Like it or not, more than those fancy Italian shoes on your feet or that big German coupe in your garage, your wristwatch says the most about who you are as man. Shoes are temporal, the value of a car drops as soon as you drive it from the showroom, but a good watch is eternal. It is the only item that a man keeps with him always, and an instant identifier of a man’s station in life.
A expensive watch has long been regarded as a rite of passage for the adult male, with a certain school of thought asserting that possession of a weighty Rolex is a way of announcing to all and sundry that you’ve truly “made it”.
And if you’ve gone to the trouble of forking out a small fortune for one, you can be forgiven for wanting to make sure everyone can see it, whatever outfit you happen to be wearing. Certain shirting brands even crop the left sleeve a touch shorter so that your watch can be subtlely on display throughout that board meeting or client lunch.
As a result, one’s choice of watch is as important as the quality of the handbag, the cut of one’s suit, the appropriateness of a tie’s pattern, the height of the heel. If such things matter, you might consider watches fitting both your personality and the occasion. The Italians advise three timepieces at the very least: One that suits your occupation, a dress watch for sober, formal or evening wear, and a robust watch for sport or holiday.
Watches have been a status symbol ever since they were invented. It once took a king’s purse to afford even a modest timekeeper. If you pulled a pocket watch out of your coat in 1750 you were one hell of a big deal. Fast forward to today and things are different, but in some ways surprisingly the same.
In social contexts people look at your watch to determine things like your social position, level of education, taste, and of course wealth. A man in Switzerland once told me with grave seriousness that “you aren’t taken seriously in business in Europe if you don’t have a good mechanical watch.” That might also hold true for Asia, and other parts of the world. Probably less so in the United States. Assuming you are in the type of meeting where your watch will be noticed, you must play a delicate balancing act of trying to show people you’ve done well and have good taste, while at the same time indicating that you aren’t irresponsible with your money. Because that might mean you are irresponsible with their money too. Thus, business friendly watches should be conservative and classy, as well as a signal of success.