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The Best Dress Watches for Party Season

Feature: Long Read
Words by ROBIN SWITHINBANK

It would take a brave man to declare that, unequivocally, this will be a quote-unquote normal Christmas. But rattle along we do, meaning that party season is suddenly upon us, bringing with it its great expectations – and its attendant dress code conundrums. It’s been a while.

Given recent events, there’s no question that this party season has a novelty about it. And with that comes a fresh appetite for self-expression. It’s easy to forget who you are in a sea of beige athleisurewear and pasta. Rose gold what now?

Others besides me will tackle the head-to-toe dress codes, but no less significant is one’s attitude to party-season wrist-wear. A crushed velvet dinner jacket in a Daniel Craig pink or a buffed pair of Santonis are rapidly undermined by a wristwatch plucked from one’s gym bag.

Rather, now is the moment to embrace something magnificent. Perhaps not a peacock for the ulna – let’s keep this considered – but as bolder colours, patterns and details find their place in our wardrobes once again, so too the dress watch reemerges, decorative plumage intact.

We’re talking precious metals (although not exclusively), high-complications, timeless two and three-handers, and perhaps even something collectible. Take as exhibit A, a rose gold IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar. Powered by one of watchmaking’s finest and most revered movements, it can keep track of the date – leap year convulsions included – for the next 577 party seasons. Its decorative lugs aren’t shy, either.

Almost as complex is Breitling’s Premier Heritage Datora, a cross-generational gentleman’s sort of a watch in red gold, with full calendar and moon phase displays. It may be new this year, but it’s a timeless classic. H. Moser’s approach to such things is always more demure – hiding the perpetual calendar in its Endeavour Perpetual Moon beneath a starry, aventurine dial that’s punctuated by nothing more than a single round aperture for the moon phase.

H. MOSER & CIE, Endeavour Perpetual Moon

H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Moon

As only 50 will be made, it has a certain joyful exclusivity about it, too.

Breitling Premier Heritage Datora

Breitling Premier Heritage Datora

Not that a dressy, party-season watch has to be complicated. Far from it. As a dress-watch rule, thinness and simplicity are advisable. Something like Montblanc’s green and gold Heritage Automatic, a piece with some whip-smart 1950s sass built in, fits the bill. As does A. Lange & Söhne’s pink gold Saxonia Outsize Date, which as a pairing for a tailored black dinner jacket will take some beating.

  • Montblanc Heritage Automatic

    Montblanc Heritage Automatic

  • A. Lange & Söhne

    A. Lange & Söhne, Rose Gold Saxonia Outsize Date

  • Vacheron Constantin, Rose Gold Historiques American 1921

    Vacheron Constantin, Rose Gold Historiques American 1921

Or, you could plump for Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques American 1921, an exquisite sliver of rose gold perfection, its cocked dial redolent of requirements imposed by steering wheel-squeezing 1920s motorists, but now a charming design curio that far transcends its original purpose.

Golds come with a premium, as they should, but steel can still deliver a dressy, even dandyish effect. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Tribute in blue is a steely number that is born to be partnered with a midnight blue dinner jacket. Created in the Art Deco period, the Reverso has a Gatsby-style indulgence about it, even if the rectilinear form has come to epitomise Switzerland’s most orthodox watchmaking traditions.

A brief inspection will reveal that none of the pieces above are explicitly ‘now’. Which is quite deliberate. Because for all that party season encourages us to live in the moment, a high-end dress watch that adds lustre to a special occasion is, and should still be, thought of as an investment – a carefully chosen luxury that becomes a capsule for a lifetime of special memories. But that’s the magic of a luxury mechanical watch. It captures the moment, every time – and for all time.

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