The modern office is a minefield. From dress codes to water-cooler conversation topics, today’s coalface requires you to tread carefully if you want to climb to the top. But how – in a world where billionaire tech CEOs wear hoodies and jeans to board meetings – can you stake out your status?
The answer is your wrist. While an Italian-made pair of brogues or a briefcase buffed to a mirror shine might impress, nothing marks you apart like your choice of watch. Big or small, bold or subtle, what you wear on your wrist can be a clue to others as to where you rank in the food chain.
But choosing the best style for work isn’t always a no-brainer; in fact, miss the mark and your DeWitt concept watch could land you in a disciplinary.
Here’s how to boss your wristwear, and keep your job.
Know The (Dress) Code
Key to matching your watch to your workplace is grasping the dress code. Is yours a suits-only kind of office, or do you have some wiggle room in what you get to wear? Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have free reign?
Gauging whether you work in a corporate, business-casual or creative work environment will help weed out designs that’ll bomb so you can focus on those that’ll give you a lift up. As Patrick Kansa, Contributing Editor at A Blog To Watch puts it: “While you might be able to swing a Rolex Explorer in a jeans-and-trainers environment, your jumbo-sized Nixon is not going to work well with a suit and tie.”
These are the best practices for staying office-appropriate:
The Corporate Office
Suit and tie non-negotiable? Then you’ll want to ensure your wrist steers similarly formal. See that you’re taken seriously with a classic watch face and steel bracelet, or opt for leather-strapped styles in timeless, sophisticated colours like black, brown or deep burgundy.
“Avoid anything too statement,” says Muhaddisa Fazal, Fine Watch Buyer at The Watch Gallery. “Making an impression is important but the boardroom is not the place for peacocking – think classic but fairly muted.”
If your budget is more grad scheme than investment banker, Kansa suggests a C5 Malvern or C60 Trident from Christopher Ward. “These watches offer a lot of bang for your buck, and give you a look that’s just a bit different from the norm,” he says.
Also worth exploring is Swiss-born brand Rotary’s Les Originales line, which offers sophistication at a snip. But if you’re in the business of rain-making, then nothing beats the plain and simple elegance of a Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster.
(Related: The watches that will only go up in value)
The Business-Casual Office
Not every man makes paper in a two-piece. So, if your nine-to-five uniform is more shirts and slacks than Savile Row, feel free to push the boat out (slightly) with more progressive designs and colour palettes.
“You have a lot more flexibility in a business-casual environment, so you can be somewhat more exploratory,” says Kansa. And while any of the understated ‘Corporate’ options above will work, it’s worth strapping on something a little less safe that still reads smart: “The Michelsen Arctic Explorer and Tudor North Flag mix it up a bit, while still holding to standard conventions.”
“On the more affordable end, any manner of indie dive watches – from the likes of Stevral, NTH or Butler – can work well in a business-casual environment,” says Kansa. “Just be sure that they’re not overly thick, as that can be trouble getting under a cuff.”
The Casual Office
More of a media type? Or maybe you need something that works for both the nap room and new biz meetings at your tech start-up? Good news: you can plump for pretty much anything, provided it’s in line with whatever you’re wearing.
There is, however, one clear caveat. “Diamonds are an absolute no-go in the office,” says Fazal. “You want to exude confidence, not sparkle. A small dose to numeral indices and the dial may be exercised in moderation, but if you’re struggling to grasp what’s acceptable, leave alone entirely.”
Barring big rocks, you can get creative with everything from colour to watch face design to overall structure and size. Kansa suggests G-shock’s decked-out chronographs or Seiko’s Orange Monster to get the creative juices flowing.
Once you’ve got the basis of what won’t get your boss’ finger wagging, it’s time to start bearing the finer details in mind:
Know Your Place
“In the sometimes political office environment, watches can be a signal of having earned or attained a certain level,” says Kansa. Irrespective of the office you work in, what you’ve got on your wrist is a clue as to whether it’s the big or small fish that you’re swimming with. So consider your rank before breaking out the Big Bangs.
“Not to besmirch the guy who’s saved up since mowing lawns as a teen to be able to get his dream watch, but seeing something high-end (a Patek, say) on the wrist of a new college grad is bound to raise some eyebrows (at least among those who know watches).” Better save the heavy-hitters for when you’re higher up the ladder.
(Related: The best wrist trophy watches)
If, however, you’ve already secured the walled-off office with a view, then remind everyone who’s calling the shots with something that conveys authority. “[You could try] something large with a well-known name on the dial, like a Panerai,” says Kansa.
“People will notice the watch (just due to its size), and if they know much about watches, they’ll equate that sort of purchase with some relative level of implied wealth, and therefore assume the wearer is perhaps well-placed in the office.” Which is a lot less tiring than going all Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Switch Up Your Straps
“Whatever the environment (or the watch), be sure to explore the world of aftermarket straps,” advises Kansa.
“These can easily change the look and feel of the watch, offering a way to change things up (from weekday to weekend) and giving you the capability of making sure that not just your shoes and belt are coordinated, but also your wristwear.”
What’s on your wrist at work? Have we missed out any timepieces you think are worth a punt?