photography by BRAD BRIDGERS
written by BENJAMIN CLYMER
The mechanical dress watch, while simple enough in appearance, is the most complicated horological endeavor a manufacturer can undertake. As a result, there are only a handful that strike the right balance of a thin case and rich dial, coupled with an elegant strap and subtle branding. These watches speak more to a man’s place in the world than any Rolex or Panerai ever could.
If a single characteristic defines a quality mechanical dress watch, it’s slightness of case. No Swiss manufacture has contributed more to the study of thinness than Piaget, which holds no less than seven titles for the world’s slimmest complications. At the very core of the Piaget collection is the Altiplano, most subtly shown in white gold with a black dial and stick markers. Designed to be paired with a traditional tuxedo, this hand-wound watch features the in-house caliber 430P, which is an astonishing 2.1 mm in total thickness.
Despite the incredible profile of this ultra-dress watch, inside the Swiss-made movement there are over 131 individual components, each hand-finished to the highest standards of Swiss watchmaking. Vacheron Constantin’s almost three-century history of un- interrupted production is longer than any other Swiss factory’s, so it’s no wonder that its watches are considered among the finest on the planet.
“Within the category of concertedly formal time-tellers, there are a few true icons of not only dress watches, but horology as a whole. Cartier’s Tank is one of them. ”
One of the most sought-after Vacheron lines today is the Historiques collection, which harkens back to historically significant watches from the twentieth century. The Les Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968 is an exceptional timepiece for several reasons: its square, 18k gold case is surprisingly modern, the silver-grain dial is superbly finished, and, most uncommon of a truly elegant watch, it boasts a self-winding movement. In fact, it features the caliber 1120, also famously used in the original Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which elevates this limited-run watch to true collector’s status. Within the category of concertedly formal time-tellers, there are a few true icons of not only dress watches, but horology as a whole.
Cartier’s Tank is one of them. This 2013 update to the watch made famous by General Pershing in World War I is a continuation of the Louis Cartier line, first designed in 1922 as “the ultimate watchmaker’s manifesto of elegance and timelessness.” Inside beats the very same ultra-slim Piaget caliber 430P found in the Altiplano. It’s traditional Swiss watchmaking inside a perfectly French case.
While Piaget, Vacheron, and Cartier have well-documented legacies in classical watchmaking, a surprise hit at this year’s Basel - world came from the Bienne-based watchmaker known not for formal wear, but for supplying the likes of James Bond and the American space program. The Omega De Ville Tresor is an exceptionally well-executed watch with remarkable wrist presence, superb styling, and affordability, without making any compromises.
“While the Swiss have long maintained a dominant position in haute horology, there’s one singular hope rising out of the Glashutte region of what was formerly East Germany. A. Lange & Sohne’s no-nonsense, high-end watchmaking is earning die-hard fans by the day.”
Inside is Omega’s caliber 8511, which includes an 18k red-gold balance bridge, a Si14 silicon spring, and a three-level co-axial movement. It is resistant to magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss, as well as being a COSC-certified chronometer, so while it may look delicately formal, it’s set up to take a beating. Another dress watch with a sporting history is Jaeger-Le-Coultre’s ever iconic Reverso. This new model with white lacquer dial harkens back to a well-known one made by the Le Sentier factory in 1948, and for all the Reverso collectors out there, it’s another must-have piece.
There are few manufactures that represent the finest in mechanical watchmaking, and the ceaseless pursuit of perfection, better than Patek Philippe. At the very core of Patek’s identity sits the incredible perpetual calendar mechanism, able to maintain accuracy for over two hundred years at a time — including leap years! This new white-gold, tonneau-shaped perpetual features the Breguet-style numbers that Patek collectors love, Patek’s most central complication, and a micro rotor-powered self-winding movement that is nothing short of divine. This is a dress watch to dream about.
While the Swiss have long maintained a dominant position in haute horol - ogy, there’s one singular hope rising out of the Glashutte region of what was formerly East Germany. A. Lange & Sohne’s no-nonsense, high-end approach is earning die-hard fans by the day, and its new 1815 in gold is simply perfect. The hand-finished, hand-assembled caliber rivals anything from the Vallee de Joux, but the slightly heavier case makes it more practical. An everyday timepiece designed for formal wear, indeed.