Introduction to Watch Styles

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Dress Watches

If you’re new to watchmaking, the type of watch you will likely be most intuitively associated with is the "dress watch." In many cases, this type of watch is the effective archetype of what watches _should _look like. Typical characteristics of dress watches include white dials with a classical typeface like Roman or Arabic numerals, slim line cases with a high polished finish, a leather strap, and smaller diameters. Many modern dress watches are enormous by traditional standards due to the added technology inside them, but they should still be easy to identify using these simple criteria. For good examples of brands that produce excellent dress watches, check out A. Lange & Söhne, Frederique Constant, and Cartier on

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Sports Watches

The sports watch first emerged in the 1950s with the launch of the Rolex Explorer and Omega Speedmaster, watches that are still around today. However, the sports watch first grew to widespread prominence in the 1970s, with the popularity of watches like the Rolex Daytona and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. In particular, the 1969 development of the Zenith El Primero (a famously high-speed movement) ushered in a decade of explosive development for sports watches, and many modern design reference this era because of it.

Common features in a sports watch are an increased size and weight for durability, high contrast and easy-to-read dials, and brighter, bolder colors. Sports watches also tend to have higher operating speeds, meaning the balance wheel responsible for the timekeeping of the watch moves backwards and forwards more quickly. The faster a balance wheel moves, the better it can ride out the impacts and shocks common in sports activities. 

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Dive Watches

Dive watches are designed with the requirements of professional divers in mind. While this is a specialized sport, the resulting watches are very visually appealing and the charm of their intended use consistently sees them ranked highly in the minds of watch lovers.

In order for a watch to be officially certified as a dive watch it must pass the ISO6425 test. Qualifications for this test include water resistance up to at least 100 meters, a luminous running indicator, a unidirectional timing bezel, be visible in the dark from 25cm, and be marked with either Diver's Watch ###M or Diver's ###M. The watch must also be resistant to magnetic fields, shock, salinity, and attachments to an external force. 

Two of the most famous dive watches are the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster. Both styles have existed since the 1950s, with Rolex's roots dating back to 1926 when it released its first water resistant oyster case. Both watches are still popular today, with many examples of the both the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster (and their many variations), available on

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Pilot Watches

Legend tells us that the very first commercial wristwatch was inspired by the needs of a pilot. These watches are easily distinguished by their large cases and plain, uncluttered dials (often black in color). Pilot watches are very popular today, not just because of their significance in major military operations in history (especially WWI and WWII), but also because of their ease of use and honest design that speaks to consumers from many different walks of life. Perhaps the most famous producers of Pilot watches are IWC and Zenith, both of which are available on

GMT Watches

A GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) watch is a watch able to show time in multiple time zones simultaneously (normally two or three time zones). The GMT function isn't restricted to any particular style of watch and can be found as an additional complication on a dress, sports, dive, or pilot watch.


One particularly famous GMT watch is the Rolex GMT Master II, which commands a strong collectors' market. The GMT Master I was developed with Pan-Am Pilots and released in 1955. The second edition replaced it in the Rolex catalogue in 1982 and continues to set the bar for the entire industry. Sister brand Tudor also offers a great option for wearers. The Tudor Black Bay GMT offers a huge amount of functionality at a surprisingly reasonable price.

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