So, there you are at the gym when the guy standing next to you reaches for his locker and you see it – a chunky watch the size of a dinner plate, chrome sparkling and bristling with buttons. But don’t go jumping to conclusions; it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a professional sportsman or the rugged outdoors type, you know the kind who spends weekends scaling mountains and thrashing around in rivers. That’s just what he’d like you to think. His timepiece may be fully operational in deep space, but the chances are it hasn’t encountered anything more dangerous than a bit of wayward dishwater.
Jewellery for men has had its day; it’s now a contradiction in terms, something only worn by game show hosts and men who wear shoes with tassels and drive white open-top Mercedes. No, Noughties fashion is all about understatement, so just how is a man supposed to show off how well he is doing without being vulgar? The answer is by wearing an expensive watch – it is one way of quietly brandishing your wealth. Like wearing an old school tie, it is something only recognisable by other “club” members and they are the only people that matter.
Is the man sitting next to you a mild mannered snob, a suave man of action, or simply trying to impress? Checking out what he’s got up his sleeve will tell you everything you need to know. Mothers used to tell their daughters to look at a man’s shoes if they wanted to find out more about him. Nowadays, examining his timepiece is a much surer way of finding out a man’s worth.
For instance, if the man sitting next to you is wearing a watch bearing the name Audemars Piguet, congratulations – he’s probably a millionaire. This is a watch which means business: Audemars Piguet are the creme de la creme of watchmakers and their pieces command telephone-number prices. For example, at Watches of Switzerland in Knightsbridge, west London, a unique Audemars Piguet “Grande Compilation” will set you back over £300,000.
A Breitling Chromomat strapped to someone’s wrist means he’s either a member of royalty, a film star or a member of a crack air squadron. As sported by James Bond in Thunderball, a Breitling says all he wants to hear: suave, lady-killer, all-action hero. The Breitling Emergency watch is a snip at just over £3000. But it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind; this watch includes an emergency pin which, if removed, triggers off a signal for the emergency services to track you. Just the thing for when you get lost in Sainsbury’s.
If he’s wearing a Rolex, on the other hand, it means he’s got a market stall with a mock Tudor mansion somewhere. Either that or he’s an undercover cop trying to snag a Rolex thief.
Now the ultimate fashion accessory for men is the sports watch. It was pretty hard to avoid the fact the Pierce Brosnan sported an Omega watch in Tomorrow Never Dies. Nike’s Triax running watch was the accessory of the summer – well, if you ask the Brazilian football squad it was. And President Bill Clinton is reported to wear a Timex Ironman Triathlon, the watch that comes with a lap counter, training data log and five programmable alarms. I don’t know, boys with toys. Once such simple things. today’s sports watches come equipped with altimeters, barometers and all sorts of wonderfully useless gadgets. It wasn’t so long ago that all your average sports watch had was a stopwatch and a glow-in-the-dark thingy.
Marketing director Abi spent nearly £600 on his Tag Heuer. I ask him what made him buy it? “It was a treat, a way of congratulating myself,” he says. And why does he like it? “It’s sporty without being tacky. I didn’t want something gold and I wanted something that would last a lifetime.” Oh, and it’s waterproof to a depth of 200m. Has he had a chance to try out this special feature? “Only in the bath,” he says. Apparently this watch also comes with a “uni-directional bezel” which apparently comes in dead handy when you’re scuba diving, as you do. So, I asked him, have you been scuba diving, then? “No, I haven’t, (long pause) but I hope to – one day”.
When DJ Steve bought his Rolex Oyster watch, it set him back two months’ wages and is now worth roughly $3000. So, why did he buy it? “I wanted a good watch,” comes the reply. And what attracted him to the brand? “James Bond”, he says quick as a flash. So, all that product placement does pay off. And what does he think his watch says about him? “I’m solid, dependable and subtle. It’s not a flash watch,” he insists. But I know one or two City traders who might beg to differ on that score.
So, if you’re still wearing the Mickey Mouse watch your mother gave you for your twelfth birthday, this Christmas is the perfect time to move on and strap on a watch which packs so much steel it sends airport metal detectors wild. The word is chunky is good; something with a suitably masculine profile and lots of impressive-sounding features that you know you’ll never use. You may not want to show off, but you don’t want to be shown up either; and when someone asks you for the time, you can tell them with pride.