When the invitation includes the words black tie, the choice is obvious:
The tuxedo or the dinner jacket – nothing else will do. The bow tie and the peak lapel – of course. Black socks, preferably, and cuff-links are optional– the proper attire for a formal event has remained essentially unchanged for decades.
While there is always room for a little bit of personal expression, formal attire comes with a certain expectation and certain unwritten rules.
Depending on your host – and depending on your personality – you can get away with breaking a few of those rules. Usually, it’s better to just get it right.
The nice thing about your black tie outfit is you only wear it a few times a year. The rest of the time it’s preserved in the wardrobe, and it will last for a good few years. Which brings us to the question of your choice of timepiece – which is going to last considerably longer.
Which kind of watch is perfect for a black tie event? The following are some of my personal picks.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava 3445 in White Gold
The Calatrava is the mainstay of Patek Philippe's line of traditional dress watches. It’s also the perfect accessory if you’re going to be wearing a tux.
The original Calatrava model dates back to the very same decade as the first black tie events. It was just at the close of World War II that ‘black tie’ became the term for special occasion attire (rather than standard evening wear or coat tails).
As the flagship line from the 1930’s, this Patek design is all about being refined, yet understated. The pick of the Calatravas for me has to be the Ref.3445 in white gold.
The Rolex Day Date Ref.1803
The ‘President’s Watch’ just exudes the kind of status that’s right at home in a formal setting. You certainly won’t feel under-dressed. The Rolex Day Date has many faces, but I think the Ref.1803 is right on the money for a black tie event.
There’s something about it that hints at old-fashioned class. The best one’s I’ve seen have champagne dials on yellow gold, and if you want to take care of every last detail – it has to be a crocodile leather strap.
The Cartier Tank in Gold
Originally the Tank was known as the Cintrée. The unusual shape of the case dates back to 1921, and then in 1989, Cartier named it the Tank Américaine. The idea was to make it seem a little less formal, perhaps, but I think they may have missed the mark. There’s nothing informal about it.
Princess Diana, Elton John, Andy Warhol and the American first lady, Michelle Obama are just some of the dignitaries in gowns and tuxedos that have been spotted with the Cartier Tank on the wrist. As such, I feel confident recommending it.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
In 1931, on a polo field in India, a watch was smashed during the game. Among the gentlemen at the club was a watch collector, César de Trey.
The men got to talking, and one thing led to another. A challenge was made, and when a gentleman’s reputation is at stake, he dare not back down.
The challenge was to create a watch that could withstand a blow in a polo match, yet still be fit to wear at a formal dinner.
So the Reverso was born. Over the years the art-deco lines and the clever reverse action of the case have remained archetypal in the Jaeger LeCoultre family.
My recommendation: The vintage models in steel are the most appropriate.
Your Grandfather’s Omega
If you wear it with pride, and because you love it – just about any vintage Omega will be a suitable accessory.
Something like a cummerbund may be considered unfashionable today, where in the past it was more acceptable. Your Omega, however, will never embarrass you.