The matter of wearing and enjoying fine timepieces is a passion that these days must be justified. It’s true, we as practical men and women succeed in life not via waste, but via efficiency. To adorn an item (be it timepiece or otherwise) that quite possibly defies those reasons we came to afford such an item in the first place is something worth discussing. Bottom line, if you want to wear a nice watch, do so with good health, and be able to explain why to others why they should to.
During the last year I found myself being frequently interviewed by other journalists and writers on the topic of watches and my job overall. Questions common to all of these sessions included an inquiry on “why to wear a luxury watch… what makes a luxury watch…. how can a man benefit from wearing a high-end timepiece?, etc…” The answer to all of these related questions is extremely non-obvious and I really had to give it some thought. To start, I revisited an article I previously wrote here on what it is like to wear a luxury watch.
Luxury brands toil with this question themselves and equally want you to think about it as well as be ignorant of it. On the one hand they never want someone to purchase something with full cognizance that they are either buying an emotionally related purchase that they don’t strictly need, or that it is priced much higher that it is worth as a commodity. At the same time, for you to buy such watches again and again, us consumers need to be in-touch with our inner “splurger” to savor the feelings we get from owning and wearing fine things.
So why do we want or need high-end watches? Thinking about this question made it clear to me that a response essay was due. I first want to comment on the culture of luxury – something you either live in or don’t understand. The culture of luxury (as I call it) is a collective appreciation and desire of finely made things from brands commonly recognizable for various adjectives including “expensive, successful good taste, classy, high-society, important, etc…” Cultures that value luxury also socially value these personal descriptors in a very real way. Not only that, but to be comfortable socially in some of these cultures you actually need to display these messages on your body (in some form or another) as much as possible. When thinking about cultures of luxury I think about parts of Europe, much of Asia, and a lot of the Middle East. So some of the reasons to wear nice watches relates to these people.
To Be Taken Seriously
As I began to discuss above, social etiquette often involves looking your best. People judge how smart, tasteful, attractive, and successful you are based on visual indicators. These visual indicators are extremely powerful, and more often than not, people come to conclusions about you before you even open your mouth. To be taken seriously, you must look serious.
I will spare you the 1950s style instructions on explaining how “Johnny” can look his very best before going over to “Jenny’s” parent’s house to pick her up to go to the dance. The end story is that if you want to impress Jenny and her parents, you need to dress up well, comb your hair, shine your shoes, stand up straight, and give her dad a firm handshake. While cheesy sounding, this is almost a total metaphor for how to be taken seriously in business and social situations.
Being serious is more than being acceptable. The finishing touch on any man are those individual items above and beyond tied shoelaces that help people come to conclusions about who you are. Most men dress rather generically, but if you are the type to have stand-out shoes and a clever scarf… and are still going to pick up “Jenny,” then she is a lucky gal. As for the rest of us, we don’t have many opportunities to signal success other than the watch on our wrist.
So wear a nice watch. Have something that shines in the light and glistens with the right mixture of metal and color. Make it seem like you saved up for it, or it is a cherished treasure you restored after your father gave it to you. Better if it is something unique and you spent some time finding just the right one versus stopping at the watch counter at your local department store and choosing a model you like from a European sounding brand whose name you can easily pronounce.
Having something like that on your wrist is a message to people dealing with you that you should be taken seriously. It can backfire of course if your watch exudes wasteful excess or bad taste, but in the end is better than showing up to a business meeting with a polyurethane sports watch with a green tinted LCD screen. I’ve been told more than once “in Europe a business man is not taken seriously if he is not wearing a mechanical watch.”
In the end, being taken seriously is a simple formula: being noticed + valuation of worth = degree serious perceived. The watch will help get you noticed, and the watch you are wearing will indicate the value of your worth. How’s that for a short response?
To Be Unique
Above I mentioned that to be taken seriously you need to be noticed with a nice watch. The question can then become “what watch?” Us men have precious few accessories we can wear to separate ourselves from each other. I take that back, us men have precious few generally well-viewed upon socially acceptable accessories we can wear to separate ourselves from each other. If you want to be one of those guys who wears a lot of jewelry, unique hats, and face tattoos… go right ahead.
What we have to differentiate ourselves is wrist real estate. A place where manly men and business men equally can wear something without causing additional questions to be asked. It is this space where we as individuals can communicate our taste, values, etc… This means that the watch we wear communicates a lot about who we are (or what mood we want to give off that day).
If you are a generic person you can wear a generic watch. If you are a unique person you can find a unique watch that fits your personality. You may not want to stick out all the time (which is why the world gave us Rolex Submariners), but when you do it starts with either what is on your wrist or your loud mouth. The watch world is full of limitless design – you want to take advantage of all the options.
For Your Hand Fetish
They say that eyes are a window to one’s soul. That may be true, but so are your hands. You may not have noticed it, but hands are extremely communicative when people talk. Either hands are part of elaborate Italian-style gesticulation, or they offer more subtle signs as to how someone is feeling. When communicating with others we almost always notice their hands. Think about it the next few times you are talking to someone. Close to the hands are the wrists, and one one of those wrists could be a watch.
As human beings we have hand fetishes. We use them, notice them, and touch them. We also like nice things touching our hands. A fine watch is pleasing on the skin. Well-made metal and other materials that are soft and secure feeling – giving you something interesting to run your fingers over from time to time. Perhaps that is why I play with my watch when fidgeting.
People looking at your hands will likely notice what is on your wrist. Give them something to enjoy that is worth all the attention.
As Eye Candy
Each time I visit an art museum I think to myself “how wonderful would it be to be surrounded by beautiful art in my home all the time” I also consider how expensive of a proposition that is. Like most people I love art, and little of it I can take with me where I go. A few years ago I started to realize that there was art sitting on my wrist.
The basic scheme of an analog watch is simple and consistent. The way of expressing it is where all the creativity comes in. Watch design is therefore inherently artistic. There is a lot of crap out there, but the best stuff is beautiful and how often do you call a tool beautiful?
Art on a watch can come in many forms. The dial can literally be a painting, or the design of the instrument itself is where the art comes in. For many people, the movement contains as much art as the case and dial. Art is the expressive elements placed over the necessary functional parts – so almost every watch has at least a bit.
For those like me who need a little art in their lives daily, you’ll have no problem finding many watches that move you just like a masterpiece in paint.
As Something To Remember You By
Not only is a timepiece the quintessential gift but it is the quintessential heirloom. While morbid in its tone, it is sometimes a good idea to consider life from beyond the grave. No matter what your philosophy is on the end of life, we can all agree that people can live on through the memories of those that knew them.
I own a few timepieces from people I knew that are now deceased. Having these watches makes me think of them. Not just in general way, but in a real and breathing way. They wore these watches for a long time. The watches show signs of use and love, and life. To be honest I wouldn’t care if these watches were $50 or $50,000 in value as long as they made me think of these people. The benefit however of passing down a nicer watch is that it is more likely to survive the test of time. You could also argue that it helps maintain a better image of you after you go, but that is up to the person leaving the watch.
A watch collection is also a legacy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be worth a mint, but leaving your watch(es) to someone you care about is an enduringly positive thought about passing on those values that were important to you, to someone else.
The funny thing about all this is that is on paper the justification for wearing and buying nice watches doesn’t compare to the real life obsession so many people have with watches. For me, that is really the funny part of all this. It is about measuring one value over another. We like nice expensive watches even though cheap watches exist to do the same thing. Educated watch lovers vastly prefer mechanical watch over quartz ones even though quartz pieces are more accurate and arguably more convenient.
A love of nice watches is emotional; a love of watches in general is practical (we like to easily tell the time). I believe that for me, the above reasons are the top ones why I lust for the finer watches in life. The psychology behind it is fascinating because of the pleasure it brings me (and others). The best thing you can do if you are also addicted to timepieces is simple, get your friends hooked as well.