Magazine article The Spectator

Time Os off the Essence

Magazine article The Spectator

Time Os off the Essence

Article excerpt

Being time-rich can make you cash-poor. That's something to remember when shopping for a wristwatch. Fashionable watches can be very expensive indeed.

But you can also pick up a beautifully engineered, extremely handsome specimen for well under £2,000.

Every stylish man ought to own a decent timepiece or two, and a really good one will last a lifetime. I have friends and colleagues (not many, but more than one) who maintain what they refer to as a portfolio of watches.

These men have ticking wrist adornments for every occasion, from slim dress watches for state banquets to chunky chronographs for deep-sea diving. Not that any of them are ever likely to be invited to the former, or pluck up the courage to attempt the latter.

Still, they collect watches in much the same way as elegant women accrue handbags.

They call themselves horologists (try saying that after the little hand's passed 7, or VII if it's a very old watch). They converse fluently in watch -- perhaps the closest to a language that the Swiss can all share -- dropping words like 'bezel' and 'movement' and 'vertical clutches' and 'column wheels' and 'calibres' and 'complications' with gay -- or, at least, metrosexual -- abandon.

They track trends in watch design; they buy vintage watches at auction; they arrange their shirt cuffs just so, the better to show off their latest acquisition.

It's not just men, either. Over lunch recently, I admired the pop star Lily Allen's (right) Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner. It's one of five watches she owns, she told me. She recently bought a watch box in Smythson -- won't Mrs Cameron be pleased? -- to house her growing collection. Her next acquisition will be another Rolex, this time with a green rotating bezel, rather than blue.

Those of us who aren't international chart sensations probably don't need more than a couple of watches -- one for formal, one everyday. And even those who declare such fripperies ludicrously profligate would no doubt be delighted to receive a strapping Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Calibre RS; a sleek Cartier Ballon Bleu, a muscular Baume & Mercier Riviera, an understated Breitling Super Ocean or, like our Lily, a classic Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner.

After all, there are surprisingly few ways in which us Brits -- or at least Brits who don't wish to ape the garish dandyism of a David Beckham -- can signify our élan away from our lovely homes. Not for us the Maori-inspired tattoos, the diamond-studded earrings, the diamontéappliquéd jeans and product-heavy hairdos of the international showbiz jet-set. …

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