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So many watches and so many occasions. It can get hard to know how to navigate the almost overwhelming number of combinations there are between timepieces and social situations. So below is a (loose) watch guide that will hopefully help you out when you need to put together your next outfit with your watch. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re thinking of different types of watches for men’s fashion! 

Simple and Elegant for Black Tie

watch guide

Looking for watches for a fancy occasion? Formal events call for a formal watch. From elegant weddings to galas and high-end business gatherings, these dress-to-impress events begin after six in the evening and the invitation will be clear about the black-tie status. There are types of watches every man should own, like a casual watch and a formal watch. Men don black suits and women wear evening dresses or ball gowns in dark colors. Watches need to reflect this style. 

Watch colors should match the wardrobe, so black for men and complementary colors for women. A timepiece with a simple black leather strap and an uncomplicated dial in a dark color is most appropriate. A slim watch is best. You are going for elegance and want to avoid flash. While a more-elaborate dress watch may seem upscale and fitting for a fancy night out, it’s not. Best not to wear a watch at all than to sport a timepiece that will call attention to itself.

An example of a black-tie friendly watch is the Movado Red Label with its minimalist black Museum dial and understated black alligator strap. The German watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne has a line of elegant watches with dark faces and leather straps that are perfect for black-tie affairs.

Bold Without Flash for Business Formal

Different people like different kinds of watches. Sharing some style attributes with black-tie watches, business formal watches should be simple and classic. Leather straps are best but you don’t have to stick with a dark dial as you would with black tie. It’s best if the watch matches and complements the wardrobe so you have any number of options with the watch’s face.

watch guide

From the boardroom to lunches with important clients, you want a timepiece that’s both conventionally elegant and a nod to your personal style. This watch is meant to make an impression and convey a sense of confidence. You can go with cases of silver and gold that lean to the bold side but keep the faces complication free. German watchmakers excel at striking this balance. NOMOS Glashütte has mechanical watches that are bold enough to get noticed but have a subtlety that says you’re not trying to draw attention.  

Freedom to Choose with Business Casual

How many different watches are there for different occasions? A lot. There is a lot more liberty when you accessorize for business-casual ensembles. You’re in the everyday wear realm so you can go with either a metal bracelet or a leather strap that matches your wardrobe, generally brown, black or a neutral hue. Best where office dress codes are employed but not overly rigid, a business-casual timepiece can range from a field watch, pilot, or even an upscale chronograph.  

Your work watch also depends on the impression you are trying to make at work . An up-and-comer may wish to grab attention by sporting something like an IWC Portugieser Automatic with a rose-gold case and silver-plated dial. The more-established members of the office favor classic designs with styles that don’t need to broadcast fashion statements. While a Tag Heuer Carrera may lean to the sporty side, more-subdued models with leather straps lend themselves perfectly to the workplace.

Of course, business casual isn’t just for days at the office. Casual occasions can mean a relaxed evening out with friends, brunch at a bistro or a dinner date. There are all different types of watches for occasions where you can show some style without looking like you’re trying too hard.

Sports Watches for Active Outings

watch guide

As you may suspect, a sports watch is best when you are active. You don’t want to be hiking up a mountain trail with a leather strap or a dress watch made of precious metals. Optimally you are looking for something with a rubber or nylon strap and rugged features such as water and shock resistance. A stainless steel bracelet could work, depending upon the activities you’re engaged in. But keep in mind that you want a watch with a strap you can replace as active adventures can take a toll.

Sports watches are all about versatility. You can swap in a leather strap and turn a sports watch into a dress or casual watch. Durable sports watches have a long and esteemed history and some of the world’s most famous (and most worn!) watches fall into this category. A classic since the 1950s, the Rolex Submariner is the epitome of high-end sports watches. Omega’s Speedmaster is another choice that’s been taken on active outings for decades, with nylon straps for function and dressed up with leather. Hublot is another watch brand that favors activity, notably the Big Bang and dressier Classic Fusion collections.

What Do You Want on Your Travels?

There are two divergent paths when talking about travel watches. You can go with classic types of watches that were designed with travelers in mind or with smartwatches.

watch guide

These type of watches are as much about style as the functionality. They capture the essence of travel with designs while providing functions that travelers can use. Rolex was a pioneer in travel-friendly timepieces with the Rolex GMT Master (for Greenwich Mean Time) that allows you to track different time zones with a 24-hour bezel. Vintage style is great for traditional travel watches. The maritime-inspired Hamilton Khaki Navy UTC also tracks time zones and has a wonderful throwback vibe. Originally made for the military, the Glycine Airman has since won favor from travelers of all stripes for a globe-trotting style that harkens to the 60s and 70s.

But its hard to beat the functionality of a smartwatch for traveling. Get directions, book a hotel room or search for the best Mai Tai in town. It’s all right there on your wrist! The waterproof Apple Watch Series 3 receives navigation prompts, email and texts and even streams music. With a 4G signal, you can make phone calls on the go! And the hospitality industry is tailoring their services to smartwatch wearers. You can use your Apple Watch to unlock your door at Starwood Hotels. Scan airline boarding passes from your wrist with Apple’s Passbook app. Virgin Atlantic have features that work with Sony’s SmartWatch 3. 

The All-Around Watch

watch guide

Like white t-shirts, little black dresses and good friends, some things just go with everything. A few versatile watches fall into this category (well, almost everything). The most versatile watches have stainless steel cases and leather straps. They’re simple but not stylistically minimalist. These types of watches have face functions but don’t draw attention with an assortment of complicated features. One of the more-subtle Breitling Chronomats is a versatile option. Bell and Ross have square-case watches that can be worn almost anywhere. Panerai Luminor is another brand with watches that go with a variety of occasions.

However you match your watch to its appropriate occasion, don’t forget the most important aspect — you! Whatever type of watch you decide to get, the watch needs to complement your personal style and the way you wish to be perceived by the world as much as matching a specific event.

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