The Watch Guide: Styles Every Man Should Know - IMBOLDN
Go to Top

You (generally) only wear one watch at a time, but there are so many styles and options to choose from. How do you decide which is the perfect watch for you? Choosing a timepiece should be fun, but it can also be a difficult process. We understand that a good timepiece can be a big financial investment, so to help you avoid buyer’s remorse, we’ve put together a bird’s eye view into the world of watches. Hopefully this guide will help you decide which type of watch is right for you.

For many watch enthusiasts, this may not be anything new. But if you’re new to watches, this is the definitive beginner’s guide. We will also cover each category in more detail at a later date, so keep an eye out.

Pierce Brosnan's James Bond wearing an Omega Seamaster.

The Dive Watch

The vast majority of the modern watches worn by men are in this category. Why? Waterproof, sturdy, and iconic, the dive watch can be on your wrist no matter what you do or where you go. What more could you want from a watch? Waterproof to at least 200 meters, a dive watch has a unidirectional rotating bezel that can be used to count to 60 minutes. This tells you at a glance how long you’ve been in the water, a feature vital to divers to calculate the remaining oxygen. Some dive watches are affordable and sturdy tools faithful to their practical origin, while some have become luxurious modern status symbols.

Rolex Submariner

The most recognizable watch design in the world.

Omega Seamaster 300

Made iconic by Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond.

Seiko SKX007

Proof that you don’t have to spend big bucks for a great, reliable timepiece.

Steve McQueen wearing a Heuer Monaco.

The Racing Watch

It’s no wonder that watches and cars have had a long history together — they’re some of man’s favorite toys. A racing watch is essentially a chronograph (i.e., a stopwatch), which measures time in seconds, minutes, and hours, and is accurate to a fraction of a second. But not all chronographs are racing watches; many dive watches, pilot’s watches, and even some dress watches have a chronograph function. As the race cars of the watch world, racing watches take pride in their sporty designs, coming in many shapes and sizes.

Zenith El Primero

The first automatic chronograph in the world, hence the name.

Tag Heuer Monaco

Nearly the first automatic chronograph — not quite — but made iconic nonetheless due to its unique square case.

Rolex Daytona

Learn More

A variant of this watch owned by Paul Newman was the most expensive watch sold at auction, at $18M.

The Pilot’s Watch

The romanticism of flight has always held an allure for men throughout history, and there’s nothing like a good pilot’s watch to remind us of that bygone era of aviation and aerial dogfights. Some aviation watches are oversized with clear numerals to be easily read through goggles, while some are complex in order to serve as a computing tool on the fly. They may not be the best water-friendly watches, but strap one on while wearing a bomber jacket and a pair of aviator shades, and the pilot watch becomes a timeless addition to your outfit.


The classic WWII flieger, adapted for the modern wrist.

Breitling Navitimer

A mechanical computer to those who know how to use it.

Bell And Ross BR 03-92

A watch inspired by the instrument panel on the plane.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the way to the summit of Mt. Everest, 1953.

The Field Watch

We’ve covered the sea and the air, and now it’s time for the great outdoors. This is basically your watch for camping out on a weekend or conquering Kilimanjaro. It may have a compass or myriad other functions to help you navigate through nature’s toughest places. Or it could just be a small, simple, and trusty watch that doesn’t get in the way of your adventures. It may not have the waterproof depth rating of a dive watch, but most people don’t need 200 meters of water resistance anyway.

Rolex Explorer

An update to the first watch to be worn on the summit of Everest.

Hamilton Khaki King

Practicality and affordability from a brand with a prestigious history.

Casio G-Shock

Reliable and functional tool that can take a beating, the G-Shock is a favorite of the military.

The Traveler’s Watch

This is somewhat of a hazy category, since no one is stopping you from traveling with any watch you enjoy. But the distinguishing feature of a traveler’s watch is the dual time complication, which tells time in two or more time zones simultaneously. This could be achieved in one of many ways — having two separate dials on the same watch, having one dial but two sets of hands, or having a rotating bezel with cities listed in 24 different time zones, just to name a few. The travel watch is useful if you’re a frequent international traveler, but even if you aren’t, it’s always a fun conversation piece.

Rolex GMT Master II

Learn More

Aside from the normal three hands, the separate GMT hand acts as another hour hand for a time zone of your choice.

Montblanc 4810 Orbis Terrarum

24 time zones in the Northern Hemisphere and day/night discs in a classy package.

Seiko Astron GPS Solar World Time

Learn More

GPS-controlled, 40 time zones, and a perpetual calendar accurate to the year 2100.

Paul Newman, photographed by Bert Six, 1957.

The Dress Watch

The classiest of all watches, traditionally made from precious metals and usually on a leather strap. Compared to other watches, the profile of a dress watch is thinner, and the watch face smaller. There are so many watches to feature in this category, since the history is so long and the world’s most respected watch brands tend to specialize in dress watches. These watches can have many complications, such as a moonphase, perpetual calendar, dual time, chronograph, and so on — or they may not have a single complication other than the time. Some are more lavishly decorated, but simple, understated class never goes out of style.

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1

Learn More

The pinnacle of German watchmaking in a sea of Swiss watches.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic

As its name suggests, the face of this watch can be reversed to reveal a second dial.

Hamilton Intra-Matic

Of course, not all dress watches have to cost an arm and a leg.

Did you find a particular style that tickled your fancy? Did any of the distinct philosophies that these watches represent call to you? Whether looking for that one perfect watch or considering a collection of watches to complement your multi-faceted lifestyle, pick what you absolutely love, and don’t settle for anything less. Also, don’t let these categories put you in a box; there are many watches out there that cross boundaries and defy classification. For instance, a dressy sports watch that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, or a thick waterproof dress watch packed with complications that will never be needed at a suit and tie event. If everyone followed the rules, where’s the fun in that?