The 8 Most Common Watch Styles For Men

The world of men’s watches is a complicated one. Men’s watches can be categorized in several different ways, including both their style and how they’re powered.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing a watch purely based on fashion. After all, the way a watch looks is the most important aspect to most people- especially in the era of the smart phone where watches are rarely used for telling time.

But knowing the different watch styles for men can be helpful in your decision making process, especially if you’re looking for a watch to improve work performance or to wear at specific occasions.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the most common types of watches you’re likely to come across. After reading, you’ll have all the education you need to guide your search in the right direction.

The 8 Most Common Watch Styles For Men

#1 Diver Watches

tag heuer Aquaracer

Diver (or dive) watches are probably the most common style for men’s watches. Why? If I had to guess I would say because in general, they are easy to read, look great, and are relatively affordable in the realm of luxury watches.

As you’d guess from their name, dive watches are designed for diving under water. These watches come with large dials, metal bands, and usually have thick, sapphire crystals for water proofing and scratch resistance.

In order to classify as a dive or diver watch, there are some pretty specific features the watch must have, according to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). These include:

  • Water resistant to at least 100 m
  • Rotating bezel (always counter-clockwise) that can be used for timing dives
  • Decent readability within 9.8 in in total darkness
  • Magnetic, shock, and chemical (salt water) resistance
  • Band strength of at least 45 lb to each pivot point
  • An end of life indicator for battery operated watches

As you can see, the technical qualifications for dive watches are pretty intense. It costs manufacturers money to test and get their watches certified through the ISO, so not all diving watches are certified in this manner.

Regardless, dive watches are a great choice. They look great in pretty much any circumstance and the nice ones are very durable and resilient.

The TAG Heur Aquaracers are a perfect example. See our dive watches guide for more info.

#2 Dress Watches

dress watch

Dress watches are designed for a very particular purpose- to pair nicely with suits and formal attire. Formal dress watches are very different from the bulky dive watches we discussed above.

Instead, dress watches should be thin and simple. The thinner, the better because the watch shouldn’t catch on the cuffs of your dress shirt.

Thinner watches are actually a sign of better craftsmanship too- think about it, you have less room to work with.

That said, dress watches are a lot simpler than many of the other watch types. These watches usually only tell time, you won’t find any chronographs, calendars, or bezels.

Just a simple, elegant looking watch that can tell time.

Common features include:

  • Leather bands
  • Square, round, or rectangular faces
  • Simple dials
  • Cases often made out of luxury materials (gold or silver)

Since these watches are worn on special occasions, it makes sense for them to be expensive. A luxury dress watch can easily cost $20,000 or more. Check out our dress watch guide for more info.

#3 Field Watches

military watch

Todays field watches are designed after the original “trench watches” used in WWII. These simple military watches had one purpose and one purpose only- to tell accurate time.

But doing that on the battlefield is a little more challenging.

These watches are simple, yes, but they’re also very durable. After all, the watches used in WWII had to be dust and water proof, something we may take for granted now, but was more state of the art back then.

Today’s field watches are based on the design of those watches used in the military. They are still rather simple in design, most:

  • Have large dials
  • Can keep time in the 24 hr format
  • Come with leather or canvas bands

Field watches tend to have a rugged, outdoorsy look, making them a perfect choice for hikers, campers, or any other man than likes to spend time outside. Check out our field watch guide for more info.

#4 Pilot’s Watches

pilot watch

Pilot watches (also known as aviator watches), much like field watches, are designed to mimic the ones worn and used by pilots. Back in the early 1900’s, most men still used pocket watches for telling time (wrist watches were rare, and usually only worn by women).

Having to pull a bulky pocket watch out of a pocket wasn’t very doable for early pilots during flights- way too dangerous for the pilot to take their hands off the controls.

When one particularly famous aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, asked his friend Louis Cartier to design him a watch he could easily see without taking his hands off the controls, the pilot’s watch was born.

In order for these watches to work for pilots back then, they needed to have some pretty specific features. The pilot watches today are designed with the same details, including:

  • Large dials with contrasting numerals (easy to see in day or night)
  • Glow in the dark numerals and hands
  • Large crown (for easy winding while wearing gloves)
  • Bezel markings for calculating speeds and times

Although few pilots actually use watches for these purposes nowadays, the pilot’s watch remains a popular style. They look great and remind us of the necessity that created them. For more info, check out our pilot’s watches guide.

#5 Racing Watches

racing watch

Believe it or not, race car drivers would use watches for timing races and calculating speeds. Before the digital age, you had to calculate everything manually. If you know the distance and can measure time accurately, you can determine speed.

Which is really important for a race car driver.

Like a pilot, it’s important for drivers to be able to tell time without having to take their hands off the wheel. This means their watches needed to have good visibility.

Originally, racing watches even came with tilted cases, so drivers could see them easily without removing their hands from the wheel. This isn’t really done anymore, but it was a clever idea.

Today’s racing watches usually come with the following features:

  • A chronograph (timer) function
  • Large dial with high contrast numerals (for easy reading)
  • Tachymeter bezel for calculating speeds
  • Leather or rubber straps

Racing watches remain a popular style these days with brands like TAG, Omega, and Rolex leading the way. Check out our racing watch guide for more info.

 #6 Fashion Watches

fossil watch

Fashion watches are watches designed for the sole purpose of looking cool. Most technically tell time, but the emphasis is on appearance and not function.

These watches come in all shapes and sizes. There aren’t any rules when it comes to fashion, anything goes.

Fashion watches are usually pretty simple in terms of the mechanical components inside, which can keep the cost low. Many high-end fashion brands, like Armani and Gucci offer their own watches to complement their clothes.

Fossil is a popular fashion watch brand. I like them because they tend to be simple in design but elegant in appearance (they’re also really affordable).

MVMT is another popular brand known for providing great looking, affordable watches for both men and women. See our fashion watch guide for more info.

#7 Sports Watches

sports watches

I’m assuming we all know what these are, but I figured I’d include them anyway. Sports watches, or digital watches, are incredibly common- I’d go as far to bet that there isn’t a man out there reading this that hasn’t owned at least one digital watch.

I’m wearing my Timex as I speak.

Sports watches are affordable, comfortable, and functional. The digital display is easy read and the timer and stopwatch functions come in handy for various athletic events.

They tend to be waterproof too, making them a good choice for swimmers or divers.

Sports watches aren’t the flashiest options around, but when it comes to good ol’ fashioned keeping time, they work great.

I’m not sure if these count as sports watches or not, probably more of a sub-category, but there are also watches that can track heart rate, act as pedometers, and even track location with GPS.

These watches are a lot more advanced and cost a lot more than the standard Timex. See our sports watch guide for more info.

#8 Smartwatches

smart watch

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this category or not, but if I’m aiming to discuss the most common types of watches these days,  I felt like I had to.

Smartwatches just popped on the scene in the last few years, but their popularity is booming.

Smartwatches are basically mini-computers that fit on your wrist. They can sync wirelessly with your smart phone, giving you access to apps, photos, music, and call functions.

Apple and Samsung are probably the most recognizable smartwatch brands, but Garmin, Fitbit, and even Fossil have smart options to choose from as well.

These watches also come in different shapes and sizes as well as plenty of band options to choose from. Most allow you to customize the screen, giving you options to choose your dial and face.

In a world where everything is “smart” and “connected”, it was only a matter of time until these watches hit the market. I still remember Dick Tracy and his watch that worked as a phone- man, how the times have changed.

I haven’t gone down the smartwatch route yet and I doubt I ever will, but I see their appeal. Check out our smartwatch guide for more info.

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