With steel sports watches as trendy as ever, it’s easy to think that slim gold dress watches have fallen out of fashion. But that’s simply not true. Gold dress watches have transcended fleeting fashions to become absolute classics. We’d even argue that a dress watch is an essential component of any well-curated timepiece collection.
The definition of a dress watch varies on who you’re talking to. We generally define them as slim, elegant, and fairly simple. They’re the perfect accessory when you want to elevate your look without going overboard. Think Mad Men, The Queen’s Gambit, or Lovecraft Country. Though dress watches most certainly don’t have to be made of gold, gold is the most traditional choice — and we happen to love it. Whether you’re looking to buy one or just want to explore your options, we’re highlighting five of our favourite gold dress watches that will never go out of style.
Cartier is the master of understated and elegant watches and among all its models, the Tank remains the most beloved. Louis Cartier developed the rectangular-shaped Tank watch in 1917, inspired by the lines of the then-new tanks used in World War I. Cartier has made plenty of Tank iterations throughout the last century — the elongated Tank Américaine, the Tank Française with chain-link bracelets, the pared-down Tank Solo, the colourful Tank Must, and the arched Tank Cintrée are just a few of them.
But if you’re searching for a quintessential dress watch, look no further than the classic Tank Louis Cartier models with slim gold cases, leather straps, and silver dials punctuated with the signature Cartier Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands.
The Calatrava has been a mainstay of Patek Philippe’s catalogue since 1932. Its classic design has remained relatively consistent over the last eight decades. Aside from a few exceptions, most Calatrava watches have slim gold cases, minimalist dials and leather straps. Calatrava watches can be self-winding or manual winding, and they are available with or without date windows.
Patek Philippe Calatrava watches are all about modest elegance, so their sizes are restrained. The largest Calatrava timepiece tops out at 39mm (except for one limited-edition 40mm model) and it’s not uncommon to find vintage Calatrava watches with case sizes as small as 33mm.
Omega may be best known for its brilliant assortment of sports watches but standing quietly alongside the bevy of Speedmaster chronographs and Seamaster dive watches is the superb De Ville Trésor collection. Omega debuted the De Ville Trésor in 2014, drawing design cues from vintage Omega watches from 1949 (also called Trésor) but fitted with a cutting-edge mechanical movement resistant to magnetic fields greater than 15,000 gauss.
In true form, Omega has since expanded the De Ville Trésor collection with numerous variations including smaller sizes, more colour choices, diamond-set editions, and even some complicated versions. However, our favourite remains those first De Ville Trésor models with 40mm slim gold cases (yellow, rose, or white), silvery opaline dials decorated with a hobnail pattern, and manual-winding movements — all fantastic qualities of a fine dress watch.
With a history that dates back to 1755, Vacheron Constantin lays claim to being the oldest watchmaker that's been in continuous production since its founding. Besides its longevity, Vacheron Constantin is also a member of the so-called Holy Trinity of Swiss watchmaking, next to Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. In short, Vacheron Constantin makes some of the finest watches in existence — especially when it comes to discreet dress watches.
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Small Seconds watch impeccably encapsulates the brand’s light touch when it comes to design and heavy focus on perfecting the details. The watch’s pink gold 38mm round case is delightfully slim at a mere 7.5mm thick while the small seconds subsidiary dial at 6 o’clock is a nod to watches made in the first half of the 20th century. The back of the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Small Seconds is furnished with an exhibition window for a view of the intricately decorated manually wound movement that powers the watch.
The Rolex Cellini collection is undoubtedly overshadowed by the brand’s range of immensely popular Oyster watches. However, the dressier Cellini line, especially after its redesign in 2014, is home to a great selection of classical timepieces, complete with traditional touches like faceted Dauphine hands, subtle fluting on the double-stepped bezel, and leather straps.
The simplest of the modern Cellini watches — and our pick for the best within the collection — is the automatic Cellini Time model. The trio of hour, minute, and second hands at the centre of the lacquered dial point to ultra-thin baton hour markers. There’s also a minute track that divides the baton markers and the “Cellini” signature on the bottom portion of the dial. Like all modern Rolex Cellini watches, the Cellini Time features a 39mm case, which is available in 18k white gold or 18k rose gold.
From the rectangular Cartier Tank to the elegantly round Patek Philippe Calatrava to the contemporary-meets-classicism Rolex Cellini, gold dress watches come in many flavours. Yet, what these timepieces have in common are restrained proportions, clean designs, and enduring appeal.