Our focus for this week’s Throwback Sundays is on dress watches. These timepieces may look simple, but do not let that fool you. Our choices from the archives today are not based on aesthetics alone, but also on the quality and finishing of the product. We enjoyed making this selection, we trust you will too.
What makes a dress watch? And how does it become extraordinary? In dealing with the classical gentleman’s wear, we are thinking of a slim wristwatch which can go well with a suit. For the ladies, it would generally be a jewelled watch to go with a cocktail dress or an elegant evening gown. We will focus on dress watches for the gentleman. So typically, it will mean a three hand watch in a slim case – telling the time only in hours, minutes and seconds. And no other complications. Not a power reserve indicator, or even a date. Usually in a precious metal like gold or platinum, and sometimes perhaps occasionally in steel, but rarely titanium and never plastic or ceramic. What makes it outstanding? Well as we always say, attention to details in design and execution. In other words, quality and finishing. The six watches that we are featuring today exhibit a certain level of pedigree and workmanship that make them worthy of some recognition.
Our first selection for this article is the A. Lange and Söhne 1815. The 1815 is perhaps one of the simplest pieces from the Glashütte-based watchmaker, but it is definitely no slouch.
The 1815 is based on the original pocket watches from Lange’s inspired and storied past. In an article that we covered earlier, we have highlighted that the 1815 is now sized at 38.5mm. They bucked the trend of ever increasing watch cases by reducing the size of their wristwatches. We welcome this decision, and feel the watch is beautifully sized as a discreet and subtle dress watch.
Lange’s philosophy regarding their watches ensures that the least expensive in their collection gets the same level of attention to detail and care in finishing that adorns their most expensive. And the 1815 carries this philosophy with pride. Every detail is taken care of Nothing is spared from the finishing and execution. In our opinion, A. Lange and Söhne is an excellent alternative to the traditional “Holy Trinity” of watches, viz Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet.
L.U. Chopard Qualité Fleurier
When it comes to dress watches, a brand that is sometimes overlooked is L.U. Chopard. What a real pity! Chopard, with their LUC division manufactures some of the most beautifully movements and wonderful dress watches. We also think they have priced their collection rather nicely.
The L.U.Chopard Qualité Fleurier is perhaps the flagship model of the brand. It is one of the few watches that were awarded the “FQF, La Haute Horlogerie certifiée”, a certification that is probably the most stringent than any certification process in the watch world. Certainly, it is much more rigorous than the ubiquitious COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) certification. Look up on our article on the “FQF, La Haute Horlogerie certifiée” here.
What we like about the L.U. Chopard Qualité Fleurier is obviously its attention to detail. The timepiece is finished immaculately, and the movement is extremely robust and accurate. We also love the design of the lugs, as well as the contrast between the rose gold case and the sunray satin-brushed silver dial. Overall, this is an exceptional watch, and we highly recommend it to those who prioritize finishing and accuracy more than anything else.
There are certainly many nice dress pieces in the horological world, and then there is Peter Speake-Marin. The Piccadilly series is one of Peter Speake-Marin’s first creations, and what we have here is a simple variant from the iconic collection.
This particular Resilience in the classic Piccadilly is absolutely gorgeous. We love its simple and clean design and elegance on the grand feu enamel dial. In an attempt to add more flavors to the timepiece, Peter Speake-Marin actually incorporated a nice case design and one unique pair of hands for the watch. The end result is interesting: it remains elegant, but yet it adds some flavor and uniqueness into this timepiece. We have a photo essay on this magnificent watch here.
The Resillience series is available in both 38mm and 42mm cases in red gold. A 38mm case is also offered in steel. Both are outstanding.
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso 1948 Ultra Thin
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is an icon, and it is one of the watches that any watch collector worth their salt should have in his or her collection. It is an elegant and dressy timepiece, without being too boring or bland. In fact, it is the reversible case that makes this watch very conversational.
This particular Reverso, the 1948 Ultra Thin, is actually one of the nicest pieces from the Reverso collection. We like the contrast between the white dial and the blue hands/ indices. It gives the watch a pleasant vibe, without being too deviant. We also think that the thickness (7.2mm) and the dimensions make the watch very subtle and graceful.
Overall, this watch is perfect for any gentlemen who want a nicely manufactured timepiece. It is very alluring and sophisticated. More importantly, the Reverso features an iconic and timeless design that will not go out of fashion in the next few decades. For more information on this limited edition piece, you may wish to take a look at our article here.
Zenith Elite 6150
Perhaps the most iconic piece watch from Zenith is the El Primero series. But their Elite series is also pretty remarkable and value-for-money.
The Zenith Elite 6150 is one of the latest novelties from BaselWorld 2015. For starters, it looks really simple and subtle, but do not let that fool you. The Elite 6150 is actually features two barrels to give the watch a power reserve of around 100 hours. It is remarkable, considering that the movement is only 4mm thick. As for the finishing, the Elite 6150 is pretty decent. Full details on this piece on our review.
The Zenith Elite 6150 is worth considering if one wishes to look for an affordable and luxurious dress piece. In its own league, there are not many watches out there that offer the same quality and refinement at that price level.
Philippe Dufour Simplicity
When it comes to dress watches, there is definitely a famed watchmaker that we have to include in this list. It is none other than the effervescent Philippe Dufour, the master watchmaker from Switzerland.
In the world of horology, Philippe Dufour watches are definitely on the “grail” list of many collectors. For many people, Philippe Dufour’s is considered one of the greatest watchmaker in the industry. In terms of finishing, we would dare say that very few watchmakers can achieve what this man had managed to accomplish.
The Simplicity is perhaps the best testament to that statement. Even though it is a simple three-hand watch, but no expense is spared in the decorations and finishing of the timepiece. Everything was done perfectly, with utmost care and attention to detail. One example would be the bridge, in which it features many intricately fashioned inward and outward curves and points.
We are big fans of Philippe, and have written numerous articles on him and his watches. Here is an example, but we have covered his Grande Sonnerie, and his Duality in addition to the Simplicity in some detail. He is currently not taking orders for watches, and pre-owned pieces are not easy to find, as most owners treasure their piece. But we feel a survey of dress watches would not be complete in the Simplicity which we feel is perhaps the ultimate dress watch.
After going through many dress watches, there can only be one conclusion: they are certainly not boring. Of course, on the surface, it may look plain and simple. But sometimes simple is the most difficult. Clare Booth Law is known to say, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. So it is with watches.
For a watch so simple as a dress watch, sans complications, to shine, the manufacturer need to ensure that all his Ts are crossed and Is dotted. We are interested in the design consideration as well as fine details and the finishing. That is a testament to a watchmaker’s skill, and the amount of effort that a watchmaker actually puts into when they are manufacturing and designing the timepiece.
There should be a dressy three-hand watch in every person’s collection. It may not be something that is expensive, but it should certainly be classy and subtle enough to pair with a suit. For those who are more adventurous, you may also want to take a look at vintage dress watches, but that is a whole new ballgame out of reach of this article. Perhaps another.