Even in this digital age, with the current hour and minutes just a glance away on any cellphone, watches remain a popular accessory for both utility and style.
By Cassandra Reinhart
For many men, a watch is perhaps the only piece of jewelry they own, an accessory that doubles as a symbol of financial status and professional success. Certainly a wristwatch shows potential employers that you know the value of being on time; it shows you know good and lasting quality, and that you invest in style. And with each extension of your hand, a watch is a telling snapshot of your personality and place in life.
“I still wear wristwatches because I view them as far more than just instruments to tell time,” says Jeff Vaziri, manager of Royal Jewelers. “They can offer far more than just functionality—they can offer things like style, heritage, status, in many cases, and individuality in others.”
But in a day where technology is ticking ahead faster than a second hand, traditional watches are getting a run for their money. Though electronic watches will never feature the intricate craftsmanship and delicate mechanical inner workings of a traditional watch, they do a lot of things that a typical clock with two hands can’t accomplish. If you’ve seen the newest version of the Apple Watch, you know it needs only a slight turn of the wrist—rather than digging a cellphone out of your purse or pocket—to send texts, make calls, keep track of your heart rate and even order and pay for things with barely a touch. Electronic watches continue to offer more features, and are rising in popularity with consumers beyond just the tech-savvy student or multitasking mom.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” says Kenny Nguyen, sales manager at Jewelers On Time. “A lot of wealthy clients just wear an Apple Watch.”
While smartwatches may be the trend du jour, there is a reason conventional watches have—no pun intended—stood the test of time. Traditional timepieces are not going away and, depending on who you talk to, are just as popular as before tech hit the wrist.
“Wearing a watch is a way of transforming the act of merely reading the time into an ‘experience’ of reading it,” Vaziri says. “It’s a small and tasteful way of stepping away from the technological tidal wave that we sometimes seem to be drowning in.”
Vaziri says even in the digital age, he believes the traditional wristwatch will never completely go away. “There will always be purists, collectors and historians out there,” he says. “Look at the vintage car world and how it has escalated and survived throughout the years. Watchmaking and horology is truly a form of mechanical artwork. As long as there are people that appreciate different forms of art, the traditional wristwatch will always have a place in our culture.”
Whether you’re heading into that next board meeting, getting dressed up for a concert at Segerstrom Center for the Arts or swapping a suit for swim trunks to spend a day at the beach, there is a timepiece for all occasions.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
If a day on the yacht is in your future, look no further than this luxury sports watch: the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet. A modern icon in the world of boat and auto racing, this timepiece features a steel case and octagonal bezel—attached with eight hexagonal screws—plus the trademarked “tapisserie” dial, a geometric pattern of little squares that catch the light.
“It’s basically a piece of art,” says Watch Expo manager Nick Fenin. “It appeals because it’s sporty. It’s the shape of it mostly.” There are stainless steel, ceramic and gold variations while several models come with a chronograph, or stopwatch, feature.
The Royal Oak for men comes in several sizes up to 44 millimeters, and the prices range depending on material. Watch Expo offers pre-owned options from $15,000 all the way up to $80,000, with a midrange rose gold one for $38,800 and a platinum Offshore version for $49,900. (980 W. Coast Hwy.; 949-566-9006; watchexpo.com)
If there ever was a Holy Grail of men’s watches, the Rolex Submariner diver’s watch is it. Originally launched in 1953, the Submariner has undergone some minor tweaks since its inception, but remains iconic nonetheless with a distinctive dial, luminescent hour markers and signature Oyster case—the first waterproof watch case, made with a patented system invented in 1926 by Rolex.
These elements, combined with a corrosion-resistant, rotatable ceramic bezel and elegant link bracelet, make it difficult to imagine the Submariner and Submariner Date ever going out of style. “The Rolex stainless steel Submariner is our most popular [sport] watch,” Nguyen says. “It’s a diver’s watch [so] there’s no complications for the Submariner.”
Its durability and striking appearance make it perfect for everyday wear, And, for those who actually use the watch for diving, the bezel’s engraved 60-minute graduations provide a reliable way to accurately track time in the water. The best part? It’s waterproof up to a whopping 1,000 feet. Besides stainless steel, it also comes in yellow gold and white gold.
Preowned Submariner models are available from $6,500, including some vintage options, at Jewelers On Time. This one pictured above, $8,000. (149 Riverside Ave., Ste. E; 949-650-7777; jewelersontime.com)
A New Classic
Breitling Navitimer 8 B01
Expected to be released in the U.S. sometime this summer—and one that’s worth waiting for—the Breitling Navitimer 8 B01 surely made waves when it was revealed at Baselworld, the watch industry trade show in Switzerland, in March. It’s a retro-feeling 43-millimeter chronograph, with the signature Breitling coin-edge bezel and reverse panda dial, offered on an alligator leather strap or steel bracelet. This watch is automatic, with more than 70 hours of reserve power. Other versions including a 41-millimeter size and one with day and date display are also available.
The first new watch to be introduced under Breitling’s new CEO, Georges Kern, it’s a versatile piece that can be worn in a variety of settings, from a yachting trip to a formal dinner. Breitling watches have a history in aviation, first designed to meet the needs of pilots. Launched in 1952, the Navitimer series combines the words “navigation” and “timer.” The new Navitimer model has a vintage flair that harkens back to the days Breitling was a supplier of cockpit clocks and aviation dashboard instruments.
The Breitling Navitimer 8 B01, price upon request, will be available at Traditional Jewelers. (817 Newport Center Dr.; 949-721-9010; traditionaljewelers.com)
Omega Seamaster De Ville, circa 1960
Like a fine wine, quality timepieces get better with, well, time. Keeping this in mind, Royal Jewelers has added several hard-to-find pieces to its inventory, becoming a go-to place for the vintage watch collector.
“We have been getting lots of requests for vintage Japanese watches as well as vintage Omegas lately [as part of an increased demand for vintage watches in general],” Vaziri says. “… All of our vintage watches are fully serviced and come with a one-year warranty.”
Collectors seek out their favorites, whether that be classic pieces from brands like Baume & Mercier, Rolex or Omega. A vintage piece like the 14-karat gold Omega Seamaster De Ville doesn’t come along every day. With a champagne-colored dial and gold batton indicators, 14k gold chain link bracelet and 30-millimeter case width, this watch whispers wealth and exudes class. There’s a reason this collectible is hard to find.
Not all vintage watches are always displayed when you’re shopping due to the limited capacity of most stores’ sales areas. To see the full inventory of vintage watches, Vaziri recommends customers inquire with sales associates about what they have in stock. “We will not only show you what we have displayed, but will also pull out watches from our back stock to show you,” Vaziri says, adding that they are also familiar with their brokers’ stock, so they may be able to get what a client seeking.
Prices vary for vintage watches, with availability changing often, at Royal Jewelers. (1280 Bison Avenue, Ste. B6; 949-644-7804; royal-jewelers.com)
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date Hand
Perfect for wearing to dinner or a business meeting, a classic officer’s watch from Patek Philippe’s Grand Complications collection may be understated on the outside—from the brown alligator leather strap to hours marked in stately Roman numerals—but it’s a powerhouse of inner workings.
“In the end, that’s what men strive to get: It’s about whose timepiece has the most complications and functions,” says Glen Choske, watch and wedding set specialist at Winston’s Crown Jewelers.
Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date Hand, in true Swiss watchmaking style, is highly sophisticated, boasting an impressive mechanism that allows it to display the day, date and month, keeping track of how many days are in each month—even taking into account leap years.
It comes in yellow, white or rose gold with a 37- to 40-millimeter case that also displays the moon phase. With a sweeping second hand and automatic movement over an opaline dial, this impressive watch will send you into orbit.
“Man has always tried to master the elements, one of the primary ones being time,” Choske says. “A watch gives you the sense of being in control of your precious hours and minutes; strap one on and you feel ready for your appointment with destiny. Or at least a meeting or date, which, hey, could very well change the course of your life.”
A preowned Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date Hand is available, price upon request, at Winston’s Crown Jewelers, and the store has access to new options as well. (100 W. Coast Hwy., Ste. 101; 949-642-5000)