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How does the saying go? You never get a second chance to make a first impression and a successful appearance hinges on your outfit. Especially for men and particularly in Germany, the wristwatch plays an immensely important role. With this in mind we have put together a few tips on how you can navigate the fine line between style icon and fashion faux pas in order to stand out, and also clarify the question of which watch goes with which outfit.

How to combine a wristwatch with your outfit

Alan Flusser, perhaps the most renowned author in men's fashion, only briefly covers the subject of wristwatches in his bestseller “Dressing The Man: Mastering The Art of Permanent Fashion”. He advises that men should wear slim, subtle watches, preferably with a black strap. In theory, this is a nice approach, but in reality, due to the wide range of watch types, it is a little too restrictive, so we will take the liberty of expanding on this a little. As Bernhard Roetzel has already detailed in his standard work on classic men's fashion “The Gentleman”, a glance at someone else's wristwatch instantly reveals a great deal about their income, taste and personality. But style isn’t necessarily about money. Nevertheless, the right luxury watch can add a significant touch of chic and class to any outfit. But first of all, there are some basic rules to keep in mind for wearing wristwatches.

Rolex Datejust 116200 steel watch with black dial inside a black marble tray next to silver cufflinks

3 basic rules for wearing wristwatches

  1. The watch must match the outfit and not the other way round! Regardless of the occasion, a watch should always be seen as an accessory and never as the main piece that you style your outfit around. Therefore, make sure that the watch goes well with other accessories such as the tie, pocket handkerchief or rings. A yellow gold watch paired with silver rings, for example, is an absolute no-no. When it comes to men's accessories you can remember the golden rule of thumb that the leathers and metals in your outfit should always match.

  2. Wear your watch correctly! The watch sits just above the cuff at wrist level. Men should wear the watch so it is tight-fitting, while women can wear it a little looser. Men should leave around enough room for their little finger to fit between the bracelet and their wrist. However, you should avoid wearing loose-fitting watches that jump around on your wrists or slip out beyond the sleeves of your suit. You can read how to find the right watch size for you here.

  3. Wear the watch on the correct wrist! As a general rule, you always wear your watch on your weaker side. Because this arm is less active, it means you aren’t always waving your watch around in front of the people you are talking to. For right-handed people, the left arm is generally seen as the weaker arm. Left-handed people should therefore wear their watch on their right wrist, as this is used less frequently in everyday life and is thus in the way less often. But as is so often the case here: there are exceptions to the rule and in the end, everyone can make their own choice based on their personal preferences.

Rolex GMT-Master II 116710LN watch on the wrist of a man in a suit

Which type of watch goes with which outfit?

Unfortunately, there are no general rules for the colour, shape and material of the watch that can be applied to every dress style. These factors usually depend on your outfit and on the occasion in particular. With this in mind, we have a few recommendations for you as to which wristwatch is suitable for when, where and works particularly well with certain outfits.

  • Sports watches such as the Rolex Submariner, TAG Heuer Carrera or Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra on stainless steel bracelets are real all-rounders, which are considered casual to business formal and can be worn in almost any situation. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see them being paired with a suit. So if you only want to buy one watch to suit every occasion, the best thing to do is to buy one of these solid classics.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial Master Chronometer watch next to notebook and ballpen

  • For the office and the business formal look, we highly recommend wearing a subtle but high-quality dresswatch. Classics such as the Cartier Tank Solo or Longines Master Collection can be worn with a suit and tie or with ladies’ suit. Be careful not to attract unwanted attention with your watch and keep the art of understatement in mind. In this instance, less is definitely more.

  • Specific watch types like pilot's watches or military watches that are very much tailored to the needs of the respective profession are best suited to outdoor events such as hikes, expeditions or hunting. A Panerai Luminor Marina or Breitling Navitimer will give your outfit charismatic character, but should always be paired carefully with a suit, as they can quickly look out of place with more formal outfits.

  • In warm weather, when sporting shorts and a linen shirt, for example, it is best to avoid wearing a timepiece with a leather strap, as increased sweating will quickly damage leather and ruin it. The same goes for gym visits. In warm weather and during sports activities, watches with a metal bracelet or rubber strap like the Patek Philippe Aquanaut models, have a real advantage, because even venturing in and out of the water is no problem for these watches. Even with a Nato wristband, the water isn't usually an issue, as the material dries quickly and can be cleaned if necessary. For more inspiration, you can also check out our selection of summer watches. Particularly in recent years, Nato wristbands have established themselves as a fantastic summer alternatives thanks to their affordable prices, the huge choice of colours on offer and their excellent durability.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M steel watch under water

  • For casual evenings among friends in jeans, trainers and a polo shirt, you can ultimately choose what you want to wear. But be a little cautious with precious metals and gemstones – you don't have to show off your fancier timepieces to your friends. Stainless steel models such as the Rolex GMT-Master II or the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch still say a lot about what your income, but they are a little more reserved than models with diamonds or solid gold.

  • In the case of a date, especially on a first date, the assumption is, of course, obvious that you want to impress the other person with an expensive watch. However, you should approach this with caution, because a watch that is too conspicuous can distract your date from the actual outing and be perceived as ostentatious. So for a date of any kind, choose a watch that you personally consider stylish and elegant and not necessarily the most expensive and extravagant model. This type of watch gives you self-confidence and might just attract the attention of your date. For a first date, we recommend models such as the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph or the Rolex Cellini.

Choosing the right watch for formal events

Naturally, dress sense and styling are always ultimately a question of personal taste and have to contend with our own subjective perception. Therefore, all of the following points are only guidelines that are the topic of heated discussions within the watch and style community and can lead to lengthy arguments. The question of the right wristwatch for a celebratory dress code is often a discussion that goes back and forth. Traditionalists make and seek to justify extensive rules, which in turn are regularly bent and broken in practice, only for them to be strictly interpreted again afterwards.

Which type of watch is suitable for Black Tie Events and with a tuxedo?

Black Tie Events, i.e. an event with celebratory evening wear, are a special case and the question of whether you should wear a watch at all with a tuxedo and evening gown often comes up. The etiquette argument is that by wearing a watch you would insult your host because are casually suggesting that you have to be in other places and need to keep an eye on the time. In the age of smartphones, this argument is certainly appropriate, but in relation to wristwatches, it is fairly dated. Others argue that the combination of a tuxedo and a wristwatch simply does not look good. But if you look at the pictures of classic movie stars like Fred Astaire and new style icons like Daniel Craig as James Bond you can quickly be convinced otherwise. They prove that wristwatches are a perfect match for celebratory evening wear and perfectly round off an elegant look.

In the end, the decision is yours. If you don't have the perfect dresswatch for a Black Tie Event, it’s better not to wear one altogether. Also complications or timepieces with other features that make them stand out should be avoided at this type of event. If you are attending a White Tie Event, such as an opera ball, then you should forgo a dresswatch and do without a wristwatch altogether. This type of event requires the most formal and elegant dress code: women should wear a floor-length evening gown and men should wear tailcoat suits with white bow ties. With this type of dress, you should only ever carry a pocket watch if anything.