Let’s get the obvious out of the way — you don’t need a great dress watch, at least not in the sense that you need food, water, shelter, warmth, and (at minimum) one hour a day during which you’re not scrolling mindlessly through Instagram.
That being said, we’re going to make a case for what we’ll call a “soft” need. Hear us out:
You can get away with just about anything sartorially these days — in 2023, almost every day is Casual Friday, even at the office…if you still go into an office. Nobody’s wearing a suit and tie on an airplane anymore, and t-shirts and (extremely overpriced) sneakers are the norm in all but the most traditional dining establishments. In fact, that particular pairing is, ironically, almost di rigueur in much of white-collar America. (Especially if you work in media. You media people know what we’re talking about.)
There’s something to be said for a little class, no? For standing out from the crowd? For differentiating an occasion and marking it as special by dressing the part? After all, if you’re going to dress the same way for a fancy dinner out that you do at home, stuffing ice cream down your gullet while watching reruns of Family Guy, then what makes anything special? So throw on a blazer once in a while and get your lazy butt in gear. And while you’re at it, accessorize with a proper dress watch. Yes — the type of timepiece your grandfather used to wear with a suit and tie on an airplane. The type of watch that says: I give a hoot, because tonight is not like every other night. Tonight is special.
What Makes a Dress Watch, Anyway?
Traditionally, a dress watch is a simple, time-only affair paired to a leather strap. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule — many would argue that the famed Rolex Datejust is, in fact, a dress watch — but the point of any dress watch should be to unobtrusively give you the time, and little else. Leave the chronographs and minute repeaters at home, and find something on a band that fits beneath the cuff of your shirt (hence the plain leather strap, and not the shiny, bulky metal bracelet). There’s no need for date windows — who cares what the date is when you’re at a black-tie wedding? — and not even for a seconds hand. (Indeed, many dress watches don’t even feature a seconds hand.) But have fun with it — there are no hard and fast rules here, dude.
So without further ado, here are some of our favorite dress watches — look out for them on Analogshift.com!
The OG dress watch. Since its debut in 1932, this collection has been a staple in the lineup of the greatest watchmaker in the world. Based upon Bauhaus design principles (think “form follows function”), the Calatrava is perhaps the ultimate in understated luxury. And though the line has housed hand-wound, automatic and quartz variations over the years, we personally feel that a simple, hand-wound, time-only model is the way to go as far as dress watches are concerned.
This rectangular watch from the world’s most famed jeweler is such an icon that Andy Warhol wore one without ever winding it, famously remarking, “I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.” (Touché.) Inspired — supposedly — by the lines of the first Renault tanks of the WWI battlefield, this 1917 masterpiece now comes in numerous forms, including hand-wound, automatic and quartz-powered versions. (One of the latest, which features a solar-powered movement, may also be one of the coolest.)
Did you know that you can nab an absolutely killer Omega from the 1950s, ‘60s, or ‘70s for a few thousand bucks? Something like an automatic Seamaster dress watch from the mid-20th century is a perfect way to break into the dress watch world, and these movements are genuine masterpieces of horological design — slim, reliable and accurate. Look for, in addition to Seamasters, simple pieces from the Genève line, as well as the chronometer-certified Constellation line.
We’re breaking slightly with our “leather strap” precept here — though these watches do look killer on leather. The Datejust, especially in its 4-digit and 5-digit incarnations, is a relatively slim, extremely handsome contender for the “best dress watch” category, and a Jubilee bracelet generally does a nice job of slipping under a cuff. Of course, with its date function, bracelet, screw-down crown and (often) steel construction, not everyone is going to agree that this is a “dress watch.” But who cares about classification — you can definitely pull one off with a suit. (Just maybe not a tux…)