How to Wear a Watch With Style: A Comprehensive Guide

Whether or not you use a watch mainly for its time-telling purpose or as a status symbol, you cannot deny the fact that it has a big impact on your overall look. Sometimes, it is even the first thing that people notice about you. So, apart from telling the time, a watch tells a lot about your taste and style. Given these points, it is important to know how to wear a watch with style whether it’s a top Swiss watch like Rolex or an affordable beater watch like Seiko.

The most common misconception people have with men’s fashion is that it is simple. Nothing can be further from the truth. On one hand, we have the classical menswear with suits, Oxford shirts, and Patek Philippe dress watches. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s streetwear where you’d most likely see box logo t-shirts and Casio G-Shock watches. While no style is superior to the other, it is important to know which watches work best with what style.

That being said, the first thing to know is how to differentiate each style of a timepiece from another. So to help you with your fashion journey, below is an overview of the different watches that you may encounter. We also threw in a few tips on when and how to wear a watch accordingly, depending on the style of the watch, occasion, and outfit.

Dress Watches

Minimalism is a top priority when it comes to dress watches. Typically, dress watches are simple yet elegant to match your tailored suits. Take for example the IWC Portofino or Frederique Constant Slimline. These watches usually have minimal complications on the dial and almost always go with a leather band.

dress watch on the wrist
Image by Hashir Ghani from Pixabay

When to Wear a Dress Watch

In terms of a watch’s level of formality, dress watches belong to the apex of the tier. In other words, these are the only acceptable timepieces to be worn during a white-tie or black-tie event. Apart from those events, these watches should also be your choice in a business formal event where you are expected to look sharp.

What to Wear with a Dress Watch

As its name suggests, a dress watch should be worn with a dress shirt along with a suit or tuxedo. It also blends well with slightly less formal clothes like a blazer or an Oxford shirt.

Wearing a dress watch that is less formal than a business casual outfit is usually frowned upon. So try to avoid them when wearing denim shorts and sneakers.

Best Dress Watches and How to Wear Them with Style

1. Cartier Tank

Truly, the Cartier Tank is one of the most iconic and elegant dress watches in the market. Apart from its interesting history, its styling has drawn the same amount of respect from many watch enthusiasts. In fact, Cartier has developed their own signature style that you’ll instantly know it’s a Cartier even from a few feet away.

front view of Cartier Tank watch

Staying true to the essence of a dress watch, the Tank is simple. It only shows the time using Roman numeral hour markers and metallic blue hands. These elements are set against an off-white background which is versatile to wear.

In terms of size, the Cartier Tank is fairly small, even for a dress watch. This makes it an ideal watch for people who are going for a Don Draper type of aesthetic. To add, its case is made with 18K yellow gold which ups its formality level.

No doubt that the Cartier Tank is one of the first things people imagine when thinking of dress watches. You can wear it casually to your 9 to 5 and straight to your black-tie event without compromising on style and elegance.

2. Zenith Elite

Staying true to its name, the Zenith Elite is definitely on top of the list when it comes to dress watches. Apart from its excellent movement, its design is something that will steal the spotlight.

front view of Zenith Elite watch

With the goal to be as simple as possible, its dial comes in an almost monochromatic colour scheme. The background, indexes, and hands come in a silver colour that will match your tie clip or your cufflinks. Apart from that, it comes with a classic black leather strap that elevates its classiness.

When it comes to the movement, the Zenith Elite uses a calibre called the Elite 679. While it only tells the time, it has a power reserve of up to 55 hours when fully wound. Rest assured that this watch from Zenith will tell reliable time for years.

This dress watch is a perfect accessory to wear with your dapper tux.

3. Jaeger-LeCoultre Master  

If simple is what you’re looking for, look no further than the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master. The Master Date model is the epitome of minimalism as it only shows the time and date functions. To add, its colour scheme is a combination of white and silver, which is easy on the eyes.

front view of Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date watch

Inside, this Jaeger-LeCoultre dress watch runs on the updated calibre 899. Among its improvements are the slimmer profile, a 70-hour power reserve, and reshaped escapement and pallets. These changes made the movement tell better time. Luckily, you can admire the calibre through the viewing glass at the back of the watch.

Finally, the Novonappa calfskin strap is like icing on the cake. It comes in a tan shade that perfectly blends with the watch’s case material. In addition, it gives the watch a vintage touch that a lot of people find attractive.

Wear it to brunch with a pair of chinos and khaki pants or to a board meeting with a suit and tie.

Dive Watches

Dive watches are some of the most rugged watches on the market. They are made to conquer the deepest depths of the ocean. That is why they are typically bulky and large. Apart from that, dive watches usually must pass a series of tests to be called a “true dive watch”.

dive watch on the wrist underwater
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When to Wear a Dive Watch

Apart from the obvious answer that you should wear it during a dive session, dive watches are best worn casually. And depending on the design of your watch, it can also be appropriate for smart casual settings. Just make sure that your dive watch is sleek and not too bulky.

What to Wear with a Dive Watch

Lucky for you, dive watches are very versatile to wear. In fact, you can wear them with just shorts and a T-shirt, or you can even pair them with your Oxford shirt. However, avoid wearing dive watches with suits unless the event calls for a more relaxed dress code.

Best Dive Watches and How to Wear Them with Style

1. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique

In the history of dive watches, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is one of the most important models. Case in point: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique is one of the world’s first modern diving watches.

front view of Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique watch

An obvious feature of this watch is its bulky diving bezel which is made of sapphire crystal. Apart from giving the watch a vintage style, it is also extremely durable. This means the bezel is scratch-proof, which is nice to have if you’re the adventurous type.

Over the years, Blancpain has developed their dive watches’ cases. So this updated model has a high water resistance rating of 300m, which is impressive and more than enough for diving. Apart from that, they also generously applied C3 SuperLuminova on the dial to make it legible in the dark.

Indeed, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique continues to impress both the diving and watch community even years after its release. With its elegant all-black ensemble, you can even get away with wearing it with a suit and tie at a posh dinner.

2. Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner needs no introduction. Indeed, even people outside the watch community can recognise it. And if truth be told, it is the most copied watch design ever. Just take a look at the dozens of homage watches in the market.

front view of Rolex Submariner dive watch

Looking at the catalogue of Rolex, the Sub comes in various colourways — from black to two-toned. But the most popular choice is the black dial on the black bezel, as featured above. It comes in a case with a diameter of 40mm, a sweet spot for various wrist sizes.

When it comes to performance, the Rolex Submariner uses a Rolex Calibre 3135. This movement has 31 jewels, runs at a frequency of 28,800 bph, and can power the watch for up to 50 hours. Furthermore, it uses a parachrom hairspring, which makes it more resistant to shocks and temperature variations – a very useful feature for diving.

All in all, you can never go wrong with the Rolex Submariner. If you’re in the market for a classic dive watch, this one should be on top of your list.

This watch is the perfect accessory to your casual Sunday brunch or dive weekends with your best mates.

3. Omega Seamaster

A close competitor of the Rolex Submariner is the Omega Seamaster. Both watches are popular in the diving community and both are known to be the watch of the world’s most famous spy James Bond!

front view of Omega Seamaster 300 dive watch

This iconic watch from Omega definitely lives up to the hype as it has everything a diver needs and more. To demonstrate, it has a 300m water resistance rating. It also has a helium release valve crown at 10 o’clock that is useful for commercial divers.

Apart from that, it runs on Omega’s pride — the in-house 8800 calibre. The movement has a co-axial escapement and is immune to the effects of environmental magnetism. Furthermore, it also has a reliable silicon balance spring and a METAS certification seal. With that said, you can expect the watch to be extremely reliable and accurate when telling time.

The Omega Seamaster can definitely get the job done while looking great. It definitely has that rugged charm that appeals to a lot of watch enthusiasts. Furthermore, it has that familiar wave pattern on the dial to keep things unique. All things considered, we can clearly see why this is James Bond’s watch of choice.

This dive watch is just the right accessory to wear with your classic white shirt and blue jeans outfit.

Sports Watches

Sports watches are made for adventures. Generally, these timepieces have durable cases and easy-to-read dials for convenience. Apart from those traits, they also have a decent water resistance rating, as sports events can be very demanding.

sports watch on the wrist
Photo by THE 5TH from Pexels

When to Wear a Sports Watch

Due to its sporty design, these watches shine best in casual settings and when doing physical activities. It is strongly advised to avoid sports watches when going to formal events or even semi-formal events.

What to Wear with a Sports Watch

Sports watches look best with leisure, as it complements its sportiness. The watch will definitely feel at home when paired with jogger pants, shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers. Apart from those, a sports watch will also look good with jeans.

Best Sports Watches and How to Wear Them with Style

1. Breitling Superocean

Breitling has long been known for making sporty watches, which is why the Breitling Superocean is a part of this list. Indeed, from its design to its movement, this watch screams durability and robustness.

front view of Breitling Superocean dive watch

Legibility is a top priority for this model. The dial consists of big trapezoidal markers and large Arabic numeral fonts which are applied with SuperLuminova. Furthermore, its case is water-resistant up to 500m. With that kind of rating, you wouldn’t have to worry about damaging it during swimming. In fact, it is even appropriate for diving.

Lastly, its movement is called the Calibre 17, which is based on the ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. It has a quick set date complication and is known to be one of Breitling’s most durable movements. This makes the watch appropriate for sporty activities.

Wear this watch with a nice, black shirt and a pair of black jeans to make a dashing impression on a weekend date.

2. Hamilton Khaki Aviation

When it comes to sportiness, Hamilton Khaki Aviation excels in aviation. In fact, Hamilton is an official timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race. Apart from that, they do a good job of creating durable watches that can handle bumps and scratches.

front view of Hamilton Khaki Aviation watch

The dial is easy to read with its large Arabic numeral fonts. In addition, the hour markers and hands are coated with SuperLuminova so you can still read the time during your late-night adventures. Performance-wise, it uses the H-30 movement that features a day-date function. In addition, its 80-hour power reserve is enough to keep the watch going for more than 3 days.

This is the watch to get if you are into aviation and air races, as this model captures the essence of vintage pilot watches.

This watch definitely looks at home in a dressed down setting, perhaps a weekend outfit of khaki shorts and a white shirt to let its iconic design take centre stage.

3. Tudor Fastrider Chrono

The Tudor Fastrider Chrono’s sporting roots started in 2011 when Tudor collaborated with Ducati. Simply put, the goal was to create a utilitarian chronograph that was sporty, functional, and attractive. Needless to say, the two brands succeeded in making that watch.

front view of Tudor Fastrider Chrono watch

In the design department, the Tudor Fastrider Chrono is a beauty. This automatic model featured above is predominantly matte black with a few bright red accents. This colour scheme reminds us of the lights against a car’s dashboard. Furthermore, the watch’s dial features a tachymeter bezel and three sub-dials for your timing needs. In particular, these sub-dials are the 30-minute totaliser, a running seconds tracker, and a 12-hour totaliser.

Additionally, its self-winding movement is called the ETA-Valjoux Caliber 7753. It vibrates at a frequency of 28,800 bph and has a power reserve of up to 48 hours.

Wear it with a black leather jacket to up your dashing factor.

Statement Watches

As the name suggests, statement watches aim to stay in the spotlight and are synonymous with ‘stylish watches’. It is the type of watch that you want to wear when you want to catch people’s attention. Whether it’s through a watch’s sky-high value or through its colourful design, these iconic watches are sure to make heads turn.

statement watch on the wrist
Photo by emre keshavarz from Pexels

When to Wear a Statement Watch

Statement watches are reserved for bold people who love experimenting with (or sometimes breaking) fashion rules. If you need help imagining, simply picture people who wear their basketball shoes with their suits. In the books, it’s obviously a fashion no-no, but some people can make it look cool.

With that in mind, these watches can be used in different settings. For instance, you can wear a statement watch with a suit if you’re bold enough. But apart from that, a statement watch is perfectly suitable to wear during a casual setting.

What to Wear with a Statement Watch

A lot of fashion enthusiasts will say that the best course is to pair your loud statement watch with a muted outfit. For example, if your watch is made up of loud colours, you can never go wrong with an all-black ensemble. The idea is to balance the loudness of the watch with a more toned down outfit.

Best Statement Watches and How to Wear Them with Style

1. Patek Philippe Nautilus

If you’ve been on watch forums for some time, then you might have observed that the Patek Philippe Nautilus is the “it” watch. It is one of the most sought-after models and is the perfect timepiece to wear to make a statement. Indeed, a lot of people say that wearing one is like saying that you’ve made it in life as the watch is extremely hard to get.

front view of Patek Philippe Nautilus watch

This legendary Patek Philippe watch’s design is unique with its rounded octagonal bezel. As the story goes, it was designed after a ship’s porthole. And even decades after its release, it is still one of the most iconic designs in the history of horology.

As for its performance, it runs on Patek Philippe’s calibre 26-330 S C. It is a self-winding movement that has 30 jewels and a power reserve of up to 45 hours. And to make it more premium, its central rotor is made with 21k gold. What a way to make a statement! And like every Patek Philippe movement, this one guarantees high precision and accuracy that will last you for decades.

Although primarily designed as a sports watch, the Nautilus is now regarded as a modern-day dress watch with its elegant and sophisticated design. Needless to say, you can either wear it with a suit-and-tie to a formal event or with a nice white shirt for a weekend brunch with your buddies.

2. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

If the Patek Philippe Nautilus is too refined for your taste, you should check out the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Indeed, it is a more rugged and angular version of the previous luxury watch. And if you’re wondering who copied who, the answer is neither because they both come from the same watch designer — Gerald Genta. And to add to that, this watch from Audemars Piguet is the world’s first luxury steel sports watch.

front view of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch

While the Nautilus was inspired by a ship’s porthole, the Royal Oak borrows a few design elements from an old-school diver’s helmet. Its octagonal bezel is widely known in the watch community that you know it’s a Royal Oak even just by seeing its silhouette. Apart from that, its “Grande Tapisserie” pattern on the dial is just as interesting and iconic.

Furthermore, the movement is just as good as its design. It uses a manufacture calibre 4302 which is self-winding. The movement has a total of 32 jewels, runs at a frequency of 28,800 bph, and can make the watch tick for up to 70 hours. And if you’re a hardcore fan, you can admire the mechanism through the see-through glass at the case’s back.

Wherever you are, you are sure to make heads turn when wearing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. If you want a statement watch, you should never overlook this model.

Another bonus is that the Audemars Piguet boutique also sells a pair of matching cufflinks so you can look your best. Needless to say, this is one sporty statement watch that you can wear with a tux to make heads turn.

3. Franck Muller Vanguard

Among the stylish watches on this list, the Franck Muller Vanguard is the most quirky. Just one look at it and you know that it’s not like any other watch. From its shape to its colour scheme, it’s obvious that Franck Muller is here to make a statement.

front view of Franck Muller Vanguard watch

First things first — the perfect words to describe this featured watch is ‘avant-garde’. Honestly, this watch makes one feel like he was transported to the roaring twenties and the Great Gatsby, thanks to its black and gold colourway. It comes in a curvaceous shape that gives out a sporty vibe. Meanwhile, the applied numerals are hand-polished and hand-brushed.

The inside is just as beautiful as the outside as it uses the FM 0800 automatic movement. This calibre operates at a frequency of 28,800 bph and can make the watch tick for up to 42 hours. To boot, the movement offers a date complication, which can be seen at the 6 o’clock position.

No doubt that the Franck Muller Vanguard is the watch to beat if you’re looking to make a statement. Its contemporary styling and reliable movement are enough to set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

Wear it with a black leather jacket and black jeans to match its all-black ensemble.

5 Tips on How to Wear a Watch with Style

If you’re still unsure about how to wear a watch with style, here are 5 style tips to help you look like a million bucks.

1. Wear the right watch for the occasion.

The most important thing to remember is to wear an appropriate watch for the occasion. If you’re going to a formal event where you have to wear a tux, keep it simple with a time-only dress watch. But if the event has a less strict dress code like in a beach wedding, you can get away with wearing a diver with your suit. Anyway, people have been more accepting of dive watches with suits ever since James Bond started the trend.

2. Choose the right size of the watch.

A watch’s case size matters especially when you want to elevate your fashion game. To find your perfect size, measure your wrist. If your wrist measures from 6 to 7 inches, you should opt for a small to medium diameter case (38mm, 40mm, 42mm). If you’re on the larger end with a size of 7.5-8 inches, you will look better with a case diameter of 44mm or 46mm.

different watch sizes
Photo from Esslinger

However, I’m not saying that you should strictly follow this rule. In fact, if you break this rule the right way, you can still make people’s jaws drop. That is why it’s important to observe the watch size trends carefully and see what works.

Take a look at fashion icons from the ’50s where tiny watches were the norm. Even if you have humongous wrists, there are instances where you can get away with wearing a 36mm watch if you’re wearing a suit Mad Men-style.

3. Match the strap of your watch to your other leather pieces.

If you’re wearing a watch with a leather strap, it is best to coordinate it with the other leather articles on you. So, if you’re wearing a pair of black leather shoes with a black belt, a safe choice would be to swap that leather strap for a black one too.

black dial watch on the wrist
Photo by Drew Williams from Pexels

If you feel confident about experimenting with the colour wheel, you can try complementing colours. For instance, a maroon strap perfectly blends well with black leather.

While this may seem like a small detail, believe me when I say that it says a lot about your attention to detail when it comes to fashion and style. It’s a guarantee that you will get approval from the fashion police.

4. Metals should blend in well with other metals.

Same as the previous item, you should pay attention to the colours of your metal pieces of jewellery. So if your watch comes with a silver case, make sure that your cufflinks, tie clip, or bracelet come in the same colour.

5. Make sure the watch fits perfectly.

In the fashion world, you would always hear people saying “fit is king”. While they often mean the fit of clothes, the same can be said for your statement watches. That being said, make sure to adjust your watch’s strap to fit your wrist perfectly. A rule of thumb is that it should not slide more than an inch up or down whenever you move your arm.

Hamilton Automatic black dial watch on the wrist
Photo from The Slender Wrist

Apart from making you look good, getting a good fit for the watch can also avoid damages. Wearing a watch with a metal bracelet too loose can cause a lot of wear on the bracelet. Additionally, the watch can swing around with good momentum and may hit the table or other pieces of furniture.

Final Notes

Despite being small, a watch can make or break your whole outfit. Even when you’re wearing a bespoke wool suit, you can still get a ticket from the fashion police if you pair it with a bulky sports watch. On the other hand, a simple off-the-rack jacket can look expensive with a clean dress watch.

Be that as it may, it is important to know how to wear a watch if you want to level up your fashion game.

Photo credit: Featured image courtesy of GQ Magazine

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