Wedding season is upon us and brides and grooms are heading to the altar as the sun shines down and flowers bloom paving the way to some of the most beautiful pictures and weddings imaginable.
Gentlemen, this is one article that is not for you. Don’t get me wrong; you need to read this, but before you close your browser, make sure you send this to your soon-to-be-bride if your wedding is coming up. If you don’t have a wedding of your own coming up; do your friends a favor and send it to their brides.
For many years men have given their brides stunning engagement rings that are shown off to friends both in awe and, let’s face it, to provoke some jealousy.
Today, it’s become common practice for the bachelorette to give her husband a token that is as beautiful as a ring, and can be cherished forever. That gift is a watch. Not just any watch, but a timepiece that will last generations, reminding the groom and his descendants of a history full of love that will lead to what most men can only describe as their greatest achievement; the building of an empire – your family.
As with engagement rings, wedding watches are typically budgeted using the same three months salary rule of thumb. It’s not to say this is a hard and fast rule, but it’s definitely seen increasing popularity over the past few years.
How to Buy a Watch for your Groom
There are two types of watches you want to consider when purchasing a timepiece for your elegant beau. I’m going to make this as simple as possible, but on the chance you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below, and keep in mind I do offer watch consultation services which can be booked directly through Gentleman’s Gazette.
The two types of watches you want to consider are a pocket watch or a dress watch. Forget the Rolex Submariner he’s been eyeing up, the Breitling he wants to wear when flying or the bargain bin special you think “looks nice” but is really an insult to the field of horology.
The reason we look at pocket watches and dress watches is because, to put it simply, they reek of class. A good timepiece will never go out of style and while they may not be worn all the time, they will always be treasured. The goal isn’t to give him a daily wear watch because you don’t want it to only last 50 or 60 years. This is a timepiece he’ll hand down to your children and one they’ll hopefully bestow upon theirs. Pocket watches and dress watches with a leather strap will never go out of style. Period.
When we think about these watches, like wedding rings, there are two types that should be considered. Like your child will inherit it from him, his father may have a watch that he wants handed down. Vintage pieces that have stories to tell are my favorite kind of watches and at weddings there is nothing more beautiful or memorable for a man than receiving something he’s long admired of his father’s; a man who he has looked up to, and who has helped to make him the man he is today – the man that you’re about to marry.
If an heirloom watch isn’t an option, another type of vintage piece is to look for one at auctions and markets that has an inspiring story behind it.
I once heard of this watch found at a Florida market that was allegedly owned by a man who had worked years to buy it and treasured it for many more. As the story goes, he would spend each evening in his chair, smoking his pipe and polishing or admiring this watch, that to him, a man of meager means, viewed as a symbol of success in his chosen path. He would proudly wear this watch and took care of it as if it belonged in a museum. He often spoke of how he wished he had a son to hand it down to. However, it was just him and his wife, for they were never able to bear children of their own.
For many years this man, a devoted husband and hard worker would cherish this watch as if it was the end all and be all of his existence. That is, until some forty years later, when his wife became ill and out of his love for her, he quietly sold the watch to give her a final journey to Europe – a place she had always dreamed of going before she died.
It’s this type of story, this passion for not only his watch, but moreso his wife, that can inspire and fuel a new couples romance for decades to come. It is this kind of story that makes a vintage watch seem so spectacular and a legend of true love that you can continue to carry on.
Of course, when there isn’t a good story, the only option is to make your own. This is why the most common type of watch for a bride to buy her groom is a new dress watch. This watch is not something to seek at the local department store or chain. This is a timepiece mean’t to be historic. It is a watch that will hopefully inspire others, just as the story before inspires me.
So where does one buy a watch like this? Obviously, I will recommend you take a look at some of my previous articles, but let’s review some of my favorite places. If the groom wears a morning coat, these are the watches he should be wearing.
J.A. Shapira’s Favorite Watch Retailers
If you live in the continental United States my first recommendation is to visit Tourneau. This chain of jewelry stores is the authorized retailer for the largest selection of timepieces in the world, representing almost 100 luxury watch makers with a catalogue of almost 10,000 timepieces.
It’s kind of a one-stop-shop for watches, if you’re lucky enough to live in a City that’s blessed to have one of their stores.
If you happen to live or travel to New York or Los Angeles there are entire streets dedicated to watch sales. In New York you’ve got midtown Fifth Avenue which lined with watch stores. If you know your stuff and want a bargain, you could even try West 47th Street just off Sixth Avenue where it’s a full scale market of new, vintage and black market timepieces sold predominantly by Eastern Europeans with savvy negotiating skills and an unprecedented knowledge of available inventory from around the world. I will caution you however, that unless you are well versed in the field of horology, this block of shops is not for you.
If you’re an American living on the West Coast than Los Angeles is like Disney World for shoppers. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is home to almost every luxury watch brand in the world. If they’re not right on Rodeo, they’ll be close by. The benefit of shopping at these stores is they’re brand owned. The staff is trained only on the watches they make which takes them from the “jack of all trades” to the “master of one” category. Also, while you won’t be able to haggle as you would with some other vendors, the benefit of buying directly from the brand is that you know you’re getting a reputable price and a genuine timepiece.
If you’re like many of the millions of people from North America hitting Vegas for your ultimate bachelorette party, or you just need a good excuse to take an inexpensive vacation, then The Shops at Crystals are the place for you. Literally, a mall comprised of only luxury brands, this shopping center is located in the heart of the strip and flanked by many other plazas in neighboring hotels that also feature exquisite brand stores and authorized retailers. Like LA and New York, Vegas is an epicenter for the North American watch market.
Provided you live in a major city, it really doesn’t make a difference where in the world you’re located. Chances are you have an authorized retailer in your home city or one nearby. That or perhaps you’re really lucky and live right in Geneva.
On the chance you’re not so lucky, there is always the option of buying online. Now, let me caution you. This does NOT mean buying the watch on eBay. Unless you know your stuff, stay away from eBay and Craigslist. I cannot make myself any clearer. Just don’t go there.
With that said, there are a few online stores that are very trustworthy. The three I usually recommend to amateur collectors or buyers are Chrono24.com, Gemnation.com and JamesEdition.com. I endorse all three of these sites. They are reputable. Their inventory is genuine and their prices are often far more reasonable than you’d find in any brick and mortar store. Chrono24 is one of the most well known sites for preowned timepieces which is great if you’re looking for something vintage. Gemnation sells mostly new watches, but at a fraction of the price you’d pay in any store and JamesEdition, who I actually used to write for, is basically an online shopping center for billionaires where third party vendors, once accredited, can sell their products. It’s a great place to find both new and used watches at a fantastic price. Make sure to also read my How to Buy Vintage Watches Guide.
Three Rules for Wedding Watches
There are many guidelines to follow when buying a watch, but unless you read all of my articles in this series, it will be difficult to cover them in just one guide. Therefore, in an effort to save you time and energy since I’m sure you have a million other things to plan for your upcoming wedding, I will focus on just three tips to get a watch your groom will adore, almost as much as you.
1. If you go with gold, make sure it’s solid.
It goes without saying that if your ring was gold plated you might have said no. The fact is that after a certain amount of wear, gold plating does begin to fade. It develops this repulsive green-like coloring that take a ton of effort to remove. It’s just not worth it. If you cannot afford solid gold, don’t worry – most of us can’t. Just stick with other metals that aren’t quite as costly such as stainless steel.
2. Keep it simple and small.
Focus on watches that can be paired with any outfit whether it chinos and a button down at a garden party or a dinner jacket at the opera. Focus on shades, not colors. A white or cream dial is more easily paired than a blue or copper one. Similarly, a black dial, while many consider it elegant for evening wear, can often look rather cheap if it’s not an overly exceptional watch. Since this is a wedding and not a funeral (depending on whom you ask I suppose), let’s stick with white as a base color.
Also, while your husband may favor those hideously oversized watches, this is not the time to go with one of those. You’re not buying him a Fossil or a Nixon. He is not wearing this watch to the skate park down the street from his parents house. If the watch can’t slide effortlessly under the sleeve of his jacket, it’s not worth the price tag. Just say no.
3. Straps, bands, bracelets and more.
While the repp striped wrist strap from Brooks Brothers may look charming at your summer home in Nantucket, it isn’t appropriate for your wedding. Even if you get married on a beach. Stick with leathers. Not only are they widely considered to look best with a dress watch, but in my opinion, they are the only option for a dress watch. If you’re going with a pocket watch, this won’t really apply. Just make sure that he isn’t wearing it with his jeans. You’re not marrying a train conductor from the 40’s or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Leather is better. Always.
Often vintage watches will come with an inferior leather strap. If you are buying vintage, consider upgrading the strap to an exotic such as alligator, or at least something that will stand the test of time.
J.A. Shapira’s Top Picks
Of course my first pick is the Patek Philippe Calatrava. It’s a watch I talk about all the time and it’s synonymous with everything you’re looking for in a wedding watch. There are a variety of models available so take your time and look for one that matches his style, or the style you want him to achieve.
Next up is the Cartier Tank. This is about as classic and timeless as you can get. It’s not my favorite watch by any means, but I certainly wouldn’t say no if my wife wanted to give me one. It’s elegant, it’s masculine and the brand can be described as historic. It’s also far less expensive than the Patek.
Third in line in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Originally developed for polo, it’s a reversible timepiece that has many models and offers many casebacks. The reason I recommend this particular timepiece, is because you can have a sentimental engraving placed on the case back, but unlike most watches, it can be reserved to showcase your love to the world.
When it comes to pocket watches there are two brands I highly recommend. One is Jaeger-LeCoultre which we discussed above, and the second is Breguet. One thing I really enjoy about Breguet pocket watches is that they replace the elaborate embellishments found in many luxury items with a timeless design that embodies refined simplicity. On the other hand, the thing I enjoy about Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is something that can often be found in other pocket watches as well, is in fact, the embellishments. However, rather than having tacky, glitzy artistry added, these watches tell a story in the most elegant and refined manner possible. Many of the pocket watches by JLC are so intricate and beautiful that you can spend years admiring them and still notice something new hidden in the art.
The next piece I’d like to quickly cover is synonymous with jewelry and weddings and that is watches by Chopard. If you’re interested in something a little more detailed than the simplistic Calatrava, one to consider (among many) is the L.U.C. Lunar One. It’s sophisticated grace with a sporty flair.
Finally, I present a budget watch that can still hold its own amongst the more expensive timepieces listed above. The Nomos Tangente is an exquisitely simple watch that’s built to last. It retails at just a fraction of the price of the aforementioned watches, yet will last many, many years to come. It’s an exquisite timepiece and I’d urge you to read my recent review of the watch.
Watches are really the only jewelry a man will ever wear in addition to his wedding band and perhaps a pair of cufflinks. While a woman will adorn earrings, bracelets, brooches, necklaces, pendants and more, a man will remain simple and masculine, often allowing his watch to be the window into his soul. My son often spends a considerable time looking at my watch collection as I regale him with stories of the watch he handles like a priceless artifact. My love for watches has carried onto him and he has began his own small collection which will grow as he does and hopefully make its way into the hands of his children.
The most important tip when picking a wedding or engagement watch for your groom is to remember Patek Philippe’s famous line; You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.
Consider this an investment. It’s one of the most prized gifts you can give your husband; besides children of course.
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. If it is half as happy as mine, you’ll be set for life.