A Customizable Dress Watch for the Casual Generation

For the majority of my childhood I remember my dad wearing the same quartz-powered Seiko every day. It was an anonymous timepiece, but with a gold-ish case, a white dial and black Roman numerals, it was ostensibly a dress watch, the type of timepiece meant to be paired with a sports coat, business suit or tux. Yet every day, be it paired with Dockers for a Monday meeting, a blazer and a tie to meet with clients or jeans on a Saturday and a sweatshirt for mowing the lawn, it always stayed attached to his wrist. Dad only ever took off his Seiko to wash the dishes.

It was dad’s Seiko that came immediately to mind when I began wearing Martenero’s latest timepiece, the Marquis. It’s the New York-based watch company’s take on the dress watch. I suspect it was the Roman numerals that did it, because the Seiko and the Marquis don’t have much else in common. The Marquis has a 28,800 bph Miyota automatic movement; the Seiko was quartz. At 42mm in diameter (a 38mm option is also available) and 10.8mm thick, it’s considerably larger than my dad’s watch, too. It’s also customizable — a selection of white, silver and black dials can be paired with a black, orange, navy or light blue second hand, and several leather straps that can be mixed and matched, as well. And, while the Seiko had the minimalist appearance of a traditional dress watch, the Marquis has a busy dial.

Busy isn’t a bad thing, though. Filling in the gaps between the applied Roman numerals at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock are large hour markers, each accompanied by Arabic numerals denoting the number of minutes at each marker. There are also minute indices between every hour marker. There’s a lot going on, but the elegance remains in the way the silver, two-tier dial is adorned by these markings. The traditional minimalism and restraint is gone, but the Marquis still dresses up well enough.

It dresses down, too. That matters: the traditional need for a dress watch (hell, the need for a watch in general) has become less prevalent in what is a decidedly casual world. Dress codes at offices are being relaxed — t-shirts, sweaters and untucked shirts are replacing blazers; dress shoes have fallen to sneakers. The need to wear a suit on a regular basis is dwindling, instead replaced by so-called “smart casual” attire — “Pretty much anything smarter than a tracksuit, but less formal than a suit,” as Mr Porter defines it. In that light, do we really need another watch for those few times we need to dress up?

Do the traditional elements of the watch, like the Roman numerals, stand out against a plain cotton t-shirt? Sure, but the Marquis is youthful-looking enough to make the juxtaposition work.

Of course not. Before the Marquis entered my life I was wearing a dive watch with a suit. Despite what the purists may say, you absolutely can make a sports watch dressy if you so choose. Likewise, you can make a dressy watch like the Martenero Marquis work for casual wear. Do the traditional elements of the watch, like the Roman numerals, stand out against a plain cotton t-shirt? Sure, but the Marquis is youthful-looking enough to make the juxtaposition work. Thus I found the Martenero equally appropriate in both my professional and my weekend lives — in jeans and a t-shirt bump-starting my old motorcycle and under a white dress shirt and navy blazer when attending press conferences at the New York International Auto Show.

And that was the other reason the Marquis channeled memories of that anonymous Seiko — I had embraced a one-watch mentality, even if the watch in question didn’tperfectly fit whatever situation I found myself in. It’s a mentality that worked for my pragmatist father and one that can work for young people who want a watch as a style piece but aren’t into the history or the high artistry or different complications of timekeeping, because they grew up looking for the time on their phones rather than their wrists.

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