How to match a watch to your outfit

The secret rules to matching your timepiece to your clothing

Matching a watch to your clothing can be both simple and complex at the same time. You can get hung up on refining outfit highlights while also forgetting to be practical. If you’ve recently invested in an expensive, high-quality timepiece then you might even want to dress for the watch itself.

But the dress code you’re preparing for should be the determining factor in how you match a watch to an outfit. 

Case in point – if you’re wearing a jacket, then it makes sense to pair that with an elegant and slim dress watch. 

To help you make the proper decisions, read below for our guide on how to match a watch to your outfit to get your style right every time.

Formal and business dress

Keep it simple when matching a watch with a business or formal outfit. It’s good to aim for understatement as a rule. Drawing attention to your watch in these situations is also generally not a good idea.

For formal events like a black tie function, a simple dress watch is all you need. A gold or silver case, white dial and black leather strap without any extra bits will do the job. Formal events call for an elegant watch and there’s little more elegant than an attractive timepiece that does only one thing, but does it well – tell the time.

For business dress it’s much the same. A gold or silver case will work in most situations, particularly if you’re wearing a black or navy suit. And as you’ve probably predicted, it’s best to go for a leather strap here as well. 

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Casual dress

Unfortunately it’s not so simple to pair any watch with a casual outfit. Can you imagine how a G-Shock would look with a suit? Not such a good fit. Something to look out for is whether your watch has metal straps and, if so, then it’ll generally be a less formal timepiece. So if you prefer a metal band, or if one of your watches already has one, then rather wear it at casual events.

A leather-strapped watch is versatile enough to be worn with any level of casual outfit, which is why they’re the default choice for a lot of men out there.

 A ‘fit that includes jeans, boots and a T-shirt or collared shirt goes with practically any watch, so fussing over the type of straps here is optional rather than a must.

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Sports watches

Although they’re both larger than dress watches, the main difference between casual dress and sports watches, like a chronograph, is that one is for casual events while the other is for sport. Switching metal for a leather strap on a casual watch can, for example, make it formal event ready. This isn’t the case with sports watches.

What will come as little surprise with matching attire with sports watches is the style of watch you should go for. Wear watches that are less pretty and, instead, choose a sports watch that is durable, rugged and reliable. That’s the whole point of one after all.

There’s really no need for an elegant timepiece when you’re matching clothing to a sports watch. The case, dial and strap are going to be made from hardy materials and simply won’t have the sheen of a dress watch, and that’s totally okay.

In saying that, you’ll want to pair a sports watch with casual outfits almost exclusively. Go for a dial in a neutral colour and a strap in metal or a darker colour, or even a canvas strap to mix your options up. 

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Matching with leather

A relatively easy way to match with a watch that has a leather band is to pair it with leather. Matching with leather of the same colour also shouldn’t take much effort, and you’ve probably already got similar items in your wardrobe to get it started.

So, for example, you can match a black leather strap to a black belt and shoes. The same also goes for a brown strap with brown belt and shoes. If you prefer to stick with metal, then you can wear watches that have gold and silver straps with either the black or brown shoes and belts. 

Just don’t forget that mixing black leather with brown won’t look so good, but mixing shades of brown leather together will work if you don’t have an exact match.

This is also where interchangeable straps come in handy. If you can pick up a couple of extra strap colours for one of your watches, you’ll already have a few combinations to match with clothing.

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Matching with metal

If you wear a pair of chinos with brown shoes and a brown belt, then a good way to match a gold or silver metal watch is with other accessories. Think of it as like playing around with accents, in a more subtle way than with clothing, to create the effect you want.

You can follow a similar idea with matching leather – work with similar colours. So if you have a gold watch, then ideally you’ll match it with a gold ring or cuff links. 

Watch cases come in a variety of shapes, such as square or round, and with one of a variety of finishes ranging from glossy to matte or with sparkly gemstones embedded in the case or dial. This opens up a few possibilities for matching with jewellery. 

Other accessories and features to work with include belt and shoe buckles, trouser or coat adjusters and also buttons.

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Matching with shoes

If you’re not sure how to match a particular outfit to a watch, just go for a simple match with your shoes. Whether you’re sporting black or brown dress shoes, matching them with a watch strap of the same, or a similar, colour is quite easy. This is another instance where you should buy multiple interchangeable straps for your watches.

So you might have one pair of black and one pair of brown shoes and leather watch straps for each of them. Why not add a bit of colour in as well, such as with a navy or red band? 

Black is the most formal colour, and brown less so, but if you’re attending a casual event then a different colour than these two could be the perfect match for jeans, sneakers or a jumper.

For matching shoes with metal watch bands, silver goes best with black, grey and blue, while gold watches go with brown, beige and tan the best.

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Just be practical

There are no absolute right and wrong ways to match a watch to your outfit. The main thing to keep in mind is just to be practical. If you feel good with a particular pairing, go with that. Practicality will get you through more situations than you think.

So if you’re wearing a watch during the day, a white dial will look better. In the evening, black and grey dials make more sense. If you’re doing any kind of physical activity, then ditch the dress watch for a more durable sports watch. 

Same goes for when you don a jacket and dress shoes – leave the plastic watch band at home for that occasion.

Omar Hamwi