To many people, a watch is a simple tool. Logically, there's no reason to have anything more than a P2,000 quartz watch if all you need is to check what time it was, and maybe what day it happened to be. A cheap timepiece will tell the same time as a luxury watch that costs a few thousand times more. When one's sole purpose for his watch is to serve as a utilitarian accessory, why buy an expensive timepiece?
When you delve deeper into this topic, however, it becomes clear that a watch isn't just a tool—particularly for men. Ian Fleming once said, “A gentleman's choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Saville Row suit.” He believed this so much that when he created the character James Bond, he wrote it so that Agent 007 himself wore a Rolex Explorer I—the exact watch Mr. Fleming himself wore.
Ian Fleming, the creator of the famous James Bond spy novels, was born in London, England on May 28, 1908. He worked in financial services before writing the 1953 novel Casino Royale. During his writing career, Fleming produced twelve Bond novels and several short stories featuring his super spy.
At the age of 22, my dad gave me my first mechanical Swiss watch: a Rolex Turn-O-Graph, reference 16264. My dad had worn it for years, and it had belonged to his eldest brother, who had passed away long before he should have. Now, he was passing it on to me. It was a stainless steel model, with a beautiful silver dial and simple baton markers, an oyster bracelet, and a bi-directional rotating bezel with embossed time markers.
I got this Rolex around the time I started working for my Dad, and one of my responsibilities was working with high-profile customers. My father, like Ian Fleming, considered wearing an expensive watch as a statement. He realized that because of my young age, some clients would brush me off, and instructed me to wear the Turn-O-Graph when going into meetings. While I dismissed the notion that it would make a difference in the beginning, it didn't take long for me to realize he was right.
Watches are the only piece of jewelry most men wear, and—like it or not—many men are judged by what is on their wrist. It is an uncomfortable reality, but it happens all the time. Some people judge by clothing label, some by sneakers, and others by cars. Businessmen tend to look at watches.
Wearing an expensive timepiece to impress or gain acceptance by other people is a sad reason to value it, however. Thankfully, my watch has a lot going for it, including its origin story. I am a curious person by nature, and so I started looking into the history of the Turn-O-Graph.
The history of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph is a really interesting one. In 1953, the first version of the Turn-O-Graph, reference number 6202, was Rolexes first ever "tool watch." It was a timepiece designed for uses other than to tell time. The Turn-O-Graph was basically a standard Datejust with a rotating bezel, a feature that could be used by divers, athletes, and even cooks as a means to measure elapsed time. Most famously, it was chosen as the official watch of the Thunderbirds, the US Air Force's famous aerobatics squadron.
With the development of purpose-specific tool watches over the years, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph became something of an afterthought. Rolex created special tool watches for diving, air travel, auto racing, and more, all of which went on to be huge successes in the market. Still, every Rolex tool watch from the Submariner, to the GMT Master, to the Daytona, all owe their existence to the success of the Turn-O-Graph.
A few years ago, however, I hit hard times. My business was not doing well, and medical emergencies drained my life savings. I sold anything I could to help provide for my family. One of these was the Turn-O-Graph. It was a painful experience, but it had to be done. I sold it to my brother, so that it would at least stay in the family. The proceeds from the sale helped keep us afloat, and I realized that a nice watch was something that could help out in hard times.
While it was gone, it felt like something was always missing. I could care less about what people thought of the simple G-Shock I wore in its place. Instead, a piece of my father was gone. Don't get me wrong—my Dad is alive and well, and it's not as if I don't see him all the time. But it still felt unsettling that it wasn't on my wrist, or in my drawer. I had been on so many adventures and life experiences with that Rolex that it started to embody a significant time of my life.
A few years after, things began to turn around for me. My business was starting to do well, and my family and I were able to weather the storm. One of my first purchases was another nice Swiss watch: an Omega Speedmaster Pro, the famous moonwatch. Upon seeing it, my brother became smitten with the Omega, and after less than a week of ownership we agreed to trade watches. I was then able to bring my beloved Turn-O-Graph home.
I sometimes get asked what my favorite watch is. Aesthetically speaking, it is the Rolex Daytona - a watch named after the famous racetrack and worn by Paul Newman, one of the most famous actor/racers who ever lived. As someone who is passionate about motorsports, it's the logical choice for me. But if I could only have one watch for the rest of my life, it would be my Dad's Turn-O-Graph. Far beyond the Rolex name, or the history behind the model, or even its monetary value, its significance lies in everything I've been through with it.
Which brings me back to our original question: why would you buy an expensive watch? I think the first thing is to change the question a little. I think the correct question should be, why buy a high quality watch? We could be talking about a Seiko SKX007 for under ten thousand pesos, or a Patek Philippe Nautilus for well over a million.
The reasons for spending your hard earned money for a proper watch are simple: for its beauty, its history, and for its resale value. Most of all, however, you purchase one to remind you not just of the time, but of the times past, good and bad. You buy it to become part of your story, and, if you are lucky enough, so that your story is handed down to the next generation.