Not that the red carpet is usually where one looks for everyday style tips, but when it comes to what the new rules are for suiting up, it certainly provides an education. A sensible suit just won’t cut it any more. We’ve seen knitwear under suiting, tuxedos with trainers and people like Timothée Chalamet and Donald Glover making up the rules as they go.
Just as after-dark attire has changed, so has what you wear on your wrist. A dress watch used to be something that was mechanical, slim, understated and generally a three-hander. Now, you’ve got Bond wearing a diving watch, Bradley Cooper rocking up at the Oscars in an IWC Big Pilot and Nick Jonas at the Met Gala sporting 38.3cts of diamonds on a Chopard Imperiale.
Despite all the modern rule breaking, deciding what goes on your wrist when you’re suited and booted needn’t be a minefield, so we’ve chosen 10 of the best dress watches around from classic to iconoclastic. And don’t worry, there are no diamonds in sight.
Hermes Slim d’Hermes
This is the classic dress watch given a 21st century makeover. To create this brand new addition to its watch collection, Hermes employed the services of renowned Parisian graphic designer Philippe Apeloig to create new bespoke typography.
It also spent four years developing the ultra-slim movement that powers the watch. With its modernist flourishes and open, uncluttered dial, it would be perfect accessory if you’re the sort of man who prefers to pair his two-piece with a half zip.
Cartier Santos de Cartier
Although the Tank is usually the go-to case shape in Cartier’s dress watch canon, we’re putting forward the case for the Santos. The reason is primarily down to its bevelled square 39.8mm case, which offers a chunkier alternative for those who feel that the Tank’s elongated rectangular form is a touch on the svelte side.
Technically it is a pilot’s watch – the original having been created by Louis Cartier for pilot Andre Santos-Dumont – but this is definitely one for the cocktail lounge rather than the cockpit.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date
You could default to the Reverso, though that was originally intended as a sports watch, but this Master Ultra Thin Date in steel is, well, a steal. Perfecting a simple three-hander is difficult – get it right and no one notices, get anything wrong and all people will see are the flaws.
The colour-matched hands and indices might seem sterile to some, but it just serves to highlight how perfectly proportioned the dial of this watch is. Thanks to the in-house and very lean calibre 899 – it’s only 7.45mm thick – it will slip, undisturbed, underneath even the slimmest of shirt cuffs.
Tissot Heritage Visodate
If you prefer your dress watches to have a more retro feel, then this Tissot certainly ticks those boxes.
The original Visodate was launched just after the brand’s 100th birthday in 1954 and this new iteration keeps some of the vintage touches, such as the period logo and numerals, but ups the case size and adds a sapphire crystal in order to give it a more modern look. It’s got a louche appeal that would suit any aspiring Don Draper.
Zenith Elite Classic
If you’re bored of blue but don’t want to default to black, then the tobacco tones of this Zenith could be the answer. Zenith may have been going crazy with carbon and chronograph watches recently, but this Elite Classic, powered by its famous in-house Elite movement, is a reminder that it can also do effortlessly unadorned as well.
Obviously, the brown leather strap excludes wearing black shoes, so this is one to pair with a less conventional suit. However, when your watch is this refined you can afford to take a few sartorial risks.
Montblanc 1858 Manual Small Second
You have Daniel Craig’s Bond to thank for more sporty styles becoming acceptable companions to dinner suits; this is, after all, the man who paired his custom Brioni with a steel-bracelet Omega Seamaster. While this isn’t quite as ready for action, it does have a bolder aesthetic than some of the more typical dress styles.
At 44mm it is on the larger side, though that may suit those who don’t like the smaller vintage diameters, while the Arabic numerals and substantial “cathedral” hands are SuperLuminova filled. It’s a detail that some might call indiscrete but others might think is essential for knowing when it’s time to make a swift getaway from a boring evening.
Timex Marlin Automatic
There are many elements of a modern wardrobe that would confuse your grandfather, but this watch paired with a suit would not be one of them. It is as if Timex looked up the dictionary definition of a dress watch and then made one to order.
The brushed steel dial with coordinating hands and numerals are beautifully simple, it’s a plain three-hander and, despite the astonishing price, it is powered by an automatic movement. Dress watch 101 at its finest.
Raymond Weil Toccata
There are some watch snobs who think a watch can only take the moniker “dress” if it contains a mechanical movement. However, for many men suit-wearing options are too rare an occurrence to justify an investment timepiece purchase, which is where this Raymond Weil comes in.
It is slim, simple and slips under a shirt cuff but is quartz, so you aren’t paying a premium. Being all black it is also an ideal foil should you want to go a bit out there with your dress wear.
This is the watch to wear if your after-dark occasion is in a clime that demands lighter fabrics and softer silhouettes. Just as those types of suits would not be considered acceptable by your grandfather, this is not, despite its automatic movement and 38.5mm case what you would term a “traditional dress watch”.
The bracelet is steel, the dial is blue and it has a date window. But rules are there to be broken and this Longines does it with aplomb.
If Jared Leto resplendent in Alessandro Michele’s decadent velvet or brocade creations is your style icon, then you’re not going to want a common or garden three-hander. So, get a touch of that
It adheres to some of the codes – the case is on the small side at 38mm and is yellow-gold PVD, it doesn’t have any complications and the strap is leather. However having the new house codes as the indices gives it all a touch of typically Michele-esque subversion.
Rado DiaMaster Ceramos Thinline Automatic
More new adventures in ceramic from Rado, but this time it has decided to add metals into the mix. By combining specific ratios of ceramic with platinum, gold or rose gold, you can create a lightweight, scratch-resistant material that has the durability of the former with all the lustre of the latter.
Rado has also had the good sense to use it in its more classic Diamaster range creating a true heirloom watch – one that you can pass on to the next generation, but that won’t look scratched to hell when you finally do.
Glashutte Original Sixties
You might not quite be ready to ditch the shirt under your suit, a la Donald Glover, or go all out on the pattern – hello Timothée Chalamet – but you can still add some flair with a vibrantly coloured dial, such as the fiery orange of this Glashütte Original.
The multi-step process from the dial stamping to the lacquer painting is all done in house and because the last stage of painting is done by hand, each dial’s particular colour gradient is unique. Have this peeking under the cuff of a simple black suit and you’ll turn almost as many heads as you would if you were shirtless.