The ring watch came into my life unexpectedly. I was perusing new collections at the House Of — a New York City-based fashion PR agency — pre-New York Fashion Week editor preview, where new collections from a variety of brands are shown. There, on the table, I saw it: the dashing gold and vibrant crystals, the watch face, nearly as big as a quarter.
“What is this?” I asked, already hopelessly devoted to the piece, which was part of a collaboration between independent watch brand Breda and the women-owned Los Angeles-based jewelry brand, Dalmata. A bold ring with a vintage and masculine feel, it was a perfect fit for my moody, menswear-inspired personal style. But even then, I left it on the table, telling myself that I’d look ridiculous wearing a piece of jewelry so bold. “You have to get it,” my boss, Refinery29 Fashion Director Irina Grechko, said as we were about to leave. “You don’t think I’ll look ridiculous?” I responded, to which she gave me one of her signature “Please, go for it” looks. And, so I left with it, and never looked back.
After researching online, I’m right on trend. Recently, Fossil released a stainless steel watch ring that comes in gold, silver, and copper tones, complete with a sound watch and dial that’s reminiscent of the brand’s signature wrist watches. Last month, the brand also partnered with Barbie for a floral version. Meanwhile, M Jewelers, a New York-based contemporary jewelry brand, sells a pinky ring in the shape of an old school Casio watch that nods to the trend even if you can’t actually tell time with it. The ring watch is being endorsed by New York It girls like Brynn Wallner, the watch connoisseur behind the popular blog, Dimepiece, which is demystifying gender constructs around timepieces.
Rooted in 18th century European fashion, the accessory is a timepiece mostly associated with gentlemen’s wardrobes at the time, and, much like the trench watch or the pendant watch, has since gone out of style. Still, throughout the 19th and 20th century, heritage brands like Rolex have released ring watches of their own.
It’s no coincidence, then, that the ring watch is back, given the secondhand luxury watch market is also booming, bringing a new generation closer to the world of vintage timepieces. On TikTok, luxury watch-related content is growing, with searches for “luxury secondhand watches” at over 150 million views, thanks to creators like @nicovanderhorst and @watchoutforalex, who are opening a once-exclusive world to a wider audience.
Ring watches, which retail for hundreds compared to thousands of dollars, offer a more affordable way to tap into the what’s-old-is-new trend. Many of the new styles have a chic vintage aesthetic — with a twist. The Breda and Dalmata version, for example, features shiny crystals along the borders — a stark contrast to the otherwise sober antique ring watches — while M Jewelers’ nods to its design without the timepiece element.
It’s now been over six months since I got the watch ring, and not a week goes by when I don’t wear it. Its antique aesthetic, coupled with the androgynous style that allows me to channel some of my great fashion icons — including the salseros Frankie Ruiz and Hector Lavoe, who were known for wearing multiple thick gold rings at a time, as well as the entire cast of The Sopranos. Plus, I’m able to literally tell time without having to wear a wrist watch, an accessory I’ve always loved as a style concept but not a practical necessity. I’ve also found that it’s a great conversation starter, since most people in 2023 are not familiar with this antique concept.
And its styling possibilities are as versatile as the piece itself. During New York Fashion Week, I sported the ring watch with an all-black look (pictured above) that was inspired by Wednesday Addams. While the outfit had a goth aesthetic, I styled some bits of gold — on my sunglasses and belt — to match the ring watch, making it pop even more.
For work errands and appointments, I wear it with a more casual outfit formula — T-shirt and trousers is usually my preferred one — allowing the piece to take the spotlight. Then, for dinners out, I like to wear it alongside other gold rings, a styling choice that turns my hands into an ostentatious display that’s definitely not made for minimalists.
While the thought of wearing a watch as a ring is a lot to handle for a 2023 brain (at least it was for me), this accessory is one that has proven to be timeless and worth the investment. Although brands are releasing new options, it’s also a trend that’s easily accessible via vintage and antique shopping, adding a bit of heritage to your look. No matter the route you go with, it’s clear that, as luxury watches continue to break ground in fashion, it’s time to consider a ring watch. If only for the compliments.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?