So You Want to Buy a Dress Watch…

Like a nice suit, it’s easy to see why you’d want to opt for a reliable dress watch in your collection. “At least one” is what you always hear but as simple as it sounds, the hunt may seem daunting for some. Though dress watch features and aesthetics might seem basic, the range of options can be as vast as what you’d encounter when shopping for a diver or a racing chronograph. This is mostly because of the old-world appeal that brands sometimes seek to emulate when designing these watches. As a result, you can find anything from a simple time-only, two-handed display to a full on perpetual calendar chronograph.

Characteristics of a Dress Watch

As varied as they can be, there are still some “core” characteristics you should look for when shopping for a dress watch.

  • Slim profile that allows for a comfortable and appropriate fit with formal attire
  • Minimal set of complications, which may even result in the absence of a seconds hand
  • High-quality leather strap, though slim bracelets are also an option
  • Smaller case diameter that typically falls between 36mm and 40mm
  • Occasional use of precious metals

Dress Watch Buying Guide: Patek Philippe Calatrava

Even if it isn’t obvious at first, you can actually be quite expressive with your choice of a dress watch. Remember, the idea of what a dress watch can be has changed over the years, so this set of characteristics isn’t exactly law. But, if you are a traditionalist or simply searching for something that’s aesthetically “pure,” the classical idea of what a dress watch is might be what you’re looking for.

For The Occasional Wedding Crasher

Your one suit gets about as much attention as that box of VHS tapes your roommate still hasn’t gotten rid of. Still, the occasional “nice” event does come up, which forces you to clean up your act a bit. If you don’t really focus on dress watches but need to fill that gap, consider something economical with these features:

  • Time-only display (or a date display, if you can’t avoid it)
  • Low-maintenance movement that can be serviced by most watchmakers
  • Economical price point in a watch that still holds its value
  • Dressy, precious metal accents
  • Black dial

Dress Watch Buying Guide: OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra

Our Pick: Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra

For The Vintage Lover

When you dress it up, you do it right. But, you have an admiration for the way things used to be designed and built. As a result, you have a penchant for older things that still perform as well as their contemporary counterparts. Look for:

  • Classical styling that’s still relevant today
  • Durable construction
  • White dial that’s in line with a more traditional look
  • Collectible heritage from a prominent brand
  •  Light patina

Dress Watch Buying Guide: Vintage Vacheron Constantin

Our Pick: Vintage Vacheron Constantin

For The Silicon Valley Tech CEO

The suit and tie aren’t exactly optional in your line of work. Plus, it’s important to keep up with appearances. Maybe you had a big sale after making one of those fancy smart home app things. Whatever the case may be, sometimes it’s alright to splurge, especially if you find a watch to be an important part of your daily wardrobe. Look for:

  •  A high-complication timepiece
  • Precious metal case construction
  • Versatile look that still fits with a casual look if necessary
  • An investment-grade piece

Dress Watch Buying Guide: A. Lange & Söhne Langematik

Our Pick: A. Lange & Söhne Langematik

Overall, a dress watch should serve its intended purpose with ease. Their features make them suitable for dressing up and really, you might find it difficult to justify owning more than one. Be sure to consider your own individual needs and find something that you’ll enjoy even if you’re stuck at some fancy event.

Written by

Michael is a Seattle-based writer who first became interested in watches during his grade school years. He has a penchant for design, aviation, music, and anything sci-fi or gear related. When he’s not writing about watches or contributing to a number of other projects, he enjoys catching up on his favorite books, tinkering with guitars, and exploring the trails of Washington.

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