Dress Watch – The Quintessential Classic Menswear Timepiece

In the previous episode, I shared how you can match a dive watch with business informal or business casual outfits. Although not a “natural” match, you can still pull it off though. The secret is choosing a “dressier” dive watch design, and not strapping a stereotypical, overbuilt, waterproof vault on your wrist… But dive watches, no matter how dressy looking, aren’t gonna work with dressier ensembles. When you’re all suited up to the nines, you’re gonna need a proper dress watch. And no, just because James Bond wears a dive watch with his black tie ensemble, that doesn’t make it “correct”.

Close up of a Sea-Gull M186S, a typical dress watch.
Sea-Gull M186S, a rather affordable, stereotypical dress watch.
Image by Author

What Exactly Is A Dress Watch?

A dress watch is exactly what the name describes – a dressy looking timepiece. It’s also the best match to any and all formal wear ensembles. As described in this past article, dress watches are generally delicate and elegant looking. They normally sport clean looking dials, and very few, if any, complications. One typical feature that many dress watches share in common, is the generous usage of Roman numerals for hour markers. Though not a prerequisite, many dress watches also come inlaid with precious stones and/or precious metals.

Sea-Gull M186S, a typical dress watch, as worn on the wrist, paired with a formal dress shirt and jacket.
Sea-Gull M186S worn on the wrist, in a typical business/social formal setting.
Image by Author

The Sea-Gull M186S has all the makings of a stereotypical dress watch. A simple case, a full track of Roman numerals for the hour markers, and an interestingly textured dial. As for the band, nothing exudes elegance more than a simple leather strap. It isn’t any less dressy just because it doesn’t feature any gold or diamonds in its construction. Even affordable watch manufacturers, like Tianjin Seagull Watch Group, can offer high quality dress watches too.

Pairing The Dress Watch With Classic Menswear

Without a doubt, dress watches pair best with business suits. Whilst you can dress it down a little, there’s a practical limit to how far down you can go. Let’s run it through some examples of the classic menswear spectrum :-

(1) Business Formal

Solid charcoal grey suit, solid white shirt, solid burgundy tie, and solid white pocket square.
Two-piece, solid charcoal grey suit, with a solid white shirt, solid burgundy tie, and solid white pocket square.
Image by Author
Close up of a pair of solid black plain toe Oxford dress shoes.
Solid black, plain-toe Oxfords, are as conservative as you can go.
Image by Author

Definite YES – This is the dress watch’s natural habitat. If I can describe a dressy outfit in just two words, it’s “subtle elegance”.

(2) Business Semi-Formal

Solid olive green suit, solid blue shirt with white contrasting collar and cuffs. Burgundy tie with small repeating patterns, and pocket square.
Two-piece, solid olive green suit, with sporty, slanted hip pockets, and a ticket pocket above the right hip pocket. A pale blue shirt with contrasting collar and cuffs, small-patterned burgundy tie and coordinating pocket square.
Image by Author
Close up of a pair of whole cut in ox blood, with wingtip patterned brogue. Another type of typical dress shoes.
Whole cut in ox blood, with burnished toes, and wingtip patterned brogue.
Image by Author

YES – This is definitely a great match for the dress watch. But if I can make a slight change, I’d choose a leather strap in matching ox blood instead of black. Even if I can’t get an exact match, a dark brown leather strap is still a better match than black.

(3) Business Informal

Solid navy, double breasted blazer, with 6 X 2 gold buttons. Solid blue shirt with navy and yellow regimental striped tie, solid grey trousers, and pocket square.
Double breasted navy blazer with 6 X 2 gold buttons. Solid pale blue shirt with navy and yellow regimental striped tie. Solid medium grey trousers, and a contrasting pocket square.
Image by Author
Close up of a pair of brown double monk-straps. A less dressy dress shoes.
Brown, double monk-straps, to exude a more playful vibe.
Image by Author

YES – Another great match for the dress watch. And as above, I’d choose a brown leather strap to match the brown shoes.

(4) Business Casual

Grey sport jacket in mini-Glen check weave, a solid pink OCBD shirt with block stripe knit tie in autumn colours, and a pair of solid burgundy chinos.
Grey sport jacket in mini-Glen check weave. Solid pink OCBD shirt with a knit tie in autumn colours. Solid burgundy chinos, and a contrasting pocket square.
Image by Author
Close up of a pair of brown penny loafers. One of the least dressy dress shoes.
Brown penny loafers, a typical “less dressy” dress shoes.
Image by Author

YES – I would still wear a dress watch with this ensemble. However, this is as low as I’d comfortably pair with a dress watch. And as above example, I’d match the leathers too, with a brown leather strap rather than the black one.

(5) Dressy Casual

Unstructured, charcoal brown flannel sport jacket, denim OCBD shirt, and khaki chinos.
Charcoal brown, unstructured sport jacket with an open collared denim OCBD shirt. Khaki chinos, and a contrasting pocket square.
Image by Author
Close up of a pair of khaki canvas derbies.
Derby shoes in tan canvas stretch what it means to be “dress” shoes.
Image by Author

MAYBE – This ensemble stretches the suitability with a dress watch. It’s not a definite no, but it’s not exactly a great match with dress watches either. I guess it all depends on individual tastes.

(6) Just Casual

Denim trucker jacket, solid white t-shirt, and solid olive green jeans.
Denim trucker jacket, solid white t-shirt, and olive green jeans.
Image by Author
Close up of a pair of white trainers.
White trainers, with a thin red and black stripe. A stereotypical pair of casual footwear.
Image by Daniel Storek of Unsplash

Definite NO – Dress watches are definite overkill when paired with such a casual ensemble. Not unless you only have one watch, and it so happens to be a dress watch (highly unlikely). In that case, then yeah, I suppose it’ll have to do… In all other instances, just stick to an all-rounder watch, or even a sport watch.

“But James Bond Wears Dive Watches With Black Tie, Not Dress Watches…”

Promotional poster of actor Daniel Craig in a dinner suit, showcasing the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. Inset image of a close up of the Seamaster Planet Ocean as featured on the main image.
Actor Daniel Craig, in an Omega promotional poster for the movie Spectre, wearing the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean.
Main image by Wallpaper Access
Inset image by Wikimedia (Creative Commons Attribution)

Well, for one thing, that’s basically product placement. It’s a way for Omega (the brand) to work in partnership with the James Bond movie franchise. In short, it’s not real. Nobody in their right mind would wear what’s essentially a tool watch to a black tie gala… Not unless you intend to flaunt your (very expensive) gold Rolex Submariner (Reference number 126618LB) to the other attendees there. Let’s face it, that gold Sub’s not going anywhere near a bathtub… Let alone 300m beneath the surface of the open ocean (the rated depth for the Sub).

Half-body close up of the Author, wearing a black, shawl collared dinner suit, showcasing the Sea-Gull M186S as a typical dress watch.
Move over Bond… THIS is the proper type of watch to match with a black tie ensemble. Sea-Gull M186S, in minimalistic monochrome to match the rest of the monochromatic outfit.
Image by Author

Disclaimer – This Is Not A Sponsored Article

Neither Tianjin Seagull Watch Group nor any of their distributors/retailers sponsored this Sea-Gull M186S watch. Of course I won’t object if they (or any other brands/entities) offer to sponsor future articles in this series (hint-hint)… But for now, I bought this watch with my own money. Hence, all the opinions are mine, and mine alone.

In the meantime, if you like what you read, would you consider contributing something to a starving writer? If so, then do consider buying me a coffee. I hate to admit it, but caffeine really does fuel the creativity around here. As usual, if you have any queries, comments, or if you disagree with me, do leave your thoughts below. If you wanna compare a luxury watch in place of an affordable dress watch, stick around for the next episode.

Do you own a dress watch?
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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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