Sorry, but how many watches am I supposed to own?
Every time I buy a magazine or a newspaper or walk through an airport, the plethora of watch adverts implies I should own a few more. Now, I know marketing is never a sensible gauge of reality, I honestly do. I know buying a Breitling won’t make me look like David Beckham (even though, presumably, buying his aftershave will make me smell like him). And I totally get what Patek-Philippe are doing when they say ‘You never actually own a Patek-Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.’ They mean, go ahead mate, spend an outrageous amount on your watch, it’s not selfish or materialistic. It’s the founding of a dynasty! Do it for your grandchildren if for no-one else. (And, by the way, shouldn’t you be off to fetch your suspiciously well-groomed ‘son’ off the Orient Express?).
But what I don’t understand is this. Here I am, a gentleman of a certain age and a certain income, and all this advertising is presumably directed at people like me. Yet if you divide all the adverts by all the me’s, that adds up to at least eight watches each.
But maybe even eight isn’t enough. There’s a great scene in ‘The Bling Ring’ (heavily recommended, the best-ever sneer at a younger generation) where one of the thieves takes a box of twelve Rolex’s from Orlando Bloom’s house. He sells them for a total of five thousand dollars, the joke being his joy at this amount when each of the watches is worth at least double that. The Rolex’s are kept in a kind of male jewellery box, three rows of curves with a watch wrapped around each, so Orlando can peruse them as he wonders which one he’s going to wear today. I’ve seen plenty of these boxes for sale, glass-topped, tastefully-wooden, none of them made for less than ten watches. So it’s not just my bad maths with the adverts (unless I came in too low). There’s a conspiracy out there to make us feel watch-deprived.
Last month, for example, GQ had a whole Free Mag Attached dedicated to the subject of watches. Over fifty pages of glossy timepieces alongside articles about the history of the manufacturers. Even if you didn’t see it, I’m sure you can imagine all the pictures of little old men with magnifying-glasses screwed to their foreheads, bent under the weight of their Swiss craftsmanship. Funnily enough it didn’t mention that watchmaking is consolidating so fast it will soon look like the car industry (eg Swatch own Breguet, Longines, Omega, Piguet, Rado, Tissot and countless others). What it did have was the price of each watch and the addresses of where you could buy them. You should get a few, it was saying, really, you need them. (That’s the great thing about GQ, it tells you what you need to be a real man.)
A few years ago the senior partner bought me a very nice watch for my 40th. It’s a bit blingy, if I’m honest, but it’s waterproof, scratch resistant and, hell, it even tells the time. I like it, I hope to own it for life. I can’t imagine ever needing another one. So I’ll resist, I really will. Even if there is a very nice TagHeuer out there which, if I wear it around my fingers, will make me look like Leonardo di Caprio. So tempting.