Welcome to the Golden Age of Red Carpet Watches

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Urbinati isn’t trawling WatchUSeek, but she says there’s a “feeling in the air” that’s pushing the way she styles watches. She’s tuned into those vibrations in big and small ways, feeling out hot brands like Tag Heuer and intuitively understanding the shift towards steel sport watches as all-the-time pieces. “I used to really only prefer leather bands if it was a formal event, a steel band if it was casual,” she says. “But now I actually love a steel band for a formal event.” This, of course, is how most men are using their watch collection nowadays. And it’s not just because steel sport pieces rule the watch world—there’s good fashion sense driving the decision, too. “There’s just a relaxed feel to it that I prefer,” Urbinati says. “And I like the contradiction of the more casual watch with a more formal look.” 

Dwyane Wade before the Met Gala wearing a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date

The growing focus on watches comes at a time when men are paying more attention to fashion in general. Bolden compares the pieces to a woman’s necklace or earrings—critical finishing touches to womenswear ensembles for decades. Now, menswear demands that same sort of meticulousness. “Everything gets more thought now: the shoes, socks, accessories, and the jewelry,” Urbinati says. “We never let a guy out to press without the perfect pair of socks with his outfit.” Naturally, this includes a deep dive into watches. Menswear’s wild-style era has also made it more palatable for dudes to get crazy with their watches. “Guys are feeling a little bit more liberated when it comes to jewelry and being a bit more flashy,” Bolden says. 

And then there’s the simple fact that watches happen to be fun as hell. Many of the men Bolden and Urbinati work with have become collectors on their own over the years. Consider Trevor Noah, who wore his own matte-black Audemars Piguet Royal Oak to Monday’s Met Gala. (“It was insane,” Bolden says. “I’d never seen it before.”) Urbinati notes that clients like Will Arnett and James Marsden—who reads the watch blogs when he’s not serving on an imaginary jury—are massive watch enthusiasts. Beyond the true collectors, Urbinati also works with guys who are always down to try out something new. (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has to get custom extra-long straps and bracelets from the brands, falls into that category.) As watches have become more important, both Bolden and Urbinati have found themselves doing more research and falling deeper down the rabbit hole, too. “You’re finding out more and more interesting history around these timepieces and how long a lot of these companies have been around,” Bolden says. “A lot of my clients have become really invested in the story of these watches.”

The most significant change for these stylists is that they previously saw watches solely through an aesthetic lens: a match between colors and vibes were more important than getting a great watch. Urbinati says that’s changed for her recently. “If you can get the cool watch, that trumps the other stuff [like a dial color that better matches the look],” she says. That change in attitude is the biggest reason we’ve seen better watches on the red carpet recently. “The whole deep-dive watch-nerd stuff is just happening more now and it’s easier to get into,” Urbinati says. Seriously: what’s more true to a watch nerd’s experience than, like Urbinati’s Met Gala clients, having an outfit ready to go and then fretting over the perfect watch, deliberating the many options, and waiting until the very last minute to make a decision? 

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