The List






Choosing a Watch

An expensive mechanical watch can seem, to some segments of the population, to be the ultimate frivolously pointless purchase. After all, a relatively cheap digital watch will often be more accurate and more water resistant than any Rolex, for example.

But then, like many of the finer things in life, a brutally functionalist view of the product often leads to its intrinsic values being overlooked. The luxury watch may not be quantifiably better in pure performance than a watch that is one tenth of its price, but, as an item of jewellery, and therefore viewed from an aesthetic standpoint, the position is often reversed.

And it is the wristwatch’s status as the single acceptable item of male jewellery that necessitates considerable prudence in the process of purchasing what should be an object that attains some longevity in your life. A watch is an item through which individuality can be expressed, but this should never be at the expense of good taste.

1) Gold is rarely good

Almost all of the renowned Swiss matchmakers produce versions of their watches with gold bracelets and/or cases. In all bar a minority of situations these should be avoided, especially if the watch in question is a sports or diving watch. Gold watches are the preserve of tin pot dictators, pimps and gangsters.

2) Match the watch to the occasion

If you are the sort of person who is rarely seen sans suit, then a dress watch would be more appropriate than something bulky and waterproof to one hundred atmospheres. Conversely, something like a Patek Phillipe dress watch will look ridiculous when worn with shorts and a t-shirt on a tropical beach.

This may give the impression that multiple watches are necessary, and this may be an option for some, but there are watches available that successfully bridge the gap between formality and casualness. See The List for more guidance on individual models.

3) Don’t follow the herd

Modern Daytonas and Submariners are nice watches, but their ubiquity (as with many watches) somewhat undermines their status these days. An alternative, for those wishing for greater exclusivity without the associated costs of bespoke or limited edition timepieces, is something vintage; for example, a 1970s Rolex Explorer II, or a 1960s Heuer Carrera.

Similarly, some of the lesser known Swiss brands produce excellent watches that do not trade solely on public perception of an illustrious past- the Zenith El Primero is a fine example of this.

4) Simplicity good; ostentation bad

This is an overarching theme of Bonne Gauche’s manifesto – it is poor taste to discuss one’s wealth, and even poorer taste to flaunt it through timepieces drenched in gaudiness.

A general guide for those unsure is to avoid anything that is also worn by:

a) Someone who drives a Porsche Cayenne b) Footballers’ wives c) Dictators/oil barons d) Any sports stars, with the exception of some racing drivers

5) Check the movement

Part of the appeal of a luxury watch is the knowledge that it contains a highly intricate and precision engineered mechanism, which is almost a comforting notion in these days of throwaway electronic devices.

However, many of the mid-priced brands utilise quartz movements in their lower end models, and whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with this (quartz is actually essential for certain applications, such as timepieces with extremely thin cases), a mechanical movement is somehow more satisfying, and implies a sense of craftsmanship, even if the watch is mass produced. The rare exception to this rule is the Breitling B1.

Taste is subjective, but there are limitations to the validity of this as an aesthetic viewpoint. Follow the five simple steps above and you shouldn’t be too far removed from what Plato may have viewed as the ‘form’ of the watch – the perfect example, of which all others are only imitations that share more or fewer of its features.