Do you know which watch you would have worn to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding? What about the watch to wear to an underground electronic party in Berlin? As every new generation looks to define their own style, the classic rules on how to dress also continue to change.
Are you a conservative that sticks to the rules or do you have your own style and create your own set of rules? Within the conservative world of watches, there are plenty of rules governing what watch to wear to which occasion. The best rule of them all: When going to a formal evening event, don’t wear a watch. You’re there to have a good time and forget everything else. So now you know what not to wear to Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
However, we’re not in the business of not wearing watches, so let’s focus on a couple of classic ground rules about wearing watches to different occasions and see whether they’re still relevant today.
Dressing for the Occasion
Before choosing a watch, you first have to know what to kind of occasion it is. You didn’t think you could get by with one watch, did you? The vintage Rolex Explorer you have saved a lot of money for will get you far but not everywhere. If you prefer a gold Casio Calculator watch, there are situations where it might be best for you to wear no watch at all. Western dress is defined by 6 dress codes: formal, semi-formal, informal, business casual, smart casual, and casual.
Strict dress codes are becoming less and less relevant in today’s society. Instead, people are more interested in defining their own unique identity and finding their own sense of style. Obviously, that doesn’t mean you should dress completely out of keeping with the occasion. Being sensible means knowing what the occasion is, what that means as far as dress code goes, and finding your own style for that particular occasion.
There are people who tend to be very strict when it comes to living up to a dress code, and if that defines your style, more power to you. That being said, it gets a bit silly when people who closely follow a dress code feel the need to judge others based on their own more conservative style. Besides that, the people that we consider style icons nowadays are known to bend and break the rules based on their own style. Would you have told Gianni Agnelli he shouldn’t wear his watch over his shirt? He’d probably take a look at his watch and tell you that you’re wasting his time. Perhaps you’re willing to state that Sean Connery is not a true gentleman for pairing his Submariner with a tuxedo while portraying James Bond? See where that gets you as far as you being considered a style connoisseur.
In general, most people make a distinction between two dress codes during the day: work and free time. That being said, lines are growing ever more blurred when looking at what is appropriate in casual and business situations. It’s becoming increasingly normal to wear casual clothes to the workplace. The lines are better defined in more formal situations because it’s not everyday wear. Therefore, the more formal occasion, the more likely it is you will respect the appropriate dress code. Let’s take a look at some dress codes and think of watches that a purist would wear and watches that could also work if you’re not adhering to a more conservative style.
Formal and Semi-Formal Evening Occasions
A purist would say that when you want to wear a watch to a white tie, black tie, or semi-formal occasion, you should always wear a dress watch. Stay away from anything too big or flashy and keep it as elegant and as simple as possible. The colors of both the strap and dial should match the dark colors of your outfit. All three occasions call for black or midnight blue, so you should take your watch in the same direction. I can already hear people thinking: ‘But what about a white tuxedo?’ Wear a white tuxedo and people may start ordering drinks when they see you. Not even a nice watch can prevent that…
There are plenty of options available, and dress watches are a nice category to explore because most people nowadays are focused on sports and tool watches. When dressing for a black tie or semi-formal event, the Rolex Cellini Time, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony, or the classic Patek Philippe Calatrava are all viable options. Less expensive options include the Zenith Elite Classic and the Baume & Mercier Classima.
If you’re more flexible, you could also consider a watch with a complication as long as the size is appropriate. An elegant option is the Patek Philippe 5146P with an annual calendar and moon phase display. Although a chronograph would typically be a no-go because of its sports-watch nature, there are dressy chronograph options out there as well. If someone says your A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph in 18-karat rose gold with a black dial and black leather strap is inappropriate, just crack a smile and move on without even replying.
There are also plenty of options if you’re searching for something a bit more modern. Two examples are the Bulgari Octo Finissimo on a black leather strap—I’ll let you be the judge of whether you prefer the titanium or 18-karat rose gold version—and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in 18-karat rose gold with a black dial and black leather strap. To complete your look, Audemars Piguet can also supply you with matching cufflinks so you have one less thing to worry about if and when the style police swings by.
At the Office
What to wear to the office very much depends on what line of work you are in and what you tend to wear. Modern workplace dress codes fall into the following categories: informal, business casual, smart casual, and casual. Basically, you can wear anything from a suit and tie to your everyday jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt. The number of possible watches is limitless. Therefore, it might be best to pick a few watches that would suit all of these situations.
The most versatile watch widely accepted at almost any occasion is the Rolex Submariner. The Submariner is generally considered a watch to wear in both casual and business situations. Purists will say it’s not appropriate with a suit and tie because it’s a diving watch. That being said, the Rolex Submariner is one of the watches you can wear to almost any situation. At one point Rolex, even created ads pointing out that the Submariner was not a one-trick pony. In 1965, they published ads with the tagline: ‘We invented the Submariner to work perfectly 660 feet under the sea. It seems to work pretty well at any level.’ We couldn’t agree more.
Let’s now turn around and look at watches a purist might like better with a suit that could also be worn in a casual situation. Perhaps the most important detail is that the watch needs a leather strap that matches the rest of your outfit. The first watch that comes to mind is the highly popular IWC Portugieser. The Portugieser Chronograph would be the most popular route to take, but if you think chronographs are only for racing, go for the IWC Portugieser Automatic. Any considerate human being would compliment you on either one, however.
Another popular watch befitting business situations is the Omega Speedmaster Professional. Wear it on a black leather strap and you are ready to dress both casually as well as in a suit. If you can afford a more modern ceramic Speedmaster, you might opt for the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Black Black or the Dark Side of the Moon Sedna Black.
It should come as no surprise that we have picked three classic watches. These watches are all widely regarded as pieces that can be worn to a wide variety of occasions. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of other watches in the same category. It’s a matter of personal taste whether you like the Rolex Datejust better than the Rolex Submariner. Only you can best decide what watch to buy for the professional world you occupy.
On the Weekend
Weekends are all about relaxation and having a good time. This means your go-to weekend timepiece should be one that can be worn the whole day in all sorts of situations. It should be just as appropriate during the day as during dinner at night. If you’re looking for a vintage feel, check out the yellow gold Rolex Day-Date in solid gold on a President bracelet. Be sure to also buy yourself a nice leather strap to make it less flashy when needed. Now get out there and have an amazing weekend.
If a Rolex Day-Date isn’t quite up your alley, there is another Rolex that might just do the trick: the Rolex Explorer I. The Explorer can also be paired with a leather strap, though it is delivered with a stainless steel bracelet. It looks and feels a bit sportier and younger than the Day-Date, meaning it not only saves you some money but also takes care of the ‘vintage problem.’
When on vacation, you need something that is easy to wear and can survive all kinds of activities, be it diving, sailing, or hiking. Although this sounds like a great vacation for any purist looking to bring their diving and sports watches, chances are you will not be engaging in such a diverse range of activities all on one trip. Even so, who knows what might happen on your next vacation?
The first ideal vacation watch is the Sinn U1 S E. Sinn is known for producing high-quality tool watches, one of which might just be the perfect fit for your vacation. The Sinn U1 S E is a diving watch with a retro design. It comes with a silicone strap and can be your companion when diving or swimming, all while still turning heads during a nice dinner with friends or family.
Perhaps you would rather own the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph. Many consider this watch a modern classic. IWC recently released an updated version of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph inspired by the original ‘Fliegerchronograph’ from 20 years ago. The new model is available with a beautiful, dark green textile strap that compliments the steel and black coloration of the case and dial.
At Baselworld 2018, Omega introduced the new Omega Seamaster 300M to much critical acclaim. The new version is available with a stainless steel bracelet or on a rubber strap. The steel and Sedna gold model on a black rubber strap is an absolute stunner. The combination of steel, gold, and black makes for a beautiful watch that is ready to go diving followed by a nice dinner. Who knows, maybe James Bond will wear it with his tuxedo. It has classy enough looks, so it’s not a stretch!
That’s really what it’s all about: dressing for the occasion with a sense of style instead of policing the occasion. If you’ve already found your sense of style, you don’t need someone telling you what to wear… just ask a purist!