When I was about thirteen years old there was only one kind of watch that I wanted: a great big digital Casio that I saw in an Argos catalogue. It had a big globe that covered half its face, a thermometer, a barometer and numerous stopwatch functions that I thought would be useful for timing, err… something. When I eventually got one for Christmas I loved it. I didn’t have any use for most of its gadgets, but in the dog-eat-dog world of playground watch comparisons I was able to hold my own.
For many years after that I didn’t really give much thought to watches – they were just something to tell the time, and they certainly weren’t something that I considered worth spending lots of money on. It was only when I got into my early- to mid-twenties that I began to reassess the importance of watches.
Unless you’re Mr T, a pirate or a Russian gangster, having piles of jewellery round your neck and on your fingers looks ridiculous. Watches, on the other hand, are one of the few items of jewellery that men can get away with. If bought wisely, it’s possible to have a small collection of watches that will serve you well for life. Here are a few styles and designs that are worth considering:
Digital watches are great for the gym or mountain biking in the woods, but most of them are not for the office: G-Shocks and suits do not go together. If you want a digital watch that looks like a watch – rather than one of those bizarre Philippe Starck things – the Casio A158 (pictured above) is probably the best. Its classic design will not look out of place in a few years’ time.
Most diving watches are chunky beasts that scream “I’m a real f***ing man, so ner!” If you’re going to buy one, you need the physique to back it up (think Jason Stratham, not Jarvis Cocker). The one diving watch that will definitely be around in fifty years’ time is the Rolex Submariner (pictured above). Steve McQueen wore one throughout the 1970s, which is a good enough recommendation for me.
If a Rolex is out of your price range (and it certainly is way out of mine), but you still want a good automatic, consider buying a Seiko. While not as well known as their Swiss-made counterparts, they have a decent reputation among horologists.
Military watches are the ideal companion for weekend wear, such as jeans, check shirts and desert boots. One of the great things about them is that they come with cotton straps that can be easily replaced. Another great thing is that authentic military watches, like the one above, can be picked up from army surplus stores for a pittance.
While fairly expensive, the Hamilton Khaki Automatic is a quality automatic that will last for years.
Timex also make a number of great-looking quartz military watches that won’t cost you the earth.
A simple white face and leather strap form the essential components of any classic dress watch. They are always suitable for business, and they look more sophisticated than metal-braceleted diving watches and chronometers. Cartier makes some beautiful dress watches, like the Ronde Solo (above).
For mid-range dress watches, consider Longines.
Don’t forget to match your watch strap with your shoes and belt. It’s a quick and simple way of looking well put together.