When To Wear A Dress Watch?

Dress watches, they are simple and elegant and can compliment an outfit when used right. Still, I remember getting one from my grandfather and wondering how and when I could wear the watch properly. Let’s have a look at that!

When to wear a dress watch? Originally, dress watches were designed for more formal settings that required black tie or business dress. However, these days dress watches are also worn with business casual outfits and even casual outfits.

Now that we know that, it’s time to dive into the subject a bit more. Let’s first see when you should wear a dress watch and in which situations you shouldn’t. After that we will look at how you can match your dress watch with the outfit that you’re wearing.

Situations That Are Ideal For A Dress Watch

As said, dress watches were originally designed for more formal settings. The reason for this is the fact that dress watches are quite minimalistic and simple. This doesn’t mean they aren’t very stylish. The opposite actually.

Dress watches are designed to be elegant and compliment your more formal outfit. Imagine a situations in which you wear a very formal suit and tie and you try to compliment that with a large watch with a rubber band. That simply doesn’t fit the occassion. Let’s see when it’s best to wear a watch.

Black Tie / White Tie

Dress watches fit a black tie / white tie event really well. The watch is actually designed for these occassions. Back in the day it was considered rude if you were to look at your watch at these events. A dress watch gives you the opportunity to still look at the time, while also complementing your outfit.

Business Dress

The same can be set about more formal business settings. Again, the outfit that you’re wearing in these kind of situations is already very stylish and elegant. A dress watch should compliment the outfit, not be the center of attention.

That’s why a dress watch is ideal in business settings. Furthermore very casual watches or watches that are designed for sporting activities don’t fit the outfit you’re wearing in this case. Therefore they aren’t an option.

Business Casual

Now we’re getting into a bit of a grey area. Although dress watches weren’t originally designed for business casual wear that doesn’t mean that they can’t fit the outfit.

Because dress watches are very elegant they can almost go with any outfit. Business casual can still be one of these situations. However, when you go business casual you also have other options to choose from.

For example, a pilot, field or chrono watch can also go very well with a business casual outfit. That’s the difference between business casual and bussiness dress or black tie. It’s not that a dress watch doesn’t fit business casual, it’s that you have more options when you go business casual.

Casual Wear

Building on this principal, the same goes for casual wear. When you go casual you can basically pick any watch you like. Although I have to say that very formal dress watches (think white dial, black leather strap, roman numerals) may not completely fit the outfit depending on what you’re wearing.

In this case it depends on how formal the dress watch is and how casual your outfit truly is. Based on these factors you can make a decision and decide wheter or not the two compliment each other or not.

The only moment dress watches are completely unacceptable is when you wear one during sporting activities. First off, the watch most likely does not compliment the outfit. Furthermore, it most likely also way to fragile depending on the activity. The last thing you want to do is worry about shattered glass or a broken strap.

How To Match A Dress Watch With Your Outfit?

You can make matching your dress watch with you outfit as complicated as you want. There are a lot of unspoken ”rules” that you can account for.

Personally, I don’t think you need to account for every single rule in the book. However, there are some guidelines that can definitely make or break your style. Let’s look at what these are.

Matching Leather

First off all it’s important to match the leather of the rest of your outfit. Since you’re wearing a dress watch there’s a big chance that it has a leather strap on it.

As a general rule you should always first match your belt and your shoes in the same color. If you’re dressed in a formal manner (black tie/business dress) than this will most likely be black. If this is indeed the case then you will want to go with a black leather strap for your watch.

If you’re dressed business casual or casual then you can also go with brown leather for you shoes and belt. If this is the option you pick then your dress watch should naturally follow.

As said before, a dress watch is there to compliment the rest of your outfit. Matching the color of your leather shoes and belt with your dress watch is definitely the way to do that.

Matching Metal

Once you’ve matched the leather strap of your watch with the other elements of you outfit it’s time to move on to the metal. In this case we’re talking about matching the case of your watch with for example your belt buckle.

For most dress watches you can pick steel, gold, silver, platinum and titanium. Finishes can include matte, shiny, matte, patterned, or inlaid with crystals or other jewels.

What you want to do is match the color of your case with the other accessories. First and foremost it’s important to match with the ring(s) on you finger. If this is gold you’ll also want to pick a gold case.

If it’s possible you’ll also want to match the finish of your other jewelry with that of your dress watch. So let’s say you have a shiny gold ring then it’s a good decision to go with a shiny gold watch case.

Finally you can match this with the rest of the metal accents in your outfit. Think of your belt buckle, cuff links, shoe buckles etc.

It’s important to note that not everything needs to match exactly. For example, a rose gold case can be worn with a gold belt buckle simply because it’s close enough.

Match The Size With Your Body Type

The final tip I can give you is to match your dress watch with your body type. Some dress watches can be quite large while others can be quite small. If you’re a slim guy it’s best to go with a more subtle dress watch. If you’re a bigger guy you can go with a larger and more robust watch face because it will not be disproportionate to your body.


On MenswearUniversity.com I share the questions that I have regarding style advice for men. I believe that having good taste doesn't have to be hard and also shouldn't be. Hands-on and to-the-point advice for every man out there!

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