What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches

What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches

Luke Benedictus

Listen, I don’t want to cast aspersions on your immaculate dress sense. But I suspect that you’re not reading this while wearing a tuxedo, a white silk scarf draped over your shoulders with devil-may-care panache. No, please don’t apologise. To tell you the truth, I’m wearing my tracksuit pants, too. During the last 12 months between the lockdown(s), the social distancing and the working from home, Covid has accelerated a collective decline of our sartorial standards.  Opportunities to dress up are more limited than ever. All of which gives this year’s Oscars a certain rarity value as a high-profile, formalwear event.  At the Academy Awards, like it or not, Hollywood’s leading lights are duty-bound to scrub up, polish their shoes and try to remember what the hell they’ve done with their cufflinks.

What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches
Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

Traditionally the only watch to wear with black tie was, of course, a dress watch. What does that actually translate to? Well, five years ago, Time+Tide actually ran an article by former GQ Australia editor Ceri David on the rules of selecting a tuxedo-appropriate watch. The fact that it was sub-titled: “No Submariners with black tie” gives you the general gist. But just to recap here are Ceri’s black tie watch commandments in full:

Size does matter
Go no larger than 39mm in diameter – and yes, we know that rules out practically everything.

Black tie means black
Always wear a black leather strap. Not brown, not purple and never metal, and yes, that includes Milanese. Still no.

Watch your figure
Slim, low profile, to fit neatly beneath your shirt sleeve – your watch should be glimpsed, not seen.

Keep it simple 
Hours, minutes and seconds will do, thanks. This isn’t a racing suit or a wetsuit.

Think “elegance”
That is the very point of black tie, so choose a watch that’s elegant enough to match the rest of your ensemble.

While slightly censorious, this is all stock-standard advice. Except that it’s now routinely ignored. At last year’s Oscars, a large proportion of male attendees conspicuously thumbed their nose at the dress watch, refusing to be confined by any of this less-is-more hectoring.  Sports watches, GMTs and integrated bracelets ruled the red carpet instead.

What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches
Spike Lee

Spike Lee wore a Rolex GMT-Master in 18k Everose Gold, Josh Gad opted for a Chopard Alpine Eagle, Sam Rockwell picked a Rolex GMT-Master II 16710, while Oscar Isaac wore an Omega Speedmaster Apollo. The list went on and on. Poor Ceri would’ve been absolutely livid.

What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches
Josh Gad

You could view last year’s Academy Awards as being the final nail in the coffin for the death of the dress watch. Or fresh evidence of casualwear’s slightly oppressive monopoly. But what will we see in 2021? Aside from being an almighty pain in the arse, Covid has proven to be an undoubted social catalyst. So how will this be reflected in the wristwear of Hollywood’s biggest stars?

What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches
Sam Rockwell

The most likely option is that we’ll witness the continued demise in formality with more sports watches and GMTs on display. One of the more conspicious watch trends over the last 12 months has also been the increase in coloured dials, in particular the tidal wave of green. Perhaps we’ll see brighter hues replacing the white or black dials of the traditional dress watch, even if they do clash a bit with the red carpet

Something else that could influence proceedings is the phenomenon of the socially distanced attendance. If you’re accepting an Oscar over Zoom there are certain optics to consider. Your appearance in such a scenario is essentially limited to the top half of your body alone. That means you have fewer sartorial weapons at your disposal to create an impression. This could well encourage some actors to go bolder with their accessories and opt for flashier, more look-at-me wristwear. Again, that sounds like bad news for the dress watch whose basic premise is understatement and discretion.

Alternatively, some actors could decide that the whole black-tie rigmarole is utterly pointless when you’re sitting on your sofa back home. That was certainly the approach of Jason Sudeikis at the Golden Globes when he ditched the tuxedo in favour of a tie-dye hoodie.

What the Oscars could tell us about the future of men’s watches

There is, of course, another possibility. Perhaps having been starved of formal opportunities for so long, actors will pounce on this opportunity to escape the tyranny of loungewear. Delighted to dress up, they’ll kick off their UGG boots and set out to conquer the red carpet in style. After a quick YouTube refresher course on how to knot their bow-tie, they’ll reach for a dress watch – the confident restraint of their Calatrava perhaps or the Reverso’s art deco flair. Buckling on the leather strap, they’ll remember why these watches are, in fact, the ultimate black-tie accessory. Well, except for a small gold statuette.