Yes, we’re inclined toward sports watches, those utilitarian timepieces best suited for divers’ and pilots’ and astronauts’ wrists. But every now and then a guy’s got to clean up, whether it’s for a buddy’s wedding, a big job interview or a nice dinner out with the better half. For those times, you need something a little more civilized.
In a decidedly casual world, a dress watch sets you apart, gives you that intangible quality that can make a difference — however small — between getting the job, the girl or the future father-in-law’s favor. Though a dress watch needn’t cost a fortune, typically the good ones do; they also match up well with a bespoke suit and make for suitable heirlooms. Just like any other aspect of “looking good”, a dress watch shows that you consider your audience, take the time to put yourself together and have an appreciation for the traditions of style. Even if no one else notices your wrist, wearing a dress watch just feels good, imparting the same confidence that comes from donning a tux or knotting up a tie. We got our wrists on a quartet our favorites recently and played dress-up — in the most manly way possible — for an afternoon.
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Best For Black Tie Affairs: Even before introducing the “world’s thinnest” 900P at SIHH this year, Piaget made its name by building anorexic timepieces. This 38-millimeter white gold Altiplano ($17,000) is actually a more realistic choice for a dress watch than its skinnier sibling given its understated looks and less brittle height. The Altiplano’s classically simple face features a radially finished midnight dial, simple stick markers and two hands driven by the svelte, handwound 430P movement. This is perhaps the purest expression of a dress watch. The Altiplano is the perfect accessory for black tie affairs, sliding easily under a sleeve and endowing its wearer with a subtle elegance that sets him apart from the unwashed dive-watch-wearing masses.
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Chronograph
Best For Tweed (Tie Optional): While technically a sports watch, the Calibre de Cartier Chronograph ($29,600) dresses up nicely, especially in rose gold on an alligator strap. Of course, you’ll need to tailor your cuffs to fit over it, but we can forgive the girth for what lies within: Cartier’s in-house 904C movement, which features a column wheel and flexible reset hammers for precise chronograph actuation and crisp reset. The balanced bi-compax dial layout and oversized Roman numerals are both traditional and modern, while the blue cabuchon embedded in the crown is classic Cartier.
Montblanc Star Quantième Complet
Best For Buttoned-Up But Not Boring: Dress watches are typically uncomplicated affairs — time-only pieces, maybe a chronograph, if you’re pushing it. But when conversation turns dull at a fundraising dinner or wedding reception, the Montblanc Star Quantième Complet ($5,000) will keep things interesting with its moonphase complication, pointer date function and day and month displays peeking out from under your sleeve. The guilloche dial, blue steel hands and polished steel case keep things decidedly refined, though you’ll want to wear this one with jeans now and then too, which will also help keep all those complications wound and running.
JeanRichard 1681 Ronde
Best For Glen Plaid and Brown Leather: JeanRichard may be better known for its handsome sports watches these days, but the 1681 Ronde ($5,100) shows that the company still knows how to build something dressy. The watch is perfectly sized at 41 millimeters, and its simple eggshell white dial and shimmering hands and markers are offset with a buttery brown alligator strap. But lest you begin to think its beauty is only skin deep, flip the 1681 over and admire the in-house built self-winding movement, which is assembled in the fabled Girard-Perregaux factory.