The question came to me as we were browsing the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
It is one of the highest-end malls I have ever been to (OK, I don’t go to any high-end malls, so this was easily the crème de la crème of any shopping mall I’ve ever been to. After about an hour, I began to notice how many high-end men’s watch stores there were at this mall. When I got home I looked it up and found that there are 34 watch stores at the mall. The vast majority of these I would consider to be high end (any watch more than $50 is high-end to me. That’s why buying an Apple Watch was such a big deal to me and I spent a good deal of time reading about it as much as I could before buying it.)
And I started thinking, who is buying these watches, and why?
And the prices! After a few stores, $1,000 seemed to imply a junk watch, while there was one listed for over $130,000. And that was just in the half-dozen or so watch stores we stopped at. Given how expensive watches can be (the one shown above, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, is about $31 million; the Graff Hallucination, for women, is worth $55 million), there’s a chance that there may have been a watch more expensive than the one I came across at the hotel.
Who in their right mind would buy something like that?
I’m sure such a watch is no better at telling time than my Apple Watch, and can’t do close to the number of other things that my Apple Watch can do. So what is the appeal?
A 2009 article from the Guardian, “Why are men obsessed with watches?” offered some insights.
Here are some excerpts:
- owning one of these (a Jorg Gray 6500 Chronometer) puts you in the same club as the most powerful man in the world (Barack Obama); and men like being members of clubs like that.
- the most common items stolen from wealthy footballers in Cheshire not sports cars but watches
- in the mid-1980s (at which time many watchmakers were struggling), a few horological (new word alert!) pioneers decided that watches would not merely be timekeepers, they would be mini-masterpieces that showcased extreme craftsmanship, represented tradition, incorporated technology and embraced innovation.
- despite their size, and passive presence, watches could even have a hint of sport, danger and adventure about them
- watches are one of the few items that a man can wear that he believes display true character, signal that he is a member of a particular club
- a watch is one of the few places that you can express your personality, or the way that you are feeling
- a watch is a Porsche that you can take to meetings – and it doesn’t harm the planet either.
- the watch industry has focused on making its creations technologically advanced and awe-inspiringly complicated in construction, ever more like a world-class sports car in fact (again, Exhibit A is the watch at the top of this post)
- men are, intrinsically, nerdy; they love nothing more than an item that not only looks good but has myriad functions and a construction that will have taken a lot of craftsmen a lot of time
- one Patek Philippe model, the limited-edition Calibre 89 – the world’s most complicated watch – has 33 functions (including telling you the time of sunrise and sunset, indicating leap years, providing the date of Easter, as well as a thermometer and a moon phase display) and 1,278 parts, which include 68 springs and 24 hands. (but can it check my heart rate, update my email messages, offer me news tidbit, count my steps, etc.)
None of the reasons noted above would motivate me to buy such a watch. As I said, I’m completely happy with my Apple Watch, and it can do so much more than any expensive watch, including the Calibre 89 noted above.
But I understand that everyone has their own “thing”, and for some guys, it’s expensive watches.
If you’d like to look at a brief run-down of the top 10 most expensive watches, here is a link.
In the meantime, I’ll be happy with my Apple Watch and its thousands of apps. Hopefully, that doesn’t make me less of a man…