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A Beginner's Guide To Men's Dress Watches

All you need to know about wearing a dress watch right.

If you ask us, every gentleman needs a decent dress watch. We’re not talking about that Submariner you wear to the office, gym and mall. We’re referring to that exquisite timepiece you don on special occasions like your sister’s wedding, a black tie gala or tea with the Queen.

What’s the difference between a dress watch and your average ticker? Well, social conventions dictate that the dress watch is of a specific design—simple, elegant and thin (because it needs to slip under the cuff of that suit you’re wearing to Buckingham Palace, remember?). So although your Big Bang and Royal Oak Offshore are beautiful pieces, they don’t really fit the bill of a dress watch.

To help you navigate the world of dress watches, we ask CROWN's resident stylist Ong Weisheng about the five things you should note when picking one out.

1. Size 

Philippe Dufour Simplicity

Dress watches aren’t meant to steal the show. They should be unobtrusive and perfectly proportionate to the size of your wrist. Naturally, this means there is no one-size-fits-all. But in general, Weisheng says, “It should be between 36 to 38mm, ideally. It should also be slim. Philippe Dufour, Piaget and a few other brands come to mind.”

2. Case

Breguet Classique 7147  

Traditionally, most dress watches feature a round case but that’s not to say it’s the only acceptable shape. Rectangular cases like Cartier’s Tank and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso also work although, as Weisheng says, they “hint of a rebel”. Call us boring but we like them classically round.

3. Dial 

Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Ref. 1-36-59-01-02-01

“A proper dress watch should have a very clean and simple dial,” Weisheng opines. He recommends focusing on the details instead, like the finishing of the hands and dial. “I love a good enamel or mother-of-pearl dial but this is very subjective to individual taste,” he says.

4. Strap

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin Ref. 211.033

Dress watches are usually paired with leather straps. There’s just a certain gentility that comes with a leather band. Weisheng himself prefers leather straps in general. “Bracelets are a bit too showy—too much shine,” he says.

5. Functions

Blancpain Villeret Quantième Annuel GMT Ref. 6670-1127-55

A dress watch serves as a classy accessory more than as an accurate timekeeping device, so leave the chronographs and tourbillons at home. Simplicity is key. “No date windows or other complications, just a classic elegant two- or three-hand dial (will suffice),” Weisheng advises. Also, any mechanical watch with additional functions are likely to add to its heft. At the end of the day, it really goes back to personal taste and shouldn't matter even if you have a date window on your dial (like the Blancpain above) or a slightly larger case. Just try to keep it simple and enjoy your tea and scones.

Ex Managing Editor

Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".

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