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  • Dress watch extinction

    I completed the review of a business school paper last year which talked about Kodak being the worlds largest photographic film producer. In essence it talked about the need for the company to reinvent themselves after the near death of conventional film due to the advent of digital cameras. On a similar note we see are seeing the final throes of the the humble letter, the cheque book and keeping it seasonal the Christmas card as well as many other things..

    Much has been made of the the biggest threat to watchmaking since quartz being namely the smart watch however i believe the latter is not so much of a threat than a segue into watches and hopefully for some watch collecting further down the road. That said dress codes are becoming more liberal and relaxed and many don't even wear a shirt and tie let alone a suit these days. Time suggests that the dress down casual style is only going one way. (I don't think you need to even wear a tie in Parliament these days!) and this is almost certainly having an effect.

    In consideration of the above how many would agree that the humble dress watch is perhaps seeing the beginning of the end? Once dress watch giants even Patek seem to be very nautilus and aquanaut focused these days whilst AP and VC have long since made the switch (albeit not fully) Are Lange next and is the dress watch soon to be a rare bird?

  • #2
    Interesting hypothesis! By dress watch, I mean a simple design dial, with hours and minute hands (seconds too, but not necessarily). From a manufacturer's point of view, you don't have to spend resources waterproofing the case to 1000m, so the case design can be less complex. Realistically, they are not the type of watch you go swimming in, as they are generally on a smart leather strap.

    I would not conflate the idea of only wearing a dress watch with certain clothing - there is no reason why a dress watch can't be worn with jeans and a t-shirt. It is down to the wearer. For an example the other way round, I went to a white tie dinner last night and wore the Big Pilot - not exactly a dress watch!.

    When I started work in the City in the 80s, the most commonly worn "luxury" watch was the Rolex Datejust, mainly in stainless, but SS/YG was also represented. The Datejust was nearly the entry level Rolex but it was and is a great daily beater that is equally at home with a suit or a jumper. Not quite a dress watch, but nearly.

    While there is still definitely a place for the £10,000+ precious metal dress watch, there are many "cheap" i.e.sub-£1,000 dress watches available. If you go Asian quartz, you may be looking at £100. Compared to the many sports watches around (which are in the thousands), this is good value and affordable for most watch fans.

    So for various reasons, I believe the dress watch is here to stay.

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    • #3
      I have a rose gold dress watch, a "lowly" B&M Clifton. I wear it occasionally even though I never wear a suit, am retired, and my "social circle" is populated with derelicts, low-lifes, losers and bums, most of whom are of modest means.

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      • #4
        Although I haven't thought deeply about it as a trend, I find my own feelings closely echo your theory. I have thought for some time that the only "hole" in my collection was a good dress watch, and yet whenever the jones hit I found myself with another chrono or diver, with no dress watch even being considered. At this stage in my life and retirement at least on the horizon I see even less need for one, as I doubt my frequency of wearing suits will increase.

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        • #5
          I don't think that they're going extinct. Yes, the proliferation of sports watches certainly seem to dominate the consciousness, but scratch below the surface and there are plenty of genres still plodding along, including dress watches.

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          • #6
            I'm millimeters away from buying the new Seiko presage square face with the enamel dial, I don't wear suits, I just love what they've done with the range, I'm a fan of a dress watch

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            • #7
              I don't think the dress watch is under threat (and don't forget that the DJ remains Rolex's biggest seller by some margin). I just think we're but a microcosm of the watch-buying public and those who inhabit watch forums tend to favour sports watches and divers. No idea why that should be, mind.

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              • #8
                I suspect that what the OP refers to as a "dress watch" is one that would be, in the traditional phrase, "plain, thin and gold", typically on a leather strap. An extension of this would be a complicated watch, latterly with/without metal bracelet.

                However, as already noted above, Rolex blew that paradigm out of the water with the DJ and then DD - solid chunks of metal on metal bracelets, significantly more robust than their "plain, thin and gold" forbears, yet remaining eminently wearable in formal situations.

                Of course, Rolex then did even more to blur the lines, as this ad neatly shows:




                Any excuse to show that advert!

                Anyway...my point being that a dress watch can be defined by what it is not - ie it is not a sports watch.
                (Without wishing to muddy the waters, I treat and wear my PAM90 as a dress watch - it may be big and chunky but I would not trust it to be as robust in most situations as a dainty Lady-DJ.)

                Anyway...(again!)...my reading of Broxi's post is that he is referring (unless he wishes to correct me) to the originally traditional definition of a dress watch - simple, thin, on a leather strap - and so my following points will refer to a watch in that style.

                I disagree that PP are focused on their Aquanaut and Nautilus models - blurring the definition again but, even on a rubber strap, would anyone seriously consider these to be sports watches? Or wear them in that manner? But what I agree that the Holy Trinity are doing is to widen the accessibility of their range - it's all for the bottom line.

                I do agree, though, that dress codes are becoming less formal and the situations where this type of dress watch can be worn are also diminishing. However, I believe that there will always be a place for formality in dress and that's even without taking into account the natural pendulum swings of fashion. In view of that, I suspect that manufacturers at all price points will continue to create pieces to service this market.

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