May 18, 2013
by Matt Boston
The aBlogtoWatch team has made dressing up that much easier (and costlier) with our list of the top 10 elegant dress watches. In life, we usually avoid complications, in a dress watch as well, the less the better, a simple uncluttered dial is one of the timeless qualities that a dress watch should fulfill. The focus should ideally be on the essence of a watch. The time in hours and minutes, and little if anything more. Some of the best examples even avoid seconds hands.
A good men’s dress watch also needs to be discreet enough to not distract from your attire – and preferably, sometimes on a leather strap that matches your belt and shoes. Slenderness (thickness of the case) is another virtue in a classic dress watch, being of a diminutive height so that it slides easily under a shirt cuff and gives a subtle wrist presence.
While a dress watch that uses stainless steel is fine, wearing one gives you a good opportunity to have some precious metal on your wrist and to add a further touch of class, a fine mechanical movement is a good choice, especially since this will also add value to a style of watch that is typically an heirloom.
Created in 1917 and first offered for sale in 1922, the Cartier Tank is an iconic dress watch that since its inception, has been endlessly imitated.
Legend has it that the design of the Tank was inspired by aerial photographs of Renault FT-17 tanks when Louis Cartier saw them in his daily newspaper and the first model produced was a gift for General John J. Pershing as a token of France’s appreciation for his help in ending World War I.
Before the Cartier Tank, most wristwatches were little more than modified pocket watches for the wrist, the Tank was the first to really be conceived with comfort and style in mind.
One the most enduringly popular watch designs, its popularity is in no small part due to its distinctly refined Art deco aesthetic, something which has been present in all of its 250 plus model variations.
Over time, this classic watch has graced many a famous wrist including actors, politicians and royalty. Notably John F. Kennedy wore his Tank throughout most of his term in office and that Cary Grant, an actor noted for his sartorial elegance, chose the Tank, also says something for its design.
Currently, it’s offered in five models: the Francaise, Americaine, Anglaise, Solo and Louis Cartier. The ultra-thin Louis Cartier model offers their greatest display of craftsmanship. Originally released in 1922, it is now offered with quartz, automatic or manual movements. Prices start from as little as $2,000 for Quartz versions. cartier.com
The L.U.C XP model from Chopard won the top prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in the category of ‘ultra-thin watches’ when it was launched in 2006. Being a very slender 6.8mm thick, it is powered by a just over 3mm thick Chopard L.U.C. automatic movement.
The LUC XP movement is the completely in-house calibre L.U.C 96.17-L, exhibiting a handsome blend of Cotes de Genève and circular graining. The movement benefits from Chopard’s Twin Technology, where two stacked mainspring barrels result in a power reserve of 65 hours – about 50% more than what is common, and even more noteworthy when you consider the thinness of the movement.
A handsome, timeless design, the XP has a black dial with a slight sheen to it, adding a greater sense of opacity and richness and the well proportioned Arabic numbers in white gold are nicely complimented by the dauphine hands. At 39.5mm wide, the XP is a modern sized dress watch with a versatile contemporary look suiting both formal and less formal occasions. Priced at $15,350. chopard.com
Girard-Perregaux is one of the least publicly known Swiss watch manufacturers. However, their history reveals some interesting models such as the first with a high-frequency movement in 1957. It is precisely their past that is the basis for the Vintage 1945 model launched in 1995 as a tribute to the original Art deco model and now one of the icons of the brand.
Taking the original design as its inspiration, the updated model shares many of its design features including the Art deco lugs and ergonomically curved case, but now in a larger more modern size, making the watch a nice blend of the classical and contemporary. The profile of the case was also redesigned in 2009 to give it a spherical form and to discreetly integrate the crown into the case. The dial features dual curves and is embellished by elegant Dauphine-style hands and a subsidiary seconds dial.
Available in pink gold and steel, the Vintage 1945 is a nice example of an Art deco style dress watch that captures the characteristic style and looks of the era and simultaneously presents a vision of the past while still being contemporary.The pink gold version pictured retails for about $20,000. girard-perregaux.ch
The high-end watch line Grand Seiko was for decades only available in Japan. But, in 2010 they started to ship certain models overseas for the first time. Built to exacting standards by Seiko’s most skilled watchmakers, this line has a a rich history of excellence.
Seiko has had for a long time, a preoccupation with accuracy in their watches, being pioneers in quartz, atomic and Spring Drive movements and having in-house testing even more stringent than Swiss COSC Chronometer certification. This model uses a Hi-Beat movement and accuracy is the focal point of this dress watch rather than slenderness.
Releasing their first Hi-Beat movement in 1968, Seiko has had plenty of time to perfect this type of movement, one that few brands attempt due to the difficulty involved. This model SBGH022 features a movement beating at 36,000bph and a high level of accuracy as a result. The embodiment of great Japanese craftsmanship and engineering virtuosity, this Grand Seiko dress watch has a superior level of detailing and polishing combined with performance and discretion. This is a watch you don’t wear to get noticed – except by serious watch aficionados- but a dress watch you wear for your own satisfaction. It’s presented in a 40.2mm diameter, 13mm thick rose gold case and has a 37 jewel movement with a power reserve of 55 hours. This model SBGH022 retails for around $22,000 in gold. grand-seiko.com
Inspired by their classical models from the 1950’s and named after a merciless series of tests, the Master Control was introduced in 1992. Despite the model’s nostalgic heritage it represented an innovation in the area of watch chronometry. Wanting to go beyond the standards of the day, Jaeger-LeCoultre devised a six week series of tests called “1000 Hours Control” aimed at achieving this. Only after passing these rigorous tests did the watch receive the signature of the master-inspector inside the watch case and a gold seal bearing the individual test number.
A sunburst silver-toned dial featuring numbers at three of the dial’s four cardinal points is complimented by Dauphine hands indicating the hours and minutes with a baton-type seconds hand. Inside the 39mm case is the in-house caliber 899 automatic movement featuring a 43 hour power reserve and utilizing new technologies such as ceramic ball bearings and with its 22K gold rotor visible through the sapphire case back. The Master Control is a dress watch that represents great value and is also suitable for semi-formal, and sometimes casual occasions. Prices for the stainless steel version start at $4,000. jaeger-lecoultre.com