Do Men Still Crave Status Watches
Even in an age of smartwatches, iPhones and new ideas about luxury, some guys are still investing big time in impressive timepieces. Others are opting out. Where do you stand?
The status watch. Among those who know the handshake, it can telegraph success and taste (or lack of same). Some may argue that with a clock on every smartphone and mini computers on many wrists, no one needs a mechanical watch. But needs are different from wants. A man’s desire for an expensive mechanical watch isn’t about logic; it’s about emotion.
Typically, a man buys his first status watch to mark a career achievement, as a sort of one-handed high-five. It becomes a wearable trophy, a daily reminder that says, I can do this. A 28-year-old talent agent, working with the cast of MTV’s “The Real World” for a national roadshow that had only been performed on college campuses, until he managed to book it a night at New York’s Beacon Theatre. “It was a big deal for me,”’ he said. He bought a Rolex GMT for about $5,000. “You walk down the street and anyone can wear a suit and a tie,” he said. “But a good watch sets you apart.”
He has become a bonafide watch nerd—regularly checking Watchville, an app that aggregates horological news; and attending estate auctions. He considers his watches fine art. And he likes comparing notes with other watch nerds, as he did with musician John Mayer at this year’s Grammys. He’s still trying to figure out what his neighbor, business magnate Carl Icahn wears, furtively glancingt, whenever they ride.
Different watches telegraph different messages. But those are defined more by advertising and the influence of high-profile wearers than by anything intrinsic. “For the most part, each watch is a reflection of its accumulated social baggage,” said Duncan Quinn, a former Wall Streeter turned bespoke tailor with a small but loyal clientele. With brands like Breitling, Hublot, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, he said, “it’s like joining a gang or a club.” Finding something unique and therefore truly impressive, especially from a “socially recognizable” brand like Rolex, is hard. It’s the reason, he said, that collectors seek out special versions, like Rolex’s Double Red Sea Dweller with a patent-pending stamp—or for someone with more modern and stylish tastes, a customized Rolex from the Bamford Watch Department.