Etiquette: Watches & Tuxedos


Often I have discussions  if you can or cannot wear a wrist watch while wearing a tuxedo/smoking. My answer is always: depends on the smoking you are wearing… Is it for a black tie or white tie event?



Therefore I did some research.

Let start with the word ‘etiquette’… What does that mean? On Wikipedia we learn: “Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. The French word, signifying ticket (of admission, etc.) first appeared in English in 1750.”

And, what does it mean if one receives an invitation which states ‘Black Tie’ as dress code? Although it can differ slightly per country, generally we can state: ‘black tie is a dress code for semi-formal evening events, and is worn to many types of social functions. For a man, the major component is a jacket, known as a tuxedo, which is usually black. A woman’s corresponding evening dress is a long evening gown (gala attire).’

If we focus on the men, here are some tips on what makes a smoking:

Unlike white tie, which is very strictly regulated, black-tie ensembles can display more variation. In brief, the traditional components are:

– A jacket with silk facings (usually grosgrain or satin), called the dinner jacket.
– Trousers with silk braids matching the lapels.
– A black cummerbund or low-cut waistcoat.
– A white dress shirt with either a marcella (piqué cotton), stiff, or pleated front.
– A black silk bow tie.
– Black dress socks, usually silk.
– Black shoes in patent or highly polished leather, or patent leather court shoes.

So, what about the watches??? Good question!!!

What would we do without Google 🙂 First thing I did is Google this question and I was surprised how little results I found. I found a comment by the GQ Style Guy about wearing a Tux during a wedding:

“What style of timepiece to wear at your wedding I am getting married soon, and I am not sure what style timepiece I should put on my wrist. I’ll be wearing a very traditional one-button black tuxedo, a white shirt, a vest and a white Windsor tie. My cuff links are sterling silver. The wedding is on a Saturday morning. Would it be more appropriate for me to wear a Cartier rectangular face with Roman numerals and a black leather band or a Rolex with a stainless-steel band? I’m concerned that the Rolex might be too flashy. I am leaning toward the Cartier, with the leather band.

You’re lucky. You must have very few other problems to be so concerned with this. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about what’s appropriate; since you are planning to wear evening clothes in the morning, appropriateness is no longer a consideration. But given your choices, I do think you’re better off with a dress watch—the Cartier—than with the Rolex, which I’m presuming is something of a sports watch. Unless, of course, the wedding will take place underwater, in which case the Rolex will function down to 300 meters. If the Cartier watch is gold, you might consider wearing gold cuff links (and studs?) or even asking your best man to be the timekeeper.”

But, what if the wedding is at night, cause the style guy is rather right, it is not often that you wear a tuxedo before sunset…

Back to Wikipedia… After looking three times, I finally found something of relevance: “Timepiece: If worn, a wristwatch should be slender, plain, and elegant; alternatively, a pocket watch may be worn on the waistcoat. Traditionally, however, visible timepieces are not worn with formal evening dress, because timekeeping is not considered a priority.”

Mmmmm… A bit contradictory. If worn, classic is the key, but then it states traditionally timepieces are not worn. What to do if you don’t own a pocket watch… So, is a wrist watch acceptable or not?

Hubpages says it is: “Your watch needs to be as slim and sleek as your tuxedo. Black tie is classic formal wear, keep your timepiece in the same league with a leather strap and basic black face. Keep those chunky chronographs with the compasses at home or on the fishing boat, you need to be dressy, not flashy here.”

I found this quote on several other sites… Google doesn’t help that much on this subject, so my dear fellow WatchFreaks, please share your opinion.

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56 Responses to “Etiquette: Watches & Tuxedos”

  1. J. Peter Says:

    I’m no fashion expert, but as a watchmaker I wouldn’t go anywhere without a watch. When wearing a tuxedo I almost always go with one of my pocket watches, but a slender dress watch would also be appropriate. I agree that you should wear a “dress watch” when dressing up, not a sports watch.

    • Derrick Brice; Says:

      How about you guys let us wear what we want to. I would feel naked to the world if I did not wear a watch. If you are wearing it as a status prop, you are the poser. Not the watch or lack of one per event status. These creations are engines of divinity expressing the infinite realm of our knowing. They should be respected for more than just something some bimbo at your frat buddy’s wedding may notice and lure herself into your clutches.

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  3. alonbj Says:

    @J.Peter: Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated. Personally I also never leave my home with a watch on my wrist! I also wear watches to black tie events, but always with a black strap 🙂

  4. Robert-Jan Says:

    Hi Alon,

    I understand your worries, but I wouldn’t mind that much 🙂 You are a decent guy, everybody will notice that. Additionally, you are a watch freak aren’t you? So it is justified. Period 🙂


  5. alonbj Says:

    @RJ: LOL! I don’t think it a worry, but more curiousity. Like J. Peter said, us WatchFreaks always wear watches 😉 Just curious to hear what others were doing/think about this subject… I know you will ALWAYS wear a watch 🙂

  6. cliffchan Says:

    I agree that traditionally, you don’t wear a watch during black tie events. Lucky for me I’m not all about traditions 😉

    However, when speaking more specifically of weddings, regardless of the attire, I think it’s a nice idea for men not to wear watches on their own wedding days (sorry watchfreaks!). It’s one of those rare days when time doesn’t matter and you have others to act as timekeepers for you, and it should be enjoyed as such.

    Off topic: I love the way GQ mocks the guy about what’s appropriate!

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  9. alonbj Says:

    @cliff: Us WatchFreaks are setting a new tradition here online… Black Tie & Watches: HELL YEAH 😉

    About weddings… I don’t see it as a timekeeper, but a finishing touch to your outfit…

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  16. walzerphotography Says:

    Stick with something simple and classic.

  17. Mens Digital Watches Says:

    Very good advice to adhere to. First time visitor and love the blog. Thanks for sharing this great information.

    • alonbj Says:

      @Mens Digital Watches: Thank you for visiting, please do come back and share your opinions with us. What is your favorite digital watch?

  18. Frank Donnelly Says:

    I think if you are wearing a tuxedo to a black tie event that a sports watch with a digital displayi is a no no, the watch should be slim, stylish with a black leather strap.

  19. Gee Says:

    I think if you are wearing a tuxedo to a black tie event that a sports watch with a digital displayi is a no no, the watch should be slim, stylish with a black leather strap.”

    It depends on what type of digital spots watch you’re wearing. I saw Federer of Tennis wearing tuxedos and a sports digital watch and it’s so elegant.

  20. ginault Says:

    The Black Watches almost anywhere you go across the globe and you’ll almost certainly elicit fond recognition

  21. Shaojie Says:

    Well.I like it, Its a really nice article I’ve saw 🙂

  22. Max Says:

    Great Article,thank you so much.

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  24. Bart Says:

    sports watches that are made from titanium are great, expensive and very lightweight “:’

  25. Pat Says:

    I always felt like wearing a watch to a black tie event showed that you still felt like you needed a schedule. Not wearing a watch with a tux shows that you are there strictly to enjoy the event, you aren’t worried about what’s next, you’re just living in the moment. That’s what fun and paradoxical about a black tie event, formal in appearance but informal because its a fun atmosphere and there’s usually an open bar. Any thoughts?

  26. Lady Says:

    Traditionally, it has never been acceptable to wear a VISIBLE watch with formal clothing for either men or women. You are not to appear to be watching the time.

    Pocket watches were acceptable because they were hidden. So, if you insist on wearing a wristwatch, it should be unobtrusive and slender enough to be hidden under your cuff. Even so, you should not be observed checking the time.

    Watches were meant to be worn at work or during the day when one is keeping to a schedule. I would not even wear a watch to an informal party.

    This is why diamond-encusted watches are so wrong. There is really no occasion for them.

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  30. carmen Says:

    what about ladys , what style of watch is acceptable to wear to a black tie event…. or formal evening party???

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  42. Saad Rahman Says:

    This is really interesting, well when it comes to watches, i really respect them. Watches have provided us an unlimited service, a watch is the only key for a person to be punctual and that could even lead to development of time caring. For me, although i am a Pakistani, a place where Tuxedos are rarely worn, does’nt matter to perfectly match my watch, lets say if i own many watches, then yes, i can give them a good category.I have only 3 watches, a Swiss Army 1994 vintage lancer, Tissot T Touch Expert and a Motor sport G-Shock. If I was in your place, belive me I would put on my Tissot with the Tuxedos, for an genuine person who respect watches, it is not what the watches gives us but what we give back to a watch, never mind if your watch is too flashy, although i too dislike flashy watches, but if i had one, i would make the fullest use of it, and come on, they are the people who set the trends, and whe are the part of that chain, Buddha says,” Doubt everything, Find your own light.” And when it comes to internet, wikihow says to bow your nose on ur sleeve if you dont find a hanky or tissue, heheheh

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  49. Diane R. Says:

    Tuxedo + Watch = Sophistication.

    • William Says:

      Way too much back and forth here… I love watches as much as the next guy. Moreover as a watch lover it’s important to understand the history, functionality and appropriateness of timepieces in various settings. The only people who should be wearing a wrist watch with a tuxedo at a celebratory occasion are members of the wait staff who are themselves working the event. If you need to know the time, ask the bartender… I’m sure his watch complements his pre-tied bow tie nicely. Keep it traditional, keep it classy and exercise some discretion.

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  52. DNOV Says:

    This is an old post but I almost swallowed my tounge when I read it. You would NEVER wear a tux to a white tie event, what proposterous idea has gotten into the author of this text? White tie comes with tail coats for crying out loud!

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