The twentieth century was the peak of wristwatches. They were still practical items designed to be worn on a daily basis, but many of them resembled dress timepieces to our modern eyes. The most iconic of them have withstood the test of time, with several still being manufactured by current companies. Others have been confined to old archives, yet they are no less powerful.

There are many wonderful dress watches we can recommend, but if you’re new to watches, it’s also a good idea to look at the models that have had the most influence. The following are not necessarily the “best” or only dress watches you should be aware of, but rather those that will provide context for you to study the wide variety of dress watches available today.

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    Cartier Tank

    The Tank watch was created by Louis Cartier, who designed it after the tanks of WWI battlefields. Defined by flat vertical brancards and a sapphire cabochon, this symbol of understated elegance has since captivated the world’s most astute minds.

    Cartier is always synonymous with “elegant,” and no matter what shape their watches take (and they actually take many shapes), those Roman numerals and other details are the height of sophistication.

    Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

    At the beginning of the 1930s, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch was born of a challenge: designing a model that could withstand the polo matches of British Army officers in India. Its dial is smoothly concealed by reversing the case, to reveal a back that fully protects the face from possible mallet strokes.

    Timeless in its face, surrounded by its three emblematic gadroons, the Reverso luxury watch has been enchanting both men and women with an eye for beauty since its creation. Often androgynous, it knows how to show off its femininity in jewelled models or affirm its masculinity through pronounced complexities and a marked Art Déco aesthetic.

    Breguet Classique 5177

    The Breguet aesthetic is recognisable, and it is reflected here in its finest form. The guilloche dial, the Roman numeral indices, and the slender coin-edged case are things that really show its elegance.

    Many Breguet watches feature complex complications or skeletonized dials, but this Classique collection model distils the brand’s essential design DNA down to a deceptively simple 38mm dress watch. The 5157, which was introduced in 2005, is a contemporary example that symbolises centuries of Breguet watchmaking.

    IWC Portugieser

    The iconic design of Portugieser watches, with their imposing size, simple Arabic numerals, slim feuille hands, and railway-track-style chapter ring, originated in the 1930s, when it was well ahead of its time. Today, the original, clearly organised dial with its simple design remains an unrivalled style icon.

    This collection is powered by the tradition of large pocket watch movements that began in the 1930s, when two Portuguese businessmen ordered wristwatches with the precision of marine chronometers. Large wristwatches revolutionised the watch industry and established the trend towards the larger wristwatches so popular today.

    So, there are the most iconic dress watches that you can choose from on the market today. Discover the other dress watch collections here and visit the nearest The Time Place boutique for more information.