The cheapest £5 black digital watch is more reliable than a £5,000 Rolex automatic. Sorry to break it to you like this, but watchmaking was revolutionised by the quartz crystal and all those beautifully engineered luxury watches are old technology. Granted this, did you also know that the ETA organisation makes pretty much all of the internal movements found in every brand of luxury watch – TAGHeuer, Breitling, Omega, Panerai etc. Last time I checked only Rolex and Seiko made their own movements. Thus when you buy the brand you’re basically buying the case it comes in and everything under the hood is generic. Lastly, the distribution system for these watches involves huge mark-ups at every level and the watches require bi-annual servicing by official engineers (read “gravy train”) at eye-watering prices in order to maintain the resale value and warranty.
So it’s a dumb idea to buy a luxury watch, right? Nope. I love them.
Just keep in mind that you are not buying (i) status (ii) reliability (iii) investments. You are buying a cool-looking watch that accessorises your personal identity. With that in mind, you won’t have a watch for all occasions, picked for something so primitive as telling the time. You will buy a number of watches to suit different outfits and social settings.
1. Friday Night Lounge Bar
After a hard week’s graft in the office you’ll be headed to the local pub for a quick snifter with your work colleagues and then perhaps across to Soho to rendevous with your best friends for some carousing of the ladies. Chances are you’ve dressed down for Friday’s work but are closer to sunday best than casual. Perhaps dark fashionable jeans and a well-fitted semi-formal shirt. Your outfit is projecting the air of a competent high-status breadwinner ready to throw off the responsibilities of his week. In this case I recommend the Panerai Luminor Marina.
This watch balances a retro military feel with it’s chunky bezel and functional dial, together with a sheen of sophistication and leather-strapped maturity. It’s also the Rambo watch. When Sylvestor Stallone was in Italy during filming of his disaster movie Daylight he stumbled across an old vintage Panerai in a curio shop. He inquired and subsequently bought shares in the ramshackle watch company and then commissioned 50 specially-designed Slytech watches given away to his best buddies in Hollywood. It didn’t take many A-lister parties before people started noticing the watch they were all wearing and overnight Panerai could start charging £5k per item.
2. Daily Activity
It’s Sunday afternoon and you are driving over to a friend’s house for summer barbeque. Perhaps it’s Tuesday evening and you’ve packed your sportsbag before headed over to Muay Thai training. You’re in casual jeans, leather boots, and a t-shirt. A normal physically active guy going through his day with vim and vigour. Take a Hublot Big Bang.
The rubber strap gives it a sporty durable look while the exaggerated chunkiness of the ceramic bezel and brushed-steel mount fondly recall the Tonka Toys you smashed up as a young boy. If James Bond is ever assassinated by a super-spy, his vanquisher will be wearing this watch.
3. Gentleman’s Club
Saturday evening and you are in your reading room with old friends, sipping whiskey and puffing on cuban cigars. Soft jazz plays in the background, leather-bound classics line the woodpanelled walls, and you recline peaceably in a chesterfield sofa. As an older man you enjoy the refined luxuries of life. Naturally your watch musn’t overshadow the situation. I recommend the A Lange Sohne Zeitwerk.
There are few social settings in which a simple indented and worn brown leather strap together with rose gold case would not look ostentatious, but your club is were you are at liberty to feel pompous. To offset such detail I suggest simple clean lines on the face and an unusual and retro feel. This is a watch you can take back into the 1940s.
Naturally I don’t suggest you pay full retail price for these timepieces. Find an online dealer in Chinese replicas and then check the replica watch forums for his reputation. Each of these watches will set you back about $140 for a good quality knock-off. When buying replicas, pay attention to the reputation of the dealer rather than fall in love with a particular watch. I got my last few from Watch Eden.