A few months ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Your Watch Says More About Your Status Than You Think”. It was a catchy headline, and the article went into detail about what the perception of the watch you choose to wear says about your personality, your lifestyle, and your financial rank.
They touched on the types of people who typically wear luxury watches (think Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Omega, etc.), Apple watches, vintage watches, and no watch at all. The opinion article also spoke about how society perceives these watches today vs. decades in the past, and how your watch selections in different business/pleasure scenarios can impact your status. If you haven’t read it, you should check it out.
I thought the article was interesting. I don’t think it covered enough of what today’s society perceives of watches, what the major misconception about watches is, and why they are more important than you may think from anyone’s perspective though.
So, let’s approach this from how different types of personalities perceive the different categories of watch types. This is important, because it doesn’t come from a place of one true right or wrong. It’s based on experience, and what you care to be perceived as from different people. I’ve bucketed the types of watch wearers into 3 categories for the sake of easy understanding.
1.) The Watch Clueless – this person doesn’t know or care about the difference between a Fossil watch and a Rolex. They probably never wear a watch, and/or can’t understand why anyone would “spend money” on a watch when they have smartphones nowadays. They may buy one watch or have been gifted one that doesn’t hold value (e.g. Designer Brand Watches, Mall/Department Store watches, etc.)
2.) The Watch Beginner – this person cares about watches, and is learning more and more about different brands as time goes on. They may own a few inexpensive watches (under $2,500 or around that price point), own a digital watch, or are getting their feet wet with certain watches like Hamilton, Tag Heuer, Seiko, entry Rolex, etc.
3.) The Watch Enthusiast – this person has already started a watch collection, values timepieces and understands the difference between timepieces and watches, and knows about a variety of brands. They can range from someone owning one or two nice pieces, or someone who is a savant. This person can be someone who has a full time job and just collects/trades as a hobby, or someone in the business full-time.
Now, I’ll break down the different watch wearer categories so I can explain each of the 3 personality’s perceptions to your choice of watches.
A.) No Watch
B.) Apple Watch, Digital Watch
C.) Inexpensive Watches ( Fossil, Movado, Michael Kors, MVMT, Invicta, Mall/Department Store Watches, Designer Watches, Quartz Watches)
D.) Luxury Timepieces (Typically automatic winding movements, manual wind, multiple parts engineered and crafted intricately)
The Watch Clueless’ Perceptions:
A.) Cool with people who don’t wear watches because they don’t even really notice anything about when someone does or does not. They typically don’t care about other people’s watch choices. “Most of us have smartphones so why are watches important?”
B.) They think digital watches are cool because they can do things like tell you your heart beat, notify you of appointments, and everyone seems to be wearing digital watches these days so that must be a good option.
C.) Doesn’t really understand the watch choices people make. Has thought about getting a watch or a few to match their suits when they need to dress up. Has thought about getting a watch to try it out and look good with their daily outfit choices but doesn’t know the difference between Invicta and Rolex except that one is expensive and one isn’t as expensive.
D.) Has no idea what brands mean or are in context outside of Rolex. Thinks that luxury watches are similar to mall and designer watches just hyper expensive luxuries that seem like a waste of money. Doesn’t really understand why someone would want to “spend that much on a watch”
The Watch Beginners’ Perceptions:
A.) Doesn’t get offended when someone doesn’t wear a watch. They think “to each their own” and even though they choose to enjoy watches and have an associated reason they like wearing them, they can sometimes let the non-watch wearers live in peace, and have friendly banter when this type asks them about their watches. Often times this Watch Beginner also enjoys talking about the watches they like and educating the Non-Watch wearer about why they enjoy watches and what brands they have.
B.) They may have a digital watch themselves, but it’s not the only watch they typically own. They either have a small or large rotation of different types of watches and brands, and realize there is more to a watch than just the digital element of time accuracy, health status, staying connected to social media, etc. They may or may not have an adverse feeling towards digital watches based on what their collection is composed of.
C.) May have a few of these watches. They sometimes have a blend of watches that have no intrinsic value (MVMT, Chanel, Michael Kors, Fossil, Invicta, Movado, Diesel, Designer Label Brands, Mall/Department Store Watches) because they think they’re cool, and/or want to experiment with different watches. And some timepieces that hold some value if bought right (Tag Heuer, Rolex, Bell & Ross, Seiko, Tudor). They’re learning more about what separates these watches from the luxury pieces over time as they find out more info, and earn more money.
D.) They typically value these timepieces in the same way a person who drives a Honda or a Lexus eventually yearns to upgrade to a Mercedes-Benz AMG, Aston Martin, or Lambo. They love looking at high-end timepieces and perhaps learning about them in magazines, YouTube, Hodinkee articles, etc. They like to talk to people wearing these works of art, and they have some understanding of the perception-based value around why these are the elite goal of wristwear.
They may or may not fully understand the financial values of the different brands, and/or many brand types, and what they stand for, but they know at least the main ones (Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Omega, etc.). They may not understand why “spending $50K on a watch would make sense in their lifestyle, but they understand how badass, power commanding, and cool these timepieces look and feel at all price levels. They respect the next-level of mechanical wrist gear and often are planning what their next piece will be. These purchases for them tend to come around significant life events, and/or achievements. Examples are Baby push presents, Birth year watches, promotion or bonus payout reward watches, Graduation or Holiday gifts, Weddings, etc.
The Watch Enthusiasts’ Perceptions:
A.) Doesn’t understand why someone wouldn’t wear a watch. Even if it’s an entry level watch, or the person works in a field where they are constantly dirty, facing rugged environments, and/or athletic scenarios, there is a timepiece designed not only to handle that lifestyle but accentuate the personality of the wearer. The enthusiast understands a watch is the best business card you’ll ever wear, and so does not agree with the Non-Watch Wearer’s views on why they won’t wear a watch. Typically the enthusiast will start conversations or openly disagree with conversations based on why NOT wearing watches doesn’t make sense.
B.) Doesn’t typically value or appreciate digital watches. A great allegory to this is the same reason a Porsche enthusiast who likes driving manual stick will never want to get rid of the car and doesn’t see the appeal of a Tesla even though technically the car is more efficient. It’s not about efficiency for the Porsche enthusiast. It’s about the drivability factor, the excitement of taking control, the craftsmanship and time it took generations of designers and engineers to build. It’s about collectibility, story telling, art, status, and much more than just efficiency.
The enthusiast may own a digital watch for very specific cases (e.g. Golf GPS on the course, or wearining while running a marathon). Other than that, they typically value luxury timepieces and the beauty/status they stand for over any digital watch. When you take the human element out of the watch, you lose their interest
C.) Although the enthusiast can remember a time when they used to indulge in, and/or think some of the lower-end watches were worth exploring, they now won’t go near those types of watches. Now that they’ve learned the intrinsic value of true luxury timepieces, and have felt not only the craftsmanship difference, but the attention and clout they receive from wearing one, they simply can’t go back to the inexpensive “watches”. They may look down on these watch wearers, or they may support them as they remember when they started out and how they learned the difference in values and brands. Some of these enthusiasts are even excited to teach and help the beginner get to the next level.
D.) This is the best expression of self, art, creativity, value, and status in the enthusiasts perception. They see the value in luxury timepieces from many angles and have experienced it first hand. They’ve connected with other enthusiasts over their passion for these mechanical works of art. They’ve opened up business opportunities, friendships, and referrals over introductions spawning from noticing each other’s timepiece selection. They believe that the timepiece is the ultimate personal/business calling card, and is a necessity for any occasion whether it’s the beach, the boardroom, or the bedroom. Enthusiasts not only view timepieces as a symbol of status, art, and power, they tend to view them as assets not liabilities.
They realize that certain brands and precious metals hold value very well and as an asset class watches can not only make them more money wearing them, but be a great cash storage vehicle.
The reason I broke down the personalities into 3 categories this way is because you’ll notice it doesn’t speak about someone’s corporate position, their financial status, where they came from, and/or what class in society they think they belong to.
That’s important because by understanding how these 3 types of people view something as seemingly simple as a watch, you can understand how like minds tend to end up in the same places, enjoying similar activities, valuing the same types of things.
It’s not a coincidence that for example people who wear no watch tend to enjoy the simple things in life. They typically aren’t materially driven, and/or can come off as granola.
People who wear Apple watches and digital watches on the other hand tend to value technology.
If it’s Apple watch they may value brand over functionality. They tend to have “sheep mentality” and will buy anything everyone else is buying. The importance in life to them is fitting in, being the most technologically advanced, and/or being connected to everyone else. For other brand digital watches, people who own them tend to value their ancillary functions like showing health status, versatility of ergonomic design and practicality. These may be the same people driving Prius, Tesla, and/or Toyota.
If an inexpensive watch is the wrist choice, there tends to be layers of expression that are attempting to be expressed but not always in way of prowess. More in a way of a teenager growing through puberty. In a way where much experimentation is tried. There is some confusion among these types, not because they want to be confused, but because they typically only know what they “think” they can afford, and/or only know what they’ve seen predominantly advertised. That’s where the mall watches and Invicta brand types come in. They’re always on billboards, commercials, kick-starter, and being worn by people who are also confused and follow the masses. So there is some comfort in the confusion while trying to figure out what’s next.
For the timepiece enthusiast, this person is at the point in their life where they understand value in multiple capacities. Whether that’s how their time is traded, what they invest in, what types of hobbies and passions they like, or why they make certain decisions. They tend to go through life with more conviction and confidence. They’re more at the stage of coming into or fully projecting their unique personalities. Think of this like the person post-puberty who also values a hand-built engine of a Porsche 911 Turbo to a mass produced Honda Civic. This isn’t to say that these personality types are doing wonderful greater-good type things in a constructive way to society. It also doesn’t mean they are confident in a positive way, but more so in the manner of outward expression and conviction over most of the other types.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with my personal opinion:
Watches are a wonderful way to express yourself and a constant reminder that the most valuable asset we have (time) is constantly against us. If you don’t value it, you are doing nothing more than wasting it. Whether you believe time is linear, cyclical, or relative, it is always a relevant force in our existence, and so should be represented and honored accordingly.
When it comes to how you choose to wear a watch in different social scenarios, that will reflect your understanding and confidence projecting your personality in those scenarios. In the Wall Street Journal article, they touched on not wearing a watch that’s more expensive as your manager, and/or boss.
To this I say, it all depends on how and why you want to engage in that relationship. There’s usually an adverse reaction managers and bosses have in the corporate world when someone their Junior, and/or younger is wearing something that’s “better” than theirs. They tend to get jealous, feel like they haven’t accomplished what they hoped by now since someone who doesn’t have the same experience as them seems to be earning more. They can take adverse action towards you and impact your success. All of these things are unfortunately true when you understand how to play into society’s rules. But this is why I never worked out well in a Corporate world. There is more importance placed around following dumb rules, and faux title importance then there is around fostering success of the individuals within the organization.
Rarely will a mid-level manager, boss, or CEO be enthusiastic when someone else working for them is wearing a more expensive timepiece. BUT, there are certain people who do appreciate this. Those people tend to be more successful in their own right anyway, and don’t aim to hold others back just because they realize comparing others in an apples-to-apples way is irrelevant and stupid.
It’s also quite interesting that the same bosses, CEOs, and movement makers are the ones who text me constantly and enthusiastically looking for their next luxury timepiece for themselves when they have construed perceptions of others wearing timepieces in their own business.
I used to wear expensive timepieces to work. Some of my colleagues and superiors would wear equally nice ones, and/or less expensive ones, and it was interesting to see how they reacted. Some were jealous, some didn’t understand why I’d “spend” that much on a watch, some loved it and we talked about it often. The ones who loved it tended to have expensive collections themselves, or at least value luxuries as assets (cars, bourbon, art, etc.).
I always enjoyed sharing my perspective with anyone who was interested in my watch choices though. I’d explain why I loved how they allowed for self-expression and were actually an investment not me “spending” money.
So you see, I understood there would be different perceptions and reactions to wearing high-end timepieces and I still do now even working for myself.
The difference is I’ve learned that wearing a high-end luxury timepiece always puts me in a position I want to be in and valued accordingly.
I’ll expand on that. Let’s say I’m wearing a $50,000 Rolex, sneakers, a t-shirt, and joggers. Some may perceive me as not dressed to impress. Those people tend to be the monkeys who wear suits daily because they have to dress up for their 9-5. They also typically don’t even have $50K in their bank account and wear a MVMT watch. You see, they don’t understand where wealth is transferred, and how/why it works in my favor. When I sell the watch after I’m done with it, I”ll make 10% profit ($5K), and everyone who is a luxury watch fan, or at least a fan of wealth will compliment me on wearing the Rolex. The people who recognize real look to things like watches and shoes first instead of judging immediately based on things poor people tend to waste money on ( e.g. $400 Gucci t-shirt). So by wearing the $50K Rolex, I command respect and attention from the people who know the value and worth, and don’t care what the perception is of someone who doesn’t get it.
The perception isn’t always negative from those who don’t yet understand. Sometimes people are curious and want to learn about luxury timepieces, and I really enjoy those conversations. I like showing them how wearing one can change their life. How it can open new opportunities, and help them feel more confident day-in and day-out.
What’s even more enjoyable is when I share with people they don’t need a $50K watch. They can get a nice Rolex, Omega, or Bell & Ross for example for only $1,500, and if they buy the right model and at the right price, that will actually hold it’s value and perhaps even appreciate. When they get this concept of wealth transfer and discover they can wear an awesome work of art on their wrist that will make them money, it totally flips the script on their perception of luxury assets, and how/why the rich get richer.
And like I said, you don’t need a lot of money to start. This is why categorizing the above personalities is valuable. Whether you’re not wealthy now and trying to get there, or wealthy now, it isn’t a big deal. The point is if you value the same things as that group of people, you’ll always end up crossing paths and learning from each other. This is how people elevate their mentality, their financial status, and life. They spend time enjoying, learning about, and valuing things other like-minded people who are where they want to be in life spend their time.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank) that I loved.
Paraphrasing he said “I won’t ever wear a watch that will be worth less than what I bought it for. Because I know what my time is worth, and I know my worth, and I am never “less-than”.”