Not too long ago I had a discussion with some guys about watches. The topic was whether cell phones will ever replace the watch and on this issue there tended to be two camps. The first one believes that using a cell phone for telling time and foregoing a watch altogether makes perfect sense and is just a natural evolution in timekeeping. Watches are, to them, old fashioned things that multifunction cell phones and PDAs far outperform.
The other camp believes that a watch, particularly a well-crafted mechanical watch possesses an intangible and emotional power that a cell phone, with all its bells and whistles, can never match. To these people, a watch is far more than a timekeeper; it is a combination of art, science, and horological functionality which together create something more significant than a mere tool.
I firmly fall into the latter group. The things you carry and use every day should have not only purpose, but meaning as well. Watches are an important and personal way for a man to express his style. Apart from cuff links, we really don’t have many options to throw a little flair into our daily routine.
As men have increased their focus on style, elegance, quality, and a need to differentiate themselves from others, watches have evolved as well. From the pedestrian Timex to extravagant Breguet, quartz to chronometer, watches have become the men’s accessory linchpin. Your watch says a great deal about what you value.
Though there are many types of watches, one particular category has shown marked growth. In one of those interesting juxtapositions, mechanical and automatic watches – which demand almost daily manual involvement – have increased in popularity just as automated technology has taken over much of our lives.
With hundreds of moving parts and complex “complications,” you might think these anachronistic items would have fallen by the wayside, victims of progress. Not so; in fact the exact opposite has occurred. Whether they are objects of status or the focus of a collector’s fascination, watches are now the single most important accessory you have.
As with many aficionados, I prefer mechanical and automatic watches. They possess a character and personality not found in mass-produced commodity timepieces. “Mechanical” refers to the fact that the watch requires manual winding to work. Once the spring runs down, the watch stops unless it is re-wound.
“Automatic” watches have a counterweighted engine that, once wound, automatically rewinds itself through your body’s natural movement. Just as one would cherish a hand-written letter over the anonymousness of an e-mail printout, I find a value no price can measure in my grandfather’s temperamental wrist watch.
Making a Choice
Newer watches are definitely trending larger in size; the Italian Panerai being an extreme example. Many classically styled sport watches now run about 41 millimeters across; fairly large but still quite manageable. The most common case shapes are round, square, and rectangular, though a variety of unique styles fall in between.
High end and even some mid-range watches are also adding complications (complex mechanical functions) like calendars that can account for leap years, exotic timing, and multiple chronographic features.
Of course, more complications mean a higher price. Last year, Vacheron Constantine succeeded in creating a $1 million watch that contained the most complications ever. You can still have high end features without breaking the bank, but many good quality, automatic watches will still run you more than $1,000. Name brands and precious metals will add to the cost and finding a lesser known manufacturer who uses quality components and materials without the glitz can help in the area of price.
Swiss watches are still the gold standard and the addition of the “Geneve” badge on your watch ensures that it was not only manufactured with Swiss parts, but assembled in Switzerland.
With so many makers, options, and price points, there are many watches from which to choose. Of course, if you really want to impress people, it’s not hard to spend the equivalent of a new Range Rover on a Franck Mueller, A. Longe Sohn, or Patek Philipe.
Take some time to look around and find a watch that you truly like and to which you are drawn. You should own at least one favorite watch that has real meaning to you and that you love to wear.
I also believe that you should have a watch wardrobe. Not every watch is suited for every occasion and, like clothing, you need to match your watch to the event or situation. This doesn’t meant that you should spend your life savings on a bunch of expensive watches, but make sure to invest in one or two quality timepieces. You can easily find very good quality mid-range watches in most jewelry stores and online. Whatever you get, quality matters; and it’s presence and absence are equally obvious.
Sporty technical models like Tag Hauer and Oris are great choices for casual wear. More elegant watches like Movado and Chronoswiss work well with a suit. Some globally admired brands like Rolex can travel from the swimming pool to the board room without missing a beat.
Learn about the brands to which you are attracted, their history, and what makes them special. Be honest with yourself about what you can actually afford, but whatever you choose, consider it an investment.