Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk
In a former life, I used to pen a style advice column for a men’s magazine. This experience confirmed the fact that men like rules. It seems that centuries of cultural conditioning have given men Meccano minds that want everything to fit together in the right way.
Common questions included: Can you wear brown shoes in town? If so, can you wear brown shoes with a navy suit? Should your socks match your tie or your trousers?
When it came to watches, the advice sought tended to be about the right watch to wear in the right circumstances – and more specifically whether it was acceptable to wear a stainless-steel watch with gold cufflinks without provoking intakes of disapproving breath from your dinner companions.
It seems to me that the real question here is whether or not a sports watch can be considered dressy in a traditional sense. And as far as I am concerned, the answer in 2019 is a yes, absolutely, whatever the metal. Ever since Audemars Piguet launched the Royal Oak in 1972, the sports watch has been as at home in the ballroom as it is on the beach. The idea that a classic piece of design should be seen as somehow only suitable for casual wear seems absurd.
Take Richard Mille’s iconic designs, based largely on F1 cars. These may resemble technical instruments but work equally well twinned with a tuxedo as they do with a Maserati. After all, if you are spending a six-figure sum on an exquisitely designed timepiece you want to take every opportunity to show it off.
Indeed, it is all about what your watch says about you, and an evident love of craftsmanship never goes out of style. It has been suggested that one of the reasons behind the popularity of, say, a Rolex Submariner, among businessmen was to subconsciously suggest, ‘I may be in the boardroom now but I’m a man of action, and the minute I’m out of here I will be chasing sharks off the Maldives’.
Self-expression and self-confidence will always trump rules. But like a BBC broadcast it is all about balance so, of course, there is another side to the story. Few men will be satisfied with just one watch and for every sports watch you should also consider investing in a dress watch, the more streamlined the better. If you are wearing evening dress the likelihood is that the double cuffs on your dress shirt will fit neatly to the wrist so a chunky timepiece may cause problems and a slimline dress watch may be a better choice to fit discreetly under that crisply laundered and starched cuff.
Having said all this, the fact remains that ownership of a watch collection is one of life’s great pleasures and it’s all about horological horses for courses. For example, when on holiday I wear a Victorinox Inox. The reason for this is I once watched an Inox being run over by a Swiss fire engine to prove that it was tough enough to emerge from the experience unscathed. Not that this is a likely scenario on my next jaunt but it seems comforting to know that if it was to happen my watch would survive even if the wrist attached to it didn’t.
But having trashed the concept of rules, I am now going to do a reverse ferret and say that when it comes to matching timepiece to cufflinks I prefer not to mix metals. The choice for me is either a steel Chaumet Dandy with matching steel and pavé diamond Chaumet cufflinks or a Zenith gold chronometer with my grandfather’s gold cufflinks. It’s not a rule, you understand – I just think it looks better.
And before I forget, brown in town is fine.