Afternoon gents, it’s Max from the Young Gentleman’s Guide here! So today’s article is coming to you courtesy of The Art of Manliness, and this article I found on their site gave me inspiration for this one, I’m just hoping I can put my own spin on it! In any case, the wristwatch is a classic accessory that every gentleman should have in his arsenal. But what many of you may not know is that wristwatches come in a variety of styles, sizes, and even purposes! So I’m going to list various styles of wristwatch and explain their features, and possibly a little bit of their history. Also, most of the info and all of the images are from The Art of Manliness, but I am in no way sponsored or endorsed by them. I just find their information very helpful, and I think you will too!
1. Dress Watch
These watches first came into relevance when gentlemen started to wear watches on their wrists as opposed to carrying them in pockets. Nothing super flashy or outstanding, but certainly classy. They’re typically very small and thin watches, so as to easily slip them in and out of your sleeve or cuff. As shown in the picture above, the case can be circular or rectangular, and the face usually consists simply of hourly indexes. Such indexes can be represented by traditional Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4), Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV), or simple tick marks, or saber-style indexes as they’re formally called. Also shown in the picture above, the band is almost always leather. There are a select number of companies that give you an option of either metal or leather bands with their dress watches, but as AoM puts it, “leather is the classic way to go.” If you’re going to a formal affair, or even just a dinner date, these can be a great option!
2. Field Watch
These types of watches are said to have evolved from the WWI “trench watch”, which in the exact words of the AoM article, were “designed for officers who needed to coordinate attacks, tell time at night, and sport a wristwatch that could withstand the rigors of battle, all while still looking good.” As such, these watches were meant to be rugged, sturdy, and stylish all at the same time. They’re typically small or medium-sized watches, since a large watch would just get in the way of the task at hand. The face has a white dial with very distinct black numbering, or vice versa, for reasons of making the watch easy to read. The hands also often light up so you can easily read the watch at night. The band can be made of either leather or canvas, depending on your preferences. These watches can be used for a wide range of jobs or occasions, and work very well with just about any outfit. For those of you who don’t very often wear a suit, then these watches can be a great place to start!
3. Dive Watch
This is one of the most common watches you’ll see a man wear. My father actually gave me a watch like this as a gift for becoming an Eagle Scout. This type has also always been 007’s watch of choice, with the Rolex Submariner always being on his wrist from Dr. No to License to Kill, and then Pierce Brosnan switching it to the Omega Speedmaster dive watch from Goldeneye onward. As if the name didn’t make it clear enough, these kinds of watches are meant for those who spend a majority of their time around water, with their biggest selling point being that they’re water resistant, usually up to 100m or sometimes more. Another defining feature is that dive watches have a bezel that can rotate counter-clockwise to act as a sort of makeshift timer if the wearer is actually diving. The way it works is that you rotate the bezel to where the “0” lines up with the minute hand, and whatever number on the bezel the minute lines up with shows how many minutes have passed while in the water. But not only are these timekeepers functional, but they also look very classy, making these watches very versatile. Sporty or classy, casual, or formal, a dive watch can be a great fit for any occasion.
4. Pilot/Aviator Watch
Wristwatches have been involved in aviation practically since the airplane was invented. As a matter of fact, the very first watch ever made for a specific purpose was made for a friend of Louis Cartier’s who was a pilot. Over the years, other watchmakers took the original design and ran with it, making watches that made them easy to read for those men in the cockpit. However, unlike most of the other watches on this list, aviators don’t usually don’t come in one specific style, but their features are more or less the same. Similar to the field watch, their faces usually have black legible numbers on a white background with hands that illuminate to make them easy to read, especially for pilots in the dark. The band is usually made of leather and is usually longer than normal, as they were originally meant to fit around the cuff of a pilot’s uniform. Nowadays, these watches are more commonly used for more casual occasions, an aviator watch would be perfect for something like a summer barbeque or first date!
5. Racing/Driving Watch
This is one I know A Vintage Athenian would appreciate! Watches have been used in car racing ever since the 1930s, and that really shouldn’t come as a shock. In a race where time is everything, racecar drivers would obviously want an accurate timepiece, and Rolex was more than happy to oblige. Their famous Oyster watch was one of the first watches to capitalize on a driver’s needs for an accurate timepiece. However, it was TAG Heuer that went on to define the racing watch with the chronograph and tachymeter. After originally being made for pilots in WWII, racecar drivers started using TAG Heuer watches in the 1950s since their watches were the most accurate they could find, with Steve McQueen immortalizing the TAG Heuer Monaco 1133 in the 1971 film, Le Mans. The faces of these watches are typically pretty large, so as to make room for the chronograph, and the cases are made to be very sturdy, so they’re usually made from stainless steel. The band can be either leather or metal, depending on your preferences or the manufacturer. Because these watches tend to be a bit more flashy and pronounced than most dress or dive watches, they mostly work with simple casual wear.
Now that we’ve gone over most of the different styles of watches you can find, another thing that we need to go over is how to properly proportion your watch to the size of your hand and wrist. If your watch is too large it’ll just stick out like a sore thumb, but if it’s too small, it’ll look like you’re wearing a lady’s watch. the AoM article puts it perfectly:
“The general rule is if the circumference of your wrist is 6 to 7 inches, you want to go with a watch that has a case diameter of 38-42 mm wide. If your wrist is larger than 7 inches, then you can go with cases that are 44-46 mm wide.”
And if nothing else, you can just simply eyeball it or just ask friends and family to give you their opinion. Just remember that not every timepiece will look great with every outfit, so be sure you know what you’re getting as well as the wardrobe requirements for whatever affair you’re attending. Also, be sure to check out the original AoM article. They go much more in-depth about the different watch types and they also provide links to manufacturers or companies that make those specific timepieces. Also, be sure to check out Vintage Gentlemen. They have a great selection of watches that can fit for a variety of situations!
Apologies for how long this article was, I just had a lot of info to give! In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s article. Please be sure to share the post, follow the blog, follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!