Everything You Need To Know About Choosing A Watch For Your Wedding

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Everything You Need To Know About Choosing A Watch For Your Wedding

Words by Mr Chris Hall

28 April 2022

Let’s get straight to the point: if you are reading this, there is a good chance you, or someone close to you, is engaged to be married and thinking about what watch to wear on the big day. Let’s also defend ourselves – and you, our happily-betrothed men and women of the world – from accusations of vanity or extravagance. It’s true that weddings should not be judged by the amount of money spent, but at the same time, if there is ever going to be a day to feel tip-top about every aspect of your appearance, this is probably it.

You’ve most likely invested in a new suit, shirt and tie, new shoes, cufflinks and other stylish paraphernalia, and maybe gone the extra mile when it comes to grooming. Given all that, don’t neglect the watch. You may also be hoping your partner is sizing up your wrists for a wedding watch gift, as some kind of reciprocal gesture for a diamond engagement ring – we will get into that whole minefield in due course. Also, we realise that not every wedding is an English country affair full of Mr Hugh Grant types in top hats and tails. Whether you’re in a tuxedo or traditional dress, a watch can still be part of your outfit. Ultimately, we are tackling wedding etiquette where some degree of tradition is being followed – if you’ve already decided to get married in flip-flops on a beach in the Seychelles with nary a family member in sight then all power to you – but your watch choice is probably not front of mind.

Most wedding watch guides focus purely on matching the watch to your wedding outfit. That’s definitely worth understanding, see below, but we’ve also got to be realistic. Your waistcoat and tails might be consigned to the back of the wardrobe once you’re married, but if you’re buying a new watch to wear for your wedding, you’re going to want to wear it on the regular.

Maybe you’re taking the chance to tick that dress watch box; maybe it’ll be your daily wearer from now on. Either way, think about how this watch is going to fit into your life for the long run. Get it right and you’ll end up with a watch that’s going to see a fair amount of time on your wrist, carrying with it all the memories of the wedding. Something that applies all the more if you’ve gone out of your way to add special touches. Speaking of which…

We forge sentimental bonds with our watches, and often that’s about what led us to them in the first place. Whether you’re being given the watch or treating yourself, getting married is a fairly typical reason to add an engraving to the caseback. There are a few names that usually crop up at this point, for good reason: Cartier’s Tank, with a solid back, or Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso, provide ample space for a personal message as well as fitting in neatly to expectations of a traditional western wedding watch.

Most brands, however, will accommodate some kind of engraving – just probably best to avoid the highly-skeletonised models with precious little metal left to write on. There are other touches to consider as well: monogrammed leather straps, personalised watch cases or winders if you’re not inclined to alter the watch itself, or at the other end of the spectrum, go all-out and shop for something fully customised. We’d advise a long history of substantial spending with your brand of choice if this is the plan, though, and allow at least a year to get the watch made. Just something to consider.

All the above being said, if the watch you desire doesn’t match the rest of your outfit, you’re going to look (and feel) uncomfortable. That’s the last thing anyone wants, so if the watch of your dreams is a Panerai Submersible 47mm but you’ve already committed to a Prada suit, maybe now isn’t the time. For weddings where a suit is expected – be it a three-piece, lounge suit, tuxedo or morning dress – do yourself a favour and think slim. Your watch is not there to steal the show, bunching up against your French cuff or jacket sleeve.

If your wedding wardrobe permits a slightly looser sleeve, embrace that freedom – but we would still err on the side of formality. Save rubber straps and brightly-coloured dive watches for the honeymoon. If you want to really follow etiquette, it’s a nice idea to make sure your watch case matches your wedding ring – that narrows your options if old-school yellow gold is on your finger, but you can pair stainless steel with a white-gold or platinum ring. On similar lines, traditionalists will want to match their strap to their shoes, which nine times out of 10 is going to mean black leather. You can choose a metal bracelet watch and still hit the right tone for formal wear, but it’s got to be something refined – Cartier is our go-to brand here.

The counterpart to matching your outfit is to make sure it actually feels nice to wear. It’s your wedding day: don’t add any extra little stresses. Alligator leather, for example, can be stiff until it’s worn in properly. What might seem like a good choice for New York in November is not going to feel nice in Athens in July; even if you aren’t buying the watch just for this particular day, if the environment demands it, spend a little extra on a change of strap. Milanese mesh is a potential alternative for warm weather, for example.

The majority of brands now offer quick-release straps as standard, and some ship with their own ready-made alternatives in the box. There’s a lot to be said for the Vacheron Constantin Overseas approach – go with gold or leather for the ceremony, and discreetly switch to the rubber strap once the dancing starts. Which raises another type of comfort – if you’ve gone for something delicate, consider having a more robust alternative tucked away in a case somewhere for when the reception kicks up a gear (this can be right around the time the bride switches her Valentino heels for all-white Vejas).

Time to tackle this perennial idea of “watch as engagement gift”. It’s an alluring idea, probably seeded by a shadowy group of watch enthusiasts, eyes widening at the thought of adding to their collection under the guise of 21st-century gender parity. We jest, of course: the truth is there’s no rule here. If your partner wants to buy you something, a watch is a brilliant idea for all the usual reasons: it’s personal, you can wear it on the day, it’ll last a lifetime and can be handed down. But every couple is different. Some do away with rings entirely and exchange watches to match.

If you are reading this with the intention of buying a watch for the man in your life and, frankly, don’t know where to start, have a look at our all-purpose guide to “not getting watch gifts wrong”.

A watch might also make a fantastic gift for a best man, assuming he didn’t really stitch you up on the bachelor party or insult any relatives during the speech – or you could also look at a matching set of watch travel cases as gifts for your groomsmen.