Good Question: Can You Wear A Watch With Black Tie?

On wearing a watch with a tuxedo

The question of whether or not you can – or should – wear a watch with black tie attire is a contentious subject. In fact, we’d put it right up there with our infamous (and surprisingly ongoing) socks vs. no socks debate. It’s a great question and one that any men’s style aficionado worth his salt should know how to answer correctly.

However, there are always two sides to every story and it’s worth going over the arguments both for and against wearing a watch with a tuxedo. Let’s start with those who say it’s a sin.

Reasons to not…

There are two popular arguments against wearing a watch with a tuxedo. The first is quite simple: it just doesn’t look right. And to be honest, I think this is a somewhat fair point.

A tuxedo is very simple. It’s minimalistic in its simplicity and clean, elegant lines. I’d be lying if I hadn’t put on my tux and then added a watch and thought to myself, “You know, the watch peeking out from under my cuff just kind of throws the whole thing off balance.”

The second reason given to not wear a watch with a tuxedo is one concerned with etiquette and being a proper gentleman. If you are attending a black tie event, it is being hosted by someone. And wearing a watch signals that you are concerned with the time, which would be construed as an insult to the host. What, do you have somewhere else to be than this fancy party I invited you to?

Also plausible.

Hold on a second, though…

As we have established, black tie attire in its purest form is a pretty strict and fairly prescriptive dress code. There are certain elements that need to be present as well as those you are encouraged to stay away from. In this way, black tie is perhaps one of the ultimate style troll dress codes.

But, as we have seen, there are any number of alternative ways to do black tie. Black tie optional. Black tie creative. Cocktail attire. And a host of other black tie alternatives where a tuxedo is not necessary. So it only makes sense that some would entertain and embrace wearing a watch with a tuxedo.

wearing watch with tuxedo black tie optional

Plus, even though a rule book might say it’s something you shouldn’t do, the fact is that people are doing it. Take a look at some of the best-dressed guys on the red carpet.

And speaking of men’s style rule books, I think it’s apt that we consult Alan Flusser. The following relevant passage comes from Flusser’s seminal volume Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion:

“Simplicity should govern the choice of jewelry for formal wear. Studs and matching cufflinks can be made of plain gold, black enamel, or semi-precious stone. Mother-of-pearl, also handsome, is perhaps more appropriate for white tie. Fine sets of studs and matching cufflinks can be found in antique shops that specialize in old jewelry (the most interesting examples are those made between 1890 and 1930). You might also look for a gold pocket watch and chain…”

Here’s the money shot:

…If you choose to wear a wristwatch, remember that the thinner the watch, the more tasteful it is. Black bands are recommended.

And there you have it from the man who literally wrote the book on men’s style. You’ll notice that Flusser doesn’t seem to have any sort aversion to wearing a watch with a tuxedo whatsoever, and in fact, offers some guidance on how to do it.

So, what is correct?

In all matters in which the rules of style are invoked, we here at HSS turn to the one rule that we personally know to always be true. It’s our golden rule of style. And that rule is:

If it looks right, it is right.

You can know the rules better than anyone. You can read more books on men’s style than everyone else. But book smarts don’t always translate into real world successes. There’s something to be said about “going by feel” instead of making a decision based on what you’ve been told you “should” or “shouldn’t” do.

Best watches to wear with a tuxedo

Now that we’ve established that it is acceptable to wear a watch with a tuxedo – if that happens to be your prerogative – let’s talk about some of the absolute best watches to wear with that tux. Here are five of our favorites.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin

wearing watch with tuxedo black tie

Cartier Tank

wearing watch with tuxedo black tie

Piaget Altiplano Chronograph

wearing watch with tuxedo black tie

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony

wearing watch with tuxedo black tie

Patek Philippe Calatrava

wearing watch with tuxedo black tie

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

A. Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin photos via HODINKEE

Recommended

Chime In