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Tom Ford's new rules for wearing a watch in 2019

The Texan fashion designer, filmmaker and aesthete-in-chief on how you should (and absolutely shouldn’t) be wearing your (OK, his...) timepiece in 2019

If we could choose one man to have creative control over every element of our lives – from the shoes we wear on our feet and the shirts we sport on our back to the sofas we sit on and the saucepans we heat soup in – that man would be Mr Tom Ford. Over the past 30 years, both during his tenures at Saint Laurent and Gucci and, more recently, through the prism of his eponymous brand, Ford has helped define the way in which stylish men and women the world over want to dress.

Watches, from £1,780. Straps, £450. Both by Tom Ford.

Now, for 2019, the designer and award-winning filmmaker has turned his ever-so-discerning eye to watches. It all started last year, with the launch of the ultra-chic 001 tank, but now Ford is introducing his first automatic timepiece – a classic, round-case day-date – and it’s imbued with all the elegance you’d expect from a TF production. To celebrate the launch, and in a bid to absorb a little of his eternal style wisdom, we talked to Ford about the dos and don’ts of modern watch wearing. The first lesson? Don’t even think about strapping up without reading this first...

1. On matching a watch with your outfit

“Whatever you’re doing, you have to have a full-length mirror, even for your watch. You’ve got to stand there and see yourself completely, head to toe, and think, ‘Oh, this bracelet looks kind of sleazy with this outfit. I’d better take it off,’ or, ‘This red bracelet looks great because I’m wearing a new pair of trainers with a red stripe on the side.’ You have to look at yourself before you leave the house – head to toe.”

2. On wearing two watches

“Why would you wear two watches at once? It’s silly. What, you’ve got Paris time set on one and LA time on the other? It’s completely ridiculous. Why would someone do that unless they want to show off that they have two IWCs? I would look at someone like that and think, ‘Oh, you poor thing.’ It’s very, very affected. My son does it. He’s six and he wears two watches because he likes both his camowatch and his black scuba watch, so he wears them both to school. But, you know, he’s six.”

3. On wearing a watch over your shirt

“I would say wearing your watch on top of your shirt, like Gianni Agnelli, is a big no-no. Again, I think ‘You poor thing’ if I see someone doing that. I did it in the late Seventies, but everyone did. Everyone who was affected and pretentious – as I was in that period of my life – would wear their Cartier Tank watches on top of their shirts because Agnelli did.”

4. On wearing your dress watch with a casual outfit

“I think you can definitely wear a dress watch with something other than a tux. You can wear a T-shirt and jeans with a really beautiful dress watch. Why not? However, some people will be able to pull it off and others will look like they’re wearing a watch from the night before. It really depends on your personal style.”

5. On gold vs platinum

“There was an old rule up until around the Twenties that yellow gold was a daytime metal, because it’s what cigarette cases were made out of. At night, you were supposed to switch to platinum or white gold, which is why most evening studs and cufflinks are made from white gold, because they look better with diamonds and sapphires. If you are wearing cufflinks and studs that are platinum, then you should wear a watch that is white gold or platinum and not a yellow-gold watch.”

6. On wearing a diving watch with tailoring

“A diving watch with a suit, sure. With a tuxedo, no. I’m kind of a traditionalist. I really think that a tuxedo should look purely like a tuxedo and I think you need an evening watch with it or no watch at all.”

7. On multiple complications

“I think all those complications are a little silly unless you’re just going for the look: like, ‘Wow, that watch does everything.’ But how many people really use all those aspects of a complicated watch? It’s like a sports car in the city. Yes, they’re beautiful, they look great, but when are you ever going to go 170mph in London or Los Angeles? You’re not. You’re going to putter along in traffic with everyone else.”

‘Why would you wear two watches at once? It’s silly. My son does it, but, you know, he’s six’

8. On matching your watchstrap with your shoes

“I really think the leather of your strap has to match your belt and shoes, unless you’re doing a completely different colour, such as red. It drives me crazy to wear a brown watchstrap with black shoes, which is why I’ve done watches where you can interchange the straps. As a child I used to buy interchangeable webbing straps and feed them through my watch. So I thought, ‘Why doesn’t someone make a watch where this can be done easily?’ That’s what I did.”

9. On the watchstrap to wear in summer

“In the summer I wear a white watchstrap a lot, even with a suit. It looks good when the white strap peeks out from under my white shirt... It feels very summery.”

10. On when to wear a Nato strap

“I wouldn’t wear a Nato strap in the evening. Having said that, you could wear the black grosgrain one that I make, because it looks like a ribbon, which you could easily feed through an evening watch.”

11. On wearing jewellery with your watch

“I can’t stand all those cheap bracelets made out of beads threaded onto a string, likewise those armfuls of things you get on a beach in Brazil or the one your girlfriend tied on you and you have to wait until it falls apart to take it off. It feels a little desperate unless you’re really, really young. A very simple gold, silver or white metal bracelet can look great with a tank watch – although I wouldn’t wear one in the evening.”

12. On the ultimate watch no-no

“I don’t like a ‘quartz tick’. Our 001 tank watches are quartz, but the second hands move smoothly and don’t give away the fact that you’re wearing a quartz watch. When I see someone with a quartz watch and I look at the face and see the second hand going tick, tick, tick, I think, ‘Hmm, that’s a very cheap, badly designed watch.’”

13. On talking about your watch

“It’s not chic to show off about your watch. At all. You should keep it under your cuff – reach across the table to get something if you want someone to see it. If you have a friend who’s really into watches and you just bought an amazing one that Steve McQueen wore in 1964, then sure. It’s fine if you’re really into it. But, in general, to other people, I would let my watch speak for itself.”

14. On watch straps with multiple uses

“Our watch straps work as cock rings as well, by the way. They do. Just yank the strap out of your watch, thread it through and pull. I don’t need a cock ring, but I suppose some people do. Woven leather is gentle and it doesn’t rip out pubic hair – plus, they get better looking with a bit of oil rubbed in. I’m being vulgar, but they do actually work as cock rings.”

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