Magazine article The Spectator

Money Is No Object

Magazine article The Spectator

Money Is No Object

Article excerpt

We're sliding into the worst depression in the history of mankind but Mayfair hasn't noticed. George, the private members dining-room, is so full of suits scoffing truffles it takes an aeon for my black cod with porcini to arrive; haughty Russian bimbettes stalk the pavements in search of thousandquid-a-pop accessories from Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga and Christian Louboutin. And here I am now on Mount Street, in William & Son, trying to imagine what it would be like to be someone for whom money was no object.

Pretty great, actually, I decide. Take the watches. I'm not remotely interested in watches -- 'reality bands', I call them -- but there's no doubt that if I were a rich person, I'd need lots and lots, one for each of my whims.

Say I were feeling playful and ironic, I'd go for something like the Graham SAS watch (£5,600) with its chunky, ActionMan-style case and a delightfully gimmicky timer mechanism based on a device bombaimers used in the second world war. If I wanted pared-down and elegant, it would be an austerely functional H. Moser & Cie (£5,360). Then for pure pose value, it would have to be the one that looks like a titanium sundial -- a De Bethune it's called -- because there are only about 12 in the whole country.

Since I'm not rich, though, a shop as exclusive as William & Son leaves me slightly puzzled. Who actually buys this stuff? What's it all for? And is this really the sort of business you want to be in in the midst of economic Armageddon?

'There will always be people who'll spend money and buy nice things, ' insists the shop's proprietor William Asprey -- the seventh generation of the calico-printers-turned-sellers-of-luxury-objets since their arrival in England from France in 1781. Well, obviously he'd say that. He's just spent umpteen thousands of pounds refurbishing his London store, transforming it from a dingy Grace Brothers lookalike into something more modern, better lit and enticing. But is there really such a thing as a recession-proof business?

Moments later, my answer walks in. Two Americans -- the sort, I'm guessing, who spend their August in very large second homes in the Hamptons -- pop in for a friendly chat with William about guns (on which, being also a gunsmith and madkeen shooter, he is quite an expert). …

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