Getting black tie and formal wear right requires mastering the details. That’s why the dress watch matters. And, while you could go out and buy something new, vintage timepieces have an irrefutable character and uniqueness to them. In fact, a vintage dress watch is most at home with formal attire. Its classic looks fit in seamlessly with your suit while the differences of a few decades — style touches that just aren’t around anymore, the slight wear that comes with having been used for years — make it stand out, ever so slightly.
If you decide to go this route, know that buying something vintage can be a bit risky. But as long as you go through a professional dealer with a knack for vetting classic watches, you can score a unique old-school timepiece at a very solid price. These five are proof.
For a complete collection of vintage watches, please click here.
Zenith Class Elite Réserve de Marche
What We Like: With a small seconds subdial at nine o’clock and a power reserve meter at two, this Zenith stands out a bit more than a standard dress watch. But with its slim 37mm case and mid-century-style numerals, the watch still has a classy and understated vibe.
From The RealReal: Moderate scratches on the case. *This watch has been inspected and authenticated by our Watch Specialists and Horologists.
Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse
What We Like: Debuting in 1968, the Golden Ellipse’s oblong case was designed using the “Golden Ratio,” devised by ancient Greek mathematicians as the secret to aesthetically pleasing proportions. Artists and architects like Dalí and Le Corbusier have utilized the ratio in their work, so it’s no wonder the Ellipse has remained an icon in Patek’s lineup for decades.
From The RealReal: Minor scratches throughout case metal; light discoloration to hands and index hour markers. *This watch has been inspected and authenticated by our Watch Specialists and Horologists.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
What We Like: At 30mm, this vintage Calatrava is certainly small, but it’s ideal for guys with smaller wrists or those simply prefer the small case sizes of the mid-20th century. The crosshatching texture on the gray dial is also a great feature, as are the narrow sword hands and white gold case.
From The RealReal: Light discoloration at dial; light wear throughout strap. *This watch has been inspected and authenticated by our Watch Specialists and Horologists.
What We Like: Piaget has historically been one of the greatest innovators in ultra-thin watches, and this 7mm-thick Altiplano is proof. Further, we love the elegantly simple navy dial and use of white gold for the lithe case.
From The RealReal: Minor scratches at bezel. *This watch has been inspected and authenticated by our Watch Specialists and Horologists.
Rolex Day-Date Tridor President
What We Like: A favorite watch of presidents and world leaders (hence the nickname), the gold Day-Date “President” has long remained Rolex’s iconic dress watch. But this particular example is unique: It features a “Tridor” bracelet made from a combination of white, red and yellow gold stripes for a subtle-yet-flashy pop on this otherwise stealthy timepiece.
From The RealReal: Faint scratches at case. This watch has passed a pressure test of at least 30 meters and comes with box, jewelry pouch, polishing cloth, papers, service paperwork and warranty. *This watch has been inspected and authenticated by our Watch Specialists and Horologists.