Resident keyboard combatant and Revolution Editor-at-Large Ken Kessler explains why anyone can enjoy a watch fit for heroes.
I am the classic sedentary endomorph, and yet I am a fervent collector of watches that scream sport, adventure, activity. But that isn’t necessarily my inner macho man trying to get out: most watch connoisseurs are attracted to timepieces with functions we may never use, and certainly do not need, and we have no intention of growing into the roles.
Equally, I am not about to embark on one of my anti-tourbillon rants, especially as tourbillons are not related to a particular activity, function, occupation or service like, say, a chronograph. But how about blatantly task-specific watch types? How many of you own GMT-Masters or world-timers, yet rarely travel? Pilot’s watches, but don’t fly other than as a passenger? Diving watches, but never even swim, let alone dive?
Ever since wristwatches became social/status indicators, their inherent qualities have meant less and less, while the image associated with a watch has increased in importance. The wearer of a Submariner or Fifty Fathoms once proclaimed his or her occupation or sporting preference. Today, it merely says that the owner has enough good taste and money to spend on a Rolex or Blancpain.
This shift in applicability has nothing to do with the watch manufacturers, who may or may not exploit it depending on their sincerity or integrity. I am sure, as far as Rolex is concerned, that the thinking behind the Submariner and Sea-Dweller remains as before, back to the moment when the watches were designed for and then sold primarily to actual divers. Rolex may offer them with assorted bezel colours or in gold, but that has not altered the fact that they are made for divers.
Rolex will not stop you from buying one if you are a landlubber. If, as one suspects, 95 per cent of them end up on the wrists of pretenders such as I, so be it. The watch is still a Submariner. Who wears it is irrelevant.
You can say this about anything that rarely experiences its raison d’être, and not just action-related goods. Few Ferraris ever reach the limits of their capabilities, while far too many Leica cameras stay in their boxes. How many AGAs are owned by people who never cook? Why should it be any different for watches?
Nowadays, everything is a fashion item, not just the clothing and shoes that you wear. Eyeglasses, briefcases, and, yes, wristwatches, have undergone the same urbanisation or gentrification that turned coffee from a choice of “black or white” to a litany of idiotic and far-fetched variations, all designed to make the drinker feel that he or she is extra special.
OK, so I prefer my coffee fresh from Dunkin’ Donuts with a dash of cream and would rather slash my wrists than set foot in Starbucks, but I do get those who worship the latter. For such losers, there must be some kind of smug satisfaction in saying, “Skinny Caramel Jinotega Macchiato”. I guess I’m no different with my reverse snobbery, asking for a “regular and two chocolate crullers”.
As for posing with watches that, by rights, I shouldn’t be wearing, I rationalise it in a number of ways, the first being that – as an old fart – I’m not out to impress anyone. The second is that I like to think I respect my watches: though I was never in the services, I know that every military model I own was worn by a worthy British or American soldier. And I will never even touch a watch issued to a Nazi.
Diving watches, pilots’ watches, whatever overkill tool watch that’s cooked up by Ball, Doxa, Favre Leuba or Eterna – I love them because I know they will exceed my needs. And that may be justification enough.
If death-defying action situations are your reason for choosing a watch, leave the poseur pieces to pretenders like me. In your heart of hearts, you already know the best watch for someone with an action obsession is one of the more rugged Luminoxes or Casio G-Shocks. They’re tough, they’ll survive adverse conditions, and crucially – if your arm gets bitten off by an alligator – you’ll feel less pain losing a £79 G-Shock than a £7,900 Rolex.