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About Time

Why A Fine Watch Is The Male Engagement Ring

Introducing a new tradition: a timepiece to have and to hold

I believe in the inexorable and irrefutable awesomeness of certain things. Mr Keith Moon on the drums. The Grands Crus of Vosne-Romanée, arguably the best red wines in the world. And the unfailing joy of a mechanical watch.

You think golden retrievers are faithful companions? Think about it this way. The mechanical watch sits on your wrist 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Its tiny little heart of an oscillator, through its interaction with a miniature fork and toothed wheel, divides time perfectly, into one fifth, one eighth, even one tenth of a second with the unfaltering precision, of well… a Swiss watch.  And you don’t have to take it to the vet for its shots, scoop its poop, or forgive it for savaging your favourite pair of dress shoes.

Indeed all you have to do is put it on or wind it, imparting part of your energy so that it runs and in turn guides you metronomically through life in the most beautiful act of mutually beneficent symbiosis since Tramp rolled the last meatball over to Lady with his nose. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. But in terms of parallel achievement my dog would have to wake me up with a doppio macchiato in the morning and chauffeur me to work to match what my watch does.

I write these words in Singapore and here in Asia, when men and women get engaged, the engagement ring is reciprocated with the gift of a mechanical watch. Because that watch now becomes his companion in the journey that will be their life together. He’ll have it on his wrist the day of their wedding. He’ll have it on the day their firstborn arrives. He’ll have it on for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, through good times and the bad, though hopefully much more of the former than the later, but you get the idea.

In the West the whole traditional engagement thing is a little uni-directional – meaning the guy in question has to throw down a month’s salary (perhaps considerably more to demonstrate to her girlfriends he isn’t cheap) on the symbol of their eternal bond and his devotion as a spouse. However apparently in the West the lady doesn’t have to pony up with a ticking, gleaming example of Swiss Huguenot horological savoire faire (East German also works) to demonstrate her seriousness of intent. But in this time of increasing gender equality, shouldn’t we make this whole engagement deal more dialogue than monologue and encourage the women out there to express their commitment with a watch?

I’m not trying to encourage rampant materialism at the onset of your new adventure. I’m just saying it would be a well-received gesture. And in the same way the ring a man selects for his wife reflects the way he perceives her in that he has ideally chosen the correct ring to match her personality, the watch she in turn selects says a lot about how she perceives the man she’s about to spend her life with. If it is a gay wedding, well, you’re both in luck – you can exchange watches as well as vows.

So, where to start?

Are you a constant traveller? Well the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time, with its ability to provide the time in the world’s 24 zones simultaneously, would be just the thing. Are you the rugged adventurous type with a penchant for stealth cool? Well how about a direct descendent of the watch worn by the Italian Naval Commandos? Officine Panerai’s 1950 Submersible has three days power reserve, a flyback chronograph and a lightweight but super rugged titanium case making it the perfect accompaniment on your surfing honeymoon. Are you more of a classicist? Piaget’s 38mm Altiplano two-hand dress watch in white gold may express the same perennial charm and capacity for graceful aging that your spouse does. Fan of hidden messages? Jaeger-LeCoultre’s unique swivel case, dual-sided Reverso Classic allows for engraved personalisation such as “Yes, your wife is terrific. Bow down.”

The concept of the mechanical watch as the “male engagement ring” is expanding geographically. But even if this customary exchange doesn’t gain traction with your potential spouse, there is a solution: just buy the watch you actually want for yourself anyway. Then in a Mr Christopher Nolan act of Inception-like brilliance, give it to your intended to give to you so that you can be assured that first of all it is the correct choice in terms of its capacity to express the terrific individual I’m sure you are. And second of all that you’ll be gallivanting into the biggest adventure of your life with one of the most enduring and faithful companions you’ll ever have already strapped securely to your wrist. Go forth my friend. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face. And may you forever have a multi-jewelled horological marvel ticking in time to your heartbeat.

Mr Wei Koh is the founder of both Revolution watch magazine and The Rake, and a Member of MR PORTER’s Style Council

TRY THESE

  • Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Amagnetic 3 Days Automatic 47mm Titanium and Rubber Watch

  • Piaget Altiplano 38mm 18-Karat White Gold and Alligator Watch

  • Zenith Power Reserve 40mm 18-Karat Rose Gold and Alligator Watch

  • Breitling Navitimer 1 Chronograph 46mm Steel, Red Gold and Crocodile Watch

  • IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN Portofino Chronograph 42mm Stainless Steel and Alligator Watch

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon 39mm 18-Karat Rose Gold and Alligator Watch