Watches are very much a man thing, but while many of us lust after timepieces that cost about the same as a central London apartment, that's not a realistic option for a chap in his twenties (unless he spends his weekends warming the bench for Manchester City).
Like jeans and trainers, watches are age-appropriate — the timepiece you wear on the floor at Ibiza’s DC10 at 5am is a very different machine to the one on your wrist when you sell the business you've built single-handedly over four decades.
In truth, today no man needs a watch — since we all started carrying mobile phones, accurate timekeeping is now just an awkward fumble in your pocket away. But telling the time is merely one function of a watch.
A great timepiece, like a good suit, makes the wearer feel instinctively more confident, more complete, and also acts as shorthand for the image he’s trying to project. You really can tell a lot about a bloke from the watch he wears.
Here, we present a selection of timepieces that can help define the key moments of your life, taking you from the your first real job to the day you hand over the reins of your family to your eldest. They are works of art and engineering in perfect synthesis, signposts on the highway of life. Oh, and they look really cool, too.
1 | The watch you buy when you get your first proper job
Uniform Wares 152
The first timepiece in this series provides the perfect start to your journey along the road to horological nirvana. Uniform Wares is a British brand whose timepieces are characterised by their minimal looks and simply designed faces. Powered by a super-slim Ronda 1062 quartz movement with a battery life of six years (or five Chelsea managers), the 152 attaches its 35mm, brushed steel case to a smart, calf leather strap. The minimalist face, with its brass markers and aluminium hands, lends the whole ensemble a youthful, but serious feel — just the thing you need when you’re making your way up the career ladder.
2 | The watch you buy when you get your first decent raise
While Switzerland is undoubtedly the epicentre of the global watchmaking industry, the town of Glashütte in Germany gives its neighbour a run for its money. Home to several watch brands, Glashutte’s Nomos has garnered a reputation for making gorgeous, modernist mechanical timepieces like this, the Tangente. Powered by a hand-wound movement — which lasts 43 hours per full rotation — the watch takes its visual cues from Bauhaus design, as can been in the elongated numbers and simple hands. Water-resistant to three atmospheres (that’s 30 metres to you and me), and measuring just 6.2mm thick, it’ll peep out beautifully from your cuff whenever you feel the need to look at it, which no doubt will be rather often.
3 | The watch you buy when you get your first nice car
Tag Heuer Monaco
Our first automatic (ie, the movement stores kinetic energy to power itself), the Monaco will always be associated with Steve McQueen and 1971 boy-racer movie, Le Mans. While you may not share Mr McQueen’s disregard for the Highway Code, with the the Monaco on your wrist, you’ll certainly feel his spirit. As befits a chronograph originally designed to measure lap times, the Monaco boasts two counters: one for seconds, the other for minutes, while the date window can be found at six-o’clock. The Calibre 12 movement provides 40 hours of ultra-accurate timekeeping, though as yet there’s no way to measure how cool you feel when you slip it on.
4 | The watch your wife buys you when you get married
Omega De Ville Co-Axial
Spending two months’ salary on an engagement ring may seem like the madness to you (and indeed, any man), so when you tie the knot it’s only fair that your wife returns the favour — by buying you a beautiful watch like this. Mixing art deco styling with subtle sportier touches (witness the five-second interval markers), this 41mm-wide timepiece is big enough to make an impact, but not so large that it looks like you’ve got your nan’s grandfather clock on your wrist. Its Co-Axial movement was designed by British horological master, George Daniels, and is so accurate it’s been given official chronometer status, an honour carried by only the most precise of Swiss timepieces.
5 | The watch you wear when you collect your first award
Cartier Santos 100
Serious moments call for serious timepieces, and the provenance of this Cartier timepiece is no laughing matter. While its Roman numerals and square shape make it ideal for a black-tie event, the Santos is actually named after the aeronautical pioneer, Alberto Santos-Dumont, who, in 1903, told his friend, the jeweller Louis Cartier, how difficult it was to tell the time on his pocket watch while flying. The result was the Santos, the first true wristwatch and a timepiece that can be seen as the father of all modern watches. This version, the Santos 100, has been updated for the modern era with a Calibre 049 automatic movement, increased 51.1mm x 41.3mm case size and water-resistance to 100 metres. Ideal for when you’re drinking Champagne in the bath.
6 | The watch you buy for that trip around the world
Breitling Navitmer 01
There are countless timepieces on the market crammed with dials, chronographs and tachymeters (look it up), but the Navitimer is the real deal, a watch used by pilots to measure time, speed and distance in the days before electronic machinery did the job for them. While it’s unlikely you’ll use its slide-rule bezel for anything more than calculating the tip you owe on a meal (it actually lets you do this), you can be rest assured that your wristwatch shares the same global outlook as yourself. And with water-resistance to 30m and a power reserve of 70 hours, it’ll take you from Bali beach to Sydney gastropub without having to come up for air.
7 | The watch you’re given when you’re made a partner in the firm
Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711
If some timepieces shout their credentials rather loudly, then it’s fair to say the watches from Geneva’s Patek Philippe are more likely to whisper in your ear, on the promise you don’t tell too many people about their existence. The Nautilus is perhaps PP’s signature model — released in 1976 and based, as the name suggests, on the porthole design of a ship. Its in-house movement (many “big” watch brands actually buy movements in) is one of the greatest in watchmaking, and the blue-black face and steel case lend it a feeling of late big-collared, heavily-sideburned luxury. Instantly recognisable (and water-resistant to 120m), it’s one of the greatest sports watches of the last 50 years.
8 | The watch you hand down to your son
You may not have heard of Roger Smith, but if you have any interest in horology then the timepieces of this Boltonian watchmaker should be on your radar, as they’re perhaps the finest in the world. Manufactured by hand at Smith’s studio in the Isle of Man, only ten Series 2s per year see the light of day, unsurprising as every part of the watch is manufactured in-house. A pupil of George Daniels, Smith performs 32 of the 34 skills needed to manufacture a mechanical watch himself, with customers having to wait at least two years to see their watch. Powered by Daniels’ Co-Axial movement, the waiting list for a Series 2 is eight years long. Better get saving then.
From £85,000. rwsmithwatches.com
Have we inspired you? Let us know below