While the luxury sports watch is certainly enjoying worldwide popularity, the classic dress watch should not be overlooked. An absolute must-have in any gentleman’s wardrobe, the elegance of a luxury dress watch is undeniable. Often characterized by thinner and more restrained watchcases, leather bands, and more straightforward watch complications, the appeal of a traditional dress watch is enduring and will last for generations.
Another attraction of the fine dress watch is the materials used to build them. For the most part, dress watches are constructed with precious materials, may boast details like guilloché dials, and are presented on the finest leather. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite classic dress watches that would make handsome additions to any collection.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Dress Watch
Widely accepted as the apex of haute horlogerie, Patek Philippe is the benchmark of elegant aesthetics, technical mastery, and enduring legacy. The Genevan manufacture’s signature model, the Calatrava, has been around since 1932 and perfectly expresses a style that doesn’t succumb to changing trends.
At 35mm, the Patek Philippe Calatrava 5120 has a yellow gold watch case that is smaller than what men tend to wear today. However, it is ideal for smaller wrists and for those who prefer a more restrained look. The minimal white lacquered dial hosts the classic Roman numerals and a pair of center hands while the intricate hobnail bezel adds a touch of embellishment to an otherwise discreet timepiece.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony
A prestigious watch brand with some serious pedigree, Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755. While it has made its mark on the luxury watch industry with some very complex and groundbreaking timepieces, it’s the more stripped-down Patrimony dress watch that still captures the hearts and minds of fine watch aficionados.
This Vacheron Constantin Patrimony 82172 combines a 38mm rose gold case, ivory dial, straightforward stick hour-markers, brown leather strap, and a running seconds subdial for a timepiece that exudes grace and sophistication. Moreover, inside the slim case is a manual-wound movement that bears the Hallmark of Geneva insignia, indicating its standard of excellence.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
One of the most respected manufactures of fine timepieces, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s offering runs the gamut from the exceedingly complicated to the very minimalistic. The more than 180-year-old company has enjoyed an especially storied history with numerous technological advances and iconic designs.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Q1342420 is an elegant dress watch that honors the beauty of simplicity. The 38mm extra thin rose gold case is complemented by its off-white dial, which is punctuated by a mix of Arabic numerals, tapered indexes, and Dauphine style hands. At the heart of the Master Ultra Thin is a manual-wound movement entirely developed and built by Jaeger-LeCoultre–which is to be expected by the house nicknamed the “Watchmaker’s Watchmaker.”
Breguet Classique Retrograde 5207
Affectionately known as the grandfather of horology, Abraham-Louis Breguet has provided countless significant innovations and inventions to watchmaking. His eponymous watch company, Breguet, still thrives today with many of the brand’s timepieces carrying traditional designs and technically supreme mechanical movements.
The Classique Retrograde 5207 features all the signature design details that have come to define the Breguet aesthetic, from the blued steel Breguet hands and engine-turned dial to the fluted watchcase sides. Yet it also benefits from additional complications than is standard across time-only dress watches–namely the retrograde seconds display and power reserve indicator. Sporting a slim 39mm round case in white gold, paired with a leather strap, and powered by an automatic movement, this Breguet Classique is a celebration of traditional horology.
Rolex Cellini Dual Time 50525
While Rolex is undeniably the most famous Swiss luxury watch brand, the Cellini collection flies under the radar with many not knowing that it’s a core part of Rolex’s collection. The Cellini line is the company’s range of dress watches bearing design hallmarks of traditional horology.
The second time zone of the Rolex Cellini Dual Time is displayed via a subdial at 6 o’clock, complete with a day/night indicator. The stunning dial contained within the 39mm Everose gold case features an elaborate guilloché pattern and looks especially great paired with the black leather strap. As expected, this modern Rolex dress watch runs on an in-house automatic movement.
The Fine Dress Watch
While classic dress watches may seem simple at first glance, a closer look reveals that what they lack in adornment, they make up for in fine materials, appealing symmetry, painstaking details, and dependable mechanical movements.