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dress watch

Luxury Watch Guide: An Overview of the Dress Watch’s Appeal

Modern fashion rules are constantly being rewritten. Nowadays, fashion models, celebrities, and influencers can be seen wearing formal clothing with casual accessories and vice versa. Men are wearing formal tuxedos with white sneakers, and women are pairing dress watches with their summer attire. Among watch geeks, the “desk diver” refers to a dive watch whose primary function is not to serve practically during SCUBA expeditions, but to look good on the wrist while at work. In fact, I’m wearing one right now and, for the record, I’ve never even been diving. So how to reconcile this subversion of form and function? Join us as we explore this concept in regards to one of the most popular watch styles – the dress watch.

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A (Brief) History of Dress Watches

Since the first wristwatch, watches have served aesthetic as well as practical purposes. In the early 20th century, ornate pocket watches and wristwatches were as much a sign of a person’s wealth as they were timepieces. The modern dress watches we know today are simple and sleek, and these accessories aren’t limited to the suit-and-tie ensemble anymore.

One of the earliest dress watches was released by Cartier in 1917. Instantly recognizable because of its rectangular case and slim shape, the Santos remains one of the most identifiable luxury timepieces. In subsequent decades, watch manufacturers continued designing and releasing elegant, high-end dress watches meant to be worn in formal events. Today, fashion rules aren’t so strict. You will easily find dress watches paired with jeans and sweatshirts.

What makes dress watches unique is that they can easily elevate your overall aesthetic, regardless of what you wear. Dress watches are graceful yet modern, and they express an exquisite taste in fashion.

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What Makes a Dress Watch?

Typically, dress watches are timepieces designed to be slim with minimal features. They’re often worn on leather straps and are smaller than other styles of watches like pilot watches and dive watches. With an emphasis on materials, a dress watch is a significant investment that’s meant to last a lifetime. If you take care of it well, it will retain its value and may even last several generations. A watch is a fantastic accessory for any occasion, and its luxurious look automatically elevates any outfit you wear with it.

Going deeper, designers of dress watches take into account the following considerations when crafting these elegant timepieces:

  • Slim profile – Classic dress watches are much slimmer than sports watches, so they can fit under formal shirt cuffs without interrupting the lines of an outfit. The narrow look also blends with the manner that good manners are largely subtle.
  • Small case – The dress watch’s case size follows the slim profile, measuring under 40mm.
  • Leather strap – Classic dress watches have rich and supple leather straps that further elevate their high-end aesthetic. The leather is either smooth or textured, depending on the designer’s preference.
  • Minimalist features – While bulky sports watches contain many different features such as chronographs and temperature gauges, classic dress watches are analog timepieces that only tell the time and date. Sometimes, there isn’t even a seconds hand!
  • Precious metals – High-end dress watches include elements made of precious metals such as platinum, rose gold, and diamonds.

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What to Wear With a Dress Watch

Normally, dress watches are worn on more formal occasions but, as previously mentioned, this is not a hard and fast rule. Much like the advice to “not wear white after Labor Day”, adherence to the rule that dress watches should be limited to formal events has been waning. Your choice of clothing and accessories is an excellent means of self-expression and no fashion rules should stop you from mixing and matching different aesthetics. Some people prefer to restrict their dress watches for events like weddings while others see no problem rocking a dress watch with jeans and a flannel shirt at a family barbecue.

Dress watches are made even more flexible because their leather straps are usually detachable. This means you can buy different types of straps to fit your chosen aesthetic for day or evening wear. For example, a classic black leather strap is perfect for a formal evening occasion. And if you’re going out for a casual evening, you can switch to fun colors and textures.

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Dress watches have evolved significantly over the decades, and today, you can wear this slim, leather-strapped accessory in any way you want. Its simplicity and elegance make it the perfect addition to a formal evening look or when your outfit needs a classy boost.

Feldmar Watch Company is a family business that has been selling men’s luxury watches in the Los Angeles area for over a century. We offer collections from the most highly sought-after fine brands in the world. If you want high-quality products that will last a lifetime, check out our online store today!

About The Author: Tom Roth


Born in Washington state, Tom developed an interest in photography during college at University of San Diego. There, he got started in music journalism, interviewing artists and taking photos at concerts. A life-long tinkerer and collector, it wasn’t long before Tom became fascinated with fountain pens and watches.

Those interests collided in November 2020 when Tom started at Feldmar Watch Company where he lives out every watch geek’s dream: photographing and writing about timepieces. When he’s not tinkering with his watch collection, Tom can be found traveling, biting his nails while watching PNW sports teams, and taking flying lessons.

Read more from Tom Roth

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