This article is made possible by The Fifth Watches, timepieces that incorporate a timeless design with minimalist elements throughout. Gain exclusive access to their October 5th release.

In our overly-casual social world, we’re able to build a wardrobe based on flexibility, and own items that have multiple uses.

We cover a lot of ground by buying clothes that are in the middle of the formal–casual spectrum. If we play our cards right, we’re never too dressed up or too dressed down.

This, overall, is a good thing.

We can buy a navy sport coat knowing that it’s one of the most versatile pieces in our wardrobe.

We can buy brown wingtips and wear them with denim, or with a suit.

The lines between casual and formal are very blurred nowadays. Dressing just marginally better than those around you can elicit more attention and comments than you’d expect.

Work in a “business casual” office? Just throw on a nice dress shirt and a sport coat, and tell me you don’t get at least a few comments.

This drive to create the most versatile and functional wardrobe possible, for some reason, makes me long for beautiful things that serve only one specific purpose.

Take wristwatches, for instance.

In most cases, you can get by with an activity-specific watch, a fashion watch with steel band, or even a basic Timex you pick up from your local Target.

But what if you had an incredible timepiece you only wore on special occasions, like those times you had to don a full suit and tie, maybe during weddings, or only when meeting with important clients?

While it’s possible to get by with an all-purpose wristwatch in these instances, there’s something special about having one specifically for formal or special business occasions.

It’s an event when you put it on… a small deviation from your normal routine, but significant enough to make you sit up straight and notice: Today is special.

What’s a dress watch look like, anyway?

In Praise Of The Minimal Dress Watch

Here’s what I consider a dress watch:

First, the case should be (relatively) thin and made from steel or precious metal. The strap is usually leather or some type of exotic animal hide, sometimes metal.

The stick or roman dial is simple, classy, usually light-colored or neutral, and unadorned…not much more than the hands, markers, and (maybe) a date are present.

The movements in pricier models are usually mechanical, and the less expensive options, quartz.

That’s pretty much it. Simple, right?

Dress watches for all budgets

There are examples across all price points, and you don’t have to spend five figures to get something that fits the bill (although, you could, if you wanted to).

You want to spend: $

In Praise Of The Minimal Dress Watch

The Fifth Watches ($150)

Alternatives in this price range: Hand-me-downs ($0–Nothing wrong with a watch passed down from your pops!), Stuhrling Original 768.01 ($72), Bulova 98H51 ($95)

You want to spend: $$

In Praise Of The Minimal Dress Watch

Hamilton Valiant ($406)

Alternatives in this price range: Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time ($375), Tissot Visodate ($430)

You want to spend: $$$

In Praise Of The Minimal Dress Watch

Raymond Weil Maestro (~$600)

Alternatives in this price range: Frederique Constant Slimline (~$900), Cartier Tank Solo Quartz (~$1800)

You want to spend: $$$$+

In Praise Of The Minimal Dress Watch

 IWC Portofino (~$9600)

Alternatives in this price range: Omega De Ville (~$2600), Patek Philippe Calatrava (~$20,000)

Special can be pricey (but it can also be affordable)

Now that you know you have options in every price range, hopefully you can see that cost isn’t the focus here.

It’s about having a special watch to wear for momentous events, or for the times you’re dressed to the nines and your Timex on a NATO won’t do.

So if you’re on a $100 budget or a $10,000 budget, there’s a dress watch in your price range.

If you’re on the lower end of that price spectrum, give The Fifth Watches a shot.

Their current New York collection contains five great dress watch styles, and alternative leather bands are included, in case you want a little variety.

In October, this same collection will be available to Waitlist subscribers and general public for the first time.

They release their products on the 5th of every month, for five days only. If you sign up on the VIP list, you’ll get early access. Check it out here and get more info.

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12 Responses

  1. Andy Budnik on

    Good list. To add to it – I prefer the Le Locle to the Visodate from Tissot. Little more interesting dial and love the roman numerals. For an under $150 option in automatic – the Orient Bambino can’t be beat – comes in different styles from sticks to Roman numerals and different cases and straps. Otherwise, if you don’t dress up much, an Eco Drive or other solar type watch is great – no need to worry about servicing it or having the battery be dead on that ONE time you need it!

    But I think the Cocktail Time should have gotten a pic! haha, now that’s a pretty watch and all you need really. I am not sure why people spend more…other than, they just can.

    • Barron on

      Great suggestions! I’ve never seen the Le Locle before. Very classy looking dial. I agree, looking back I should’ve just done the Cocktail Time for the $$ category 🙂 But hey, maybe that means fewer people will buy one, which means there will be one left waiting for me on Amazon when I’m ready. haha

  2. fkpaul on

    I know you’ll want to shoot me for even suggesting this; as a ‘watch’afficianafo I’ve actually come to appreciate the Apple Watch. Changing up the watch strap to something dressy and using an elegant yet simple watch face and boom! Beautiful. Chic geek rather than snobbery ?

    • Barron on

      I can appreciate the Apple Watch myself. I’m all Apple everything, and while I don’t own the watch, I think they’re pretty cool. Then again, that probably wouldn’t replace your fleet of mechanical watches, I assume. I do think it’s a great watch to have if you like gadgets and it’s not your first / only watch.

  3. theuqbar on

    Good advice for your watch novice readers, Barron. As a non-watch novice (I have 11 watches ranging from dress to sport in various price ranges), I like seeing these posts, and I fully endorse the Visodate and Cocktail Time as $300-500 options. I have both, and love them. The Visodate has classic mid-century styling in a modern size, and the Cocktail Time is like a brightly colored pocket square: a little eye-catching and definitely interesting, but not flashy and unquestionably tasteful.

    In the lower price range, well, I know that The Fifth sponsors you and everything, but I find the single Roman numeral a bit gimmicky, although the rest of the watch looks nice in photos. In that price range I agree with Andy’s earlier comment – I think you can’t beat the Orient Bambino. It’s got classic dress watch looks, Japanese quality which makes it an amazing value, and a solid automatic movement.

    • Barron on

      Appreciate the comment! I agree that this article barely brushes the surface of dress watches, but I think your suggestions are worthy considerations for anyone looking into buying a mid-range or higher-end watch.

      I love the Cocktail Time and Visodate as well. I don’t have either (yet) but I would probably have to go with the Cocktail Time first, as it eventually led me to discovering the Visodate. 🙂

      • theuqbar on

        If you do get the Cocktail Time, I recommend buying another band for it. The band is a little stiff and has blue stitching and a shiny patent leather-like finish that I didn’t like. I bought a Hirsch glove leather band that looks good on it.

  4. Travis Chapman on

    I can’t say enough about my Skagen watches. I have three models, all of which are capable of being my dress watch. The braided metal bands look sharp. I feel in love due to the thin watch faces. Typically hovering around $100, they are a good intro. I receive consistent comments about the chocolate brown titanium model.

    • Barron on

      Agree, these are great and could easily fall under the $ category for a budget dress watch. I prefer the leather bands for dress watches myself, but these would certainly work as a multi-purpose model.