What’s with Men and Their Watches?


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…

30 thoughts on “What’s with Men and Their Watches?

  1. This is a great post, Jim! I stopped wearing a watch when technology pushed us to the point where you are never more then a glance from knowing what the times is by a hundred other means; i.e. cell phone, car, bank sign, wall clock, microwave, Alexa, etc. Now they are resigned to the most obvious and portable display of status for many. In the rarified arithmetic of ego, somehow spending that kind of money symbolizes you are successful + having more makes me better than you = I am a good person. Little do they know that the rest of us have no time to be impressed.


    1. I agree 100%. Even if I had LOTS of disposable income, an expensive watch would not make it on to my must have list. Now on the other hand, I might rush out to buy the latest Apple iPad in the unlikely event I had extra money to spend…


  2. I hadn’t worn a watch for the last decade. This Christmas, my wife surprised my with a new watch. At first, it felt a bit cumbersome having something constrictive around my wrist again. Now, I’ve gotten used to that feeling. In fact, I think about making sure I’m wearing my watch before I leave the house. I’m never going to get a high end watch; my thrifty nature (okay, I’m a tightwad) won’t allow it.


    1. It’s funny how a watch becomes part of you. Before I leave the house, I always check for my watch, wallet, and phone (my glasses and wedding ring go without saying…)… I’ve always worn a watch, and been partial to the cheap digital ones that had multiple functions. The Apple Watch was a major splurge, but I really wanted it for the built in heart monitoring that it offered.


  3. Terrific post, Jim. I’ve never been a “Watch Guy”, but have owned and broken 3 novelty-type watches from my college years. None worth a lick … A couple friends collect vintage watches – Timex and Rolex – which have some appeal merely for aesthetics. I’ve flirted with the idea of a new modestly priced watch, but that’s as far as the romance goes for now. 😊


    1. I’m sure there’s a story behind those broken watches… And I could see the appeal of collecting watches as a hobby, but it seems like it could get expensive. And in the article I read about watches, the one that President Obama wore is considered moderate at less than $400…


  4. I still have small coloured ladies watches that I bought three for £20 in a department store one Christmas season. Also a couple I’ve picked up from charity shops which only needed a new battery (I took one in for a new battery along with another that had run out and when I went to pick it up I was told ‘We couldn’t put a new batter in this one.’ I thought – fair enough, it only cost me £3 and it’s a donation for the charity shop, but I’d missed the point. It was a wind-up watch. It still works perfectly.
    The year before I retired, I gave in and bought a big one that I could read without putting my specs on.
    Most of the time I don’t wear watches since I retired – who cares if I’m late to walk the dogs?


    1. You make retirement sound quite appealing, I’m looking forward to my own in a few years. But I still think I’ll wear a watch. Love your story about the wind-up watch – not only did you make a donation to a charity shop, you got a working watch as well!


  5. I’ve been wearing my late aunt’s watch for ten years, a few batteries and lots of straps later. An analogue watch that I can see easily. I still can’t go out without a watch; it took me a while to realise I could just look at the time on my phone, but I still think it’s quicker to glance at one’s wrist. Cyberspouse gets misty eyed when he recalls saving up to buy his first digital watch which didn’t do anything except flash red numbers!


    1. I agree that it’s faster and easier to just check my watch for the time as compared to my phone. I hope those flashing red numbers didn’t turn cyberspouse off from watches forever!


  6. I stopped wearing a watch when my last one broke. It broke because my sweat seemed to have corroded it. It seems I have to be a bit picky with the material my watch has to be made with. It was not high-end, so that might have been the reason for the poor resistance to corrosion.

    In any case, I have read/heard somewhere that a watch is the only jewelry that a man is expected (?) to wear. I forgot the exact words…

    But yeah, watches seem to function more as accessories, than time-keeping devices.


    1. I’ve had the same problem with a couple of watches over the years as well. And I think I read the same thing about men and jewelry – and I certainly agree. I think a wedding ring is OK as well. And I wouldn’t consider my current watch (Apple) as an accessory, but it is certainly more than a time-keeping device!


  7. I spent several hundred dollars on a Movado “Sport” watch in 1996 and still wear it daily for all but the most casual occasions. For those I have a Seiko, Swiss movement watch (no battery), I was gifted a Rolex Submariner ($9,000) by a family friend on his deathbed. Unfortunately, it was a fake and worth less than $100.


    1. Your Movado is coming up on its 25th anniversary – that’s quite impressive. Sorry to hear about the Rolex – I think I vaguely recall reading about that in one of your previous posts…


  8. 🙂 When I was younger, I used to go crazy over watches.

    Believe it or not, I stopped wearing watches the day I bought a smartphone.


    Because a smartphone keeps perfect time right down to the second (Especially when you have it set on your provider’s time).

    Do have yourself a wonderful week, my friend!


    1. Thanks, Renard. I think a lot of people gave up their watch when smartphones came along, and I did briefly as well. But I just found that I like having a watch on, and it is a little bit easier to just check my wrist for the time instead of my phone. I hope you have a great day as well.


  9. I still wear a wristwatch, but it remains an inexpensive Timex without too many bells and whistles. I sometimes feel like a dinosaur in this fast-paced world, and I am usually okay with this.


  10. Could super-expensive watches be a way to launder/move money? $50,000 in $20s is pretty obvious but that much on your wrist may draw no attention at all.


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