Enthusiasm for watches can be as aggressive as the enthusiasm for #menswear. For some, it’s a bloodsport with clubs of men who live for showing off their #sexpile (a.k.a. collection) of luxury wrist wear.
If you have the budget and the desire to invest in a collection of multiple watches for different moods and occasions, go nuts. But most men don’t have the money or even the interest. Despite what magazines and other men’s style resources may tell you, the truth is that you only need one good watch.
The key to one good watch is versatility. It has to function and look good in any setting, balancing toughness and elegance with an ability to move effortlessly from a hard days work or play to an evening out. Masculine and sophisticated, but never clunky or flashy. As I see it, that watch is the classic stainless steel tool watch.
The kind of tool watch to which I’m referring is characterized by a steel case, a dark dial, a rotating bezel (black, as it goes with everything) and a bracelet in polished or brushed steel. Some have busy faces with multiple dials that no one reads, but I prefer the simpler variety with just an hour hand, a minute hand and a second hand. And perhaps a date feature. Numbers? Depends on the design. Nothing too big or clumsy.
There are countless beautiful timepieces in gold or with leather straps, but their places are limited. I wouldn’t go swimming or do anything strenuous in a delicate watch with a leather strap. Conversely, a bulky G-Shock would look ridiculous in a boardroom or at a black tie affair. A handsome, water-resistant, stainless steel tool watch, on the other hand, works anywhere anytime. I can’t think of one situation where it isn’t appropriate.
There are tons of great tool watches, and I can’t go over them all here. But I do have my favorites. If one has the money for a Tudor Black Bay ($3,675), an Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial (about $4,000) or a Rolex Submariner Date (about $8,000), do it. They’re gorgeous superlative classics that will take care of the wearer for a lifetime, and they all can be found pre-owned for less. For thousandaires with budgetary constraints, there are other really handsome well-made options like the Hager Aquamariner ($450), the Seiko 5 SNZH55 Automatic Black Dial ($160) or the Mougin & Piquard “Oceanique” ($625), which is on my wrist as I type.
Whatever the choice, one should be careful about size. An unfortunate trend these days is the oversized dial, i.e. anything with a diameter in excess of 41mm or so. On the average sized man, they’re unnecessarily big and actually have an emasculating effect, making the wrist look diminutive in contrast to the watch.
As I said, there are certainly other very handsome timeless watches, but I can think of no other that can so seamlessly move from a formal event to a business meeting or a day in the wood shop to an hour at the gym (or to that 1000-foot dive that maybe ten guys on the planet actually do). When it comes to just one good watch, it’s all about the stainless steel tool watch for me. Done and done.
Photos of yours truly in tool watch drag: