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You’ve just splurged on a seriously nice timepiece. You want to show it off. But you might also want to take a deep breath and consider how you are wearing your watch. Mismatching your timepiece and your wardrobe will send a negative message out to the world. While no rules are absolute, there are some general guidelines for matching your watch with your clothing.

Keep the Formality Levels in Line

This one might sound easy but it’s surprising how many people make this watch mistake. Just because that watch is expensive doesn’t mean it goes with formal attire.

Only one watch pairs well with a black-tie ensemble — a dress watch. Your high-end Omega dive watch, Rolex racing watch and Breitling pilot watches are great but these luxury watches don’t belong at the most formal of formal events. The dress watch should have a minimalist face and a black leather band (stay away from brown, which is more for business wear).

watch guide

Business wear gives you a little more leeway. While a dress watch such as the famed Patek Philippe Calatrava with a black alligator strap is still an option, business dress also lends itself to nice dive watches. If you want to go the dive watch route with a suit, think slim. Bulky dive watches clash with suits, so you want something slimmer with an elegant design and a leather strap. Keep it simple and traditional in gold or silver. If you choose a dive watch for business wear, wear it boldly. Remember that James Bond famously paired his elegant suits with a Rolex Submariner.

The best of both worlds? Consider getting a watch that can be used in formal and business settings. A simple silver dress watch with a plain face in white, gray or black can be incredibly versatile. Use a black leather strap for a more formal look and a brown strap for business dress or even going smart casual.

Wide Span of Smart Casual

Dressing smart casual gives you lots of options to accessorize with your watch. This look spans a wide range. It can be easier for men, running from a dress button down paired with some slim-cut chinos or a blazer with grey flannel trousers and no tie.

watch guide

For women, a rule of thumb is avoiding outfits you would wear to work — no suits or skirts! Think a sharp blazer and dark tailored jeans, a blouse and dress pants, and really any look that feels fashionable without leaning to conservative. Smart casual dress is best paired with more casual-leaning timepieces such as racing, pilot and field watches.

Keeping Things Totally Casual

When you go totally casual your watch should too. Jeans and a t-shirt are perfectly matched with a field watch. But of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t break the rules. From David Beckham to Ellen DeGeneres, many a famous watch aficionado has donned a chronograph or dive watch while totally dressed down in the most casual of looks. A near universal constant, jeans and t-shirts can be paired with nearly anything and that applies to your watch choice as well.

watch guide

Casual also gives you the freedom to let your sporty side loose. A good sports watch with a rubber strap works with almost any casual ensemble. If you want a sports watch that you can wear with a variety of outfits, stay away from bold color schemes such as red, orange and yellow. While they‘re great to add some flair to your wardrobe, you will get more mileage out of basic black or deep navy.

When Do I Wear My Smartwatch?

By design, smartwatches are generally best paired with casual dress. Sure, an Apple Watch has stylish bands that make it look sleek. The Sony Smart Watch is a minimalist wonder. And the Intel-powered TAG Heuer? Well, that’s so strikingly similar to a mechanical watch you almost don’t realize that it’s a smartwatch. But just almost. Smartwatches never quite rise to the level of formal, or even appropriate for business or smart casual. (Maybe the TAG Heuer if nobody looks too closely!). So, if you have a smartwatch on your wrist, keep it casual.

watch guide

Selecting Straps for Shoes and Belts

If you’re wearing brown shoes and a brown belt, a black leather watch strap will look out of place. And vice versa for black belts and shoes. This gets trickier with sports watches with rubber straps and field watches with NATO straps that come in a variety of colors. Find a color wheel online to see which colors match well with others to create an outfit that’s properly balanced.

watch guide

The Dos and Don’ts of Matching Metals

Consider the other metal accessories you’ll be wearing when deciding whether to put on a gold or silver watch. From rings, earrings and necklaces to belt buckles and cufflinks, you don’t want a predominantly silver motif clashing with a gold watch. And the opposite as well. Consider the colors of your outfits. If you’re wearing a color scheme with blacks, grays and blues, go with a silver watch. If you’re dressing in earth tones and shades of tan and brown, best to complement with a gold watch.

watch guide

While you shouldn’t wear your Apple Watch to a black-tie gala, or a dress Patek Philippe for a pick-up game of basketball, don’t get too bogged down with the rules. Consider the guidelines and then just do what you think best matches your innate sense of personal style!

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