As you might have noticed already, there are a lot of different luxury watch styles for men. This can make finding the right watch for you a confusing and drawn-out process. Styles and tastes have changed over the years and so watch etiquette has necessarily evolved to reflect this. As a result, it’s not always clear what style of watch is suited to which occasion. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide on the best luxury watch styles for men. Whether you’re buying for yourself or as a gift for a loved one, you will find the information you need to help you make the right choice.
A dress watch is intended for formal settings and should be a staple in every man’s wardrobe. Its job is to be appropriate, aesthetically and functionally. Aesthetically, it should ‘fit in’ with the overall picture without drawing attention to itself. For this reason, dress watches are elegant and understated. Functionally, it need only express the time, to be glanced at rarely. Checking your watch too frequently in formal settings can send the wrong signals. A dress watch only needs to communicate that a man is informed should he require to know the time. And therefore, prudent with punctuality. In addition, the timepiece needs to be compatible with wearing a suit.
View this Cartier Tank Americaine Large Steel & Silver Roman Dial Men’s Automatic Watch here.
Dress watches typically have a clean dial, with minimal ornamentation. Conventionally, a white face works best. Many just display the hours and minutes, although the inclusion of a small seconds hand and date window are also acceptable. Standard-size indexes should be used. (High contrast dials are not necessary.) Preference should be given to precious metals – yellow, white and rose gold – for the case material, although steel is acceptable and the watch should be worn on a leather strap.
It’s important that the dress watch is proportional to the wearer’s wrist. These days the general rule is under 40mm in diameter, although traditionally, it was around 35mm or less. Some choice is available with regards to the shape, which can be circular, rectangular or square. But all need to keep a low profile for easy sliding under a shirt cuff. (Flat sapphires therefore work best.)
View this Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Small Seconds 38.5mm 18ct Pink Gold Watch here.
Dive watches are very popular these days, and not just with divers. They are extremely well made and therefore sturdy and rugged for everyday wear. They also hold an appeal for complimenting a well-dressed outfit while equipping a man for action. (It’s no coincidence that secret agent James Bond wears an Omega Seamaster dive watch.) As a minimum, a diver’s watch must offer a water resistance greater than 10atm, equivalent to 100m (330ft). Typically, they feature a 200 – 300m (660- 980ft) rating, though there are models that can go far deeper. A true diver’s watch must satisfy a strict set of guidelines set out in ISO 6425. As such they tend to share some common traits.
View this Omega Seamaster Diver 300m 42mm Black Dial Men’s Rubber Strap Watch here.
They must be saltwater corrosive-resistant, hence the popular choices of steel and titanium (and bronze) as case materials. They must also have a device that allows the user to pre-select a period of time up to 60 minutes. Generally, this comes in the form of a unidirectional rotatable bezel. (Five-minute graduations must be shown.) By aligning the zero marking on the bezel with the minute hand, a diver is able to keep track of elapsed time. A ratchet permits only counterclockwise-turning as a fail-safe. Should the bezel be unintentionally rotated during the dive, it will only reflect that more time has elapsed. Sending the diver back to the surface sooner, the opposite of which could be lethal.
Legibility and visibility at a close range in total darkness are obviously paramount. For this reason, the minute hand must be clearly distinguishable from the hour hand. Lume-filled Arabic numbers or basic shape indexes set against a dark dial are both reliable options. Minute markings must be clearly distinguishable on the watch face and additional ‘clutter’ kept to a minimum (generally a date function at the most). There also needs to be a clear indication the watch is running (usually via a running seconds hand with lume).
View this Longines HydroConquest 41mm Blue Dial Automatic Men’s Bracelet Watch here.
In addition, ISO 6425 tests for pressure variation, anti-magnetism, shock resistance, thermal shock, and external forces that might disengage the strap. To accommodate the build quality and legibility, dive watches are larger and thicker than dress watches. (And hence, not as suitable for sliding under a shirt cuff.) Traditionally, they come on longer straps (for fitting over a diving suit) of rubber or fabric. Or on metal bracelets (that need to be made of the same metal as the case to prevent sacrificial corrosion.)
Designed for the high seas, dive watches are very much en vogue now. Offering great versatility, it is perfectly acceptable to wear one with a suit to the office or with a t-shirt and jeans on the weekend.
The term ‘pilot’s watch’ can refer to the chronograph, the flieger, as well as multiple time zone watches. Given the additional information on the dial, pilot’s watches start from around 40mm in diameter and go up. For this reason, they tend to act as statement pieces (and hence are not appropriate for all occasions). A common trait is to have hacking seconds (to allow syncing to a known time source). Also common are coin-edge or beaded bezels and oversized crowns, suitable for gripping with flight gloves. Traditionally, Pilot watches are worn on extra-long leather straps, and to a lesser extent, metal bracelets. Pilot’s watches have the added advantage of being superiorly anti-magnetic. And are designed to withstand sudden changes in air pressure.
View this IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Chronograph here.
The quintessential pilot’s watch is the chronograph. Introduced by the invention of the central seconds and 30-minute counter (in 1915), it enabled pilots to perform time measurements and useful calculations during flight. (For example, calculating their current position, known as ‘dead reckoning’.) Modern chronographs employ two pushers, though in the early days everything was controlled by the crown. Pushers also allow for the flyback function. More sophisticated versions exist with an added slide rule. (Showing the three most important flying units, and logarithmic scale.) Which allow for many more calculations to be performed. Aviation chronographs tend to stick to displaying the essentials for legibility reasons. (The slide rule versions being the exception).
A second popular type is the B-Uhr (or flieger). Designed for the German Luftwaffe during WWII. Short for ‘Beobachtungsuhr’, meaning observation watch. A B-Uhr was issued to the navigator for each flight. It was used as a navigation instrument to plot courses, copy astronomical fixes and note events. To aid this (and be visible through fighter goggles at a quick glance), the standard diameter was 55mm. (Contemporary versions are slightly smaller.) B-Uhren (plural) are characterised by clean, black dials with large Arabic numbers (that are easy-to-read). Two layouts exist. Type A, with only an outer chapter. And Type B, where the outer chapter prioritises minutes, and the hours are pushed into the centre. Some brands have taken to adding a date window and power reserve.
View this Breitling Navitimer 1 43mm Mercury Silver/Black Dial Men’s Chronograph Watch here.
Yet another style of pilot’s watch are those that communicate dual or multiple time zones. These are known as GMT and world time watches. With these, the date function (and day/ night indicator) has become a standard fixture. GMT (or dual-time) watches generally employ a second hour hand coaxially located at the dial centre, linked to a 24-hour scale. (A third time zone can be deduced when a rotating bezel is present.) World timers work by a 24-hour ring mounted in the centre of the dial which rotates counterclockwise and corresponds to an outer “cities” ring. Regardless of the type, you don’t need to be flying a plane every day to appreciate their usefulness. Both are handy for travel (and international business).
A racing watch is a type of chronograph designed specifically for motor sports. The genre first appeared at the end of the 1950s and quickly gained a following. The racing watch took the chronograph and tachymeter scale developed for pilot’s watches and introduced the three-register arrangement now found on most of these types of watches. (Although two-register versions also exist.) With the tachymeter, the wearer can convert elapsed time (in seconds per unit) to speed (in units per hour). Conversely, by knowing one’s speed, distance travelled can also be calculated.
View this Chopard Mille Miglia 42mm Racing Colours “Speed Yellow” Limited Edition Watch here.
A major trait of racing watches is their readability. A lot of attention is given to providing legibility at a quick glance (while travelling at high velocities). This includes the sub-dials being sunken as well as use of the famous panda colour scheme(s) (generally a dark-coloured dial with light coloured sub-dials, or the inverse). Not bound by military-purpose requirements, racing watches tend to be flashier. Bright colours are common. Dial designs often tie into imagery found on the dashboard or racetrack. (For this reason, there’s a time and place for wearing them.) Racing watches come in both circular and square formats. (And a few irregular-shaped cases that move the crown and pushers to alternative positions.) Leather or rubber perforated straps are generally used for comfortable wear, although metal bracelets also feature regularly.
View this Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Titanium Watch here.
As the name suggest, casual watches are suitable for just about all occasions and don’t necessarily fit exclusively into one of the categories above. Generally speaking, casual watches are quite simple in their design and execution. In some ways, they can be thought of as a more casual version of the dress watch, suitable for office wear, a romantic night out or just watching the rugby down at the pub. That said, the importance of a good casual watch shouldn’t be overlooked. After all, this is the watch you are likely to wear most often from your collection and so you it’s importantly to choose wisely.
View this Officine Panerai Luminor Marina 40mm Black Dial Automatic Men’s Leather Strap Watch here.
A good guide is to go for something with a black, white or possibly blue dial. Steel is an ideal choice for the case metal thanks to its hard-wearing nature and ability to pair with just about anything in your wardrobe. Case size should be somewhere between 40mm – 44mm, depending on wrist size and personal preference. A matching metal bracelet is always a good choice, although a leather strap is also acceptable. Think about practicality too. Sure, everyone has a smart phone these days, but it’s still quite handy to have a date (and possibly day) display right there on your wrist.
View this NOMOS Glashutte Orion Neomatik Date 41 Silver Plated Dial Automatic Men’s Watch here.
Feature image credit: TOMMASO DE BENEDICTIS for Gucci.