Wristwatch Wardrobing and the Power of the Third

In a businessperson’s wardrobe, as any image consultant will tell you, there is power in the “third piece,” typically consisting of a jacket or blazer that lends authority to an ensemble and reads “professional.” The November 2009 issue of Esquire magazine espouses a variation of this concept in its feature article “The Essential: The Third Watch.” The article, targeted to the magazine’s male readers, focuses on the image potential in a man’s wardrobe of wristwatches.

The article characterizes the styles of wristwatches one is likely to find in a man’s wardrobe, explains what distinguishes each style, and recommends what styles might be considered for future purchase. For anyone interested in understanding the inherent messages conveyed by various styles of watches, this article is well worth reading.

Esquire conjectures what a typical man’s watch collection might contain: “You’ve got an everyday watch, a professional-looking piece of light machinery that you wear to the office, and you’ve got a weekend watch, a relatively inexpensive SOB that you bang up in your spare time.” The magazine then adds its recommendation: “But if that’s the extent of your holdings, allow us to suggest a third kind of watch, one that you can aspire to and save up for and leave to your kids when your time’s up. We like to call it the Third Watch. . ..”

In the subsequent pages, the magazine provides guidelines for choosing a watch in each of the categories and illustrates the guidelines with photos of a selection of wristwatches in each category. From lowest to highest price, the categories (with select characterizations and comments from the article) are:

The Weekend Watch
Key Words: durable, rugged, utilitarian
Wear with: jeans, loafers
Budget: $500
What to Look for:
• Quartz Movement
• Shock and/or Water Resistance
What to Avoid: Anything “gold,” because “The most you’ll get at these prices is gold plating, and since the thickness of plating is measured in microns, you’re only a few dings away from the base metal.” Instead, Esquire recommends plastic, aluminum or steel.

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Illustration: Esquire Magazine’s Examples of the Everyday Watch from Hamilton, Citizen, Oris, Raymond Weil, U-Boat, Longines and Movado.

The Everyday Watch
Key Words: polished, professional, sensible
Wear with: two-piece suit, polished shoes
Budget: $2,000
What to Look for:
• Complications, including stopwatch capabilities, that allows the watch to do more than tell you the hour and minute
• Leather or metal band, so the watch has “the requisite degree of gravitas”
What to Avoid: Anything digital

The Third Watch
Key Words: distinctive, timeless and “damn good lookin’”
Wear with: “anything from t-shirts to tuxedos”
Budget: $5,000
What to Look for:
• At least one distinguishing feature that sets the watch apart
• Mechanical movement, a testament to craftsmanship
What to Avoid: Anything too trendy [see article for specific examples]. Esquire explains: “A midsized watch with a fairly basic design and color scheme never goes out of style.”

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Illustration: The Rolex Air-King

There’s a solid practicality to the magazine’s suggestions, combined with an eye for tasteful style demonstrated in the visual examples provided. Esquire recommends the Rolex Air-King, a “paragon of form, function, and unflashy sophistication,” as a candidate for Third Watch, and teases the readers: “Between these three kinds of watches, a man who cares about style will want for nothing-except, maybe, a fourth watch, but we’ll get to that.”

And so they do, the Fourth Watch meriting the key words unusual, extravagant, and “um, wow” and featuring:
• Sophisticated metals, such as rose gold, titanium or platinum, that “show the world you know what you’re talking about”
• Multiple complications, since “you should expect something extra”
• Something unique: “Don’t buy a fourth watch that looks like just any other watch. Look for a unique design or point of view that only comes from serious watchmakers.”
The budget for the Fourth Watch? “You’re joking, right?”

While budgets may vary from the Esquire guidelines, a man who wants to be perceived as well-dressed will almost certainly pick up some excellent tips from the Esquire article.

While women’s wardrobes are typically more extensive, more varied, and more nuanced in terms of colors and personality styles (just think of the variety in the typical woman’s collection of shoes) than men’s, there are excellent pointers a woman might also extrapolate from the article to help her determine what to look for in terms of features and quality when she is shopping for a wristwatch. For a powerful professional image, a woman, too, might well aspire to own a Third Watch, and maybe even a Fourth . . . or two.