Sure, times have changed and the rules of old are out the window for the most part, meaning…if you are dead set on wearing your smart watch (or worse) to a black tie event, no judgment from us (maybe just a smidge). That said, this article is a visual representation of our effort to convince you to look at watches a little differently. ‘It’s just an object that tells the time, well on its way to become utterly obsolete’ you interject. You are not entirely wrong–but hear us out; the world we live in is a strange place. Every facet of our lives is becoming computerized, impersonal, fast, and automated. We all have the same stuff, always want more of it, and depend on technology more than we care to admit. In a world that is moving so fast it makes your head spin, it is crucial to set up little reminders, anchor points if you will, of things that are innately present in all humans: creativity, meticulous attention to detail, infinite patience, perseverance, legacy, an eye for beauty. It just so happens that all of these endangered qualities are embodied in a traditional timepiece, made by craftsmen taking great pride in their work. By wearing it on your wrist, you will see a lot more than time. You will see the work of a creative human, in other words–a wearable piece of art.
Now being that gentlemen’s watches have been around for a while, naturally there are some rules you should follow if you want to go the more traditional route. Read on, and find out what we consider the most important, still applicable watch etiquette to be followed. Also included, is a general break-down of the types of watches there are, and what styles and designs are appropriate for the different levels of formality of the events.
Without further ado, here is some useful advice from all the gentlemanly grandfathers that still holds true and should be followed.
The Etiquette of Watch Wearing
- Always choose a watch appropriate for the level of formality of the event you are attending (we discuss this point at length below).
- Pay attention to proportions. The diameter of the case should be carefully selected with the size of the wrist in mind, otherwise even an understated timepiece will look and feel uncomfortable.
- Wear your watch on your non-dominant arm.
- Match the leather strap to your shoes and belt. Note: it doesn’t have to be the same color, but it should always be complementary (i.e. a dark blue leather strap pairs nicely with brown shoes and belt, black leather strap will go with black or grey shoes). Another thing to consider is the color of the metals you prefer to wear. If your belt buckle and wedding ring are silver, stick with watches that have a stainless steel case (same applies to gold).
- Last but not least, take pride in your timepiece. When it comes to accessories for men, we have a pretty limited chest of treasures to work with. A good quality watch is an essential, and a well selected timepiece has a good chance of becoming a family heirloom, a token of your legacy for generations to come.
Now let’s look at the most common watch categories, their main functions and design elements, in order of the most formal to the least:
A watch with a plain (usually white) face. The dial is very simple, showing only hours and minutes, additional functions (if any) will not be related to sports. Additional features include a black leather strap, which pairs well with a tux–this type of watch can and should be worn to the most formal of events, white/black tie, etc.
Dive Watches / Diving Watches
Designed for underwater diving, these watches feature a minimum water resistance up to 100 meters. Many contain luminosity for low or no-light conditions. An additional identifying feature is a rotating bezel around the dial. Over the years, although originally intended for underwater activities, diving watches evolved into one of the most versatile timepieces. The ones designed with a level of elegance in mind, complete with a nice (not distressed) leather band or stainless steel bracelet, can be worn in a business formal setting requiring a suit and tie.
Read more about the history of dive watches.
The dial on a racing watch is usually high-contrast to make it easier to read the time at high speeds, and can have up to 3 subdials as well. You will find most racing watches to be chronographs, complete with a start and stop pusher to operate the stopwatch function. Additionally, a Tachymeter bezel scale is located around the dial to allow quick speed calculations. Like their diving counterpart, racing watches can be worn with a suit and tie if tastefully and elegantly designed, ideally with a high quality leather or stainless steel bracelet. In the case of a distressed or vintage style leather band, we downgrade the formality level to business casual (sports coat).
Read more about the history of racing watches.
Pilot watches have large dials with oversized winding crown as pilots wore gloves during flights and they needed the ability to easily manipulate the crown without taking their gloves off. These watches usually offer excellent luminosity to enhance readability. Additional functions often include the dual time or GMT feature to track multiple time zones. Because this watch usually comes with a relatively large, highly contrasted dial packed with functional features that add to visual interest, pilot watches automatically have a more sporty flair to them. For this reason, they are more appropriate for business casual events, requiring a sports coat and no tie.
Read more about the history of pilot watches.
Active / Casual Watches
We reserved this last category to include all the different watches worn during sporting activities, excluding the above mentioned diving/racing/pilot watches. Think smart watches, activity tracking devices, anything out of the realm of traditional timepieces. We recognize the usefulness and functionality of such watches, and they earned a well deserved spot when it comes to active lifestyle. Unless a health condition requires it, their use should be limited to casual and/or active settings.
In summary, take a look at this chart: