Ever since I can remember, I have been a “watch person.” Even in elementary school, I wore those plastic Timex kids watches from Walmart. In middle school, I graduated to a Roxy watch with a lime green, silicone strap. I had it for a very brief period before I noticed it had disappeared from my bedroom—stolen by either my brother or one of my friends that had been visiting.
In high school, I had a Caravelle by Bulova watch that I wore every day for probably 3-5 years, until the bracelet strap started to discolor. (Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me at the time to simply replace the strap). I didn’t wear watches much in college, but got back in the habit during law school. I now own 2 Fossil watches and a Skagen watch. I purchased my first Fossil watch, an oversized, stainless steel chronograph watch while in law school. (Chronograph means it has a built-in, mechanical stop watch). I chose a watch with the chronograph feature, because it would be handy for law school exams, bar preparation and other timed testing situations; not to mention, as a yoga teacher, I can use the stopwatch to ensure my classes are the appropriate length without having to remember what time I started. Long before I had heard of minimalism, mindfulness, or intentionality, I deeply considered this purchase. At the time, the $100 watch came with a jaw-dropping 11-year warranty.
As a matter of fact, I dropped the Fossil chronograph watch off for warranty repairs yesterday, prompting this discussion of watches. After 5 years and 2 battery replacements, the stopwatch feature is having issues resetting and other movement/mechanical issues. These repairs will only set me back $8.50, and if they can’t fix it, they will replace it under the warranty. Few brands offer more than a 2-year warranty, and over 5 years is almost unheard of, even for luxury brands. One exception I am aware of is Skagen, which boasts a lifetime warranty. (Edit: this watch came with a limited lifetime warranty at the time I purchased it; according to the website, they have also lowered their warranty to the standard 2 years.)
The second watch I bought, 2 years later, was a Skagen, in large part due to the lifetime warranty. Though I already had the Fossil watch, this Skagen watch was lightweight, flashy, and attractive, with crystals in place of the numbers and a white, leather strap. It is appropriate for more dressy occasions. A friend once admired this watch, grabbing my wrist to get a good look and saying, “it must be good being a lawyer.” This speaks to the elegant look, despite the relatively budget-friendly price tag. This was a stark reminder of my privilege.
My most recent watch purchase was earlier this year, on March 28, 2017. (Just days before the year of buying nothing started on April 3, 2017). It had occurred to me that, as I advanced in my career, the large Fossil chronograph watch looked too casual and the Skagen watch with its crystal markers looked too flashy for the most conservative of professional situations. I chose to buy a second Fossil watch and was extremely disappointed to learn that, as of 2017, the warranty for Fossil watches has been changed to only 2 years. Their exceptional warranty was what made the brand stand out for me and the reason I initially chose them. I went through with the purchase in spite of it; a smaller, gold tone watch with roman numeral numbers. Simple, plain, and professional. I don’t feel bad about being a minimalist and having 3 watches, because each of them has a distinct look and I wear each of them for different types of occasions. I wear a watch pretty much every time I leave the house, with few exceptions, and I get a fair amount of use out of all of them.
My watch collection, minus the large Fossil chronograph that is in for repairs.
For comparison to the others, this the Fossil chronograph that is being repaired
One of my constant struggles is balancing my minimalism with the need to fit in in the corporate world. I came across this article from Corporette (a favorite blog of mine about all things relevant to women in the corporate world.) This article about watches discusses watches as status symbols and the author ponders the merits of different luxury watch brands, including the Cartier watch she owns personally. This article made me wonder: do people judge me for my relatively inexpensive watches? I also thought about something I have previously talked about that I call “the cycle of more.” When I couldn’t afford one, I desperately wanted a Fossil watch; now that I have Fossil watches, I want a Cartier. Once I get the “low end” $3,000 Cartier, will I then want the $8,000 one, the $15,000 one, all the way up to the $100,000 one???
The article makes the point that, for someone like me who wears a watch daily, the cost per wear is miniscule, even at those prices, because a luxury watch is an investment piece that should last a lifetime. Shouldn’t I invest in something like this while I’m still relatively young to get the most out of it? While all of this may be true, I can’t help but think about the type of vacation I could take for $3,000, or how many massages that would buy, or how that money could be put to better use paying off my student loans (and/or my husband’s secret debt.) I can’t say this didn’t plant the seed in my head of saving up to purchase a luxury watch like that in the future, though.
At the end of the article, she states that you don’t have to buy a $3,000-$5,000 watch to fit in, adding “if you fall in love with a $500 watch, go for it!” Though I really love watches and own 3 of them, none of them have been mind-blowingly expensive. The cost of all 3 of them does not add up $500, let alone $3,000-$5,000! The small Fossil and the Skagen were each under $100 and the large Fossil was about $110 with tax back in 2012. I never really thought of my watches as a status symbol. There was no mention that, in some settings, a $3,000+ watch might be ostentatious.
Many of the comments echoed the thoughts that were going through my head, with multiple comments singing the praises of both Fossil and Skagen. Several of the comments noted that they wouldn’t feel right spending that type of money on a watch until their student loans were paid off. In particular, a commenter identifying herself as Banker took the words right out of my mouth when she said her watch is a “Silver tank watch, by Fossil, and it was a gift. The idea of spending $3-5,000 on a watch blows my mind.” That level of conspicuous consumption, indeed, “blows my mind” as well. In fact, my entire wedding set (engagement ring AND diamond wedding band) did not cost $3,000. Most people will not notice the brand of the watch you’re wearing and, to be honest, the type of people who would notice if I wore a Cartier watch are probably not the type of person I would want to impress. They’re probably not the type that would be impressed by the least expensive models, anyway.