Dos and Don’ts of Wearing a Watch with a Tux
When it comes to wearing a watch with a tuxedo, style experts are split and for good reason. Some people argue that you should never wear any sort of timepiece since, by design, the tux is a classic, minimalistic look. Others say a watch is totally fine, depending on the event.
The decision to wear a watch is ultimately yours. But if you’re on the fence about it, here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t wear one, why you should, and specific criteria to follow if you do.
Why You Shouldn’t Wear a Watch with a Tuxedo
Let’s start with the reasons why you should never wear a watch with a tuxedo.
The first is that it simply doesn’t look right. A tuxedo is a very simple garment. It’s minimalistic and has very clean, elegant lines. Wearing a watch that peeks out from under your shirt cuff and jacket sleeve can throw your entire look off balance.
The second argument against wearing a watch is etiquette. In the fashion world, there are very specific criteria that can make a man seem more – or less – like a proper gentleman.
When you wear a watch to a black tie wedding or another formal event, you could be signaling to the host that you’re concerned about time. This could easily be construed as an insult. At the very least, the host might interpret it as you having someplace else you’d rather be.
Both of these arguments have valid points, especially since black tie is a very strict, prescriptive dress code. Your attire needs to be right for the occasion, and the last thing you want to do is offend anybody.
Why You Should Wear a Watch with a Tuxedo
The thing is, there’s not just one way to do black tie. There are many formal and semi-formal alternatives such as black tie optional, creative black tie, and even cocktail attire. With all of these variations on the classic dress code, it only makes sense that some people would entertain wearing a watch with a tuxedo.
When it comes to these rule-related style questions, there is one man with all the answers: Alan Flusser.
Flusser wrote the book on men’s style Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. In this book, there’s a specific passage on the topic of adding accessories to a tuxedo. It reads:
“Simplicity should govern the choice of jewelry for formalwear. 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).”
Flusser then goes on to write:
“You might also look for a gold pocket watch and chain. If you choose to wear a wristwatch, remember that the thinner the watch, the more tasteful it is. Black bands are recommended.”
In short, keep things simple and tasteful.
Even the most rule-abiding men who are into style will rarely disagree with Alan Flusser. And, considering Flusser has no aversion to wearing a watch with a tux, it’s perfectly acceptable.
What it comes down to, beyond personal taste, is choosing the right watch.
Choosing the Right Watch
Okay, so you want to wear a watch, but you’re still not entirely sure which to choose. Here’s everything you should know, from the color to the display to the style.
1. Shows time only
Whatever type of watch you wear, it should only display the time. It should have the standard hour and minute hands, and possibly a seconds hand. But it shouldn’t have the day or date on the screen. It also shouldn’t have any chronograph registers.
A time-only watch is the most elegant, simplest expression of a timepiece, making it a natural choice to wear to a black tie event. Along with this, the most dignified option is one that uses Roman numerals rather than numbers.
2. Yellow or rose gold
Just like Flusser said, a gold watch pairs well with a tuxedo. Yellow or rose gold are both elegant options, but so are those with a golden tone. This goes for both wristwatches and pocket watches.
If desired, you can opt for a steel or silver-colored watch with your tux. Just remember that these timepieces won’t quite match the timeless sophistication of a classic tuxedo.
3. Black leather strap
Unless you go with a simple pocket watch with a chain, wear a watch with a thin black leather strap. Chances are, it will stand out less than one with a metal bracelet.
4. Thinner is better
Thinner watches are more tasteful and elegant than thicker ones. A watch that has a wide band or a chunky face will stand out far too much at a black tie event.
5. Pocket watch vs. wristwatch
Both the pocket watch and the wristwatch can work with a tuxedo. However, a pocket watch with a chain is more formal and is more often accepted.
For the wristwatch, it’s a good idea to wear it on your non-dominant hand. That way, when you greet others with the standard handshake, it won’t be glaringly obvious or cause your cuff to ride up.
6. Go simple and subtle
Avoid anything that doesn’t seem to fit the formality of the event. Don’t wear a watch that glows, makes noise, or otherwise stands out. Also, be subtle when taking out a pocket watch or looking at the one on your wrist.
Ultimately, you can wear a watch with a tuxedo if desired. But, like the rest of your ensemble, it should match the rest of your attire well. Choose one that’s simple, elegant, and fits your wrist well without sliding.
When in doubt, particularly if you’re attending a highly formal black tie event, err on the side of caution by going without the watch.