Pairing your watch with your suit is the hottest thing since pairing your sea bass with your Sauvignon, or your puppy with your Instagram posts. No longer do we submit to wear watches merely to tell time (though, really, they’re still very good at that), but we wear watches to make a fashion statement and a personal style statement, too. Put together with a suit in immaculate combination, and you will undeniably be the best dressed man in the room, without even having to go by the name of King Karl, Pharrell, or Jake Gyllenhaal. A great watch and suit pairing can truly, madly, deeply, make or break an outfit, and luckily, we know just how to help you achieve this. Read ahead for our five fundamental rules, and see some of the most sleek and snazzy combinations below.
In our opinion, the band is most important, as it is larger, but is also easier to change and adapt to your look, too. That being said, you’re going to want to match other metals to your case (silver belt or cufflinks with silver case) as this can give more fluidity to your look.
While a dress watch is definitely more appropriate at formal events, it can also pull together your look for more casual occasions. Thereby, perhaps even more so than sports or dive watches, you could wear a dress watch everyday if you wanted to.
Can you wear a chronograph with a suit?
You can absolutely wear a chronograph with a suit. In fact, we think it’s a really, really good look.
How do you match your watch style to your clothes?
Match them by occasion, colour, and size.
Rule Number One: The name of the game is occasion
Sleek sartorialists will know: you will never be over- or underdressed so long as you dress to the occasion. The same way you’d pick a suit to wear to that charity gala dinner, yacht party, or business lunch, you want to pick a watch that is equally fit for the event.
Along the same tangent, the laws for timepieces are relatively simple. As a general rule of thumb, the more formal the event, the less complicated you’ll want your watch to be. Black Tie functions call for tuxedos and dress watches, which can also be applicable to more formal business settings and elegant dinner affairs. Metal straps are generally seen as less formal, whereas a black (and at times grey, brown, or navy blue) leather strap is commonly the most appropriate. Keep the dial clear of any big and bold additions, and stick to minimal colour schemes. For formal occasions, think: wear the kind of suit you’d wear on your wedding day, and pair with a watch you’d be proud to take home to Mum.
The more you loosen up your shirt for more casual and leisurely events, the more you can widen the variety of watch styles you wear. Leather or rubber straps can take on more colour, whilst dials can feature chronographs, complications, or creative artistry. We’re firm believers in that there is such a thing as a ‘weekend watch’, and it’s the exciting space where sports, dive, or aviation watches show up to play – even if you’re not sporting, diving, or flying a plane. Frequent travellers should definitely look into wearing a world timer watch, and for those heading on a candlelit dinner date, up the romance with a moon phase. For less formal occasions, think: no tie and a couple of shirt buttons open (or eliminate completely and replace with a t-shirt or polo), and pair with a watch that writes poetry, likes to party, and seeks adventure.
Rule Number Two: Matchmaking will colour your world
The next phase in pairing your watch with your suit is getting the colours right. As with any accessory, you want your watch to complement the colour of your clothing, and not awkwardly clash. There are a number of tricks to help you achieve this.
The easiest way is to go down the monotone path. Wear an all-black (or white, or navy, or whatever shade you fancy) suit, and pair with a watch in the same colour. This is especially fun if you go for a suit that sports a less traditional hue, like maroon or army green. It’s also a cool chance to pair with a timepiece that may attract a lot of attention, like a tourbillon watch, as the uniformity of the suit colour can really make the watch stand out in sweet style.
Another way to keep a fluid colour scheme is to head a little south for inspiration. What colour are your belt and shoes? Go for a timepiece with a strap or dial in the same (or similar) colour, and your outfit will always look well put together. Of course, you could also go for complementing colours. Navy blue and brown leather are a classic combination, whilst dark black and brown leather are definitely a no-go. Opt for metals of the same colour for greater fluidity, and if you want to go the extra mile, try to match the colours of your cufflinks to your watch, too. You’ll receive plenty of approving nods.
Rule Number Three: Size does matter
You can’t fight us on this. The size of both your wrist and your watch matters, and it matters big time. Have you a large wrist and wear you a watch that is too small, and you could throw off your proportions. Have you a thin wrist and wear you a watch that is too large, and you could risk looking a little sloppy. Ensure you pick a watch that fits your frame, but ensure you pick a watch that fits with your suit, too.
Generally speaking, thinner watches are best paired with more formal suits and tuxedos, as they need to fit well and smoothly glide on and off a suit jacket. Bigger and bulkier timepieces should be reserved for those occasions where your sleeves are rolled up, or your jacket provides the relevant breathing space. Do you know what they say about the guy whose blazer gets stuck on the push buttons of his 45mm complication watch every time he takes it off? Probably not good stuff.
Rule Number Four: Straps are your friend
Dials tend to get the most attention, but a strap can be a vital companion when pairing your watch with your suit. If your belt buckle or accessories are made of metal, go for a strap that is the same colour metal. If your shoes are made of black leather, aim for a watch that has a black leather strap. This rule is a relatively simple one, but that doesn’t make it boring. You could also match a fun strap to a fun coloured sock or pocket square, and you can always set the tone for the occasion if you’ve got a timeless watch with interchangeable straps. As a fool-proof guide, glossy and thin leather bands are best for formal occasions, and worn-in leather or rubber straps are more suited to leisurely occasions.
Rule Number Five: Don’t be afraid to pull a James Bond
Here’s a rule that interestingly always causes a bit of a division in the watch enthusiasts’ world: sports watches with suits. Whilst we agree that the place and time for a sports watch is far from a Black Tie event, it’s always refreshing to switch things up a little, especially in the name of James Bond. The infamous British secret agent is known for pairing a dive watch with a tuxedo (after all, adventure could be lurking at any corner), and what at first caused a few maddened gasps, has actually transformed to become kind of cool.
In keeping with the rising millennial trend of wearing sneakers with suits, and t-shirts under suits, definitely spare this look for smart casual affairs, but definitely don’t shy away from it either. The underlying whisper here is that you want the way you pair your watch and suit to be a reflection of your personal taste – and if you’re a bit of a 007 man, there’s no need to hide it. By the end of the day, where your suit is a bold expression of style, your watch is a more intimate extension of your character. Some days you may be velvet bowtie Calatrava guy, and other days you may be pin-stripe Speedmaster man. Whichever way you pair it, always own it. Sartorial mission of style: complete.
Good shoes are important and a sleek blazer is a god-send, but a watch on your wrist to match all of these elements in a perfect symphony of style? Drop-your-jaws handsome and boggle-your-brain essential.
This article first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Bangkok.