Far be it for us to discourage a healthy watch collection — there are worse ways to spend your hard-earned money than on those pinnacles of the mechanical art. But there’s something to be said for wearing one watch all the the time. Who among us hasn’t admired the older gent with the battered Rolex on his wrist? The appearance alone conjures up stories of adventures, each scratch telling a tale. We love vintage watches for that very reason, but the other side of the coin is buying one watch, wearing it through thick and thin and creating your own patina rather than purchasing someone else’s. The trouble is, there are so many options and we’re bombarded with new tantalizing timepieces every year that tempt us to part with a month’s salary or two. It behooves you to get it right. Here’s how to find the right timepiece and keep it on your wrist for a lifetime.
1 Choose a watch you’ll enjoy strapping on every morning. Sure, that 48-millimeter U-Boat you saw in the duty free shop looks cool, but how will you feel about in a year or two or ten when the big watch trend has passed? Best bet is to opt for a classic style in a timeless size — we think 40 to 42 millimeters is the sweet spot. Restraint says more about you than a watch that someone can read across the room.
2 Go with something versatile. Sports watches tend to be wearable day in and day out, even at the office. Dress watches are great, and it can’t hurt to have a thin elegant piece in reserve for those occasions when you’re expected to look sharp — a knighthood, for example. But for everyday wear, go with a dive watch or chronograph. Either of those will go from office to ballgame to beach vacation equally well; even “at rest” it will suggest a life well lived more than a delicate dress watch. That dive watch on your wrist tells people there’s more than meets the eye with you. Sure, by day, you’re a cube-dwelling customer service representative, but on the weekends, you might be off saving the free world from marauding al Qaeda frogmen.
MY GO-TO WATCH
My Seiko 5 Sports diver was an eBay buy. I can’t claim it was too much of a fight; I got it for just over 100 bucks, which was about all I could spend. I love the damn thing. I love its size (40mm), its bezel (its tiny ratcheting feels great and I use it to time my French press and my laundry), its unofficial name (“the sea urchin”). I wear it on a black and gray racing stripe NATO, which was also cheap, because again, I am poor. I love its heft, so I don’t care that it barely fits under a proper dress shirt cuff. It looks like it wants to go adventuring, like it could take the beating that comes with the best journeys. Maybe someday soon I’ll take it diving, and then maybe it’ll get a much-deserved break from my wrist.
– Chris Wright
3 Get a healthy collection of straps. There’s no better way to refresh a watch and fend off the inevitable desire to buy a new one than by swapping straps. Nowadays, the aftermarket strap industry rivals that of craft brewing and you can find a strap in almost any material, length and style. 200-year-old waterlogged reindeer leather? Got you covered. Portuguese cork? Got that. But you should use the tried-and-true basics. We like nylon for summer, as its casual air is perfect for the beach or barbecue; leather is great for fall, when you pull out sweaters and tweeds and the sweat of summer evaporates; steel is great year round but we tend to wear it in winter, when it slides nicely under a sleeve; rubber is great for spring, when short sleeves bust out but before summer heat can make it sticky. A proper strap changing tool, a sheaf of extra spring bars and a box of straps will keep you going for years. In fact, the hunt for unique straps can be almost as exciting, and a whole lot less expensive, than the hunt for a new watch.
4 It’s OK to have a modest watch collection. Go ahead and indulge your horological attention deficit disorder. But have that one watch you come back to season after season, year after year. Make it your trademark, your go-to piece that you want on your wrist when the chips are down, the weather’s rough, your job’s on the line and you’re mustering your nerve. Be that guy with the scratched up old watch that tells a hundred stories before you even open your mouth. Choose wisely.