If there’s one fashion accessory that men continue to underrate, it’s the wristwatch. After all, watches are designed to be both functional and stylish in equal measure, whilst they’re also the only accessory that men wear each and every day.
Whilst some men collect different watches and rotate them according to the clothes that they’re wearing and how they intend to spend their time, however, many any of us have a single timepiece that we sport for work, play and everything in-between.
Despite this, there are many different types of watches available on the consumer market, each of which boasts a distinct style and a variable range of functions. Understanding these watches and the differences between them can help you to make informed decisions as a consumer, whilst also enabling you to build a collection that suits every conceivable purpose.
So, here’s a breakdown of the most essential watch types and the features that make them so popular!
The Tool Watch
We’ve seen numerous design improvements in wristwatches over the course of the last century, the vast majority of which has focused on functionality and enhanced mechanics.
These advancements have helped to revolutionise the so-called ‘tool’ watch, which was a term historically used to describe timepieces that could also help users to accomplish specific tasks. The classic divers’ watch offers a relevant case in point, with a rotatable bezel and high resistance to pressure specifically designed for underwater usage.
The definition has evolved over time, however, with tool watches now including timepieces that are robust, accurate and typically available at a competitive price point. Arguably, any timepiece that claims to be dust and waterproof may be classed as a tool watch in the modern age, which is why the genre is one of the largest on the market.
However, the best tool watches typically combine durable design with specific and highly functional features, creating a genuine sense of horological heft that appeals to timepiece connoisseur. These models typically come at a price premium too, from the Tudor Heritage Black Bay (£2,630) watch to the Rolex Milgauss (£6,050).
Then there’s the £4,000 Speedmaster Moonwatch from Omega, which has been part of all six lunar missions and endorsed by NASA as the first watch on the moon!
It also features a tachymeter scale and water resistance to 50 metres, creating the type of specific functionality and justifies the hefty price tag!
The Dress Watch
Next up is the single most well-known and iconic type of timepiece, with the dress watch boasting a simple purpose that simplifies the decision-making process for consumers.
More specifically, the dress watch is released of its need to tick various boxes in terms of functionality, as it simply needs to dazzle whilst also complimenting your chosen outfit.
In this respect, the devil lies in the detail when selecting a dress watch, with your choice of metal for the case and bracelet (if applicable) central to the overall design.
Classic dress watches tend to feature gold, silver, stainless steel or black leather straps, although they may feature round or rectangular dials complete with sapphire crystal lenses and other precious stones in some instances.
Regardless of their exact design, however, the best and most popular dress watches tend to boast a sleek and minimalist look that’s heavy on detail.
Take the iconic Jaeger LeCoultre Master, for example, which debuted 25 years ago and is also renowned for its accuracy and durability. It’s also ultra-thin and combines a black leather strap with a stunning, stainless steel case, whilst there’s expert finishing on the JLC Caliber 896 and the radiant dial.
Most modern dress watches have retained this type of sleek and minimalist aesthetic, although we’ve also seen some manufacturers experiment with different materials in recent times. The Rado Ceramic is made using high-tech ceramic, for example, whilst maintaining a striking linear shape and classic, black-gold dial.
Dress watches of this type are not only long-lasting, but they also boast a stylish and versatile look that compatible with most types of smart and smart-casual attire.
The Beach, Bar or Weekend Watch
Whilst tool watches offer benefits for everyday use and dress timepieces are ideal for elegant or special occasions, you may also need an alternative for instances that fall between these two extremes.
This is where the so-called ‘weekend watch’ comes into play, as this can combine both colour and playfulness (and maybe even a little pretentiousness) in a way that perfectly compliments a host of casual outfits.
These timepieces are typically cheaper than both tool and dress watches, as they tend to lack horological depth and are manufactured using less costly materials. Take the Men’s Movado Edge Watch, for example, which costs an average of £349 and combines analogue functionality with black, Ion-plated steel.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Auto watch offers another and similarly priced weekend watch, as this features a classic, round dial that can be accompanied with a number of diverse straps.
From stainless steel bracelets to green and brown textile straps, these timepieces can be chosen to suit different weekend outfits and introduce subtle hints of colour to any casual look.
As we can see, these watches are indicative of a genre that’s particularly diverse and versatile, with various models available whether you’re planning a hedonistic night on the town with your friends or visiting the local waterpark with your family.
The key to any popular weekend watch is its sense of casualty, which must reflect both the relaxed pace of the weekend and the sheer adventure of a fun night out!
The Aviator Watch
Now for the aviator timepiece, which is arguably the most progressive type of watch and one that’s incredibly hard to define.
In truth, there isn’t one single style that defines an aviator watch, and this is in keeping with the visionary nature of the aviation industry and the strong emphasis that’s placed on innovation and technological advancement.
However, there are at least some design principles that typically appear on aviator watches. Most models feature a sleek black face and a chronograph feature, for example, whilst also boasting luminous numerals on the dial.
If there’s one universal trend that tends to define aviation watches, however, it’s that designers tend to place an emphasis on them being easy to read at a glance.
The reason for this is as simple as it is obvious; as the earliest aviation timepieces were worn by fighter pilots and had to be readable under low-light conditions and often difficult circumstances.
Later aviation watches also featured specific, flight-related functions, whilst modern timepieces in this genre combine face numerals with both outer and inner dials.
At the same time, contemporary aviation watches are available in a wide range of colours and materials, as they have gradually emerged as a popular statement piece in male fashion.
As a general rule, these watches combine elements of both tool and outdoor timepieces, thanks primarily to their robustness, functionality and underlying ease of use.
Outdoor (or Field) Watches
Last, but not least, we come to the much-maligned outdoor watch, which is often perceived as being a cumbersome and heavy timepiece that’s aesthetically unpleasing.
There may have been some truth to this in the past, particularly as the first timepieces in this genre were classified as field watches and made primarily for warfare.
This led to the design and development of large and rugged watches, which were durable and usually featured a stainless steel case. They were also unsightly and worn for purely practical purposes during the heat of battle.
Contemporary outdoor watches have evolved considerably, however, to the point where they now combine ruggedness and reliability with unparalleled functionality and an innate sense of style.
No single outdoor timepiece embodies this better than the market-leading Garmin Fenix 5, which features a sleek black wristband and a stainless steel case. The bezel and buttons are also made from stainless steel, creating a beautiful black and silver contrast that’s genuinely eye-catching.
From here, it combines a dazzling selection of features that’s almost too long to list, from advanced Smart Heart Rate technology and evolved performance metrics to tools that measure your running speed.
This timepiece also combines the very best elements of the world’s leading smartwatches, making it the ideal accessory when attempting any type of outdoor challenge.
Interestingly, the model also highlights the way in which outdoor timepieces have evolved since the emergence of the smartwatch. More specifically, it features a number of different coloured wristbands, enabling you to tailor your look from one day to the next.
The Last Word
There are the five most popular types of timepieces on the market, and in an ideal world, you should have one of each included as part of a carefully cultivated selection.
If you’re like most of us and can only afford to invest in one or two high-quality watches, however, we’d recommend prioritising durable and versatile timepieces that tick a number of alternative boxes.
Regardless, the key is to understand the various types of watches available and their core features, before deciding which genre and specific model is best-placed to meet your needs.