I must say that when my editor asked me to examine whether there’s such a thing as a winter watch, it had never really occurred to me that watches could be seasonal. At least, not proper watches, and not in the way we understand fashion to be.
Granted, Swatch and its kind do sunny-side-up watches in the summer, and can match a plastic strap to a particular trend (Taupe! Chestnut! No wait, purple!) even faster than a fashion blogger can Instagram it. But at the higher end, where watch designs roll off the line at the same pace as an elephant’s gestation, seasonal demands don’t really come into it.
Or do they? Winter does pose questions to the watch wearer — questions of the practical, sartorial, and sometimes technical kind.
Take as an example the hibernal benefits of leather straps over metal bracelets: A leather strap works much better in winter than in summer, just as a metal bracelet is a better fit for the warmer months. In summer, wrists swell and sweat, and sweat is a leather killer, which is why a lot of watch owners flip-flop — a strap for a bracelet when the sun is high in the sky, and vice versa when it gets nippy.
With leather comes color, and for the sartorially minded, a chance to be more playful — navy blues, grays, browns, dark greens. Admittedly, pairing can be a minefield, particularly if your watch collection is still pupating. Does your green dial go with everything? Probably not. (Which is why your first luxury watch should always have a black or a white dial.)
Otherwise, the simple rule of thumb when adding a watch to your getup is to match your leathers. Black shoes, tan strap? No, never. Instead, pair those smart new black oxfords you bought to go with your new winter suit with some black crocodile leather.
And while you’re at it, approach your watch’s dial in the same way. Green and bronze dials are in vogue at the moment, joining standard blacks and whites as options for daily wear. While the brown-shoed have always been well catered to with straps, we’re starting to see more brown in watch dials, too.
Aside from matching your colors, you won't look very smart if your watch is inaccurate from cold exposure or bulging out from a bunched up sleeve. Layers of sweaters and coats make the bold wearing watches of summer uncomfortable if not altogether impractical. You at least want your watch to be thin enough to slip under a cuff. Taken together, leather straps and thin cases make it sound like dress watches more or less fit the bill, right? Bingo.
...That is, unless you’re set on taking a watch into the frozen wilds, and there are plenty of options for arctic adventurers. If it's a mechanical you're taking glacier-scaling, make sure it has a silicon hairspring. Hairsprings sit in the beating heart of a movement and keep them regular. Though conventionally made of robust metal alloys, silicon is becoming more common as it's particularly resistant to extreme fluctuations in temperature — as well as magnetism and friction, incidentally.
What do you know? Seems there is such a thing as a winter watch, after all. Here are a few great options.
Hamilton x Hodinkee Intra-Matic
Thin, handsome and brimming with '60s panache, the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto is one of our favorite dress watches — and that also makes it a great winter watch. The new version made in collaboration with watch enthusiast website Hodinkee might be the best iteration yet, with its handsome "champaign" dial, steel case and leather strap.
Seiko Prospex Ice Diver
Ostensibly for ice divers but plenty wearable for us regular folk too, Seiko's upgraded "Sumo" dive watch has premium features and is designed with colors inspired by glacial ice.
Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date
A brown dial goes great with leather and earthy tones that feel natural in the winter, but a bronze case gives this compelling version of the Oris Big Crown a monochromatic mood that's kind of irresistible.
Piaget Polo S
Blue and gray can be wonderfully versatile dial choices, too. The gray-dialed Piaget Polo S only comes on a bracelet (which still works just fine in winter) and it looks wonderfully louche paired with a gray flannel suit.
Breitling’s Emergency is a personal locator beacon as well as a watch, and its powered by a state-of-the-art battery that will transmit a rescue signal for 24 hours at -20 degrees Celsius. Here's to hoping you’ll never need it.