Three Watches Are All You’ll Ever Need For Every Occasion

Previously we’ve established that the mechanical wristwatch is very much still relevant in this modern age. But do you actually need more than one? If so, how many does one really need?… Three watches – that’s all you’ll ever need to match the various outfits that you’ll ever wear in your lifetime. Kinda strange when you think about it. Wristwatch connoisseurs would probably argue more… Many more… Certainly more than just three watches. But why specifically three? Why not two, or four?… Heck, why not twenty, or forty?… As complex as it sounds, three sets of outfits cover all of one’s activities in life. So let’s dig in to find out how we arrived with just three.

A series of wristwatches on a grey felt display tray, displaying the different designs.
Every watch connoisseur dreams of having a comprehensive collection of watches, one to match each outfit for every one of life’s occasions. But how many does one really need to cover all of them?
Image by Mariah Hewines of Unsplash

Three Watches For The Three Major Outfit Classes

There’re generally three major classes of outfits that we’ll ever wear throughout our lives. Three different classes of outfits to wear for three different categories of occasions. Of course, one can always further break them down into countless other sub-classes to match the different sub-occasions. But before we start splitting hairs, I want to make it crystal clear that I’m referring to the clearcut occasions. Undoubtedly, there’ll be overlaps, when one occasion may be a little too formal or casual to fall neatly into one. We’ll look at some examples further down, but for now, let’s get on with what they are first :-

(1) Formal Occasions – A Dress Watch

This covers everything from black tie galas and business formal functions to business casual meetings and networking sessions. If you’re all decked out in your finest suits, you’ll want to match your outfit with something equally dressy. And the best wristwatch for the occasion is a dress watch.

A man wearing business suit and tie, raising his wristwatch up to be read.
When formal occasions calls for formal suits, elegance is the name of the game.
Image by Gerd Altmann of Pixabay

(2) Casual Occasions – An All-Rounder Watch

This is for all the occasions where you don’t need to be dressed up, or be on your best behaviour. This covers everything from when you’re out on a date, or simply chilling with your friends at the local watering hole. The best wristwatch to match your casual (not sloppy) outfit is the all-rounder watch.

A couple on a date in a café, holding hands and drinking coffee.
Going out on a date? Or simply going about your daily life? You’re comfortably casual when you don’t have to dress up to the nines.
Image by Priscilla Du Preez of Unsplash

(3) Sporting Occasions – A Sport Watch

This is when you’re engaged in physical activity of some sort, and expect a rough and tumble time. It really doesn’t matter what type of activity you choose to engage in. Scuba diving, skydiving, camping out in the tropical rain forest, sailing, flying, racing, etc., pick your poison. Different activity calls for different equipment (outfits) to support the chosen activity. And each type of outfit calls for a different type of wristwatch to match it. But collectively, it’s simply referred to as a sport watch.

Wide angle view of athletes jumping over hurdles, as they land on a puddle of water on the track.
When you’re subjecting your body to the rough and tumble of physical activities, that’s considered a “sport”. It doesn’t matter whether running, surfing, kayaking, or simply camping out in the wilderness. If you’re exposing yourself to the elements, it’s still considered “sport”.
Image by Pexels of Pixabay

So How Do We Categorise These Three Types Of Watches?

(1) The Dress Watch

If we can describe the dress watch in one word, the word is “elegant”. Most dress watches are delicate, with minimal complications on the dials, and very “clean” looking. Often made out of, or decorated with precious metals and stones. If there’s a watch for you to flaunt your wealth with, the dress watch is usually the culprit.

The watch cases are usually slim, to allow it to slip effortlessly underneath the sleeve cuff. The dials are very minimal, the hour markers either marked with Roman numerals, or just simple dashes. The hands and hour markers also have minimal, or no lume to speak of. The dress watch usually exudes some sense of traditional elegance and simplicity of yesteryears.

Raymond Weil Maestro dress watch, showcasing the typical characteristics of a dress watch. Round gold case, black hands and  Roman numerals for each hour marker against a clean which background of the dial. Complete with a black alligator leather strap.
Dress watches are characterised by its elegance and clean layout. This Raymond Weil Maestro wristwatch embodies the typical dress watch with a slim gold watch case and delicate black leather strap. The dial design is a tribute to the early years of horology, with Roman numerals for hour markers against a clean white background.
Image by Philip Lindvall of Pexels

Most dress watches attach to the wrists with luxurious leather straps to further enhance their natural simplicity. Of course, there are also dress watches that come with metal bracelets too. But these bracelets are usually of finer designs than the “regular” bracelets. More often than not, they’re also made of, or contain precious metals like gold.

(2) The All-Rounder Watch (A.K.A. The Go-To Watch)

Depending on one’s lifestyle, there’s a myriad of different interpretation of what constitutes an all-rounder watch. They sport dials with simple date only or day-date complications, all the way to moon phases and perpetual calendars. They can also sport hour markers in Roman or Arabic numerals, or even simple dots or dashes. Some fancy watches also come with fancy dial designs that incorporate famous characters like Mickey Mouse too.

Contrary to dress watches, the all-rounder isn’t as elegant, nor delicate. Most all-rounder watches offer reasonable amounts of water and shock resistance. It’s generally tough enough to go through life’s knocks and bumps with you, short of the most extreme situations.

A Seiko 5 and a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date, side-by-side, representing the all-rounder watch. Another one of the three watches that everyone should have.
Seiko 5 (left) and Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date (right) are two quintessential all-rounder watches. Although positioned on the opposite ends of the price spectrum, they both exhibit characteristics that put them squarely in the all-rounder category. Both are relatively hardy, with sufficient water resistance (not for swimming), and displays all the necessary information without going overboard.
Image by Author

Leather straps with buckles, stainless steel bracelets with clasps, nylon NATO straps with hook-and-loop fasteners, or even silicone straps, anything goes. As long as you’re happy with it, you can use it as a strap for your go-to watch.

(3) The Sport Watch

Sitting on the opposite end of the formality spectrum from the dress watch is the sport watch. If you can describe it in one phrase, it’s “function over form”. In fact, it’s its function that determines the overall form factor of the sport watch in the first place. It is also the category with the largest number of sub-categories too.

Generally described as encompassing a “tough” form factor, and inherently with a higher water and shock resistance. It also emphasises easy legibility than fancy dial designs. This is important because with lots of complications, your dial can get very busy, very fast. Most sport watches have relatively large cases, to hold large dials, with enough real estate to display all the complications.

A close up of a Casio G-Shock on the wrist of a swimmer, as he paddles himself forward underwater.
Not exactly a mechanical watch, the Casio G-Shock is considered the quintessential sport watch by many. No excuses for looking the way it does. It’s not pretty looking (though many may disagree), but it sure gets the job done. It’s more of an heavy-duty axe than a surgical scalpel, more John Rambo than James Bond.
Image by Timo Wagner of Unsplash

There’ll always be a sport watch that will fit your type of activity. Here are a few examples :-

(3a) Diving

Diving subjects your body to extreme pressure. Hence, dive watches are designed with watertight seals to protect the vulnerable movement inside, dive watches can work under extreme water pressure. They usually come with bright lume on the hands and hour markers, and an external rotating bezel to time your dive.

Rolex Submariner with black dial, black rotating bezel and Oyster bracelet, representing a dive watch. A sport watch is one of the three watches everyone should have.
The Rolex Submariner is the first watch that comes to mind when somebody mentions “dive watch”. Made famous by the fictional spy James Bond in both the novels and the movies.
Image by Dirk Hanke of Pixabay

(3b) Racing

Doesn’t matter whether you’re racing cars or planes, marathon or sprint. If you’re into racing, there’s the sport watch with chronograph and tachymeter to measure your speed and elapsed time in a heartbeat.

Omega Speedmaster, representing the racing watch. A sport watch is one of the three watches everyone should have.
The Omega Speedmaster, made famous as the official chronograph qualified by NASA for spaceflight, and the first watch worn on the surface of the moon for the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. Legend has it that this chronograph was used to time the rocket burn for the Lunar Lander’s successful landing.
Image by Alex Boscarato of Unsplash

(3c) Aviation

For those in aviation, there’s also the pilot watch. They come with a high contrast dial (usually white on black) and Arabic numeral hour markers. A clearly marked hour markers and minute markers, pilot watches are easy to read at a glance. They usually feature large cases, with equally large crowns and push buttons (if any). This is essential to enable easy access when wearing thick thermal gloves in the freezing cockpits at high altitudes.

IWC Pilot's Watch Chronograph representing the aviation watch. A sport watch is one of the three watches everyone should have.
IWC‘s Pilot’s Watch Chronograph is exactly what comes into the mind when you think of aviation watches. Oversized dial, with the hour markers in Arabic numbers, printed white on black to ease reading in dim light. This model also features sub-dial chronograph, though without the tachymeter of a racing watch.
Image by Marc Ruef of Pixabay

(3d) Navigation

And if you’re into sailing (and also aviation), there’s also the navigation watch too. Most navigation watches come with a circular slide rule, which runs around the bezel of the watch case. This slide rule helps to convert the values when it comes to calculating the navigation route. More often than not, navigation watches also sport a chronograph complication too.

Breitling Navitimer, representing a navigation watch. A sport watch is one of the three watches everyone should have.
Whether you’re navigating the oceans or the skies, the Breitling Navitimer has all the manual navigation tools you’ll need to find your way around.
Image by Mauricio Souza Mau of Pixabay

(3e) Field Activities

For the less demanding adventurers (e.g. hiking, camping, outdoor activities, etc.), there’s also the field watches. Generally built tougher than regular watches, just not up to the levels of, say, the dive watch. As a tool for land navigation, some field watches also sport a compass on the bezel of the watch too. Easy to read Arabic numerals for the hour markers, prominent minute track, and generous use of lume too.

Panerai Luminar Marina, representing a field watch. A sport watch is one of the three watches everyone should have.
When it comes to a no-nonsense field watch, few can beat the Panerai Luminor Marina. Extra tough watch case to weather whatever Mother Nature can throw at it. The lumed, high contrast hands and Arabic numeral hour markers against a clean black background makes reading the time in the dark a breeze. It even has a lockable crown guard to prevent any accidental access too.
Image by Dmitry Nucky Thompson of Unsplash

Are there any other types of sport watches?… Of course there are. But let’s not get carried away, shall we? We shall address them in future episodes.

Are Three Watches Enough To Cover All Of One’s Horological Needs?

For a regular person, three watches are more than sufficient to meet all of his/her needs. Not unless you dabble in more than a handful of very different physical activities (or you have very deep pockets).

A hand reaching out to retrieve one watch from a ten-watch display box. This represents an abundance of watches that one really needs.
For a watch collector, one can never have too many watches. But for the majority of us, three watches are all we’ll ever need to address all of our daily needs.
Image by Mister Mister of Pexels

An elegant dress watch for when you’re suited and booted. A do-it-all watch for the days when you don’t need to be dressed to the nines. And a rough and tough, not to mention functional sport watch to aid in your chosen sporting field.

But How Does One Choose Which Three Watches To Suit One’s Lifestyle?

As with most philosophical questions in life, there’s no right or wrong answers. It really depends on one’s preference, and also one’s personal branding too. A better question to ask would be what personal brand identity does one want to project? If your objective is to build an image of being a gentleman, then consider engaging a personal brand consultant. And the same goes for you ladies out there too. You can reach out to Solarex Imaging to help you discover your own personal brand. And perhaps learn how to develop it into something positive along the way too.

In the meantime, do drop a comment at the bottom of this page… And I mean after contributing to the poll below below…

How many wristwatches to you own?
16 votes

CHOW Wei Ming

About CHOW Wei Ming

Brand consultant, photographer, creative director, storyteller, and a true believer of the power of visual communications. Outwardly expresses a friendly disposition, but hides a perfectionist nature deep inside him.

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