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Wristwatches. In today’s world of smartphones, smart watches, and clocks on every digital interface we encounter, a watch is almost pointless… at least from a utility standpoint.
“So why wear one at all,” you ask?
A man with style understands a wristwatch represents much more than what it’s designed to do.
Much like attention-getting socks or a cheeky monogram inside a suit jacket, a wristwatch showcases the wearer’s personality. It can also convey his taste, wealth, even humor (albeit, with a dose of reality).
Also, unlike women, men don’t have many jewelry options when it comes to accessorizing their base outfit.
We can get away with bracelets, necklaces, rings—not all at once, hopefully, unless you’re channeling your inner Johnny— and watches. That’s about it!
A wristwatch is the one accessory that not only serves a specific purpose, but also stands the test of time from a style standpoint, meaning, you won’t look at photos of yourself twenty years from now and say, “Oh man, how embarrassing, I can’t believe I’m wearing a watch in this photo! That’s so 2015!!!”
Since we’re striving for classic and timeless when possible, here are five watch styles to add to your growing collection. When you find yourself in the market for a new watch, keep these characteristics in mind.
Before we get started: Keep in mind that even though I’m presenting you five different styles of wristwatches, you may find you only need one.
Maybe, after assessing your lifestyle and daily activity, you realize you need three different types, or that one style can serve two purposes, and so on.
This is simply a guide to help you understand what to look for. Tailor this list to your specific situation, and decide what makes the most sense for you.
What we’ll cover:
- basic characteristics of each watch style
- appropriate situations to wear the watch (formal, everyday, casual, active)
- an affordable option, and a splurge option
Style 1 & 2: The Dress Watch with Leather Strap
Characteristics: Slim, understated profile; metal case; simple watch face; leather strap.
Price points: $100-$1000 (affordable); $5000+ (splurge)
Also useful for: Everyday
Affordable: The Fifth Tribeca
Splurge: Patek Philippe Calatrava
When you’re attending a formal event—anything from a traditional wedding to a black tie event—classic and understated is best.
Your accessories should match the formality of the event itself, and when it comes to your watch, a simple style with a light-colored face and black leather strap is perfect. (It goes without saying that your leather shoes and belt should also be black.)
For “dressy casual” or business casual situations when you’re still in a suit and / or tie, a similar watch with brown leather band would fit the bill.
Style 3: Metal Sport Watch, Tool Watch, or Activity-Specific Watch
Characteristics: Larger case; metal or leather bracelet; activity-specific features such as chronographs, altimeter, depth gauge
Price points: $150-$500 (affordable); $2500+ (splurge)
Also useful for: Everyday, Formal (sometimes)
Affordable: Seiko 5 Automatic
I’d classify a fashion watch as something that can be used in a variety of casual situations, and combines form and function in a way that speaks to your personal style. This may or may not have a fashion brand name attached to it (i.e. a watch made by Burberry).
Sometimes, a fashion watch can be worn in dressier situations. For example, I have a Gucci Pantheon steel watch I wear most days. I put on shorts and a T-shirt, I wear this watch. I put on a suit, and if I want to, I can wear this watch.
It’s flexible because its design is understated and its face unadorned (well, other than the black mother of pearl).
“Activity-specific” refers to the features that are built-in to a watch for a specific purpose. Diving watches are built to withstand underwater pressure, pilot watches typically have bigger numerals and dials so they’re easily read and adjusted at a glance.
All this to say, you don’t necessarily have to be a pilot, a diver, or a race-car driver to enjoy watches that are specifically built and designed for these activities.
A lot of it comes down to preference, so if you like something and can afford it, buy it. Just make sure you’re wearing it in the right situations–in this case, not to a formal event.
Style 4: Sport Watch with Rubber Strap
Characteristics: Substantial in size, yet often lighter-weight case; rubber or nylon strap; sport-related features (lap timer, countdown timer, compass, chronograph); can be digital or analog
Price points: $50+ (affordable); $1000+ (splurge)
Also useful for: Active only
Affordable: Luminox Sentry 0200
Splurge: Brera Orologi Supersportivo
Sport watches are fun to have when you’re working out, playing sports, or just being active in general. They’re usually more lightweight and able to take a beating.
My favorites always have a rubber strap, easily cleaned after the game or a strenuous workout. Depending on your sport of choice, these watches usually have built-in features like timers (or chronographs if analog), water resistance (for diving and swimming), backlit screens or dials (for nighttime use), even compasses and altimeters.
Style 5: Everyday Casual Watch
Characteristics: smaller face; metal casing; nylon, leather, or metal strap; affordable
Price points: $20 (affordable); $500+ (splurge)
Also useful for: Casual, Everyday only
Splurge: Uniform Wares C35
This the kind of watch you wear on weekends, running errands, seeing a movie, things like that. You’re not going anywhere in particular and you don’t need a special watch for the occasion.
My go-to has always been the Timex Easy Reader on a NATO strap, although lately I’ve been drawn to The Fifth’s Black and Tan model.
Since these watches are daily wearers, I wouldn’t hesitate going the more affordable route. There are plenty of options that come in leather (like the Black and Tan) or metal, and some whose bands you can swap out for nylon (like the Easy Reader).
If you’re in the beginning stages of building your watch collection, find one type that you need most, and purchase that first.
If you don’t suit up very often, and instead, are a scuba instructor, then invest in a diving watch.
If you’re climbing your way up the corporate ladder, a black leather dress watch would serve you well five days a week.
As your budget allows, tackle the other categories in order of necessity.