Watches are a great way to make a style statement and are one of the few accessory choices available to men. But with so many watches on the market, it can be challenging to know which type or style you should opt for to get the right look. The ideal watch and outfit pairing ensures you’ll permanently look fashion-forward.
When it comes to matching your watch to your outfit, you need to cater to your needs first and foremost – work out how you want to wear your watch and what your needs are. For example, if you don’t need tonnes of features then a simple, classic analogue watch is a great choice for you. But if you’re active and enjoy sports and outdoor activities, then a watch with extra durability, such as a sports watch, will be better suited to your needs.
If It’s A Formal Occasion, Match It With A Formal Watch
There’s a definite difference between analogue and digital watches when it comes to formal attire. Analogue watches have a traditional look, with hour and minute hands, and either markers or numbers to signify a 12-hour day. These watches are better suited to business outfits or formal events, as they’re seen as a more classic watch style. Digital watches, however, have an LCD or LED display to show the time in a numeric format, and are seen as more casual. Companies such as G Shock watches offer a mix of analogue and digital options that are both casual yet functional for adventure terrain.
So, which occasions demand which watch? For smart casual office attire, client meetings, weddings or garden parties, black tie events or fine dining restaurants, a dress watch is the perfect choice. If you’re attending a BBQ, going hiking or biking, going to a sporting event, work in a smart casual office, heading to happy hour with friends after work or going shopping, then choose a casual or sports style watch.
Watches have come a long way, with technological advances meaning this small device can be everything from your calendar to a compass. There are typically five categories of watch that most men own:
With a simple leather strap and a plain white face, dress watches are the most formal of all watch types. Essentially, any time you need to wear a suit jacket to an event, you should be reaching for the dress watch over any other style. Watches with just the hours, minutes, seconds, and perhaps the date, are the most formal dress watches you’ll find. This style is ageless and brands such as Daniel Wellington provide a minimalist, uncomplicated design along with a simple front pocket wallet.
Field watches are versatile, because they’re tough enough to stand up to active pursuits. This style was used during World War I, when the hacking character of a field watch enabled infantrymen to stop the seconds hand to synchronise their watches with their fellow soldiers. Field watches are usually moderately sized and have a hand winding mechanism, with white or green numerals on a black dial.
Pilot Or Flyer Watches
Pilot watches are usually larger in diameter and have a simple style, as they were designed to be easy to read and accurate. They were originally worn over a pilot’s jacket and were made with a large crown so that they could be adjusted while wearing gloves. Swiss company IWC introduced a range of pilot’s watches that have the classic look and precision that this watch style is known for.
Diver’s Or Diving Watches
As the name suggests, these watches were designed for use under water and typically have a minimum water resistance of 100 metres. Although they were popularised by James Bond pairing one with a sharp tux, these are more casual and shouldn’t be paired with formal outfits. For most people, modern dive watches are more form than function, with a wide range of prices to sift through.
Chrono Or Sports Watches
Sports watches aren’t classically categorised as a dress watch, but some of the high-end brands are stylish enough that they can be worn with more formal outfits. If you want a sports watch that will work with a variety of outfits, brands like TAG Heuer are on the upper end of the price band, but have a great selection of modern styles to choose from that won’t look out of place with smarter clothing. This style is sleek and sophisticated, and usually have a number of interesting features, from compasses and altimeters to GPS technology and pulse monitors. The key thing to think about when shopping for a sports watch is durability.
Additional Styles To Consider
Aside from the popular five, there are other styles to note that offer an alternative look and serve different functions if you want something a bit more unique or durable:
While watches worn on the wrist aren’t a modern phenomenon, wristwatches for men are a relatively modern development that has, to a certain extent, been connected to wars and military action. They were created from pocket watches placed in cupped leather straps to be worn on the wrist so the hands could be freed up to fire guns. A variation on military watches is tactical watches, ideally suited to people who love extreme outdoor activities, or work a job with lots of risk factors. This style of watch is durable and versatile, and while mobile phones can perform some of the features tactical watches have the function for, these watches aren’t reliant on a strong signal and are far tougher.
Swiss Army or Victorinox Watches
These watches are incredibly versatile and the Victorinox brand is reputable and trustworthy, making them a great investment. They’re long-lasting, military-inspired watches and are durable, while still being affordable. Swiss army watches come in a variety of styles with an iconic edge, from self-winding mechanical chronographs to stainless steel styles and titanium-cased chronographs. Evolving from the classic Swiss army knife, these watches are designed to stand up to active lifestyles and outdoors types.
While colourful watches can be fun once in a while, sometimes you want something that is more classic and subtle to complete your look. As with all things fashion-related, black is still the epitome of cool and is a colour that demands attention while still being understated. Ion-plated, all black watches aren’t a new look but they’ve held on to their effortlessly cool status and new models continue to hit the market constantly. All black watches are really versatile in the world of men’s style, so they’re a great option if you want flexibility.
Skeleton watches are mechanical and show off the moving parts within the watch face, creating an industrial feel to the piece. In terms of great first impressions, skeleton watches make an impact. True skeleton watches trim away any non-essential metal on the watch, leaving behind just the functional elements. This style has been around for a while already, but brands are getting more creative with how they display the mechanics of the watch. For outfits that require something more statement-making and unique, skeleton watches are the perfect choice.
Pair Like With Like
When matching your watch to your outfit, the easiest place to start is by matching the colour and material to that of your belt and shoes. For example, a black leather belt and shoes should be paired with a black leather watchstrap; likewise, with brown leather shoes and belts. A silver or gold watchstrap can be worn with either colour. If you’re someone who mixes up the colour of their accessories, then an interchangeable strap is a great option for flexibility.
There are some other important considerations to remember when building your outfit around your watch:
- If your watch has a rubber or plastic strap, keep it strictly for casual outfits.
- If the leather strap you have is worn in, avoid wearing it to a formal event – straps like this work better with jeans and smart/casual outfits.
- Don’t wear a brown strap with black shoes or belt, and vice versa.
As with pairing leather with leather accessories, metal watchstraps work in the same way. If you have metal accents to your outfit, from cuff links to a briefcase, then a metal watchstrap is a preferable choice. You want to coordinate colours again, as you would with leather, so match gold with gold, silver with silver, and so on. Of course, if you have a rose gold watch strap, it will still pair just fine with gold accessories – the difference won’t be that noticeable. Deliberately clashing or mixing metals can make a real statement though, if you’ve got an especially keen eye. Gold or rose gold watches can work well with earthen neutrals, while silver pairs better with shades of grey, black or blue.
Heirlooms Allow You To Break The Rules
Heirlooms are different from regular watches and they bend the rules, in that they’re a conversation piece and have a legacy to them. They’re often worn as a good luck charm or for sentimental reasons, but it goes without saying that the design will be individual and you won’t be able to match them to an outfit as easily. Heirlooms don’t bow to any trends so you can embrace the uniqueness. After World War I, men who fought in the war passed on their watches to their sons or grandsons as a symbol of the sacrifices they made, so heirloom watches are meant not just as timepieces but as cherished mementoes.
Caring For A Mechanical Watch
The beauty of a mechanical watches is that they require interaction and a bit of care to function correctly. The coiled mainspring will only power for a day or two unless you keep it wound, which is a simple process but one that comes with a few things to remember. Firstly, don’t try to wind the watch while you’re wearing it – it makes the angle awkward and can put unnecessary stress on the winding stem. You also want to be careful of over-winding your watch – if you can’t turn the crown anymore, you’ve reached this stage, so stop winding the moment you feel resistance. Lastly, try to wind your watch once a day to keep the best time.
Typically, a watch has around a two-day power reserve so winding it up each day is a good habit to get into. If you have an automatic, or self-winding, watch, it will maintain its own accuracy without you needing to wind it each day. As long as you’re wearing it, the mainspring will maintain tension due to the weighted rotor in the movement which oscillates as you move your arm. But if you lead an especially sedentary lifestyle or don’t wear it daily, you’ll need to give the crown up to 30 spins until the second hand starts to move. You can’t overwind an automatic but the winding mechanism is usually less hardwearing than with a hand-wound watch, so let the watch wind itself. If you don’t wear the watch on a regular basis, it may be worth investing in a watch winder.
As with any accessory, the best rule to follow is less is more. A watch should be an extension of your outfit and enhance what you’re wearing, while still being functional and adding a splash of style. Yes, watches are a timepiece but if that was the only reason to wear them, smartphones would serve the same purpose – watches offer more than that. Like shoes or sunglasses, the watches we wear are a way of showing our personal style. There are options at all stages of the price bracket, but money shouldn’t be the focus of your decision. Be sure to put the style and features of the watch first, and focus on finding one that enhances your wardrobe choices.