Monthly Archives: May 2016

Watch Advice

9It was brought to my attention that this week’s column is the 100th of its kind here, as if I’m to pop the cork on the Moët. No, I can think of more fitting ways to mark the occasion, most of which involve self-flagellation or deep introspection. Despite the burden that I bear, answering the same inane questions week after week, I have not been scratching Xs on my wall, so I had no idea how many there have been. Frankly, it has felt more like 500.
Still, duty is duty, and given this dubious milestone, I thought it appropriate to revisit some key points from past columns, not so much for your benefit as for mine. Please pay heed to this advice and think twice before you send me yet another question about a $1,900, 46 mm, Chinese-made bargain watch with which you’re rewarding yourself for making it out of the mail room.
Anonymous
asks

STYLE
It will be my birthday (18 years) and i need some advice.Do you think it s ok to wear black shirt and jacket with grey pants and vest?
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Beware of watch companies that have so-called “ambassadors”
What is more important to you: the watch or which flavor-of-the-month actor is wearing it? When the marketers elbow out the watchmakers, it’s time to look elsewhere. I’d rather have a watch brand spend more money on creating innovative works of mechanical art than buying ad space for George Clooney’s smug smile. It is no coincidence that the two brands I speak most highly of, Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne, don’t have Scientologists and philandering golfers flaunting their timepieces. They’re busy building fusee-and-chain perpetual chronographs. Sure, the vaunted Audemars Piguet has its rap stars, disgraced governors and basketball players, but its watches are also getting bigger and uglier every year. Coincidence? I think not.
The devil is in the details
I am often asked what the difference is between a $2,000 watch and a $20,000 watch. The fact of the matter is, other than telling time, they have little else in common. Fine timepieces have a combination of three key elements: innovation, fine finishing and the quality of being hand built. Read that again carefully before you wave your $50 Seiko in my face. An in-house movement is important, yes, but if it’s stamped out by machines in a Malaysian factory, it’s no better than a quartz Casio. The best watches are those that solve problems — better timekeeping or a more accurate moon phase complication, for instance — and are built by craftsmen who value decoration as much as they do mechanics. And they do it by hand.
There are few, if any, good watches between $1,000 and $3,000
I’ve said it before and hope I never have need to say it again: the vast majority of watches that fall in this price range are pure, unadulterated rubbish. Even the best of the lot put a polish on a $100 machine-made stock movement and drop it into a Chinese-made case and then, since the back was tightened by a Swiss housewife earning some part-time money, they put “Swiss Made” on the dial and mark it up 400%. If you just want something to tell time and match your last season’s Kenneth Cole shoes, go right ahead. But don’t have any illusion that you’re getting a fine watch.

Why Automatics Set The Standard

6A lot of it comes down to one phrase: “The least important thing a watch does is tell the time.” People like mechanical watches for the same reason they might prefer a classic Jaguar E-Type over a modern-day Toyota or vinyl records over MP3s. It’s not just what something does but how it does it. And for many of us men, that’s pretty important (after all this is a very male world we’re in: one leading watch manufacturer told us that 95 per cent of its customers were men).
An automatic watch is a living thing, as you soon discover when you hold one for the first time. One of the beauties of them is that the seconds hand travels in a smooth “sweep”, while on quartz watches it just ticks depressingly once a second. As soon as you notice this, it becomes a surprisingly big deal-breaker.

One final thing to bear in mind: if you take off your automatic watch, it’ll eventually stop. How long it can run without being on your wrist depends on the individual timepiece, but many tend to work for 38-48 hours before they need rewinding, while some can go on for a full five days.