Hamilton Khaki

Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to dig into the features of what makes a watch a dress watch.

Before we can do that, though, we need to establish what exactly a dress watch is. Typically, a dress watch is something that is designed to be worn with a suit or some other formal attire, though it can also be worn with semi-formal and even business casual attire depending on the outfits (but that is the work of a totally different blog). Can you wear a dress watch with jeans and a t-shirt? Absolutely – who am I to tell you what to do with your watch? Traditionally speaking, though, dress watches are paired with fine leather straps and reserved for more formal occasions.

So what are some of the hallmarks of a dress watch? Perhaps the biggest is the general, for lack of a better word, simplicity of it. Now, full disclosure, I find simple dress watches boring. My personal favorite, the FP Journe Chronometre Bleu, is not what would count as a traditional dress watch per say, but I can’t imagine a more elegant timepiece. And that’s the thing – a dress watch is supposed to be elegant and understated. One of the most obvious examples of this is the Patek Philippe Calatrava. Google some pictures of that entire model line, and you’ll see what I mean. For an even more in-depth look at not one but THREE iconic dress watches, HODINKEE compared some offerings from Vacheron Constantin, A. Lange & Sohne and, you guessed it, F.P Journe.

Dress watches are an exercise in minimalism, and that goes for the case size as well. The most stringent traditionalists will tell you that a dress watch can’t be more than 35 mm. I don’t agree with that sentiment, personally, and think anything under 40 mm is in good territory for this category. Once you start getting over 40 mm, the watch begins to demand attention, and it loses the very function is was designed to serve. Even more traditional is the fact that dress watches, historically, have always been in precious metals, either yellow gold or white gold, with rose gold coming in a bit later. If you want to go a bit further, when you look for the most classic definitions of a dress watch, you’re basically going to have the Cartier Tank described to you, but that strict ideal has fallen a bit to the wayside over time.

Other than that, at the end of the day, think of the dress watch as a functional device rather than some kind of fashion statement. It is designed to tell you the time in formal settings without drawing too much attention to what it is. Three hands, a date, and a super elegant strap, and that’s basically all you need anyway, right? So go grab your favorite dress watch, pop on a suit, and remember to keep it classy, watchfam.