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http://www.wsj.com/articles/do-men-still-crave-status-watches-1446666151



FRANK SCHILLING HAS always liked watches. In high school, he bought a TAG Heuer (“the poor man’s Rolex,” he said) for a few hundred bucks. But when his company, which eventually became Uniregistry, started taking in $1 million a month in 2004 selling Internet domain names, he knew he had to step up his game. So he laid down $79,000 for a Patek Philippe 5970G, a classical take on a sporty chronograph. “I thought it was outrageously expensive,” said Mr. Schilling, 46. “But I loved the steam punk feel.” Moreover, he liked that other men, successful men, started noticing it and admiring it. “For guys who have a passion for watches,” said Mr. Schilling, “it’s like a secret handshake.”


The status watch. Among those who know the handshake, it can telegraph success and taste (or lack of same). Some may argue that with a clock on every smartphone and mini computers on many wrists, no one needs a mechanical watch. But needs are different from wants. A man’s desire for an expensive mechanical watch isn’t about logic; it’s about emotion.



Typically, a man buys his first status watch to mark a career achievement, as a sort of one-handed high-five. It becomes a wearable trophy, a daily reminder that says, I can do this. In 2001, Brian Monaco was a 28-year-old talent agent, working with the cast of MTV’s “The Real World” for a national roadshow that had only been performed on college campuses, until Mr. Monaco managed to book it a night at New York’s Beacon Theatre. “It was a big deal for me,”’ he said. He bought a Rolex GMT for about $5,000. “You walk down the street and anyone can wear a suit and a tie,” he said. “But a good watch sets you apart.”


Now 43 and executive vice president of global advertising, film and TV at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and with a home in the Museum Tower adjoining the Museum of Modern Art, Mr. Monaco owns 30 watches, including a $20,000 Patek Philippe Aquanaut. He has become a bonafide watch nerd—regularly checking Watchville, an app that aggregates horological news; and attending estate auctions. He considers his watches fine art. (“Pateks are for the next generation, like a Picasso,” he said.) And he likes comparing notes with other watch nerds, as he did with musician John Mayer at this year’s Grammys. He’s still trying to figure out what his neighbor, business magnate Carl Icahn wears, furtively glancing at Mr. Icahn’s wrist, whenever they ride the elevator together. (Mr. Icahn didn’t respond to calls for comment.)



Different watches telegraph different messages. But those are defined more by advertising and the influence of high-profile wearers than by anything intrinsic. “For the most part, each watch is a reflection of its accumulated social baggage,” said Duncan Quinn, a former Wall Streeter turned bespoke tailor with a small but loyal clientele. With brands like Breitling, Hublot, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, he said, “it’s like joining a gang or a club.” Finding something unique and therefore truly impressive, especially from a “socially recognizable” brand like Rolex (as Mr. Quinn put it), is hard. It’s the reason, he said, that collectors seek out special versions, like Rolex’s Double Red Sea Dweller with a patent-pending stamp—or for someone with more modern and stylish tastes, a customized Rolex from the Bamford Watch Department.



Certain professions seem to attach themselves to certain watches. Athletes, rappers and rock stars tend to favor Audemars Piguet, for instance. Though such generalizations only go so far—former president Bill Clinton is also an Audemars fan—Mr. Quinn said he does see men hewing to the prevailing culture of their particular sector: “Billionaires with plastic Casios and nothing to prove, traders with megabucks Parmigianis, attorneys and bankers with some iteration of Rolex.”


Not shockingly, many in the younger creative set find the status watch stupid. “I very decisively don’t have one,” said Ian Daly, 38, chief strategy officer at marketing and advertising firm the Barbarian Group. To date, he has owned but one watch. “I [wear] the same Seiko diver’s watch my high school girlfriend got me for graduation in 1994,” he said. “I just think there’s something tacky about status watches. This is the age of the start-up gazillionaire, of billionaires in Patagonia fleece.”
Indeed, in my experience in the past few years, talking to newly wealthy tech titans in Silicon Valley, their horological priorities don’t square with traditional notions of luxury. They tend to eschew flash in favor of pragmatic smartwatches from Apple or Pebble or something ironic like an old-school calculator Pulsar. In fact, Pebble founder Eric Migicovksy proudly didn’t own a watch until creating the Pebble. Some men simply don’t want to play that old game.



For Mr Porter buying and sales director Toby Bateman, however, selecting a watch should never be just about trying to impress your peers in a knee-jerk fashion by wearing a fortune on your wrist— or about conspicuously avoiding that. He sees a watch as a reflection of not just a man’s bank account but of his style. “For me, it’s...more about an expression of personality. This choice should be well considered if you follow the adage that a watch is the only jewelry a man should wear.” The site recently introduced a collection of elegant, decidedly not over-the-top timepieces by Swiss watchmaker Zenith, priced mostly under $10,000.


As with cars and wine, appreciating watches and making a thoughtful choice is a form of connoisseurship—acknowledging the craftsmanship, the months that it takes for a great watchmaker hunched over a bench with a magnifying lens to create his tiny masterpieces. That element is important since the message of prestige you might be trying to telegraph can get a bit garbled, even among the cognoscenti.



A few years ago, Mr. Schilling sold the bulk of his watch collection through Christie’s (for about $10 million) and now mostly wears a very rare Patek Philippe 3974, of which only 50 were made, in 1992. Its value? About $1 million. “When I wear it out and another collector sees it,” he admitted, “they’ll come up and say, ‘That’s got to be worth $50,000.’”



Corrections & Amplifications
Talent agent Brian Monaco booked “The Real World” national tour at the Beacon Theatre in 2001; Toby Bateman is buying and sales director of Mr Porter; and there were only 50 models made of Patek Philippe’s rare 3974 watch. An earlier online version of this story incorrectly called Mr. Bateman buying director; stated that Mr. Monaco booked “The Real World” tour in 1994; and that there were 500 models made of the Patek Philippe 3974 watch. (Nov. 4, 2015)
 
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Really interesting, and cool read Marc. Some incredible watches evidently too ! :eek: Think what's so interesting is we look at the watches in a totally different light. They seem to look at them as trendy, or stylish, and reflecting bank accounts like they said. While we look at them as just plain cool no matter how they look, who made them, or what's inside. :) Really is a status thing with a lot of people it sounds like, while it's just a clear cut enjoyment of a fantastic hobby for us.

Thanks very much for finding this Marc !
 

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For me, status, no way. Get 'em for me & me alone. People very rarely notice (which I prefer). Only a few of my watch buddies notice. For us it's simply a shared hobby. I get excited over a Seiko, Rolex, Brietling or Timex. Makes no difference.
 

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I dislike over price watches. they become magnets for robbery.
This can be true. A thief can always take your wallet, ring car etc. One must take care what you wear & where you wear it. For myself, I'm not going to do without something I desire because of lowlifes.
 

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I think your average criminal who is going to hold you up will likely only recognize Rolex though. I don't buy for status either. I have no career success I feel the need to celebrate or show off. I buy for me. I fuss over taking care of my Orient as much as my Omega. However, buying a grail Omega has lead me to wanting another Omega or two... or three. Or a Breitling... darn addictive hobby for a guy that doesn't make much money.
 

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I am extra cautious whenever I wear my Omega Sea master watch. I only wear it during the day to business meetings that I need to look professional. I avoid wearing it at night when I go out at night with friends. I will wear a plain Lum Tec watch that I can afford to lose in a robbery.
 

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I'm sure some do no doubt, but most in this hobby do it for themselves. Me personally I'd rather be that inconspicuous guy wearing shorts, sandals, and a Seiko into a high end car dealership for example, that could pay cash for the car, rather the one dressed like they could, when they may not be able to.
 

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You can always wear a Rolex... So many fakes out there who actually notices unless the rest of you looks the part? Not to say that I wouldn't love to own a newer GMT Master II and wear it with T-Shirt, shorts and deck shoes! As far as getting robbed for it, that could be a problem if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time...
 

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During my 31 year Police career in Chicago, outside of being a Homicide Detective, I was a Robbery Decoy as well. I was robbed over 500 times in the 25 years I was doing it off and on.

Believe me, it doesn't have to be a Rolex, all a watch has to be is shiny, and it works just like a fishing lure to thugs

I must have had my Gold tone "Bait" watch taken off my wrist a couple of hundred times.

Used a Spiedel expandable bracelet, didn't want them sawing off my arm to get it. ;0
 
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Lol. None of my family cares about my watches. They think my SNXS75 cost more than my Primo because it "looks more expensive". But, because I've grown up in " the hood ", I'm pretty good about telling who's gonna come after me for something. 99% of the time I step out my door, I have my flash 2 Tanto on me, but if I know I'm gonna be in a not so great part of town, I wear a watch I don't mind losing. Usually the Invicta or Freestyle (technically, both my free watches). But I've never seen watches as status symbols. Mostly because buttheads can take whatever watch they want and have them encrusted with ridiculous jewels. Even the fakes I found out, thanks to fakewatchbusta and Rolex enforcer.

I see your watch and equate that to how serious you are about the hobby, and knowledge on watches and the history of horology. Just like when someone showed off a URWERK and have the price ($86k). Idiots started going off about how you have to operate it by hand, and how they just use their cell phone, or how their timex is just as good. None of them understood the pure engineering that went into making that watch.
 

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Interesting read. Like most of us on this forum, I buy for me; not because I think someone will spot it and form a particular opinion of who I am or what I am.

I'm a collector at heart; collecting cigars, tobacco pipes, BMWs, and up until recently, orchids. As far as watches are concerned, my mindset has always been about what makes a particular watch uniquely different that isn't similar to anything I have in my collection. This could be a particular color, some sort of material, style, or even something uniquely different with the dial design.

Unfortunately, I'm not that experienced yet to appreciate the subtleties of certain automatic movements. Perhaps I will get to that level, but for the meantime, I'm quietly enjoying the hobby based on what I like despite the lack of technical experience or knowledge.
 

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I think most of this can be attributed to the circles you move in. If I would start wearing a Patek to the office next Monday, 99,99% of my colleagues wouldn't even notice. Not that I'm affluent enough to own one, BTW. If I would wear the same watch to a certain bar-restaurant we sometimes visit it would certainly steal a glance or two. The watches I am able to purchase are indeed just for me. Unknown (to the outside world) dive watches from micro brands. Yes, if I wear the Helberg CH8 with orange bezel, people sometimes notice. But only because of the very noticeable colour :D
 

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I only crave wrist eye candy. If I find it irresistible to my eyes and budget, I need it, regardless of brand or movements.
 

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Some people see millions in a Ming vase. I see something to put flowers in. It's horses for courses.
Saying that if I hit the lotto and moved in circles where Pateks were common, I'd probably wear one of my plastic casios.
 

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Some people see millions in a Ming vase. I see something to put flowers in. It's horses for courses.
Saying that if I hit the lotto and moved in circles where Pateks were common, I'd probably wear one of my plastic casios.
"A small Ming dynasty-era bowl dubbed the 'chicken cup' sold for 281.2 million Hong Kong dollars (US$36.3 million) at a Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong, setting a record for the most expensive Chinese porcelain ever sold at auction. Chicken cups have long been prized among wealthy Chinese, with classical literature referencing the small wares, saying aristocrats and emperors would spend fortunes for a single sample. Porcelains made during the Chenghua period are regarded as the most refined by collectors".

Only 19 were ever made. In a period when us Europeans couldn't read or write, never took a bath and drank rudimentary beer from clay pots :D The Dark Ages before the first Renaissance. The value of an object can be very subjective and dependent on many criteria. Take a Bugatti Veyron for example, a very, very expensive and exclusive car. Order books are always filled to the brim yet Volkswagen LOSES over 6 million dollars on every Veyron they sell. The former best 3 star restaurant in the world, El Bulli (long gone), never made a single penny of profit despite the > 2 year waiting list and insane menu prices. Value is in the eye of the beholder. But I guess Patek are doing fine :D I wouldn't buy a Patek but a Lange, even more obscure :D And strut my stuff :cool2:
 

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Fun article with food for thought ...

There is the whole appreciation for design, engineering, craftsmanship, and tradition that makes one a WF, but I think it's also true that the pull towards certain brands is caused in large part by a consciousness of the value and esteem others have already placed upon them.

I'll admit, I do want to own one of those prestigious brands in part because of the status I expect it would give me ...

But it's not a socio-economic status that I crave, rather a status in the eyes of other WFs for being a good student of watches and for having chosen well.
 

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Feller Freeks:
Felt no necessity to pat myself on the back for a career success
owning a status watch. Not even in the equation.
Just being alive was my career success story. Many RR engineers
have been killed in the line o duty. Felt lucky I only had a few close
calls in 40 years of railroading career. Nr of incidences of accidental
death of freight conductors, brakemen and switchmen. RIP Brothers
40 years continuous membership in BLofE (Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers) Union.

Lou Snutt
 
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