Why a watch?

“No one needs a watch today.”

It’s a statement we hear often—sometimes by those who are wearing one and often from those seeking to justify why they do not. They continue, “you can see the time on your computer, mobile device, there are clocks everywhere, etc…”

All of this is true. Yet, according to the Federation Horologere, the Swiss entity that tracks global Swiss watch exports, watch imports to the US continue to rise. Indeed, global export to the world from the tiny land-locked, neutral nation, have increased by double digits for the past decade or more.

So if “nobody needs a watch” why are so many people buying them? And what can those who keep using the notion that “time is everywhere” learn from this? Let’s start with another statistic: the average Italian owns seven wristwatches. The average American: .5. I know—how can you own half a watch? It’s just the way the numbers shake out, believe me. But the gist of this is, a country we look to for style guidance, fashion direction, and trend-setting engages in what the industry calls “watch wardrobing.”

Here’s an analogy designed to spell it out: Would you wear a Patek Philipe to go mountain biking? Would you pull out your Galaxy 5 or iPhone to time your ride down a ski slope in Utah? Doubtful. Would you carry your iPad or laptop to the opera or the ballet? The answer is probably no. Graduation is coming up—did you know that a fine timepiece is among the top most-gifted items for this milestone? What? You thought maybe some grads preferred a new phone or computer? Maybe. So why a watch?

Nicholas Hayek Sr., founder of The Swatch Group, when confronted with the question Why should one wear a watch to tell the time? retorted (in his inimitable fashion): “You don’t wear a watch to tell the time. You wear a watch to tell the world who you are! It’s not a timekeeping device, it’s a statement of personal expression”

In that one line he may well have answered the question why are so many people buying watches? They serve as a statement – saying as much or more about the wearer than his suit, car, address, shoes or briefcase. And watch wardrobing offers the chance to show our many facets to the world. Women alternate their jewelry, handbags, hairstyles, and certainly their shoes every day to convey a different look, attitude or to communicate how they feel. Eleven James empowers men to experiment and to experience what that can feel like—through the watch.

– Joseph Panetta, multi-decade horological industry consultant

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