Will dress watches ever make a comeback?

I’ve given it some thought last week and there are a lot of dress watches out there. Though it seems that it’s not getting as much attention as they should.

About two years ago I got into (mechanical) watches. The watches that were in my price range back then were basically 90% vintage dress watches like the 60’s / 70’s Omega Seamasters and all different sorts of swiss made brands. Now, I wasn’t looking for a dress watch at the time but they already stood out to me. Fortunately I’ve grown a little collection and knowledge about the current watch market the past two years. It occured to me this week that there is not a lot of talk and interest in dress watches, vintage or modern. Which immediately brings the question to my mind, why not?

Maybe I’m missing something here but basically everyone is looking for either a chronograph or dive watch of some sort. Although most people are working some kind of office job, a dive watch or chronograph doesn’t really make sense whereas a dress watch would fit right in.

Where the last years we have made a small shift of formal clothing to more casual appearances, I am noticing around me people are changing to more formal attire again. It would only make sense that dress watches would also ride along on this trend. It is a great way of showing that someone carefully decides about their warderobe. A lot of you will probably relate to this but I always think a watch tells a lot about someone‘s personality. So the watch is one of the first things I look for when meeting someone new.

Also for people that are getting into mechanical watches it is a great starting point. They often last a lifetime and are pretty affordable compared to some ’sports’ variants with a lot of the same features. I currently own an IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar and find myself grabbing it more and more often. I took my dive watch on holiday but from day to day wear I really don’t need al those specifications like 300m water resistance, shock protection or a rotating bezel. Yes I know my IWC is a different kind of price point as something like a 1965 Omega Seamaster but those designs are really enjoyable as well.

Personally I hope dress watches will make a comeback coming years, there are a lot of great offerings out there. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my little rant about dress watches, if you own a dress watch I’d like to see it below! For now, have a great night (at least in and around my timezone ;p).

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I love dress watches and wear them every opportunity I get.  Since we dress more comfortable/casual than we used to, we need to dress down our dress watches a bit.  It's no crime to change out the crocodile strap for the bracelet or a suede strap.  Fashion is what you make of it.  Be a trend setter and wear your dress watch with a hoodie.  Don't be a follower.

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I think dress watches will always be a side-show compared to sports watches of all varieties. 

For most people these days watches are an aspirational thing, more than a functional tool. Most office workers aspire to be out doing adventurous things, rather than staring at spreadsheets all day, so they wear a watch that makes them feel like they could go diving, or mountain climbing. 

There is also the versatility that a nice sports watch brings to the table. A watch like an Aqua Terra can go from the boardroom to the pool with no issues, so you only need the one watch. Remember that watch collectors are a tiny part of the watch market overall, so we will never drive change in the overall market. 

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I probably wear a vintage "dress" watch five or six days a week. Watch manufacturers did themselves no favors by making "dress" watches larger than 38mm. The lack of bezel makes them look large. If they make a comeback I am ready.

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I actually like the T-Shirt and dress watch combo better than the uniform-y suit with dressy watch.

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I wore an Oris dress watch all throughout college, dang thing never really left my wrist.  I like throwing thick bracelets onto them to make them into field-y sort of pieces.

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A lot of good points already made.  Sport watches like the submariner are now perfectly acceptable to wear as a dress watch.  I think this point has contributed to the decline.  For me I got rid of my solid gold dress watches long ago, I found them impractical and just wear sportier stuff with a suit every chance I can.

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I wish. Paul Fussell wrote about what he called "prole drift" which basically meant that culture and tastes in a society ultimately sink downard. A dress watch is like Kryponite to the proles.

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At the risk of sounding stupid, what actually makes a dress watch a dress watch?

Can't be the size, there are ginormous pieces labeled "dress. Also I have 6mm high Casios that surely aren't dress watches.

Can't be the clean layout, look at all the moonphase triple calenders.

Is it the case material? Can't a steel watch be a dress watch?

Can't be what it's designed for, all those everyday watches from the 50s or 60s are considered classy dress watches now.

Recognising a dress watch seems to be a "I know it when I see it" situation.

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I prefer the style of dresswatches but I also like to interact with my watch. So I always tend to some kind of dressier chronographs. 

To be honest I think the dresswatch is going to come back sooner or later. At the moment sportwatches are all over the place and they can handle more. Okay I get it. But I think as time goes by people start realising that their desk is way above the sea level and bone dry and that their usual activity doesn't need much shock resistant either. Even non watch people. The vintage dresswatch market is way bigger than the vintage sportwatch market. Maybe those who just wear a watch aren't getting into vintage. But those who starts getting into the hobby are likely to pick up a vintage dresswatch sooner or later. Maybe it won't be a 2 hand minimalistic watch but definitely something on the dressier side.  

In a poll I started most people said that they could imagine wearing a dressier piece as a daily. So I think there are already quiet a few people out there wearing dresswatches. Maybe we don't recognize it so often because many people that aren't in the hobby just prefer a watch on a steel bracelet because it can handle more situations and it seem to be the style of the time. But that can change quickly. 

 Over here in Germany you already see more and more vintage Cartier Tanks or Tanks in general. Also on non watch guys. I know, that historically it is a tool watch like the reverso. But for modern standards I would already classify it as a dresswatch. Maybe we're going to see the comeback in the next few years. I would really appreciate a development in this direction. 

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I’m still pretty new to the watch scene, having gotten into watches about 14 months ago. But dress watches have always seemed plain and boring when up against a diver or chronograph. If I’m going to spend good money on a watch, I want it to have some visual interest. Fashion watches like MVMT and a $20,000 Patek Calatrava look pretty similar. I guess I’m just a prole.

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KristianG

I think dress watches will always be a side-show compared to sports watches of all varieties. 

For most people these days watches are an aspirational thing, more than a functional tool. Most office workers aspire to be out doing adventurous things, rather than staring at spreadsheets all day, so they wear a watch that makes them feel like they could go diving, or mountain climbing. 

There is also the versatility that a nice sports watch brings to the table. A watch like an Aqua Terra can go from the boardroom to the pool with no issues, so you only need the one watch. Remember that watch collectors are a tiny part of the watch market overall, so we will never drive change in the overall market. 

That’s a great point of view, I haven’t personally looked at my ’tool’ watches like that but it’s most certainly right. 

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As an observation and not being rude but you could do with bigger wrists for that watch. 

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Steveo

As an observation and not being rude but you could do with bigger wrists for that watch. 

Thanks for the kindness! I would love a bigger wrist as this watch is inherited... The emotional meaning makes me care less about the size

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Drivenbywatches

Thanks for the kindness! I would love a bigger wrist as this watch is inherited... The emotional meaning makes me care less about the size

Absolutely, health to enjoy.

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There’s plenty of choices for the person who would like a dress watch. Are they as ’popular’ Among the buying public? Probably not but it also means there’s more to go round. 
They are also a genre which can be found at various price points too. So if a buyer wants one - there’s somethjng to suit their bank balance.

Brands (and especially Microbrands) tend to spot gaps in the market a lot quicker too - so I’m pretty sure that gap would be filled quickly.

Its quite telling that when the Daniel Wellingtons and the MVMTs of this world started selling a lot of watches, the designs they used, were mainly towards the dressier side even though most of their customers were not necessarily the traditionally dressed crowd. They appealed to the more casually dressed millenials. Apologies to any traditionally dressed Millenials out there

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I don't have any sporty watches at the moment, they're all dressy to some extend, nothing fancy like a reverso or tank, but been thinking of getting an Oris rectangular for a fair price, when I get the Oris I intend on making a post here on wearing dress watches casually, the type of clothes I wear and mostly the strap parings, don't think it will have a big impact but who knows.