Wrist Regalia: What It's Like To Wear Ultra Luxury Watches
Writing about very expensive timepieces and the world that conceives them has been an interesting journey for me as one with no elite upbringing or sense of entitlement to the "nicest things life has to offer." This have given me a unique perspective on wearing luxury watches and the people that consume them.
I strive to posses the tenacity to seek out the best of the best - and with what people define as a good eye for detail - I relish in the experience of strapping thousands of hours worth of hard work and craftsmanship on to my wrist. Some people like a good wine, others art with good line. For me, above all else, is the appreciation I get from wearing a watch that not only performs its duty as a tool respectfully, but embodies craftsmanship and art.
Wearing a nice watch is all about a sense of appreciation and personal worth. If you like nice things, it means that you can also probably determine which things aren't nice. You need to recognize the bad to love the best. We live in a world of efficiency and economy. Things today - more than ever - are made cheaply and often without much regard for quality and longevity. Many of us have simply forgotten what it is like to have something built to last. That is not to say that all watches are built to last, but enough of them are at the super high-end range. For some people, a luxury watch is about wearing at least one thing that has been made by hand (at least in part), by skilled people, the puts quality before price. We don't have many things like that in our lives these day.
One Man's Treasure Is Another Man's Couch Change
So what is an ultra luxury watch? Price is a big part of it, but that doesn't mean that a $50,000 watch isn't better than a $500,000 watch. For some people spending $5,000 on a watch is the purchase of a lifetime. For others it is a price so low they wouldn't want it on their wrist. Luxury is of course a relative term, but for the purposes of this article I refer to expensive timepieces that are fantastically made, fantastically exclusive, and fantastically priced. It would be hard to categorize anything under $50,000 as an ultra luxury watch - and the price climbs to the millions, literally.
Make Them Wait By The Phone
Ultra luxury watches are also rare and exclusive. Sometimes you need to be the right person to buy one, or there are just a few of them made. Almost all of the time buying these watches involves a wait - unless you are lucky. The luxury watch industry pats itself on the back for making even the most important people in the world wait months or longer for watches that costs more than nice homes.
Making it difficult for the person who has everything to get something is a funny little game. It is a delicate ballet of promises and intrigue. To humble a billionaire into waiting 6 months to get a wrist watch is a sure way of getting their contempt, but also their respect. If they like your watch you've got a customer for life. Once these people have the watch on their wrist they know what it took to get them, sometimes they need to even fight for them. It goes back to the concept of appreciation and value. Things which are hard to get suddenly feel more valuable. Once you understand this concept, a high-end piece immediately has a more relic like quality to it. It isn't just what you are wearing on your wrist, but the compelling hunt required to get it there.
Status Or Stealth
About 10 years ago the concept of the stealth-wealth watch became a buzzword. The idea is that not all people want to wear a watch that screams "I have money." So anything that was stealth-wealth usually had a more classic, understated feel to it (but not an understated price). Patek Philippe watches are usually the gold standard of this - a great example is the new Patek Philippe Ref. 5270, or this A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin watch. Most of them are pretty traditional looking and don't have intense "bling" (though you can get diamonds all over your Patek). Wearing a stealth-wealth watch means you won't get a lot of attention from the general public - which is what some people prefer. Personally I find this experience a bit frustrating. When you wear a nice watch you want people to notice. Not everyone wants the same type of attention, but if you are carrying around something very nice on your wrist, it is certainly personally validating to have people notice. If you don't want people noticing your watch, then don't spend a fortune on it.
Status pieces on the other hands are all about telling people who you are (or at least who you want to be). Watches like this serve to communicate to the world something about your lifestyle and level of success. In fact, this is one of the most traditional functions of a nice watch. It is a concept easily understood in most of the world, but often dismissed in the United States. A couple of recent pieces that come to mind at this $1 million diamond covered Ulysse Nardin watch, or this $3 million dollar Hublot piece.
People With Wealth Are A lot Like Cheese
They come in different flavors and levels of boldness. Some of them might even offend your senses. The same things applies to their taste. The polarizing effect of watch design is outstanding to me. One person can be in love with a watch, while another hates it. An Ultra luxury watch often has a less than traditional look, so expect for some people to love your wrist companion, and others to think your taste is up there with people who think garbage trucks are works of art.
This fact allows for an immense range of diversity in the wrist watch world. If we all liked the same thing, there would only be a few watch designs out there. Wearing the right ultra luxury watch with an avant garde flair is hard to pull off, but more fun than playing it safe. Wearing one of these super strange, super expensive watches can be an extremely rewarding experience if you posses the right level of confidence. Not only are you showing-off an attention magnet, but you are wearing bona fide art. Just don't expect everyone to agree with your tastes. A great example of a well-done avant garde ultra luxury watch would be an high-tech looking MB&F HM3 or deconstructionist Artya Tourbillon.
I've encountered plenty of experiences where two reasonable people utterly disagree on what watches appeal to them - even at very high costs. To a degree, the more expensive your watch is the more criticism and complain you may be inviting (and you might love that).
In The Ends Its About Personal Value
Don't get suckered into a conversation or pitch where someone tries to extol the investment merits of buying a nice watch. This is never a good reason to buy an ultra luxury timepiece, and only rare models go up in price. At best the person wearing a high-end piece is personally convinced of its worth.
On many occasions I am given the opportunity to wear a watch worth more than I am. I find the way I treat some of these watches very interesting. At a certain point the price of a watch is just a number to me. There is a threshold amount above which I can't fathom to afford anything. Though I don't necessarily treat each piece the same, and this is because my subconscious isn't always convinced of the watch maker's value to cost ratio they like to call the 'price.'
Some $300,000 watches I grab and fling around my wrist like they are a Timex. I suppose that is a good sign as I trust their durability. On more special occasions I will encounter something that I have such a deep appreciation for, it causes me to put the white gloves on (literally). This treatment is often reserved for ultra complicated watches - ones that for me are at the top of the high-end heap. You see for $300,000 you can get a watch that is basic and covered with precious stones, or a watch mostly devoid of precious stones, but one that has a hand-made very complex movement (take for instance something by Greubel Forsey like Double Tourbillon Technique). Diamonds are durable but gears are gentle.
These highly complicated timepieces are the ones that are the most impressive. They are delicate and beautiful - encompassing why people have been fawning over high-end timepieces for hundreds of years. I am careful with these watches. I wonder who actually has the guts to wear these watches regularly. These types of mechanically complicated watches are the top of what any ultra luxury watch buyer will ultimately look for, even if it takes years to discover and appreciate them. While horology often comes with a high learning curve, the end result is satisfying - knowing the thousand things in a watch to appreciate, and just how to appreciate them. Not only can it take a lifetime to afford some of the best watches, but it can take a lifetime to learn what to appreciate about them. That is the ultimate reward, and why such a super high-end watch industry exists. I consider myself fortunate to have sneaked into it.
Ariel Adams publishes the luxury watch reviews site aBlogtoRead.com.