Choosing the right watch for the right outfit isn’t always the easiest task.
A well-curated watch collection makes it easy to accessorize. Regardless of your outfit, you can find a watch that pairs with the clothing you’ve chosen.
Of course, choosing the right watch for the right outfit isn’t always the easiest task. and it’s often difficult to determine a fitting match with an increasing number of options.
To simplify things, watches fall into different categories like sports, dress and dive models. Each of them — and even specific colors or details like band material — will inform how a watch can be used as part of an outfit.
With that in mind, here are seven pointers to guide you in the right direction.
1. Deciding Between Analog and Digital
This is a good place to start because it’s an obvious differentiator. An analog watch will always give you a more formal appearance than a digital one.
Digital versions are a great choice for outfits that should look casual and fun, but when it’s time to bring out the wingtips, go for a dress watch or an upmarket sports version.
When you do go digital, lean into it with something iconic like a Casio G Shock.
Dress watches are typically very simple in appearance, with few complications, a bold face and a leather band, traditionally.
The category of sports watches is more broadly defined. That said, it includes some of the most popular and well-known brands like Rolex, Tag Heuer, Tudor and Omega.
2. Metal Bands and Big Faces Are Casual, Despite Their Cost
Yes, you might associate these characteristics with expensive watches, and that’s because many of them have metal bands and big faces. Costly doesn’t always equal formal, however.
If you’re going to bring out your Panerai Submersible, it’ll be more appropriate with a colorful sport shirt and some high-end denim than a three-piece suit. Sure, the watch could pay for the outfit several times over, but that’s not the point.
If you’re going to pair a sports watch with a suit, it will present better in a semi-formal appearance. For example, a Rolex Day-Date with a dark face wouldn’t look out of place in a semi-formal presentation with a dark suit and no tie.
For the most formal black-tie type settings, it’s always best to wear a classic dress watch. If you do choose a sports watch, go with something modest that won’t add too much bulk or visual volume to what should be an elegant outfit.
3. Black Belt, Black Shoes, Black Band
You wouldn’t leave the house wearing your best brown leather shoes and a black belt, now would you?
If you would, it might be time for some sartorial review work. When you’re accessorizing, it’s best to keep the variation in your color palette to a minimum.
If you’re wearing black shoes, pair them with a black belt and wear a watch with a black leather band, or a metal bracelet that matches the brightwork on your belt. Make sure you have options that fit the bill.
4. A Good Dive Watch Goes Nearly Anywhere
Many of today’s most iconic watch designs are based on classic dive watches. They feature a prominent face, usually around 40 mm in size. Most often, they will have varied coloration around the bezel, which is movable to track your time spent at depth.
Don’t worry too much if you never pair these watches with their intended attire, which would be a wet or dry-suit and scuba equipment.
Short of full black-tie, you can pull off a multitude of outfits with a quality diver. The Tag Heure Aquaracer, Omega Seamaster and Rolex Submariner are all famous examples of classy dive watches that look just as good with a T-shirt and jeans as they do with a blazer and slacks.
Check out Seiko divers, particularly those available on the used market, if you want to get into the world of dive watches without spending the money required to own something like a Rolex.
5. Patina Can Add Style With the Right Outfit
Many people aren’t aware that high-end watches have long lives on the resale market. In some cases, a piece that has been worn and shows signs of use is actually worth more.
This is called “patina”. If you’ve heard the word before, it was probably associated with a partially rusted car. Or, it could have been your grandfather’s handmade coffee table.
A watch with good patina still needs to function well. But, if it has a faded face from years of wear in the sun, it’s often seen as unique.
6. Nothing Says Sophistication Like a Rectangular Face
Have you ever seen a watch with a rectangular face? The design goes back quite a long way, and was made famous by the Cartier Tank, a simple but elegant watch that collectors still pay good money for today.
If you’re looking for something to wear for a very formal occasion, a simple rectangle-face watch on a high-quality leather band is nearly unbeatable.
Plus, some guys think women are more attracted to men in rectangular watches, so you’ve got that going for you as well.
7. The Swatch: a Noncompete Accessory
If you ever do want to pull a cheeky move in a formal setting, go with a cheap and funky Swatch. It says, “I know watches, but I don’t feel like trying tonight.”
The Swatch name has been around for a long time and is well known by collectors. Swatch makes a huge variety of very affordable and colorful watches that will look fine in a casual setting and ironic with a dress shirt.
Things to Watch Out For
Even if you have the knowledge to point out why a particular watch is a bad choice with an outfit, you shouldn’t. The world of watch collecting is viewed as pretentious enough without people acting like they’ve been appointed the world’s authority on wristwear.
If someone sparks up a conversation and asks your opinion, that’s a different story, but keep your thoughts to yourself if you’re making unsolicited observations.
There’s so much you can enjoy in the world of watches. These basic guidelines should keep you from getting too carried away in the purchasing and pairing departments. A quality piece can make or break your outfit, after all.
Have you got a favorite watch/outfit combo? Wanna show off your watch?Come join us in our What Watch Are You Wearing Today discussion!
Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about a broad variety of topics on his blog. Check out Just a Regular Guide for more, or follow Dylan on Twitter @theregularguide for frequent updates!