Timeless Timepieces

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Not too long ago I had a discussion with some guys about watches. The topic was whether cell phones would 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 the first side is just plain clueless. 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 one of the few ways in which men can display style in same the way that women utilize jewelry. Apart from cufflinks, 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 Breuget, 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 as objects of status or a collector’s fascination, watches are a man’s best friend.

As with many aficionados, I prefer mechanical and automatic watches. They possess a sense of permanence and endurance not found in mass-produced commodity timepieces. They have individual character and personality and are truly heirlooms.  Just as one would cherish a hand-written letter over the anonymousness of an e-mail printout; I find a priceless value in my grandfather’s temperamental wrist watch. It is a tangible reminder of previous generations.

Newer watches are definitely trending larger in size. High end and mid-range watches are also adding complications (complex mechanical functions) like calendars that can account for leap years, exotic timing, and multiple chronographic features. More complications mean a higher price. Last year, Vacheron Constantine succeeded in creating a $1 million watch that contained the most complications ever. That doesn’t mean you don’t have real world options. Name brands and precious metals add to the cost and finding a smaller manufacturer who uses quality components and materials without the glitz can help in the area of price.

With so many options and price points, there are many watches from which to choose.  Even some brands of mechanical watches are more affordable tan you might think. 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.

Personally, I suggest you take some time and look around; find watches that you like, that you are drawn to. Look for sporty technical models for casual wear and more elegant watches that work with a suit or fit better in an office environment. Learn about the brands to which you are attracted, their history, what makes them special. Be honest with yourself about what you can actually afford, but whatever you choose look at your choice as an investment.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice

Comments

  1. Vincent says:

    Nice article!

    For me personal the watch is the ultimate fashion accessory. I don’t believe that it will be replaced by cell phones or something else. Wearing a watch can by the icing on the cake with the look your going for, whether it’s a sporty look or the classic look with a suit.

    I just started with a new blog and one of the first articles was about buying watches. Check it out if you feel like it.

    I love your blog btw. Keep it up

    Cheers

    Vincent

  2. Chris Hogan says:

    Thanks very much Vincent, I agree; a good timepiece is an essential part of a man’s wardrobe.

    Thanks also for the compliment of OffTheCuffDC.com. I took a quick look at your blog; it looks great. I’ll stop by again for a longer visit.

    Best,
    Chris