The dress watch may sound like an antiquated idea, alongside white tie and the monocle, but ask any serious horologist and they’ll tell you that the dress watch still has its place.
It’s not a watch for everyday wear, nor is it one to wear diving, driving or flying; it’s a watch for an occasion and as such should follow particular criteria.
It should be simple, elegant and discreet – after all, no one wants to be spotted checking the time at a dinner party – and thin enough to sit comfortably under the cuff of a suit of tuxedo.
It should have only hours and minutes depicted on the dial and certainly no chronograph or extra complications.
Here are seven dress watches that will add style to even the grandest of occasions.
Drive de Cartier extra flat
Cartier is probably better known for its fine jewellery and Art Deco elegance, but it’s not to be overlooked in the watch world. The Drive de Cartier extra flat is part of a limited edition run and looks set to become a classic.
White gold and leather, £13,400, Cartier (cartier.co.uk)
They say you don’t ever own a Patek Philippe, just look after it for the next generation. This is particularly true of the Calatrava, which is the house’s signature model. Originally created in 1932, it has been the dress watch of choice for many generations.
White gold and crocodile strap, £18,360, Patek Philippe (patek.com)
You can’t discuss watches without mentioning Rolex. The Cellini is more understated than many of its best-known models, but still has the Rolex prestige and heritage.
18ct white gold and leather with black dial, £11,200, Rolex (rolex.com)
Piaget is the pioneer of thin watches, so when it comes to a dress watch round-up – where discretion is key – it has to be considered. The Altiplano has slightly more on the dial than purists would like, but for Piaget, exceptions can be made.
18ct white gold and black alligator leather strap, £20,500, Piaget (en.piaget.com)
Zenith has lost name recognition in recent years but that looks likely to change now that Jean-Claude Biver, president of the LVMH watches division, has taken over as acting chief executive.
All eyes will be on the Basel offerings, but get ahead of the hype with the Elite – a fine example of a dress watch.
Rose gold with brown alligator strap, £9,100, Zenith (zenith-watches.com)
De Ville Tresor Master Co-Axial
Omega watches consistently appear in the lists of vintage brands to collect. But if you don’t want to wait, then the De Ville Tresor has the feel of a vintage timepiece – its design dates back to the 1940s, but is available now.
Yellow gold and brown leather, £9,200, Omega (omegawatches.com)
Max Bill Auto
Don’t want to spend the money on something you aren’t sure you’ll need? Then why not try a less well known – and therefore less pricey – brand, such as Junghans. The German marque is famed for its sleek design and understated style.
Stainless steel and leather watch, £825, Junghans (mrporter.com)