Let’s look at the top 5 watch categories that most men own to give us a starting point first, leaving out wearable tech watches.
Dress Watches – A watch with a plain face, black leather band and the watch only shows hours and minutes is about as formal as one can get.
Diver’s watches – As one can surmise, these watches started off as more utilitarian and now are considered more main stream. The only limitation here is a suit.
Chrono / Sports Watches – Sports watches today are functional and many look almost like dress watches. Sports watches have a lot more gadgets and smart technology.
Pilot or Flyer Watches – These watches have changed over time, as they were originally meant to be worn over the pilot’s jacket and be used while wearing gloves. Although the main features still carry through today in the look and style, with a large face and easy to view design.
Field Watches – It is hard to define a field watch today, but back in the day it meant a watch that could go onto the field of battle with you. Today they follow some of the basic tenets such as easy viewing, tough and durable.
Levels of Formality
Now that we have defined watches by category, we can start to look at what type of watch to wear to each occasion.
Black Tie / White Tie – Only dress watches would match this occasion, anything that is a classic style or has a nice black leather band.
Business Dress/Formal – For here you have a few more options, you can go with a nice dress watch that has a silver or gold color, fewer the complications the better, or a dress watch with a leather band. These are all paired best with a dark suit.
Business Casual – A chrono, pilot or high-end field watch would do the trick. Lighter colors for suits works best here.
Casual – The general rule to remember here is that a metal band means a less formal occasion, whereas a leather band can fit any occasion. You just don’t want to “overdress” with your watch for a casual affair.
Sports – Functional and durable, these are the most important things to remember here. All the watch categories except dress watches are fine, but maybe something lower end depending on the sport. Unless your going rowing, then tea anyone?