minutes rather than the hours is unusual but doesn’t feel overwrought, and the movement is manual wind which adds a charming retro feel.
It also has the advantage of matching absolutely anything your wardrobe can throw at it.
Occasion: Relaxed Drinks
The Pick: Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control Date
We’re talking about the type of house party where most men are in a slim-fit black roll neck, the women have paired their fancy frocks with Grenson hiking boots and everyone’s rifling through the vinyl playing at being DJ. A sports watch is too casual, but you still want that vibe.
Jaeger LeCoultre’s Master collection manages to combine sporty with sophisticated to create a style that has a louche sensibility. The stainless-steel case is contrasted by the leather strap, while the retro numerals give the dial a heritage aesthetic. The case is also trim enough not to stretch your cuff.
Occasion: Country Formal
The Pick: Fears Brunswick Salmon
This is the type of event you would be donning a sports coat and brogues. Think Henley regatta or Goodwood. For this you need a watch that nods to tradition but has fun with it. Which is exactly what British watchmaker Fears does. Originally founded in Bristol by Edwin Fear in 1846, the name has recently been resurrected by his great-great-great-grandson Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, designing watches that marry contemporary design with details taken from the brand’s past.
This wonderful salmon-dial timepiece takes inspiration from an archive piece from 1924, with the manual wind movement adding to its throwback appeal.
Occasion: Downtown Restaurant
The Pick: Seiko Presage Sharp-Edged Series
It’s dinner, so you want something more than your steel bracelet stalwart but it’s not a situation for a vintage slimline. This Seiko is more than up to the challenge.
The gold-coated, stainless-steel case makes for a refined counterpart to the rich chocolate dial; at 39.5mm it doesn’t take up too much wrist real estate; and its powered by the Seiko 6R35, a high-performance calibre with 70 hours power reserve. And, if there’s a lull in conversation, you can tell everyone that the unusual pattern on the dial is inspired by the artistic way of depicting hemp, which has been seen on Japanese objects since the Heian period (from 794-1185). That should get things going again.
The Pick: Chopard L.U.C. XPS
Weddings come in all shapes and dress codes but for the sake of argument, this is your typical English Four Weddings-style bash. And for that you need a timepiece that has all the traditional aesthetic markers.
This discerning Chopard is wonderfully refined. The case, in ethically-sourced rose gold, is a more urbane choice than yellow gold and beautifully complements the warm brown alligator strap. The dial is minimalist with only a small seconds at six o’clock to add interest and, at just 7.2mm, it slips elegantly under a cuff, with just enough peeking out to attract attention.
Occasion: Red Carpet
The Pick: Glashutte Original Sixties
Chances are you’re not going to receive an invitation to the Oscars, but you might find yourself in an event situation where there is a step and repeat board, the cast of a scripted reality show, and some cameras. In which case you’ll want a watch that catches the camera’s eye. This orange dialled Glashutte Original certainly does that.
Since 2018, Glashutte has been producing an annual edition of a timepiece the brand produced in the 1960s, each with interestingly coloured dials. This year it went green. The dégradé dial is flecked, which enhances the impact of its vibrant hue, at 42mm it’s a sizeable statement, and powering it is Glashutte’s in-house automatic. It’s a bold timepiece so keep the rest of your outfit on the monochrome side.