The terms ‘dress’ and ‘sport’ are as ubiquitous as they are reductive. In the world of watches, these categories are unavoidable. Despite the diverse offerings of today’s market, people tend to think about watches along this binary. When you think ‘dress watch’, you probably picture a small, thin watch on a leather strap. Let’s call it like it is – you picture a Cartier Tank. Today, we’re going to look at some dress watches that break out of this mold. How can a watch stand out in such a homogenous category? How can a dress watch be unique?
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The Rolex Yacht-Master is a dress watch born out of the age of sports watches. It’s a slimmed-down Submariner made from precious metals. The mirror-polished lugs and center links could blind someone if it's sunny enough. Although it has tool watch DNA, the Yacht-Master was made to look pretty. Of course, it’s plenty durable. The Yacht-Master features the same screw down crown as its deeper-diving sibling, featuring 100m of water resistance (⅓ that of the Submariner, but still plenty). That said, durability isn’t the priority here; it’s a byproduct of an Oyster case. If you want to lean into your Yacht-Master's tool watch alter-ego, try putting it on an a rubber strap. This will give it a more comfortable, rugged feel. Everest's curved end rubber strap is tailor-fit for the Rolex Yacht-Master: seamlessly integrating to its case and lugs.
The dress segment is dominated (and defined) by early 20th century watches that carry on 19th century tradition: Cartier Tank, Patek Philippe Calatrava, etc. The Rolex Yacht-Master is completely different. It’s a 1990’s watch carrying on mid-century tradition. Simply put, it’s a dressed up tool watch. The Yacht-Master is unique because of its inspiration – there’s almost nothing like it.
Cartier Crash (Radieuse)
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Originally released in 1967, the Cartier Crash has seen multiple different styles and re-releases. The 2018 Crash Radieuse is a personal favorite. Its dial features black, concentric ripples that continue as grooves onto the yellow gold case. Production was limited to just 50 pieces, but that’s not what makes this watch unique. The Crash Radieuse is an avant-garde adaptation of an already unique silhouette. An asymmetrical, organic shape of a case is unprecedented in the world of luxury watches (in the 1960’s – yes – the Falcone and Softwatch exist). Despite the Crash’s variable, vertigo-inducing Roman numerals, the dial accurately reads time. Whether or notyouwill is a different question. The Radieuse’s dial adds an extra layer of difficulty.
In a market segment driven by small, thin, subdued watches, the Cartier Crash grabs attention – and does so with style. Rather than a flashy complication or extravagant material, the case shape alone sets the Crash apart. The 2018 Radieuse leans further into this bizarre design language, creating a truly unique dress watch experience.
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If the Rolex Yacht-Master is a dress watch born out of the age of sports watches, the JLC Reverso is (appropriately) the reverse. Originally released in 1931, it’s often regarded as the first sports watch. The Reverso’s swiveling case was designed to keep stray polo mallets and balls from damaging the crystal. It was purpose-built for a sport; watches don’t get much sportier than that. From its inception, the Reverso has embraced Art Deco design language. While this was modern at the time, it now harkens back to the early 20th century, which as we’ve covered, is the definitive time period for what's considered a dress watch. As such, the Reverso presents as a dress watch in modern day. There’s no doubt that the Reverso’s swiveling case makes it unique. However, I believe its secret identity as a sports watch makes it one of a kind.