Watches mean different things for each and every one of us. What we all have in common however, is that we attribute meaning to our watches.
There are many ways to look at a watch: it’s a tool that helps us keep track of time in an old-fashioned way, it’s a piece of jewelry, it’s a means of self-expression. Maybe the watches you own fit in one or more of these categories. Maybe we have a watch for different purposes or just on watch to do it all. I’ve interviewed many watch collectors and brand owners and found out that watches do mean something special for many of us. Let’s find out!
Watches As a Means of Self-Expression
Let’s be honest here: we do wear watches for specific reasons since we no longer need them to keep track of time. (Although I personally do prefer to keep track of time looking at my watch, since I went over and beyond to purchase one that looks and wears a specific way.) So one reason why people do wear watches is because it is a means of self-expression, of showing the world (in a non-narcissistic way) who we are and what we are about. It’s not about showing how much money we have, it’s about showing that we are a certain type of person.
A good example of this is the Rolex Explorer 1, one of the most undervalued sports watches from the Swiss giant. If it were within my current budget and available, I’d immediately pull the trigger on one as it encapsulates what is best about horology and adventure: a watch that looks more under the radar than perhaps any other Rolex and that is truly built for exploration. I’m a world traveler and explorer, and it is the type of watch that perfectly matches my personality.
Another good example of this is the Rolex Explorer 2 which does call for a bit more attention but that is equally a watch for the most adventurous of us.
Watches As a Commemorative Item
Many of you may see themselves in this: we go through a happy event and want to commemorate it by buying something special. It could be the birth of a child, reaching a certain professional success, or getting married. Some might celebrate by buying a nice car or going on a trip, while some others buy a watch. A good friend of mine bought a Daytona to celebrate the birth of his first daughter (back when they were more readily available) and it is the watch he wore at the hospital the day his second daughter was born.
I remember seeing a YouTube video of Australian actor Russell Crowe who did an almost State of the Collection and explained when and why he purchased each and every one of the watches in his collection. For example, he bought a certain Panerai at the airport on his way back from a several-month long shoot. I personally buy watches not to commemorate a single event but a period of my life—before it happens. Having modest financial means, I personally stick to watches that cost less than $1,000 but they serve the same purpose for me.
Watches As a Family Connection
Lastly, watches connect us to our families and loved ones. I’ve heard countless stories about a now established watch collector who was given a watch by a parent and who still has it nowadays. Another friend of mine inherited a Rolex Submariner, and although he didn’t know the reference or when the watch was made, it looked more or less like this one. It was an important milestone for my friend as he had, in a way, grown up with this watch, seeing his dad wear it every day for 20 years.
What’s fascinating about passing watches to another generation is that a watch can stay within the same family for several decades and become more and more interesting each year. Each person who wears it adds history to it, a few scratches perhaps, and wears the watch on daily adventures or to travel halfway around the world. What’s more is that the collectors who have such a story to tell actually do not care for the monetary value of the watch. It’s all about the emotional and personal value of the timepiece.
Do you have a watch that commemorates a special event or tells the world what kind of person you are? It would be safe to assume that we all do, in one way or another. That’s the beauty of collecting watches nowadays: we don’t need them to tell time, we need them for so much more.