No man should need to wait until retirement to get a gold watch, traditions be damned. What else are you going to wear with a dinner jacket? Steel?! For shame. No, in formal situations – or any situation past 6 o’clock really – gold watches are the only real way to go. The sheen of it in low light, the prestige of a metal whose only real benefit is looking pretty, every man should have a fine timepiece with a Midas touch.
“Every man should have a fine timepiece with a midas touch.”
Of course, not all gold is mined equal and the same is doubly true of watches. You might get away in less sophisticated circles with a gold-plated Tissot as your dress watch, but just barely. At the same time, if you opt for a solid gold Hublot you may as well tie the raw bullion to your wrist. It’ll probably fit under your shirtsleeve easier.
Classic Dress Watches
As far as I’m concerned the only watches worth actually getting in gold are classic dress watches, or at least timepieces that can double as such. They don’t need to be the boring, overly-minimal kind of classical, just have that specific air of quality and old-school gravitas. Anything else can quickly veer towards sleazy Italian billionaire. That’s not such a bad thing, provided you have the superyacht to back it up.
Recommended Reading: Buying Your First Serious Watch.
Types of Gold
There are plenty of different gold watches you can opt for. The most traditional is of course yellow, but nowadays that looks a bit odd on anything other than vintage. For vintage, however, you wouldn’t want anything else. On modern timepieces rose is the gold of choice. Or red. Or pink. Or whatever peachy hue the watch brand decides to call it.
“Yellow gold works best with simple, silvered dials above all else. The two together are simply magnificent to look at.”
Yellow gold works best with simple, silvered dials above all else. The two together are magnificent to look at. Rose is better paired with dark hues where the warm pink can offset the gloominess – black usually, brown if you’re feeling whimsical.
Then, of course, there’s white gold. There is no point to white gold. As far as I’m concerned, it’s only reason for existence is to up prices without any aesthetic change, which is great for any watchmaker feeling lazy, but pointless for the buyer. At least platinum has a unique silver-grey tint to it. White gold? It’s like putting a 50-year-old Macallan Single Malt into your Coke.
When it comes to gold watches the Patek Philippe Calatrava is right up there
Carats of Gold
There are also a few different carats of gold – essentially how much of it is actually gold. 24 carat is the highest, but that’s not often used in watchmaking, simply because it’s too soft. Any bump is liable to leave a mark, which is fine in jewellery, less so in a protective outer case. More common is 22 in high-end dress gold watches, though you’ll find some that go all the way down to 9, particularly in vintage pieces.
There are also a few odd alloys out there that claim to be a lot more resilient. They tend to be forms of rose gold, as that’s an alloy already (of gold and copper), with a few additional elements thrown in to make it harder. It often works like Chanel’s beige gold, but always still less so than steel.
What else are you going to wear a gold watch with other than immaculate tailoring? Anything in yellow gold looks phenomenal with a bit of colour alongside it, blue and green especially. There’s a reason they’re among Rolex’s most famous colourways. For rose gold go for anything on the grey spectrum, or a rich brown.
6 of the Best Gold Watches for Men
Now, let’s look at a few options of each. And one in white gold. Because I have to. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking – or cheap. These are the watches to wear when you dress to impress.
Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronomètre
With the Toric Chronomètre, Parmigiani Fleurier has gone back to his roots with a contemporary interpretation of the first watch designed by Michel Parmigiani. Hours, minutes, seconds and dates – it’s a pure expression with reference to the seminal model of the brand. The bezel with alternating gadroons and knurling is a distinctive feature surrounding a classic dial with an in-house Calibre PF331 chronometer – certified by COSC – within. It looks remarkably dashing in black/gold, as does the black Hermès alligator strap. €16,900
There was always going to be a Breguet in a gold watches rundown. The manufacture is among the finest watchmakers in the world, particularly when it comes to dress watches. This version might be simple when it comes to Breguet, but as far as I’m concerned the simpler the better. The level of finishing is second-to-none and with no dial busywork to take away from that you can appreciate it all the more. £17,800
Panerai Radiomir 1940 3 Days Oro Rosso
Panerai are one of the only so-called ‘sports’ watches that you can wear as a dress piece, which makes a lot of sense – they kind of suck as sports watches. The Radiomir 1940 offers a vintage aesthetic: the case is relatively slim but still 47mm wide, making it large enough to suit more macho wrists and fitted with Panerai’s decent P.3000/2 hand-wound movement. It’s not your usual dress watch, but it is one hell of a handsome piece and a fine addition to this gold watches list. £18,200
Patek Philippe Calatrava
Yellow gold is, by its very nature, on the more traditional side of the spectrum, so where else to go than the inimitable Patek Philippe? They’re watchmaking royalty and, like our own royalty, haven’t really moved with the times. In all that time the Calatrava has been a core piece for them and, with its smaller 36mm size, white lacquered dial and hobnail bezel, why would anyone want it to change? £15,110
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Rolex is always reliable – and not just in terms of their movements. You will never regret plumping for one, no matter how many people roll their eyes at the relatively safe choice. That’s not a bad thing. Safety is good when you’re dropping £25k on a watch – and the Daytona is one hell of a decent watch. Here it uses my favourite Rolex combo, yellow gold and green, with little flashes of red for a sportier feel. £25,550
If I have to plump for a white gold watch, I’m going to go for one I’d love regardless of the metal. Chanel’s phenomenal Monsieur is just that. There’s not much I don’t love about it; it’s a balance between classical and technical, the dial is perfectly proportioned and the combination of jumping hours and retrograde minutes isn’t something you normally see on a partial dress watch. It’s another hand-wound movement, but that just adds to its charm – of which it already has a lot. £29,000