Unless you’re Captain Jack Sparrow, Ryan Gosling, or part of a ‘90s boy band revival group, male jewellery is seldom a good idea.

Watch out! Those fish are after your time piece. Picture: Supplied.

Bracelets, chains, and earrings don’t complement Adam’s apples, in the same way Craig Thomson and credit cards don’t mix, and Rod Stewart’s nasal passages don’t gel with C-Dust.

The one exception to this rule for self-respecting blokes seeking an accessory is, of course, the watch*.

In a flagging retail environment, wristy business is booming. Sales of men’s watches have increased markedly in the past decade, Swiss watch exports hit record levels last year, and there are now more than 200 watch manufacturers worldwide.

What makes those stats especially staggering is the fact the actual function of a watch is increasingly redundant. A quick glance at a smartphone or computer screen is all it takes to tell the time these days; watches, it would seem, are as superfluous as floppy disc drives and AM radio dials.

What’s more, watches are bloody expensive a lot of the time, they’re easily misplaced (there’s no ’find my watch’ app to install) and they can leave you with a nasty tan line.

Despite all this, males continue to covet watches almost as much as cured pig pancakes.

Men’s taste for timepieces is at an all-time high, and it seems a big part of the sales spike is our increasingly liberal attitude towards watch ownership.

“Even only ten years ago, the majority of guys were happy to have a single watch, nowadays it seems they want to have two, three, four different watches,” explains QUT fashion lecturer and former watchmaker Dean Brough. “A man used to have one watch for everything, now he’s got one for every event.”

The changing of watches in line with different occasions might be dismissed as pointless or metrosexual, but to me it’s a no-brainer. When watches are your only chance to accessorise, why not take full advantage of it?

I’ve got seven watches, all with different purpose, functions, and aesthetic appeal, and I alternate them appropriately. If I’m going for a run I’ll wear my sports GPS tracking watch. If it’s anything heavy duty it’ll be my G-shock. Brown leather band with brown belt or shoes, black with black, silver for anything else.

Pairing what you’re wearing with what’s on your wrist should be at the top of the list in men’s style 101, along with no shorts cuffed half way up your thighs, and no sporting camouflage print or fluorescent anything.

But there are reasons other than fashion for men’s ongoing obsession with watches.

A spokesperson for century-old Swiss luxury watch company Ebel told me watches can be about anything from patrimony and heritage, to celebrating memorable milestones or achievements, to status and power symbols, and there’s no arguing with any of that.

Watches are often steeped with significance, as treasured family heirlooms passed down multiple generations, or gilded gifts for 21st birthdays, retirements or long-service recognition. They’re engraved with congratulations and I love you’s, stored sheathed in silk inside velvet-plated boxes, and adjusted millimetre perfectly to the wearers’ wrist.

But watches are wonderfully versatile too, don’t forget! They can be used for the sinister as well as the sweet.

“Watches are a huge sign of status and power, especially in the boardroom, and professions like law,” says Dean Brough. “Men tend to scrutinise each other’s watches, and judge the wearers based on that. The better the watch, the more respect you’re afforded and the more credibility you have in some circles. Watches are kind of the new luxury car-but much smaller and more environmentally friendly.”

He reckons the watches and power connection is a throwback to the days where watches were so rare and prestigious that any man who had the time in his pocket was deemed authoritative.

As an ex-watch crafter, Brough knows better than most another great appeal of the timepieces to males en masse: “They’re shiny gadgets, and their inner workings are complex moving parts; that appeals to the nerd inside all guys. Some of the watches on the market now are mind-blowing; water-resistant to 4000 metres, built to withstand being thrown out of buildings - advancements in technology are fascinating to a lot of men.”

Whiz-bang gadgetry appeals to the majority of blokes, but there are some who take the watch obsession to near fanatical. There are diehard watch geeks out there who are enthralled by the trivia and history surrounding watches, and, by extension, their collectability. A raft of dedicated watch blogs, fan sites devoted to specific watch brands, and forums discussing watch appearances in movies, TV shows, and on celebrities exist.

Founder of watchesinmovies.info James Enloe says watch-spotting in films is “a lot of fun as a sort of game; entertainment within entertainment,”and he knows thousands of fanatics who pore over small glimpses of movie footage to identify precise watch makes.

But above all else, watches are a means of self-expression; a way to make a personal statement, be it over-the-top or understated. As Ben Balmer of Breitling watches explains, watches are a reflection of what type of man you are.

“Some people say that the first things you look at on a man are his watch and his shoes,” he says. “I guess I would notice a man’s shoes if they were really ugly, or really dirty. But the watch is a sure sign of who a person is. ”

*And a wedding band, obviously, for anyone who might want to pull me up on that.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

Twitter: @Samcanavan

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73 comments

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    • time out in grafton says:

      08:02am | 16/11/12

      I was going to go for a swim later this morning, but (hangs head in shame)
      I don’t have a watch that is water resistant to 4000metres!!!

      It’s enough to make you want to jump out of a building…except I don’t
      have a watch that will withstand that sort of impact.

      It’s really not my day is it?

    • Philosopher says:

      09:52am | 16/11/12

      !! Why do you even bother existing?? You, Sir, are a disgrace. Leave… just GO!

    • time out in grafton says:

      10:31am | 16/11/12

      @ Philosopher

      You don’t see the inherent wankery of designing a watch that is water resistant to 4000 metres, or one that survives falls from tall buildings?

      And you call yourself philosopher…LOL
      As for “leave..just GO!” 
      NO, just NO!

    • Philosopher says:

      11:10am | 16/11/12

      all I hear is Excuses. I am calling the Mayor of Grafton, right now.

    • the mayor of grafton says:

      11:45am | 16/11/12

      Phil
      I’ve told you a million times….stop calling me!

    • Philosopher says:

      12:09pm | 16/11/12

      foiled.

      *looks around for someone else to bother*

    • Peter says:

      08:07am | 16/11/12

      I possess 90 watches. I inherited the passion from my great uncle and my Dad.
      First watch was a Seiko Bell-Matic Uncle Alf gave me when I was about 12. I still have it. Next was Dad’s Omega Constellation.
      Personal faves are my 1965 Rolex Submariner which I found in a country jewellery shop about 15 years ago and a Heuer Carrera from a Greek flea market which i had restored. I had a job for 15 years which involved constant travel and I always ensured I researched where the flea markets and antique shops were at each destination.
      As for NEW Swiss watches - if I could be arsed I guess I’d buy a ROlex GMT with ceramic bezel. Though next watch will be an Omega Speedmaster pre-moon.
      Oh - most of my watches are in their boxes with paperwork. I see them as an alternative to super and something my son can inherit.

    • Philosopher says:

      08:24am | 16/11/12

      as something of an expert, what’s your view of The Punch’s inability to correct their server time for daylight savings?

    • Pattem says:

      11:34am | 16/11/12

      @Peter, Wow, that collection must be worth a bit!

    • Peter says:

      05:56pm | 16/11/12

      It’s worth whatever someone wh=ould pay me for it.
      Pales into insignifiance next to the collection of some bankers who pay 7 figures for one watch.
      Bruce Willis and Jerry Lewiis are supposed ot have amazing collections.
      it’s nice to play show and tell when friends come over and tell the story behind each watch.
      I give away one now and then to friends who would appreciate a certain watch with a great story.
      Oh - and none of watches has a bettery-operated quartz movement. They are all mechanical - wind-up or automatic.

    • subotic says:

      08:12am | 16/11/12

      I have a 2-inch black leather band on my right wrist, a 1/2 head skull ring on my 3rd right finger & a flat 6mm wedding band on my left hand. My toenails are painted black.

      And I don’t wear a watch.

      Does this mean I can’t hang out with Thorpey? Or his fish?

    • Louie the Fly says:

      08:30am | 16/11/12

      Hmmm - leather might not like hours in the pool every day.
      Skull ring should come in handy if any bruisers pick on Thorpey.
      Black toenails great for gardening in thongs - no clean up required.
      But Subby - why are you still talking in inches?

    • subotic says:

      10:08am | 16/11/12

      That damn inches thing comes from far too much time in the US Mid-West. Terrible, terrible habit, I know…

    • L. says:

      08:33am | 16/11/12

      Most Swiss watch movements come out of the Swatch company, ETA.

      Even the Omega Speedmasters and Heuer Carrera’s no share the same movment.

      The Swiss watch market now seems to resemble the PC market.. That is, 99% of the internals are the same, it’s just the name on the box which differs.

      I would estimate, that in the Swiss and German mechanical watch market (manual winds and Autos), that the ETA 28xx and 7750 movements represent almost the entire market.

      The funny thing is, these watches can differ in price by $10’s of thousands, depending which brand is on the dial…and all for the same workings.

      Let the buyer beware.

    • Philosopher says:

      09:18am | 16/11/12

      thanks for the info, L. Depressing that even the reputable European appliances tend to be made by the same superfactories before being Branded. Have you read Klein’s ‘No Logo’?

      PS what about Patek Philippe?

    • L. says:

      10:31am | 16/11/12

      “PS what about Patek Philippe?”

      100% inhouse design and construction I believe. Although you’ll pay for it of course. +$50K

      “Depressing that even the reputable European appliances tend to be made by the same superfactories before being Branded.”

      No, don’t misunderstand.. These watches are not all churned out by the same factory, just the movements.

      Have a look at Steinhart watches or Stowa watches.

      Both boutique, reasonably priced (Steinharts are sub-$500 and most Stowa’s are sub-$800). German designned and built (Stowa) or German design and Swiss built (Steinhart) and in limited quantities. There is usually a 2 to 4 mth wait for both.

      Klein?

      Ann or Calvin?

      L.

    • Philosopher says:

      11:12am | 16/11/12

      Cheers L.

      Naomi.

      P.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      08:45am | 16/11/12

      Watches to men are what shoes are to women.

    • Angry moose says:

      01:40pm | 16/11/12

      This :

      I go into board room meetings and wear my reliable Casio gulfman. Others wear their flashy silver and gold watches.

      I wear the one watch for all occasions.
      Perhaps this is my angle.  Reliable.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      08:57am | 16/11/12

      I have a gold watch and a gold wedding band with 3 diamonds on my left. I have a gold signet ring given to me by mother when I was a kid on the pinky of my right hand as well as a gold bracelet on my right wrist.  I also have 2 diamond stud earrings in my left ear.

      I can definiitely hang out with Thorpey…oh and I wear shiny shoes.

    • Banker says:

      09:05am | 16/11/12

      I have three issues with watches:
      1. it takes me at least 15 minutes to decide which Patek Phillipe I’ll wear any day of the week.
      2. The horrendously ugly G-shock range than hipsters seem to adore
      3. The great unwashed that come back from Bali thinking that their $5 rolax is fooling anybody.

    • Don says:

      09:09am | 16/11/12

      In Europe the type of watch your wear is a status symbol. In South America, the quality of your pen is more so - go figure.

    • Colin says:

      11:11am | 16/11/12

      In Australia it’s your brand of jet-ski and the type of ute you tow it with.

    • Pattem says:

      11:46am | 16/11/12

      @Colin, I thought it was the size of the boat you towed with the ute…

    • Modern Primitive says:

      11:54am | 16/11/12

      Do you do anything for fun, Colin, besides heaping shit on others? Jetskis and ski boats are heaps of fun by the way.

    • Colin says:

      12:15pm | 16/11/12

      @ Pattem

      ‘I thought it was the size of the boat you towed with the ute… “

      Even better grin

      @ Modern Primitive

      Now, see, MP; jet-skis and ski-boats are only “Fun” to those that think them so. Which, of course, is meatheads, bogans, and other various and plentiful knuckle-draggers…As for what I do for fun..? Well, it certainly isn’t jet-skiing and ski-boating…Reading books, taking photographs, going on picnics, attending the theatre, visiting museums and art galleries, and cooking are all up there as Things I Like To Do when I’m not at work (which I also enjoy, by the way) grin

    • Modern Primitive says:

      12:22pm | 16/11/12

      There’s a group of 15 people from my office all going waterskiing in the next few weeks, two guys are bringing the ski boats. All of us have tertiary degrees.

      How does that fit with your preconceived stereotypes?

    • Colin says:

      12:46pm | 16/11/12

      @ Modern Primitive

      You can dress up monkeys in suits, but they’re still monkeys…And monkeys with…gasp…TERTIARY degrees (is there another kind?), even more so…

      My favourite graffiti at uni was written above the toilet roll holder in the Men’s lavatory:

      “Arts Degrees, please take one.”

    • Modern Primitive says:

      12:57pm | 16/11/12

      You were beaten in highschool, weren’t you? I actually feel sorry for you sometimes, Colin.

    • Colin says:

      01:14pm | 16/11/12

      @ Modern Primitive

      “You were beaten in highschool, weren’t you?”

      Nope.

      ” I actually feel sorry for you sometimes, Colin.”

      Really? Because I don’t understand what it is to participate in a “Culture” that is so abhorrent and such anathema to me that I am reviled by it..? I have no need for pity on your part, MP, my life really is a pleasurable and fulfilling joy grin

    • Grant says:

      09:13am | 16/11/12

      Lol

      I have a sudden urge to buy an Ebel 100 with its elegant heritage
      design to improve my credibility in the boardroom.  Or maybe the Ebel Sport which is energetic and determined.

    • scott says:

      09:19am | 16/11/12

      I have been wearing the same $20 Casio digital watch for over 10 years.  If someone wants to judge me for that then I’d just presume that they are a wanker.

    • L. says:

      10:40am | 16/11/12

      Agreed..

      I like nice watches. I have a few which I see as ‘art’, and make me smile each and every time I check to see if I’m late grin

    • Colin says:

      09:30am | 16/11/12

      Pretentious? Moi..?

      Is this part of the ‘Oneupmanship’ male ritual too? I have a bigger member because I drive BMW/Ferrari/Lamborghini; I am better than you because my watch cost three-squillion dollars, and I am obviously superior because my suit is handmade…

      Fellas, you all look like complete tossers trying to one-up each other with your pompous lists.

    • Banker says:

      09:45am | 16/11/12

      I recently got back from a working trip to Monaco, upon inquiring over whether a Bentley or Aston martin would be more suitable for my needs my concierge complemented me upon my taste and claimed that the standard for the young Australian worker was the Porsche and that in his country if you drove a Porsche you were a bum.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:06am | 16/11/12

      Naw, poor Colin is upset. It’s about the mating strategy sonny, not necessarily one up manship for the sake of it.

      Hate the game, not the player.

    • Colin says:

      10:23am | 16/11/12

      @  Modern Primitive

      ‘The mating strategy’..?!?? Heaven forbid what sort of gold-diggers you must be trying to attract!  If a woman goes out with a man because he is well-off (or feigning so) she is utterly shallow, and he is completely stupid…

      But, hey, how else could progeny the likes of Paris Hilton be brought into this world otherwise..?

    • Black Dynamite says:

      10:40am | 16/11/12

      What baffles me is why more men’s perfect woman isn’t one that posts misandry laced rhetoric under a male username on an internet forum.

      BD

    • North, North-East says:

      10:42am | 16/11/12

      He’s not stupid if she has great boobs!

    • Alan says:

      10:43am | 16/11/12

      Colin, you manage to look like a complete tosser without doing anything at all

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:46am | 16/11/12

      Like I said Colin, hate the game man.

      For what its worth, I’m not wealthy nor do I drive a BMW, I attract women with my attitude, but surely you can see that the acoutremants of wealth are analogous to a peakcocks tail?

      Probably not, you’re a feminist aren’t you?

    • HappyG says:

      10:59am | 16/11/12

      @Colin. This is a blokes discussion. The dress making class is two doors down. Thanks.

    • Colin says:

      11:09am | 16/11/12

      @ Alan

      Gee, thanks for that Alan; I’m so glad i was able to elicit a nasty response from you without there having been one single exchange between us…Jump on the bandwagon much?

      @ Modern Primitive

      Ugh; you’re attitude is sooo ‘80s and Gordon Gekko…I bet you think mustaches and braces are cool too, hey?

    • PsychoHyena says:

      11:19am | 16/11/12

      @Modern Primitive, that’s the bit that Colin doesn’t understand, is that the primitive urge within women is to look for someone who knows how to provide and can provide for the future family. This is simple pure biology, some women act off the primitive just as some men do.

      Personally I believe the best method of displaying wealth is a little show (a respectable watch, not necessarily top of the line), stylish clothes (not over the top) and if you meet a PERSON (note the word person Colin) that you appreciate and want to impress, keep their glass and plate filled.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      11:25am | 16/11/12

      When did mustaches ever go out of fashion?

    • Colin says:

      11:47am | 16/11/12

      @ PsychoHyena

      No, I don’t understand. Really.

      As an aspie, I have very little knowledge of how you NT folk think. Please explain your unfathomable rituals to me.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      12:02pm | 16/11/12

      I think Colin understands it implicitly, its just that “he” is poor and jealous and uses spite, derision and extreme leftism to make “himself ” feel better by taking the moral high ground.

    • Colin says:

      01:00pm | 16/11/12

      @ Modern Primitive 12:02pm | 16/11/12

      No, not poor (as if that were a valid measure of what constitutes a person anyway); really, I have Asperger’s and really do find it almost incomprehensible.

    • HappyG says:

      01:57pm | 16/11/12

      @Colin. Is aspergers German or Dutch for arsehole?

      I thought you suffered from douchebergers.

    • Philosopher says:

      09:30am | 16/11/12

      I have a Casio Beside chronograph with sapphire watch-face, one of only 10 million produced. Handed to me, in an emotional moment, by my brother as a birthday gift. I still get teary when I look at its dully gleaming face, carefully manufactured by craftsmen in a rural village somewhere in China. Every time I have to correct it (bi-monthly), I think of the day when I pass it over to my son, perhaps on his 21st. I have no doubt he will pass it to his own son, whether it is operational or not. Of these traditions are families made of… only men understand the solemn ritual of passing on one’s watch.

    • iansand says:

      10:05am | 16/11/12

      I have a watch with a leather band foer when I’m not going in the water and a watch with a plastic band for when I am.

      Incidentally, when I bought the water watch I got one water resistant to 30m.  When I told the flunkey that I proposed to wear it in the surf he said I would need one that was resistant to 100m, which was more expensive.  I snorted derisively (inside) and ignored the advice,  but was I right?  Is there any reason why you need greater resistance in the surf?  The need for better waterproofing is a function of increased pressure with depth, but is there anything else going on in the surf that is different to still water?

    • Philosopher says:

      10:21am | 16/11/12

      actually you are correct, the bite-pressure of a bronze whaler shark is more than matched by a generic water-resistant watch. Flesh, unfortunately, has lower shear tolerances…

    • L. says:

      10:57am | 16/11/12

      ” but was I right?”

      No..

      30m or 3 ATM’s is really only shower resistant. It will probably hold up under swimming pressures, but it isn’t designed for it, nor is it garanteed for that.

      If it works in the surf, great, if it doesn’t, oh well..

    • Pandabater says:

      11:36am | 16/11/12

      The 30 meters is the distance from the shore not the depth. wink

    • Justinvw says:

      02:44pm | 16/11/12

      @iansand says:
      The 30m, 50m, 200m etc on the watch actually refers to barometric pressure.  30m is basically splash proof and will keep the perspiration from your wrist out.  The pressure on a watch while surfing is far greater than you would experience in say washing your hands.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      03:14pm | 16/11/12

      Only problem there Philospher was that he alwways had my mum tagging along. Damn spoil sport that woman…just kidding

    • HappyG says:

      10:50am | 16/11/12

      @Iansand. Be careful buying a “Surf” watch. I’ve had three over the years and can confirm that the surf brand watches ( Rip Curl, Billabong, Quicksilver, Nixon etc.) are basically crap despite what you pay. They work fine until the battery needs replacing and even though they get pressure tested they’re never the same after that. I bought a Swiss Wenger which you can pick up for $250 - $450 and so far so good. The real damage done to surf watches is by hot water and steam so it’s a good idea to take them off before a tub. Cheers.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      10:56am | 16/11/12

      Personally, my passion is ties and tie pins.

      Finally got that kickarse Alexander McQueen!

    • ibast says:

      11:08am | 16/11/12

      I haven’t worn a watch regularly for 15 years.  Never miss it.  I do own a vintage Omega, thanks to my Grandfather, but have only worn it a few times.

      I do wear an earring and have done forever.

      My question is this; do any men not wear a wedding band? I mean men under the age of 60.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      12:02pm | 16/11/12

      My brother hasn’t worn his wedding band since his 30’s.  He wears it around his neck mostly.  I think it was to protect the ring as well as his fingers whenever he was doing manual work and he just never bothered to put it back.

    • ibast says:

      12:35pm | 16/11/12

      Yep, people don’t believe me when I say I don’t want to wear one because it’s dangerous in my line of work.

      Although I must admit the fact that it would just annoy me plays a part in my refusal.

      It just seems these days that it’s a given, whereas 30 years ago, it was unusual for men to wear a wedding ring.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      12:57pm | 16/11/12

      I take mine off if I’m doing manual stuff as well.  I have no desire to have my finger de-gloved.  My old man was a landscape gardner and he never wore his ring unless he was going to some sort of function.

    • Elphaba says:

      02:01pm | 16/11/12

      My Dad doesn’t wear his.  He’s a sparky.  A couple of times it got caught on things and wrenched his finger.  It’s a definite hazard for people who do manual labour.

      If you’re in an office typing all day, that’s one thing, but as you say, in some lines of work it can be dangerous to wear one.

    • Katie says:

      02:02pm | 16/11/12

      My husband does not have wedding ring, we never included a ring for him even in the wedding ceremony.  He is now 32. It was a good choice.

      I’m not sure that it is true that watch is the only peice of jewelry that is cool.  I think some guys look good with and earing or two, some can pull off a chain, or a ring. If a man is going to commit to wearing a piece of jewellery my advice is to get a honest second opinion first.

    • Philosopher says:

      02:12pm | 16/11/12

      Wayne Kerr, you’re meant to take your wedding band OFF when heading to a function wink

      I thought all dads taught that to their sons.

    • Pattem says:

      12:04pm | 16/11/12

      The time function available on mobiles and smartphones can be hazardous as potentials pickpockets/thieves’ strategy is to ask the time, get you to take out your mobile, then do a snatch and run.

      At least with a watch it is attached to the wrist.  But a special night out could constitute tie pin and cuff links.

      No, a smartphone does not make a watch superfluous.

      Watch and wedding band…that’s all the jewellery I wear smile

    • Caedrel says:

      12:18pm | 16/11/12

      I stopped wearing a watch when I realised that knowing the train was going to be late wasn’t going to make any difference to when I got to work or have any influence over whether it came any faster or not. The advent of smartphones has meant that I can actually tell the time again, but I still don’t bother looking up any train timetables: they’ll get there when they get there.

      My wife gave me some neckalces early on in our relationship - wore them for a little while, but eventually got sick of the on / off for showers and for any sporting activity and just stopped. Had a ring that I thought was cool in Year 10, but lost it after about 2 weeks. I think the only reason I haven’t lost my wedding band is because it doesn’t fit over the first knuckle.

    • expat says:

      12:49pm | 16/11/12

      Breitling

    • Banker says:

      01:33pm | 16/11/12

      Ah yes, the watch for the man who thinks he someday might resemble a pilot to someone or doesn’t have the taste for an IWC in that price bracket.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      01:06pm | 16/11/12

      I have a single watch and a single ring.  One gold, one silver.  Anything more inevitably gets destroyed through day to day life.

    • Josh says:

      01:52pm | 16/11/12

      About time The Punch published an article that wasn’t full of leftist, socio-politcal, I care more articles.

      Do people who buy watches with tachymeters actually use them?

 

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