Making one wristwatch stretch across just about every occasion or activity in your life is a seriously tall order. It’s like wearing the same pair of shoes for everything. Of course, there are those one-watch-only guys who can almost pull it off with a carefully selected timepiece. For the rest of us, we love having choices. A bigger diameter sports watch isn’t exactly ideal for occasions that required fancier duds with cuffs, nor does a thin, non-lumed dress watch work for an active social weekend that goes into the late hours.
Unless you have unlimited funds, it’s just not practical to buy a watch for every specific occasion, but if you do your research and budget well you can certainly build a collection of 3 to 5 watches that can span across a number of activities and settings. We’ve curated a selection of watches that fit well in specific situations based on style, materials, size, and construction. Here are our choices of watches to fit every occasion.
The Best Watches for the Office
A blingy watch at the office could either communicate success or let your co-workers know you’re making way more than they are. You have to toe the line carefully, and you should always err on the side of sensibility with a bit of style. This is where it pays off to choose a watch that’s both subtle and very professional. We suggest one that can go from team meetings to client presentations without skipping a beat.
First Choice: Nomos Metro Neomatik 39
The Metro Neomatik 39 has professional written all over it. It doesn’t scream its style from the rooftops but rather classes things up with its midnight blue dial, thin syringe hands, elegant case, and slim wire lugs. The small seconds subdial might just be the most minimalist we’ve ever seen, and the small red second-hand pops beautifully on an otherwise low-key face. It’s definitely a watch that gets attention in the subtlest of ways.
Runner Up: Tissot PRX Powermatic 80
The PRX might just be one of the best affordable releases in the watch world in some time. The price tag doesn’t rightly add up because you get a beautiful tonneau case with an integrated bracelet, a sophisticated waffle dial, and 80 hours of power reserve. Everyone at the office will wonder what you’re wearing on your wrist, and no one will guess its price.
The Best Watches for Work Travel
Work travel can be a requirement, but it doesn’t have to suck, at least not when it comes to keeping track of time. Even if you’re not jumping more than a couple of time zones, it’s important to make sure your watch is a GMT so you can stay on top of what’s going on back at the home office and at the work location without having to make adjustments. You should be able to look at your wrist and know both at a glance. But you should also remain low on the radar so as not to inform the locals that you have something worth taking.
First Choice: Bell & Ross BR 05 GMT Steel Bracelet
Bell & Ross’s flight instrument-inspired timepieces are certainly a strong case of brand recognition based on shape alone. The BR 05 GMT is equal parts sport and class. The 41mm case isn’t too big to fit under a shirt cuff, and its BR-CAL.352 GMT movement allows for a quick GMT set independently of the hour hand. Super-Luminova lume and the big, bold numerals and markers mean you can read the time(s) on the darkest of flights. The BR 05 GMT’s style also toes the line well between a suit and casual fare, so you’ll only need one timepiece.
Runner Up: Sinn 105 St Sa UTC
The German tool watch company can brag about winning a Red Dot Design award for one of its most recent releases. UTC is Sinn-speak for GMT, and the 105 version is an instant new classic with its black Tegimented (Sinn’s hardening process) 24-hour bi-directional bezel, pill-shaped markers, and big orange arrow GMT hand. The case measures 41mm in diameter by 11.9mm in thickness, so it’s right for most attire and wrists. Other travel-ready features include 200 meters of water resistance, sapphire crystals, anti-magnetism to DIN 8309, low-pressure resistance, and a screw-down crown.
The Best Watches for a First Date
Making a first impression should be done deftly and without communicating, “I own a fancy watch.” Most dates want a guy who is down to earth (just don’t tell them about your other nine watches). It’s best to go with something that’s casual but still classy. Going with a traditional field watch from a microbrand is a solid route to take because it manages to look humble and tough but still handsome. Hopefully, your date thinks of you that way, too.
First Choice: Timor Heritage Field
Timor is by no means a household watch name, they’re making some of the classiest but still low-key field watches around. Wear the Heritage Field on a date, and your date will think it’s mysterious, vintage, and handsome. The 36.5mm diameter is modestly sized, and the vintage lume on the hands and markers, as well as the bead-blasted case finish, make you look like an unpretentious old soul. Choose between hand-wound or automatic Swiss movements.
Runner Up: VAER A5 Heritage Black Automatic
The A5 Heritage might be a thoroughly modern timepiece in terms of materials and quality, but its design harkens to simpler times. The black dial with vintage lume is clean and classic, and the 40mm diameter isn’t too big nor too small. The automatic movement is smooth and reliable, too. You can choose two straps. We’d go with leather for casual dates and the stainless steel bracelet for fancier meet-ups.
The Best Watch for a Night Out
Hanging out with the guys calls for a timepiece that’s tough, bold, and stylish but sporty, whether you’re just going out to your local watering hole, attending a basketball game, or hitting a steak joint for beef and booze. Our tendency is to lean away from dressy watches and more towards a solid mechanical sports watch.
First Choice: Marathon GSAR Automatic
The GSAR is a legend in watch circles. Built according to military specifications, the GSAR is durable, has excellent low-light visibility thanks to self-illuminating tritium, and is crafted in Switzerland for excellent workmanship. The matte black dial and white numerals make for great legibility, and the grippy bezel and crown mean gloved hands aren’t an impediment. A few beer spills won’t even make it blink.
Runner Up: Nodus Sector Pilot Corsair
The Sector Pilot Corsair strikes a great balance between sophisticated and sporty thanks to its brushed and sanded multi-facet dial, friction bezel, tapered onion crown, and the lovely five-link stainless steel bracelet. The Seiko NH35 automatic movement means trusty reliability and the Swiss Super-LumiNova remains visible into the wee hours of the night. There’s no guy outing this watch can’t handle.
The Best Watches for a Job Interview
Look accomplished without boasting. That’s what a good job interview timepiece should pull off. Since you probably need to dress up, even if it’s just a blazer and slacks, pairing them with a watch that’s handsome and cleanly styled is good planning.
First Choice: Longines Master Collection 42mm on Bracelet
There are some fancy touches here, but none of them are over the top. The lovely Serif Arabic numerals on the elegant silver textured “barleycorn” dial are a match made in heaven. The blued hands pop beautifully, too, and it’s all set in a thin 42mm polished stainless steel case. If the interviewer happens to know what you’re wearing, they’ll laud your excellent taste and modesty (at least in their heads, anyway).
Runner Up: Seiko Presage SRPB41
For well under $500, you get a dressy watch that’s both stunning to behold while remaining sensible. The SRPB41’s artful sun-ray patterned pressed gloss finished dial is eye-catching, and it’s set within a 40.5mm case. The slightly tapered onion crown adds even more sophistication, but everything still comes together with far less drama than a Rolex.
The Best Watches for the Weekend
Versatility is the name of the weekend because you can run the gamut of activities. Errands, social events, kids’ soccer games, dinners out. You need a well-made watch that’s not too pricey or delicate. A smaller diameter diver or a field watch that’s robust but still casually stylish is the right approach.
First Choice: Raven Vintage Steel
The new Vintage Steel is sporty, handsome, and right-sized at 39mm. Details like gently curved lugs, the gilt dial and hands, and the red highlights on the bezel and dial make it dramatic without too much fanfare. The lume is excellent, bezel ratcheting is crisp, and the Miyota 9015 is reliable and provides solid timekeeping. cap it off with a boxed sapphire crystal and impeccable build quality. This will stay on your wrist all weekend long and probably well into the week.
Runner Up: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 42mm
The Field Mechanical is an icon for good reason. Its classic dial, numerals, and markers always look good. Swap out the Nato strap after the day’s chores are done, sub in the stainless steel bracelet for dressier duties. The 42mm diameter makes the dial easy to read, and the hand-wound movement is a nod to the Field Mechanical’s illustrious past. From the farmer’s market to the whisky bar, this one is weekend-ready.
The Best Watches for Vacation
It’s definitely a challenge to select a watch that can take you from sightseeing to dining out, hanging out at the beach, and everything in between, especially if you bring only one watch with you. You also don’t want to worry about wearing a prominent luxury brand in a place where you’re tagged as a tourist.
First Choice: Oris Divers Sixty-Five
The Divers Sixty-Five is a bona fide classic, and its slim proportions make it ideal for constant wear on the go. It’s great with shorts and a polo, swim trunks, and even a linen blazer and khakis. The Sixty-Five has Swiss automatic movement, great lume, and sapphire glass that will all hold up well year after year. There are numerous iterations of this 42mm skindiver, but we think the blue dial, black bezel version that communicates both laid back and ready for action the best.
Runner Up: RZE Resolute Supercompressor
You’d be hard-pressed to find a watch that exudes this much fun while remaining ready for anything. The new RZE Resolute Supercompressor’s bold blue dial pops against a white inner bezel ring, and the dual-crowned case looks well-balanced and seriously premium. Features like a mechanical automatic movement, embossed logo crown, super anti-reflective sapphire glass, and Swiss Superluinova belie its price point. Finish things off with a lightweight and ultra-hardened titanium case that’s ready for even the most intense vacation activities.
The Best Watches for Get-Together with Friends & Family
There’s perhaps no better time to let down your guard than with those you love and who love you back. Your timepiece should be similarly chill, but it can still be a conversation starter. Make sure you get one that can handle an impromptu game of football or a dunk in the pool.
First Choice: Laco Squad Atlantik.RB
The Squad Atlantik has fun written all over it with the blue markers, second hand, and matching rubber strap. The bold colors work all year long, as does the Atlantik.RB’s excellent construction and materials. There’s a double-domed AR sapphire crystal on the 42mm stainless steel case, unidirectional rotating bezel, Superluminova lume, and a Swiss mechanical automatic movement.
Runner Up: Mondaine Essence Large Monochrome Deep Ocean Blue
You can wear a fun watch that also happens to be sustainable. Mondaine’s new Essence line makes use of castor oil in the deep blue case, recycled materials and natural cork in the matching strap, and even recycled PET for the pouch. The classic railway face is easy to read, and the quick-release strap makes changeouts a cinch.
The Best Watches for Black Tie Events
Sometimes you’ve got to get really gussied up, whether it’s for a classical concert or a swanky holiday party. You might even need to break out the tux. For such occasions, a slim and swanky watch is the only choice because it has to imbue formal style and fit under that French cuff.
First Choice: Junghans Max Bill Automatic Black Dial
Never has such simple a timepiece looked so damned sophisticated. The Max Bill is modestly sized (38mm), thin (10mm), and timelessly elegant with its ultra-thin hands and markers. The domed plexiglass adds vintage style, as does the simple black leather strap. You can even get the watch retrofitted with sapphire glass if you don’t want to worry about scratches. Whatever you choose, you’ll have one of the classiest watches for the money.
Runner Up: Tissot Visodate Automatic Black Dial
For quite a bit less than a grand, the Visodate Automatic imbues a much higher style quotient than its price communicates. The stunning Dauphine hands are sharp and simple, while the vintage Tissot lettering from the ’50s gives the Visodate the proper re-issue aesthetic. Modern features such as domed sapphire glass and mechanical automatic movement with 38 hours of power reserve ensure longevity. The 400mm diameter and 11.6mm thickness should make it under the cuff clearance requirement.