Every man looks good in a suit, yet every man looks best in a suit and a good watch. And while there are set parameters for dive, aviation, or worldtimer watches, the dress watch stands in a league of its own, without a definition so clearly pronounced. It’s the black-tie of timepieces, the James Bond (at dinner, not on a mission), Jay Gatsby, or Crazy Rich Asian’s Nick Young of watches. Simple and sophisticated, dress watches are a symbol of understated elegance. After all, you wouldn’t wear a dive watch with a tuxedo. You’re not an animal.
Yet though subtle, the dress watch is not to be undermined. It needs to be thin enough to fit under a shirt sleeve cuff and simple enough so as to not steal attention from the dinner jacket and leather shoes with which it is paired. Most commonly, dress watches bear a leather band, an unornamented dial, and traditionally, a black or white face. It’s a mature watch that makes a statement on the wrist that does not scream too loudly, but rather, speaks eloquently, much like its wearer at the gala dinner he is attending.
From a few selected classics to some delicate reimaginations, we’ve put together a list of 8 timeless dress watches for the modern dapper gentleman. Whilst you may never swim 500 metres under the sea with your dive watch, or cruise at high altitudes with an aviation watch in your jet – think about it: you’ll always have parties and dinners to attend. Here’s what you should wear to them.
Featured and hero image credit: IWC Schaffhausen
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Starting off our list comes the true tuxedo of dress watches. Part of one of the finest signature collections by Patek Philippe, the iconic Calatrava has long been known as the quintessential dress watch. Timelessly elegant, this 36mm model (THB 690,300) comes with a mechanically wound movement and a charming hobnail patterned bezel. Featuring a white lacquered dial with black numerals on a shiny black alligator strap, the timepiece is a classic that is always going to score high style points.
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For the gentleman who prefers a black-on-black look, the Rolex Cellini Time (THB 540,900) makes for an elegantly modern option. The 39mm watch toys with a contemporary interpretation of a traditional dress watch, contrasting 18ct white gold accents with its clear black dial and dark alligator strap. Refined lugs, a polished finish, and faceted sword-like hour hands complete the look, for a prestigious timepiece that is cut-throat and very cool.
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Proving that a dress watch need not always be black and white, the Hermès Slim D’Hermès watch (approx. THB 607,669) comes with a 39.5mm pink gold case on a matt brown Havana alligator skin strap. A timepiece that pairs perfectly with a light linen suit for all your late summer soirees, the watch face is large, and yet still fits perfectly under sleeve cuffs due to its ultra-thin Hermès Manufacture H1950 movement. Pure in design and slender in silhouette, its standouts are definitely the numerals – each delicately interspersed with ‘silent’ spaces, giving it a charmingly simple yet lively time rhythm.
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A highly expressive watch, the 40mm IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Automatic (approx. THB 399,916) is sure to catch eyes at any dinner party. Bearing a slate-coloured dial on an 18ct red-gold case and dark brown alligator leather strap, it’s a timepiece that takes serious style to pull off well. One of the most popular Portofino models, the automatic watch features a slim evenly rounded case, on the reverse side of which wearers can admire an engraving of the Portofino harbour. Exquisite.
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Bringing it back to beautiful basics, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Thin Date (THB 265,000) has gained big praise for its small details. The stainless steel timepiece is incredibly thin at 7.45mm, and proves a great wrist companion for lovers of discreet luxury. The silvered sunray-brushed dial is simple, revealing no more than it needs to, featuring Dauphine hour hands and Rhodium-plated hour markers. Subtlety is the strong suit here, in an automatic watch that will always complement any suit, no matter the occasion.
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One of the most classic NOMOS Glashütte models, the automatic Ludwig Neobatik 41 Date (approx. THB 119,271) bears that retro touch for which the German watchmaker is renowned for. Featuring a galvanised, white silver-plated dial, the 40.5mm timepiece boasts a date window playfully positioned at 4 o’clock. Skinny Roman numerals encircle the dial and its tempered blue hands, in a watch that appears very serious, and yet still sneaks a playful charm.
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Rose gold and black watches are having a bit of a moment lately, and a quick glimpse at the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony (THB 960,000) provides fine proof. A nod to the past yet with feet firmly planted in the present, the 40mm automatic watch features an 18K 5N pink gold round case that boasts a perfect circularity. The black dial is dotted with pink gold accents and a date window with white numerals, making for a watch face that holds only the pure essentials. Simple yet suave.
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Last but in no ways least, our list ends with the Cartier Tank Louis Cartier watch (approx. THB 320,116). The striking 33.7mm watch comes with an 18K yellow gold case, the signature Cartier beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, a silver-grained dial, and a striking alligator skin strap. A model based on that worn by Louis Cartier himself, the Tank Louis Cartier set the standard for all Tank watches, and with it, entered a new era for dress watches, which are often commonly round. Featuring a touch of Art Deco, the timepiece proves that sometimes, even as a dress watch, it’s cool to be square (or well, tank).
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