You get your shirts made to measure, store your shoes on trees and you know the difference between a Windsor and a half-Windsor. So what are you doing with that giant dive watch under your cuff? And don’t give us that rubbish about James Bond. There are times and places for sports watches but none of them involve wearing a jacket and tie.
With the resurgent popularity of wristwatches and the Mad Men-fueled enthusiasm for restrained style, the dress watch is in vogue again. Brands are stepping up their efforts, producing elegant timepieces that accent your clothing without drawing attention to themselves. The right watch won’t necessarily get you the job, or the girl, but the wrong watch certainly doesn’t help.
A dress watch, by definition should be smaller, slimmer and simpler than other types of watches. It is made to slip under a shirtsleeve only to be called upon to tell its owner that it’s time to get the check. We’ve assembled six of the best dress watches out there, all with their own merits – some classics, some upstarts – and with varying price levels, from the affordable to the aspirational. But all of them clean up nicely.
Our selections begin after the jump.
Though it’s the most affordable of our six watches, the Intra-matic , which is named for and styled after one of Hamilton’s watches from the 1960s, swings well above its weight. It is sized perfectly for a dress watch with a 38mm diameter and mere 7mm height, thanks to a slim self-winding ETA 2892 mechanical movement. The domed dial and crystal, lack of a sweep seconds hand and linked steel bracelet would match perfectly with a knitted tie and horn-rimmed glasses to complete the retro vibe.
$845 | Learn More
Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture
Stepping up to a manufacture watch movement (one in which the calibre is designed and built in-house) often requires a corner-office job. So it was a pleasant surprise when Frederique Constant released its Classics Manufacture this year, with a price tag that even an intern could afford. The 26-jewel decorated movement is visible through the display caseback and little touches like Roman numeral markers, Breguet-style hands and a pointer date display lend the watch interest. Rose gold-plating keeps the price down without compromising its elegance.
$2,550 | Learn More
IWC Portofino Automatic
The International Watch Company is known for its robust, hyper-masculine timepieces, built for divers and pilots. But even these macho men have to clean up and look smart sometimes. And for those occasions, IWC has their Portofino line. Named for the Italian port town that played host to the glamorous set in the ’50s and ‘60s, the Automatic channels that same sophisticated vibe. While the rounded 40mm steel case and simple three-hand dial are the epitome of restrained elegance, the real magic is in the steel mesh band IWC calls, “Milanese.” Highly adjustable and comfortable, the band lends an air of cool panache to any outfit.
$5,500 | Learn More
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute to 1931
It is ironic that a watch originally built for a rough and tumble sport has become one of the most recognizable and coveted dress watches. The Reverso was built for British polo players who wanted a way to protect their watch crystals from the impacts inevitable in their sport. The rectangular case is hinged and can be reversed to hide the dial, displaying only the austere caseback, which cries out for a family crest engraving. While there have been many iterations of the Reverso, the purest is the limited edition Tribute to 1931, which is identical in aesthetic to its 70-year old ancestor and a true Art Deco relic.
$8,700 | Learn More
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin
Call the Saxonia Thin the “Jekyll and Hyde” dress watch. The dial side is simple to the point of austerity, lacking a date window or even a sweep seconds hand. The markers are slim sticks and writing is kept to a minimum. But turn the timepiece over and behold the riot of German hand-decorated artistry. Lange is the master of fine detail and this is no more evident than in the beautifully-engraved balance cock, which is signed with the initials of its engraver. The Saxonia Thin is the slimmest watch ever created by A. Lange & Söhne and may be the purest dress watch in our selection.
$25,100 | Learn More
Girard-Perregaux 1966 Annual Calendar
Dress watches typically err on the side of simplicity, often even eschewing a date display or sweep seconds hand. The Girard-Perregaux 1966 Annual Calendar defies this rule with its namesake complication, an annual calendar that does not require its owner to adjust the date for short or long months, unless it is a Leap Year. Additionally, the watch also has an equation of time calculator, which accounts for the discrepancy between our manmade calendars and the actual time it takes the Earth to encircle the Sun. All of this sounds incredibly complicated, and it is for the watchmakers at G-P. But on your wrist, it is simple to read and remains restrained in dimension and appearance. The perfect dress watch for the complicated man.
$32,860 | Learn More
Photography by Jae Yoon