Why are “luxury watches” such a status symbol for people?
High-end and luxury watches sometimes represent a rite of passage. As you rightly say, a sort of status-symbol object. But what transforms a high-end or a luxury object into true luxury?
It is like when you are shopping for a suit. You might go in a store and buy a no-name suit which fits you well. Or enter into a shop selling branded suits coming from one of the best-known names of the fashion industry, such as Armani.
The shop assistants would then let you try the suit and make adjustments so it fits you better – or if you are lucky enough, you could wear it off the rack and that would be all.
In other cases, you would instead go to a tailor and ask him for a suit. He would take his measurements of your body, and you would select the fabric that you want your suit made in. Then, the tailor would make a suit expressly for you.
How much would you pay for such a luxury? More than any pre-made suit bought at a shop. By the way, clothes that you buy in shops are known as “pret a porter” (ready to wear), while clothes made expressly for you are known as “haute couture” (high fashion). You can easily understand which of the two is more precious and exclusive.
When you are a celebrity, you can have a big name of fashion make a suit for you. That would be the ultimate step of exclusivity, of course.
Now, let’s return to our watches. To reward yourself for your achievements, you could buy yourself a watch. let’s say, a famous watch, like a Rolex Submariner. That would be the equivalent of the Armani suit. Still, everyone else in your social position would have something similar – a Rolex Submariner like the one that you have.
While the Average Joe wears – let’s say – a Swatch, you are discovering that in this new social standing, every Average Joe wears a Submariner.
So, to distinguish yourself you have to step up the game a bit. Now, you need to buy a Patek Philippe if you want to distinguish yourself from the Rolex-wearers. And when you have, you have to buy a precious/exclusive Patek Philippe to distinguish yourself between the Patek Philippe owners.
As you can see, it is a rat race, and it has no endline, as when you have crossed it, there’s anothe rat race starting, with more select opponents!
But there is an alternative.
You might always go for bespoke suits.
While a bespoke suit does not give you bragging rights, everyone who knows a bit of etiquette seeing you in one would understand that this suit is one-of-a-kind. And this gives you the character to stand on your own without having to elbow your way upwards.
And this is true luxury.
Matching Craftsmanship and Art
Coming back to timepieces, I have recently found a timepiece that expresses this standing well. It is a watch coming from the genius of Vincent Calabrese, one of the most visionary contemporary watch creators, which becomes a real work of art through personalization.
Calabrese has joined forces with a company called Watch Museum to make something which is truly unique.
The timepiece is based on a Wandering Hours concept of exceptional purity, which leaves its dial almost completely empty. Through an online configurator, the client can select a detail of a famous artwork, and through the intervention of a master miniaturist (who spends from 80 to 100 hours of painstaking work), the detail is painted by hand on the dial, as it were a tiny canvas.
And this is the result.
The beauty of a bespoke watch
The customer has the possibility, if he wishes, to have a hidden text of his choice written on the artwork. It is a secret dedication. Only the owner will know it is there. Whether it is a poem or a souvenir, the text is so small and discreet that nobody will ever notice it.
The dial’s slow rotation on its center permits to give a new, innovative perspective to the detail of the artwork portrayed on it for a subtle, rewarding, unexpected visual experience.
This is Art for the wrist. And it is absolutely bespoke.
Well, if you ask me, this is what real luxury means.
How much true luxury costs? Less than what you assume
More, remember that this watch, with this “bespoke” treatment, would cost more or less the same as a stock Rolex GMT Master II.
Which Average Joe is going to gasp in awe before it? Possibly no-one.
Which watch lover would? Almost everyone I know of – myself included.
You can find much more about horology and its fascinating history in The Watch Manual, a thorough e-book that explains all the basics about watchmaking and its protagonists.