You know deep in your heart that wearing that Submariner with a tuxedo is wrong. Just…wrong.
And not because it’s not a great watch — it’s a really great watch. It’s simply wrong for the occasion, for the same reason that wearing a pair of good sneakers with a tuxedo would be wrong. It’s not that the shoes are shitty — it’s that they don’t work in this particular scenario because they don’t match the rest of the look. They aren’t formal. They’re gym-y…they’re…
…for the gym.
Pairing the right watch to the outfit or the occasion can also be a question of utility — a time-only dress watch in 18k rose gold not only looks wrong with your wetsuit, but take it 40 meters beneath the waves and you will almost certainly destroy it. Here’s a list of what to look for in a watch to pair with each of the following scenarios and a brief list of some examples that would work well:
Just For Fun
Maybe you’re just hanging with friends around the house in your gym shorts, maybe you’re walking your dog, maybe you’re running to the store. Who cares what your watch looks like! These are some downright fun options.
Drawing by Swatch $75
This quartz-powered Swatch actually has some of the watch’s dimensions “written” onto it as if it were a drawing. Typical Swatch playfulness with a silicone strap at a no-brainer of a price.
Railroad Edition by Vortic from $2,000
If you happen to have your grandfather’s lever-set pocket watch, you can send it in to Vortic, an American brand that specializes in converting pocket watches into wristwatches.
Date by Ochs und Junior from $6,090
A unique take on the date complication from an independent brand, the Date is almost completely customizable by the buyer, down to the choice of more than 80 strap types. Whether you opt for something more conservative or a bright, Pantone color scheme, the Date is sure to turn heads.
Suit & Tie
A suit is much less restrictive than a tuxedo with respect to what kind of watch you can pull off, but it’s probably best to keep the timepiece at least moderarely conservative. Here are some go-to favorites.
Edgemere by Martenero $550
Inspired by marine chronometers, the Edgemere takes a classic horological motif and adds a playful splash of color (or lots of colors, to be more specific — there are four colorways available). Features include a Miyota 8245 automatic movement, screw-down crown, and 20mm leather strap.
Club Date by Nomos $1,874
The date function gives this particular iteration of the 38.5mm Club line some more utility for the office, but you’re still getting a simple, Bauhaus-inspired watch with a manual-winding, in-house movement that you can wear with your suit for under $2k.
Oyster Perpetual 39 by Rolex $5,700
It’s hard to argue with a simple, three-hand Rolex on an Oyster bracelet. With its COSC-certified 3132 movement and Goldilocks-sized 39mm case, the Oyster Perpetual is a perfect everyday watch — you can wear it with a suit to the office without bothering to take it off for a night out.
The watch you pair with a tuxedo or dinner jacket should be reflective of what you’re wearing, i.e. something simple and elegant. Think time-only, maybe precious metals on a thin leather strap (preferably black).
Dialog Standard by Defakto $241
A simple watch without a seconds hand on a black dial, housed in a polished steel case with a plain cowhide leather strap. Bauhaus design lends itself well to simple timepieces, and this quartz offering is a perfect, inexpensive entry into the world of dress watches.
Presage SPB047J1 by Seiko $1,000
It’s not easy to find an enamel-dialed dress watch for under several thousand dollars, but Seiko has managed to deliver with their Presage. Featuring an in-house 6R15 automatic movement and leather strap with deployant clasp, this is a value proposition if ever there were one.
Tank Louis Cartier by Cartier $12,400
The Cartier Tank is pretty much the quintessential dress watch of the past 100 years. Though there are several available models in different sizes, the 25.5mm pink gold Tank Louis Cartier with manual-winding, in-house caliber 8971 MC movement on a brown alligator band oozes class and elegance.
In The Field
If you want a timepiece that you can really beat the crap out of without having to worry about it, then it’s likely that you’re looking for a field watch. Here are some options for watches to wear while out hiking, fishing or camping.
Digital DW6900LU-3 by G-Shock $100
It’s hard to argue with a basic G-Shock. The Digital DW6900LU-3 eschews some of the complex functionality of the brand’s more expensive models in favor of the essentials and retains the 1/100th-second stopwatch and daily alarm. Water resistant to 200M and available in multiple colorways.
G10SL MKV by MWC $283
A take on the classic British MOD G10 watch, this overbuilt quartz field watch features tritium tube illumination, 330 ft. of water resistance, a 40mm stainless steel case, and a screw-down crown and case back. Throw it on a Nato strap of choice and you’re good to go.
Khaki Field Auto by Hamilton $736
With its 42mm case, automatic movement, date wheel and 24-hour green dial, the Khaki Field Auto simply screams “tool watch.” A sapphire crystal and 100m of water resistance round out a feature set that’s perfect for any outdoor activity you can possibly think of.
Scuba diving calls for a fairly specific feature set: water-resistant case, screw-down crown and case back, good illumination, a way to track elapsed time, etc. Here are some good options for watches to wear beneath the waves.
Prospex SNE499 by Seiko $450
This solar-powered diver from Seiko’s Prospex line features a 10-month power reserve once fully charged by light. With a rotating elapsed-time bezel, LumiBrite hands and markers and a rubber strap, the SNE499 is built for serious divers.
Sub 6000T Professional by Doxa $2,490
There’s a good reason for each of this iconic diver’s features: a no-deco bezel tells you how long you can stay underwater at a particular depth without having to make a decompression stop, and the orange dial aids in legibility underwater. Made for extreme dives at extreme depths.
Submariner 114060 by Rolex $7,500
The quintessential dive watch likely needs no introduction. The latest iteration of the Rolex Submariner retains the hallmarks of the 1953 original while updating the watch with modern materials, such as a graduated rotatable Cerachrom bezel.