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Top 14 Different Watch Styles You Should Know

When it comes to watches, there are a lot of watch styles to choose from. With the amount of styles of watches out there, you might feel lost in all the choices. We’re here to help.

This blog post will outline the top 14 watch styles that you should know.

From the oldest watch styles of pocket watches, Trench watches, and Flieger watches.

To the more recent watch styles of luxury sports watches, digital watches, and tactical timepieces.

Discover which style of watch you want to add to your collection next.

Watch Styles

  1. Pocket Watch
  2. Trench Watch
  3. Field Watch
  4. Flieger Watch
  5. Dress Watch
  6. Pilot Watch
  7. Racing Watch
  8. Dive Watch
  9. Sports Watch
  10. Luxury Sports Watch
  11. Digital Watch
  12. Tactical Watch
  13. Smartwatch
  14. Fashion Watch

Watch Styles Comparison

Here is a quick comparison of the top 14 watch styles on a handy chart. So you can get an overview of all the watch styles we will review.

Watch StyleDefinitionExample
Pocket WatchThe first wearable timepiece.
A watch that can fit inside of your pocket.
Trench WatchTransitional watch between a pocket watch and a field watch.
Used during World War 1.
Field WatchSimple military watch, used during World War 2.
Pilot WatchA watch made for pilots.
Modern pilot watches often feature a GMT function.
Flieger WatchA German pilot watch made before World War 2.
Dress WatchA formal and elegant watch.
Racing WatchA watch made for racing car drivers. 

These watches feature a chronograph function and a tachymeter bezel.
Dive WatchA watch that has a high level of water resistance, and a rotating bezel.
Sports WatchA durable watch made to handle being worn while playing sports.
Luxury Sports WatchA sports watch that is luxurious yet can still handle being worn while playing sports.
Digital WatchA watch with a digital display.
Tactical WatchA tough, durable watch with many features made for special forces.
SmartwatchA smartphone in the form of a watch.
Fashion WatchA watch that is created usually by a fashion brand. Not a serious watchmaker.

A negative term in the watch community.

1. Pocket Watch

Pocket watch style

A pocket watch was the very first wearable timepiece ever made. Pocket watches were first invented in the 16th century.

Pocket watches were a status symbol in the past. Just as many wristwatches are status symbols today.

Rich men would demonstrate their wealth by the type of pocket watch they owned. With many made from expensive materials like gold or platinum.

Yet those who weren’t as wealthy still wore pocket watches. However they were made from cheaper materials like silver or brass.

Pocket watch style

Pocket watches are still around today. While not as popular as the wristwatch, many watch brands still produce this old school watch style.

Pocket watches are often some of the most expensive and complicated watches ever sold at auction. 

Like the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication sold for $24 million at the famous Sotheby’s watch auction.

Photo of the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch
$24 Million Dollar Patek Philippe Pocket Watch

2. Trench Watch

Trench watch style
Antique Trench Watch

Field watches were originally referred to as Trench watches. These were first created during the First World War. 

Pocket watches were still popular at the time. Yet, soldiers who were fighting in the trenches, needed a watch on their wrist and not in their pocket. So Trench watches gained in popularity.

Trench watches acted as a transitional watch between the pocket watch, and the field watch.

Commercial from 1918 for trench watches
Trench Watch Commercial 1918 (Image : Wikipedia)

Before the First World War, watches were considered a woman’s accessory. They also weren’t very accurate. This all changed following the Great War. 

Trench watches have had a bit of a comeback in recent times. With watch brands making homages to the Trench watches of the past.

3. Field Watch

Field watch style
Bulova Vintage A-11 Field Watch

Field watches were made popular during the Second World War.

The A-11 Military Spec was a popular field watch that was given to Allied Forces during the Second World War. These field watches varied, but the many big American watchmakers produced them. Which were Elgin, Bulova and Waltham at the time. 

These watchmakers made millions of these field watches per year at the beginning of the war.

Today, many still hail that the American A-11 field watch was the watch that won the war. Thanks to providing soldiers, pilots, and all parts of the Allied Forces with accurate and reliable timekeeping on the ground.

You can still find vintage American A-11 field watches today. You can try to source them through an online vintage watch market.

Yet, there are many modern reinterpretations of these legendary watch style. Even from one of the original American A-11 watch brands, like Bulova.

Modern field watch style
Bulova Modern Field Watch (Source : Bulova)

4. Pilot Watch

Pilot watches are also referred to as Aviator watches. Both mean the same kind of watch style. Which is a watch made for a pilot.

Photo of the Santos de Cartier
Santos de Cartier

Cartier made the first pilot watch. It was the Santos de Cartier made in 1904, for inventor and pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont. Santos needed a watch that he could easily read during a flight.

Like all pilot watches, then and now, easy readability is essential.

Photo of a Rolex GMT-Master
Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 6542

Nowadays though, the pilot watch styles have a lot more features, such as a GMT function.

A GMT watch is a watch that can tell the time for two time zones at once. Extremely handy for a pilot. The GMT Master watch made by Rolex in 1953, was one of the first GMT watches.

Today all pilot watches include luminosity. Which is important when flying through the night sky.

Learn more about GMT watches, and how they work.

5. Flieger Watch

Re-issue of a 55mm Loca Flieger watch style
Laco Flieger Watch Model Replica 55mm (Source : Laco)

A Flieger style of watch was the most advanced pilot watch style available at the time. They were created in Germany before the Second World War.

Originally they were huge and worn over a flight jacket. Original Flieger watches measured a massive 55mm. They were used by the German air force, known as the Luftwaffe, during World War 2.

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There were 5 watchmakers who were the first to be given contracts to create these German Flieger watches. They’re known as the original Flieger watch manufactures:

  1. IWC (the only Swiss contractor, the rest are German)
  2. Laco
  3. Stowa
  4. Wempe Glashütte
  5. A. Lange und Soehne

Flieger watches came in two dial styles, both are pictured below.

Diagram of two dial styles of Flieger style watches
Two Types of Flieger Watch Dials

German watchmakers Stowa, Loca, and Wempe Glashütte still produce Flieger watches.

Nowadays, though, reinterpretations of these watches are usually much smaller than the original humongous Flieger watch styles.

One of the most affordable Flieger inspired watch styles around today is from Seiko. Their aptly nicknamed Flieger watch is a big hit. Introducing many Seiko fans to the Flieger style of watch.

6. Dress Watch

Photo of a Cartier Tank
Cartier Tank

A dress watch is the most formal and elegant watch. Dress watches were originally only worn with formal attire.

Dress watches can come in a range of case shapes. From tonneau, ellipse, oval and more.

One of the world’s most famous dress watches is the Cartier Tank. First created in 1918, it is still one of the most elegant and iconic watches around today.

Traditionally a dress watch has a simple dial, a smaller case size, and a leather strap. They are watches made to be worn with a formal outfit.

A dress watch should only tell the time, it shouldn’t have any other complications. Other than maybe a date window.

A traditional size for a dress watch is between 32–36mm. However, over the years watch sizes have gotten larger. Now a dress watch case size can go up to 40mm.

Photo of an Orient Bambino Version 2 dress watch
Orient Bambino Version 2

The Orient Bambino dress watch collection is an example of an affordable automatic dress watch line. That comes in larger sizes, and a range of dress watch styles.

Check out our review on the Orient Bambino dress watches.

7. Racing Watch

Racing style watch - Rolex Cosmograph Daytone Ref. 6239
Rolex Cosmograph Daytone Ref. 6239

The racing watch style is a watch made for racing car drivers.

Racing watches are often equipped with high-contrast dials. So they can be read easily at speeds of up to 300 miles an hour. 

A racing watch will always feature a chronograph and a tachymeter bezel. A chronograph is a stopwatch function on the watch. This allows you to measure laps around a track.

A tachymeter bezel is useful for trying to keep track of your speed while driving without taking your hands off the wheel – just use its scale located around the bezel.

8. Dive Watch

Dive watch style - Rolex Submariner Ref 6204
Rolex Submariner Ref 6204

A dive watch is a style of watch with high levels of water resistance. Usually a dive watch must have a minimum water resistance of 200m (660ft).

Water resistance in watches today is measured by the amount of water pressure a watch can handle. Learn more about watch water resistance in our guide.

Dive watches also feature a screw-down crown, a screw-in caseback, and a rotating bezel too.

The first dive watch released commercially was the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6204. Which was first released in 1953.

The Rolex Submariner dive watch was also featured heavily in the early James Bond movies.

The Rolex Submariner has continued to remain iconic to this day.

Dive watch style - Rolex Submariner 16610
Rolex Submariner 16610

Probably the most popular Rolex Submariner to date is the submariner 16610. This watch has inspired so many homages.

Discover many more dive watches in our guide to this watch style.

9. Sports Watch

World's first sports style watch - Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso watch
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Watch

Sports watches are known as watches that can handle a beating. They are tough enough to be worn during sports. They come in a range of styles and price ranges.

The very first sports watch was the Reverso. An iconic watch made for polo players, by the Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre.

These British polo players needed a watch that would not get smashed up during a polo match.

It’s a watch that has two faces. One with the analog time display, then flip it over and the dial is protected. With just a case on display.

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The Seiko 5 sports watch collection is an excellent example of a super popular sports range from Seiko today. This collection of sport watch styles are affordable and durable.

Sports watch style - From Seiko 5 collection (Seiko SRPD95)
Seiko SRPD95

This range is also an innovative sport watch line. With newer Seiko watches positioning their watch crowns at the 4 o’clock position. 

This will prevent the crown from snagging on the back of the hand, while playing sports.

10. Luxury Sports Watch

First luxury sports watch style - A Royal Oak watch
Royal Oak Watch

The Royal Oak collection was released in 1972 by the legendary Swiss watchmaker; Audemars Piguet. Was the world’s first luxury sports watch collection.

Royal Oak has become an iconic watch collection. It was released at the beginning of the Quartz Crisis

It sparked a whole new watch style, and this style remains super popular.

Today luxury sports watches are hugely popular watches. Not all luxury sports watches look like the Royal Oak collection. Many have their own take on the luxury sports watch styles.

However, the Royal Oak will forever be embodied in other luxury and non luxury sports watches. It is a truly legendary watch collection, from a Holy Trinity watch brand.

It even sparked the trend for octagonal watch case shapes.

11. Digital Watch

Digital watch style - A Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1
Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1

Digital watches display the time in a digital format, instead of displaying the time in a traditional analog format.

Digital watch styles are popular today with many watchmakers such as Japanese watch brand Casio.

Digital watches first came on the scene at the beginning of the 1970s. Just when the Quartz Crisis was starting in the watch industry.

First commercial digital watch style - A Hamilton Pulsar
Hamilton Pulsar

The world’s first digital watch was released by Hamilton in 1972, this was the Pulsar. The Pulsar watch was even featured in a James Bond film in 1973.

12. Tactical Watch

Tactival watch style - A Casio Pro Trek
Casio Pro Trek

Tactical watches are a style of watch that’s tough and durable. They’re built with many features which would help someone out in the wilderness. 

They are made for people in the military, firefighters and adventurers. Anyone who’s on a mission and needs a watch to perform many functions. Then tactical watch styles are for them. 

The main features you can find on tactical watches include:

  • An accurate and reliable quartz or solar powered movement
  • Digital compass
  • GPS
  • Thermometer
  • Altimeter
  • Barometer
  • World time

Tactical watches are often chunky styled watches, with a good level of water resistance. Always ready for any adventure.

13. Smartwatch

A photo of an Apple Series 6 Smartwatch
Apple Series 6 Smartwatch

A smartwatch is like having a smartphone on your wrist.

A smartwatch can be great as it comes with a host of features. A smartwatch can:

  • Count your steps
  • Track your sleep
  • Calculate your heart rate
  • Play songs and video

Some smartwatches even allow you to make or take calls right from your wrist! Smartwatches are considered smartphones in the shape of a watch.

14. Fashion Watch

Fashion watch style - Daniel Wellington watch
Daniel Wellington Fashion Watch

Instead fashion watches refer to badly made and cheap watches, usually sold with a very high markup. Making copies of popular or general styles.

Examples of fashion watch brands include the infamous Daniel Wellington, Vincinero, or MVMT.

To the inexperienced watch collector. Fashion watches can appear like a great find.

Not every fashion brand is guilty of creating badly made and over priced watches. Some of the world’s best watch brands are fashion brands too.

Like French powerhouse Cartier, or Italian legendary fashion brand, Bulgari. Both of these watch brands create excellent watches.

To Sum Up

There are so many different watch styles to choose from, that it can be overwhelming at first. These top 14 watch styles are some of the main watch styles you should know.

Bookmark our watch styles comparison chart in case you ever need to refresh your memory.

From the oldest watch styles; the pocket watch, and Trench watch. To the latest high tech smartwatches and tactical watch styles out now. 

We’re spoiled for choice and have a watch style ready for any occasion. 

Why not take a dive into one of the most popular watch styles around; the dive watch.

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