The Three Watches Every Man Should Own

By Adam Hurly
21 August 2018
Sure, a collection is a mighty thing, but when it comes down to it, there are only three types of watch every one of us needs to have.

Everyone knows the do-re-mi of desirable watches: a "tool" watch of some higher order: ideally a Fifties-birthed beauty still sailing – or soaring – on 60 years after its debut. Then one needs a perfect dress watch, perfection being achieved when the number hands is precisely twice the number of dials, as anything that might count as decoration here can be consigned to the "unnecessary baggage" department. Finally, a watch that can go from beach to bar without raising an eyebrow or eliciting the unsolicited interest of those who take an inordinate shine to other people's belongings. This will likely lie at the more affordable end of the spectrum but should never appear déclassé to a fellow watch enthusiast.

The degree of separation between all three really depends on the personal requirements of the wearer (after all, a croupier might regard an elegant dress watch his "tool" watch), and – inevitably – budget. But some stalwarts do stand out. Here, then, are three picks for each, and if these don't satisfy, well there's always the GQ Watch Guide 2018.

The tool watch

Tudor Heritage Black Bay, approx. $3384, Rolex Milgauss, approx. $7186, Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Chronograph, approx. $4427,

Variants on the basic improvements made to wristwatches during the early part of the last century tend to be of the complex, mechanical variety, meaning anything that is dust and/or waterproof and comes fitted with a self-winding movement if mechanical (which it should be) could potentially be described as a "tool" watch. However, today, the term is more strictly applied to a set of aesthetic considerations driven by a desire for overall robustness - achieving along the a genuine sense of "horological heft". Such watches may also come with one or more "tools" - or complications in watch-making parlance - but whether these are ever usefully deployed is another matter.

Dress watch

Above, from left: Rado Ceramica Quartz L, approx. $1969, Patek Philippe Ref. 5196G small seconds, approx. $21,682, Cartier Tank Solo, approx. $2882, 

Released of its need to serve its master in a variety of guises (and quite possibly less than convivial circumstances) the dress watch is required to dazzle in the least flamboyant manner imaginable. Which means, inevitably, that it's all about the details, including the choice of metal used in the case and, if fitted, bracelet as well as the overall elegance of its design. It's the latter consideration that generall denotes a quality "dress watch" and will broadly follow the history of watch design itself: round, gold, high-gloss black leather strap; square or rectangular steel or white gold on patent leather strap or matching bracelet, or some modernist trope thereof.

Beach/Bar watch

Above, from left: Hamilton Khaki Field Auto 38mm approx. $502, Nomos Orion White, approx. $2060, Mens Movado Edge Watch, approx. $449,

Assuming for the purposes of this article you have a functional computational device for use whilst riding, sailing, running and the like, the true "weekend timepiece" need only show a hint of horological know-how, wrapped up in an insouciant approach to watch ownership: it can be playful and even a little pretentious (a little, mind), but it shouldn't cast a shadow over the belief that, back home, lies a veritable army of more aspirational wrist candy. In this guise, plucking something from the growing number of Scandi-inspired watches is relatively easy. Alternatively, stay true to the idea that all great designs have their day and experiment with one or other "outlier".