5 classic dress watches that are strictly black tie

Fine and dandy

5 classic dress watches that are strictly black tie
No formal evening ensemble is complete without an elegant timepiece

If you're fortunate enough to receive an invitation to a formal black (or white) tie gala, don't ruin the occasion by showing up with a poorly chosen timepiece, especially when the dress code states: Black tie only. Not everyone is James Bond, so give your Submariner a rest and consider a true dress watch to go with your tux.

Now, what makes a dress watch? Three words: Simple, refined, and elegant. There cannot be a slew of functions overcrowding the dial — nothing more than central seconds or a small seconds sub-dial, not even a date display — and the watch must keep to a moderate case size, ideally no more than 40mm. It should also come in gold or platinum; stainless steel is a tad low-brow while titanium, carbon, and ceramic are categorically ill-suited.

The overall aesthetic should be slightly restrained and patently gracious yet not devoid of luxurious touches and fine detailing. These five maisons balance finesse and simplicity with perfect aplomb:

1. Breguet Classique 7147
This landmark timepiece meets all the requirements of a formal dress watch, and then some. It is also ultra-thin, so it could easily slide under a well-fitting shirt cuff. The characteristic fluted case (in either rose or white gold) adds visual drama, complementing the silvered 18K gold dial that features two kinds of guilloché, traditional Clou de Paris and a cross-weave pattern. Breguet remains one of the few watch firms today still capable of producing hand-guillochage.

Classic dress watches

2. A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin
With nothing more than a pair of hour and minute hands, the hour indexes, and the manufacture's insignia, it's easy to dismiss this classic timepiece as simple or basic — such insolence! Its 5.9mm-tall case in pink or white gold makes it the thinnest Lange watch to date. This 2016 version stands apart from the 2011 original with a subtly reworked dial, slightly elongated baton hour indexes, and a retouched argenté dial in solid silver. And we haven't even gotten around to the case back, through which you'll see the stunning finishes so emblematic of the German manufacture, but that's another story.

Classic dress watches

3. Rolex Cellini Time
The minute track is, arguably, quite superfluous and rather unnecessary but seeing as it doesn't rob this 18K Everose gold watch of its elegance, we'll allow it. Those with a soft spot for the Cellini will be pleased with the new lacquer dial in this 2016 version and grateful that Rolex hadn't taken away its core winning traits: The finely fluted bezel, smooth sensuous lugs, and sharp dauphine hands. Also, have a go at it with a loupe and try not to swoon at those gorgeous facetted hour indexes.

Classic dress watches

4. Hermès Slim d'Hermès Email
At once contemporary and traditional, this watch embodies the true essence of Hermès watchmaking: an intermingling of designers and artisans within the maison's usual tasteful codes. Slim d'Hermès is identified by the 12 unique numerals created by the French graphic designer, Philippe Apeloig, expressly for Hermès. The artisan part may not register instantly, but it's there. Look closely at the dial; it comes with a rich coat of traditional grand feu enamel. The numerals have been transferred in black enamel atop the white enamel dial, before being fired in the kiln.

Classic dress watches

5. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Duo
It's been around for 85 years but we still can't get enough of its timeless aesthetics. Such is the allure of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Its geometric case, those gadroons, the ramrod straight Arabic numerals, and that rectangular minute track all seem impervious to the passage of time. This is the only dress watch that can get away with added functions, namely the second time zone, which is safely stowed away on the second dial. The 2016 model comes in steel or pink gold — make a beeline for the latter if you have the luxury of choice.

Classic dress watches

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