A long time ago, in a land far, far away, there was only one kind of timepiece available: the pocket watch. Then, around the late nineteenth century, someone came up with the idea of securing that watch on the wrist to facilitate the reading of the time, and from that moment, wristwatches, with their countless styles and functions, were born, which we can see well today. So let's start together a watch collection.

How many kinds of watches are there?

Dividing watches into categories is practically impossible since no universally recognized classification exists. However, we can strive to understand how wristwatches have evolved and, thus, why these different needs have arisen that have "shaped" them as we know them today.

Remember that modern watches derive from a single type of watch, namely the elegant watch. From the beginnings of horology until around 1870, timepieces were still reserved for the wealthier classes, so most people had only one watch, which was usually quite formal, and often with a case made of precious material such as gold or silver. But still, it was the equivalent of the modern dress watch.

Instead, the evolution of watches led them to take on a more utilitarian function. From the earliest "trench watches" used in World War I to the huge pilot's watches, the use of watches as tools became more established. And within this macro area, you used the watch in different situations, which we will examine below.

What are the different styles of watches?

As we mentioned, there is a first significant division between dress and tool watches. Dress watches are commonly used on formal occasions, while others are designed to accompany their wearers under specific circumstances. However, the evolution of etiquette and customs has also led people to use these tool watches on formal occasions. Nowadays, wearing a diver's watch with a suit and tie is no longer taboo, although only a hundred years ago, it would have been considered scandalous.

Moreover, we shall remember that watches cannot be pigeonholed into strict categories: the manufacturers themselves, in their constant rush to follow the needs of their customers, create timepieces that can be situated in multiple niches. This was the case, for example, when Audemars Piguet commissioned the first Royal Oak from Gerald Genta in 1972, inventing the category of luxury sports watches. So, let's have a look at the different type of watches, before buying them.

1 - Dress watches

As their name indicates, dress watches are elegant ones to wear on formal occasions. They usually are watches of small diameter bearing a precious dial often executed in enamel, porcelain, or other materials, light in color, and with a case made of precious metal, like gold or platinum.

The watch would provide time-only functions with only two hands, without any other complication, and a reduced thickness so that you can easily slip them under shirt cuffs. The bracelet of dress watches is typically made of precious leather, such as crocodile, ostrich, and lizard. Still, there is no shortage of elegant bracelets executed in precious metal coordinated with the case.

Davosa Evo 1908

The Davosa Evo 1908

2 - Daily beaters

Dress watches have a "little brother" that is used on everyday business occasions: what is generally called a "daily beater." This kind of watch tends to be smart casual and more affordable: elegant but more relaxed in materials, colors, and strap, as well as in the presence of complications such as a second hand and a date window.

In this case, the case is often made of steel, and the strap of simple cowhide, perhaps with an embossed design to recall more precious leathers, or a practical steel bracelet, possibly softened by a particular design.

Davosa Amaranto quartz

3 - Jewel watches

The category of jewel watches includes all those timepieces that have primarily aesthetic value since they are worn precisely, on important occasions, and displayed as jewelry. Although they are typically worn by ladies, many similar watches are made for men.

The first wristwatches, created around the early 19th century, belonged to this category: they were bracelets made of gold and precious gems in which a watch movement was set, and often the value of the caliber was far less than that of the case and bracelet, made of gold and platinum and often covered with fancy or precious stones.

Davosa Newton Lady

4 - Diver watches

This category of watches belongs to technical watches. These are watches worn during a specific activity, which is why they are collectively called 'tool watches'. In the case of diver watches, they involve contact with water, often at high depths.

For this reason, divers are rugged watches with steel cases and high resistance to water pressure. Their dials are often dark-colored, with clearly visible hour markers and hands, and covered with lumen to aid readability. The crown and case back are usually screwed down to protect the movement from water seepage, and they typically have a rotating bezel that is used to indicate the dive time.

Davosa Vintage Diver

Davosa Vintage Diver

5 - Pilot watches

Among the earliest technical watches are pilot watches, which originated around 1904 with the introduction of the Cartier Santos. These are watches used by airplane pilots to tell the time, as onboard instrumentation was nonexistent at the time.

They are watches of large diameter and high legibility, with sturdy technical leather straps to be worn on the sleeves of fighter jackets. Some, those used by navigators, had a chronograph function and bezels that acted as slide rules. Although no one uses them for this reason anymore, their adventurous style has proved to be very popular still.

Davosa Neoteric Pilot Automatic

6 - Travel watches

 In this category are grouped watches dedicated to travelers, those who, out of necessity or pleasure, must travel the world or relate to places where the local time is different. This category, therefore, includes GMT watches and so-called world timers.

The former are watches that tell the time in a different timezone through the use of an additional hour hand and a rotating bezel; the latter, on the other hand, have a bezel that shows the main cities of the different timezones on the bezel, so that the correspondence of the time in the different timezones can be seen at a glance. These are predominantly sports or smart casual watches.

Automatic GMT coke watch

Davosa Ternos Professional GMT

7 - Field watches

Field watches are the evolution of military watches, derived from the trench watches used in WWI. They are rugged, sporty, no-frills watches, aesthetically reminiscent of diver watches, but without the rotating bezel and high water resistance features. They usually mount technical straps: steel bracelets, or rubber or fabric straps of the NATO type.

Because of their assertive cut, they are trendy, even among those for whom the height of adventure is finding an open mall on Sunday.

Davosa Military watch

Davosa Military Automatic

8 - Chronographs

The chronograph function was invented to enable the measurement of precise intervals of time, either for a scientific purpose, as in the case of astronomical watches and navigational watches, or for a sporting purpose, as in the case of racing watches that measure the times and speeds of automobiles or horse races.

The chronographic function is thus present in many sports and smart casual watches, but it is also adopted by some very classy and sophisticated dress watches.

Davosa Titanium Automatic

9 - Alarm watches

Around the middle of the last century, it was imperative to have a watch that allowed you to be alerted at a specific time. Something that seems trivial today, but let's remember that electronic diaries and smartwatches did not yet exist at that time. This led to the creation of so-called alarm clocks, watches that offered an alarm function that could be activated and adjusted by the user.

Usually, they had a second barrel that provided the energy needed to sound the alarm, which often emitted a characteristic buzz and caused the watch case to vibrate.

10 - Antimagnetic watches

With the great development of electromagnetic applications, watches had to have important magnetism resistance characteristics, especially when the wearer had to operate in such environments.

For this reason, the watchmaking industry around the 1950s started making watches with unique materials and construction features, such as soft iron inner cases that performed the function of Faraday cages, thus creating timepiece models that make up a small but fascinating niche in modern watchmaking.

11 - Astronomical watches

Astronomical watches are another niche of timepieces that measure time over long periods, such as months, years, and even centuries. The simple day and date function, which we find today even within entry-level watches, belongs to this category of watches.

More sophisticated ones incorporate functions such as perpetual calendars and moon phases. Still, the information these sophisticated timepieces can calculate is virtually endless, with watches typically costly but fascinating in their mesmerizing complexity.

A detail from the Davosa Newton chronograph moonphase

What is the most popular type of watch?

The watch is an expression of style, and as such, it reflects the society around it. For this reason, the popularity of different types of watches has changed over time. For example, when the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was launched, it struggled to establish itself in the public's taste because it was too avantgarde.

So, today we are witnessing a market that, having absorbed the hangover of luxury sports watches, is starting to move back toward smaller, more elegant watches, usually through reissues of models from the past, perhaps adapted to the tastes of the modern public.

However, we can say that diver watches are still in high demand, and that this trend, before it changes, will take a very long time indeed: so we predict that even in the coming years, the most popular and appreciated watch will remain the timeless diver that characters like James Bond have well propagated to us.

Which watch type is best?

Just as the possibilities of life are endless, so are the watches designed to assist us as we carry them out. Thus, it is impossible to say which watch is best because each has its specificities. Of course, it would be unwise to go swimming wearing a dress watch, but that does not mean it is impossible.

For example, Prince William of England has caused a stir during several public appearances on formal occasions by wearing a watch that is definitely out of context: a diver, specifically, an Omega Seamaster with a metal bracelet. The reason is straightforward: that particular watch is very dear to him since it was gifted by his mother, Princess Diana, and he wears it very often for that very reason.

This prompts us to say that watches, beyond their technical function of measuring time, are objects of affection that determine a style and should be considered more than just a tool.

Main Takeaways

As we have stated, the watch is an element that makes up our look. Especially men find in watches the possibilities generally reserved for womens' accessories to complete their style. This fact alone justifies the creation of a watch collection that includes different types of watches for other occasions and functions.

So if you have a passion for fancy watchmaking and like to have your style, remember that including a beautiful watch can be an essential part of it that will help you stand out.

The Davosa-USA.com website is NOT affiliated in any way with Audemars Piguet, Franck Muller USA, Inc. Richard Mille or Richemont Companies, Seiko, or any other brand which is not Davosa Swiss. Rolex is a registered trademark of Rolex USA. Davosa-USA website is not an authorized dealer, reseller, or distributor for Rolex and is in NO WAY affiliated with Rolex SA or Rolex USA or any other brand besides Davosa Swiss.
November 24, 2022 — Davosa Editor

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