What Is a Dress Watch? | Crown & Caliber

Dress Watches

A dress watch is the simplest and most elegant of all the watch types. It is fuss-free and minimalistic, designed to pair perfectly with more suits, jackets, and more formal attire. The dress watch is a traditional and beautiful tribute to the art of watchmaking.

Some Background of Dress Watches

Prior to the early 20th century, wristwatches were reserved for women and were more like jewelry as opposed to timekeepers. Men still wore pocket watches. However, at the turn of the century – thanks to the military, men began to strap their pocket watches to their wrists on special straps, paving the way for the men’s wristwatch.

Though the modern dress watch may have additional complications like a moonphase or a date window, by and large these formal watches historically were time only. One of the earliest dress watches was the Cartier Tank. Released in 1917 and recognizable by its rectangular case, the Tank was an instant classic. The Patek Philippe Calatrava hit the market in 1932 and remains the brand’s flagship model.

There are several dress watches that have reached icon status. Jaeger LeCoultre’s Reverso, once intended for polo matches, is a classic. It has both simplified time-only versions, and models with additional complications. A. Lange & Söhne, a German brand, is a coveted maker of dress watches. The Lange 1, debuting in 1994, is now the face of the brand. Not to be outdone, brands like Glashutte, OMEGA, IWC, and Rolex have their own handsome versions of the dress watch.

Characteristics of a Dress Watch

  1. A Slim Profile – As opposed to their sport model cousins, a dress watch typically has a slimmer profile. This allows for an appropriate fit under a shirt cuff or other formal-style attire.
  2. Smaller or Average Case Size – Most dress watches fall in a 34mm to 40mm case size
  3. Leather Strap – Dress watches are typically outfitted with a leather strap. These can be textured or smooth. However, a few models will come with very slim bracelets.
  4. Precious Metals – The dress watch oftentimes comes in precious metals like white, yellow, and rose gold, and even platinum.
Characteristics of a Dress Watch