Why do you need so many watches?
Let's be clear: I don't. Nobody does. You don't need a watch at all but much like many other things - ties, race-callibre cars - some of us really like them. And if you really, really like them then one is rarely enough.
Here is a very (very) basic guide to different watch types and when you might wear them.
The 'dress watch'
One of the most common watch types. A dress watch is typically fairly understated; a gold or silver case on a
plain leather strap. A good dress watch is usually unfussy, with minimum detail but a beautiful finish. It's
the watch you ought to wear with a suit or out to a formal dinner and the decision to wear
this one over other types says 'class'.
All the big names offer dress options but for me you can’t beat Cartier or Jaeger La Coutre. At a more ‘entry’ level, Rotary make a lot of good examples but a little tip from me: if you can raise your £100 to say £3-500 you’ll pick up a vintage unnamed Omega model from the 50s/60s and you’ll never look back.
The ‘tool watch’ or ‘sports watch’
This category is broad but loosely these are watches with an additional function in mind such as extra timing functions (multi-dial watches, often labelled as chronographs which actually refers to all good quality watches but that’s another story) or the ability to withstand shock and for submersion (eg divers’ watches). They tend to be fairly chunky and come with a rubber strap or steel bracelet (materials that won't perish in hot or wet conditions. A purist would reserve these for their intended pursuit - swimming, racing, flying - but in reality everyone loves to take their sports watch everywhere and everyone loves a steel bracelet as a means of making a statement. Moreover, those of a single watch persuasion are more likely to go for a multi functional timepiece than other types so you'll see them paired with everything from suits to swim-shorts. Examples are too numerous to list but to state a couple of obvious ones: Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster are among best-known luxury examples and more affordable options include myriad offerings from Seiko and Citizen.
The ‘Smart’ watch
A computer on your wrist. A technological breakthrough, an awe-inspiring piece of ingenuity, ugly as fuck and of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever. Perversely, rather than compete with traditional watches the
Invention of the ‘smart’ watch has brought the world's attention back to wristwear and created a boom in the traditional watch market so as a watchmaker I am at least grateful for that.
The ‘OMG that's beautiful but how do I tell the time?'‘ watch
Some watches are all about the extra complications and about trying to look as unlike a watch as possible. Have a look at MBEF (Maximillian Busser and friends) for some really eccentric designs that take some commitment (if you actually want to read what the time is) but represent the ultimate marriage between art and science. There are other exhibitors but MBEF sum up the more eclectic end of the watch world pretty damn well. When should you wear this type of watch? If it's your thing, just leave it on. All the time.
The 'Outdoors' watch
Alright I kind of made this category up but you've seen them around; the simple, 'no frills but I'll never let you down' watch. These will generally have a plain dial with clear numbering and are most likely attached to a canvas or ‘NATO’ strap, or if the wearer likes a little luxury, maybe an aged leather one-piece. Once again, in spite of the simplistic nature of this kind of watch there are some great - and often very expensive - examples here with offerings from Hamilton and IWC coming in at anything from £500-£5,000. There’s no doubt the rugged build of these no-fuss watches commands respect but - at this point in time - I can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money for something to wear while hiking. Just one man’s opinion of course and even as we speak I can feel an ‘IWC’ Google session coming on so in 24 hours there’s every chance I’ll ‘need’ one in my collection. For now, for my rugged days I tend to pick out an inexpensive vintage sports watch (Kenton, Timex, today a 33mm Mentor).
So, why have more than watch? Because you can. Because you want to. Because there’s nothing weird about changing your watch a few times a day or putting on a more comfy option to go to bed. Is there? Whatever, well there you are. Good luck on your search.
Photos by Marvin Mayer, Ben White and Malte Wingen (in that order), courtesy of Unsplash.