The dress watch is a subjective breed of timepiece. Other watch categories—like pilot, dive, racing, or military watches—are more easily defined. They’re set apart by a certain set of characteristics, primarily regarding their functions. A dress watch is just the opposite. What distinguishes a dress watch is its distinct lack of functions and instead its aesthetic.
Thoughts of dressing up might immediately conjure up images of lavish, over the top embellishments and adornments. However, a dress watch is anything but ornate. In fact, a dress watch is one of the most straightforward timepieces you’ll find. Its purpose is simply to tell time. It’s got a minimalist design—no superfluous bells, whistles, or impressive complications. A dress watch has a slim, sleek profile, often accompanied by a leather strap or a thin bracelet. It’s modestly sized, typically between 36mm and 40mm. Below are some of our modern favorites of this classic design.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
The Calatrava was first introduced in 1932 and has since become Patek Philippe’s flagship model. The design of the Calatrava draws inspiration from the Bauhaus art movement, which boasts understated sophistication. Over the years, the brand has added options of for additional features and complications to the collection. However, most models are no frills, time-only watches.
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso
Jaeger LeCoultre’s Reverso is a one-of-a-kind design. Although it looks and feels a bit unconventional, the Reverso still goes down as one of the most timeless and iconic models ever produced. The style of the Reverso is pure and has remained largely unchanged since it was originally conceived in 1931.
Although you may think of Rolex as a brand with a fairly classic and conservative aesthetic, the Cellini is a bit of a departure from their other models. Rolex is known for its bulkier sport and tool watches, loaded with bells and whistles. The Cellini, dubbed the Tuxedo Watch, is the quintessential dress watch. The models feature a modestly sized, slim case with a design that focuses on simplicity and clarity.
The Cartier Tank is arguably one of the first watches designed for style over function. When the brand’s founder, Louis Cartier, designed the watch in 1917, he wanted to do something different. He drew inspiration from the Renault tanks produced by the French during WWI, giving the watch its iconic geometric, angular, and industrial design with no superfluous features.
The IWC Portofino embodies the essence of understatement and fine taste. It’s elegant yet laidback, with its timelessly elegant and pure design. The minimalist aesthetic draws inspiration from the Lepine pocket watch. It features an uncluttered dial, with simple hour markers and slim hands.
OMEGA De Ville
The De Ville’s unique aesthetic has captured the hearts of the design community since its inception in 1967. It won awards at the famed Grand Prix Triomphe de l’Excellence Européenne in addition to six “Golden Roses” at the Baden-Baden design awards. Its simple and straightforward yet modern appearance makes it an ideal dress watch.
Lange & Söhne Lange 1
The Lange 1 was A. Lange & Söhne’s first model to be introduced upon the revival of the brand in 1994. Since then, it has become the face of the brand and is considered one of the most recognizable watches in the industry. As one of the most beloved designs ever created, the Lange 1 has only seen minor adjustments in its design since its initial release.