Saturday, October 15, 2011

Watch Primer: Dress vs. Casual

This installment of the Watch Primer looks at what factors divide watches into the "dress watch" and "casual watch" categories.  This distinction has become increasingly blurred over time, with quintessential sport watches like the Rolex Submariner becoming known as an acceptable tuxedo accessory.  (The bottom line: No wristwatch should be worn with formal attire like a tuxedo, though a pocket watch is acceptable.)

What Makes a Watch Dressy?

Sleekness and elegance are two qualities of the categorical dress watch.  It is usually thin (say 10mm or less), with a clean, uncomplicated dial design and a smaller diameter - in today's expanding proportions, 40mm or smaller.  A leather strap with matching stitching is dressier than a bracelet, and among bracelets a more intricate design is dressier than the classic three-link oyster bracelet.

The strictest criteria would call for a light-colored dial (white, steel, or beige), and allow for no complications (not even a second hand!), and would likely even omit the extraneous details that minute markers would provide.  Hour indices would tend to be applied, though some classical designs employ laquer for their indices.  At 35mm wide and under 6mm thick, Jaeger-LeCoultre's original Master Ultra Thin is a quintessential example:

What Makes a Watch Casual?

Casual spans a wide range of watches, as it is basically any watch that doesn't meet the criteria above.  Some are purpose-built for certain activities, like diver watches and chronographs.  Some come awfully close to the definition of a dress watch, and could probably fill in for one with most onlookers being none the wiser, but technically stray too far afield by one or two parameters, with diameter and thickness being the usual culprits these days.  Others, such as digital workhorses like the Casio G-Shock and ProTrek lines, are a completely different breed of wristwatch and would seem completely out of place under the sleeve of a suit (presuming they could fit there) to most sensibilities.

What Difference Does It Make?

Admittedly,he distinction between dress and casual watches doesn't mean as much as it used to.  Many classic sport watches like the Submariner and Speedmaster look just as at home half-covered under a suit sleeve as they do accompanying a t-shirt and shorts.  More than that, most people wouldn't be able to tell - or if they could, wouldn't care - what watch is tucked under your sleeve, or whether you're wearing a watch at all.  But for those who care about watches - whether you want to abide by traditional rules, or break them - the first step in gaining mastery over your watch box is to learn the rules.  The age-old writing principle applies here as well: only after learning rules can you hope to bend - or even break - them successful.

No comments:

Post a Comment