As someone who wears a lot of suits and who also owns a fair number of Rolex watches in my personal collection, I get asked this kind of question a lot, and it’s never one I get bored of. Why? Because it is such a personal thing. The answer is always different. In fact, the conversation it is necessary to have in order to arrive at a conclusion is often a touching and revelatory experience.
How to Style Rolex Watches with Your Favorite Suit
There are many ways to dress, or should I say, there are many motivations to dress a certain way. The same is true of choosing which watch to wear. There is no absolute scale for fashion, only levels of appropriateness and execution. What looks perfect in one environment would look ridiculous in another. Adapting to and mastering these shifting social scenes is hard work, and life becomes an awful lot easier if your watch (or watches) can be many things at once.
Look, a Rolex Cellini is a superb dress watch. It is red carpet fodder. It would look at home on the wrist of a prince of Versailles. But it is not ideal for dinner and drinks with the boys in the bar. It is an awkward invader of what should be a casual and relaxed affair. This pigeon-holing should be true of all watches, but it isn’t. That’s thanks in large part to history, and how the reputation of certain watches – mostly sports-orientated watches that redefined their class – has left them able to tread both lines flawlessly.
Take the Rolex Submariner, for example. It is, primarily, a dive watch. It looks at home in-action or on the wrist of an action man off duty. It is tough, rugged, and built for a hard life. However, its refinement, both materially and mechanically, as well as its legend, makes it worthy of premieres, soirees, and ball and board rooms the world over. However, that is not to say that its appearance shouldn’t be dressed up or dressed down once in a while.
Some people think its sacrilege to ever remove a watch – especially a classic Rolex watch – from the strap or bracelet that was designed for it. There’s an argument for that – especially when it comes to resale value – but for the sake of increased day-to-day enjoyment, does it really matter? I would say not.
Some Rolex watches are particularly well-suited to strap swapping. These beloved beasts are nicknamed “strap monsters” and they are the darlings of watch-lovers on a budget. Why? Because strap monsters allow the less affluent collector to get multiple different looks out of their investment for very little money indeed.
The aforementioned Submariner is a market-leading strap monster and looks more at home on a fabric NATO strap that almost any other watch ever created. In fact, this look is so cool that even James Bond rocked it in Dr. No. Although the nylon strap featured in the film was actually not of the NATO variety and the color of that strap is often misinterpreted as black and gray (it was actually black, green, and red). Even still, it became a classic and even goes by the nickname of “Bond NATO”).
And so my first suggestion to someone asking me how to style Rolex watches with their favorite suit is to ask about the model in question and then the suit’s fabric, main color, and their preference for other accessories such as ties, socks, and pocket squares.
Straps and bracelets come in many sizes and can be made from all manner of things (if you think stingray straps are bonkers, have a look at ones made from old cricket balls…). A good, solid Rolex sports watch like the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, Explorer, Air-King, or GMT Master II, for example, will stand you in good stead; a massive selection of easy-to-fit NATO or Zulu straps will broaden that watch’s horizons significantly.
And perhaps the best thing about teaming a classic luxury Rolex with a humble fabric strap is that it blends the watch into the ensemble in a way a bracelet often fails to. True class is quiet. It is not loud or brash or meretricious. It is humble and for oneself. Muting a luxury watch’s visibility and making part of a well-considered whole takes thought and conviction, but the result is worth it.
All that’s left is for you to buy a gamut of fabric straps that complement your tie collection, and if you happen to be color blind, invest in a color wheel and a friend who isn’t.