The Best Watches To Wear To The Office
The office is dead, long live the office. Whether you're headed back or COVID actually managed to eradicate the word office from your vocabulary (as a writer, it's never really been in mine), I'm going to imagine most of us have times when we need to be "around colleagues in a professional capacity" which I would say is close enough to "going to work." This means you'll need a watch that makes your co-workers envious of you, and sufficiently intimidated. You don't want them to be so cowed by your sense of style that they can barely speak in your presence, but maybe just enough that they won't text during Zoom meetings when you have the floor. I am traveling for work right now, and meeting lots of HODINKEE people, which basically means setting the tenor for how they see me as a colleague. The idea of the perfect watch for work is on my mind.
I tend to like my watches fairly traditional. I like a nice, plain, elegant watch, easy to read, without a lot of extra stuff. I like watches who look in the mirror every morning and say to themselves: "Stay Classy." So when the topic of back-to-work or office watches comes up, I gravitate toward the kinds of watches I already like anyway.
Sitting on this couch right now in sweats and a tank top, I will admit that if I were wearing say, a Calatrava 4997 with an 18k white gold case, or an elegant vintage Longines or a plain but wholly respectable new Hamilton, I'd be the only one there to enjoy it. But I would be enough of a fan club. Sure, sometimes there are other people around, but work can be a very solitary endeavor, and the most important person to impress with your back-to-the-office watch, even if you're literally going back, is yourself. You need a watch that's going to keep you entertained for eight (or nine, or ten, or more?) hours a day, not because it has games programmed into it, but because it's just that good on your wrist. You want a watch that gives you the confidence to speak up, to ask for a raise, to tell everyone why your ideas are better than theirs.
That said, you can wear whatever watch you want to the office. You can wear a Casio, you can wear something you got for $10 at Walmart, no one is stopping you and it probably won't hurt your career. For this article, I've focused on the kind of watch you wear because you want to – a work watch that's not only acceptable but devastating. So what watch am I wearing to meet my new colleagues? A pink Baby-G. Do as I say, not as I do.
I love Danny Milton's Watching Movies column, and I especially love the one about All The President's Men, not just because I also love this movie, and not just because all the commenters got so mad at innocent sweet young Danny for not knowing Paul Newman was left-handed, but because it's really a movie about two guys who don't ever stop working. Bear with me: All the President's Men is less about corruption than it is about the idea that working every second of your life is actually really fun, and can and should be the center of your emotional life. (I'm not saying that's true, I am saying this is the movie's subtle message.) Working as much as Redford does in this movie (the whole time) becomes somewhat less hideous to contemplate when you consider he is, at all times, accompanied by a Rolex Submariner. I do like his watch, but even better, say, like, if I had a Golden Ellipse to stare at all day, I could probably work hard enough to make history, too.
Our deputy editor, Nora Taylor, Dimepiece founder Brynn Wallner, and former Highsnobiety writer Malaika Crawford, now a HODINKEE staffer, each pick a watch they feel best telegraphs the idea of success. Nora chooses the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony with a blue dial; Brynn, a Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse with a black dial; Malaika, a yellow gold medium-sized Santos de Cartier. They discuss how taking the time to wind a watch (this Patek has a manual movement) can set you up for success, how you can always look at your watch and remember how good you felt when you bought it, and how there is "no quartz at the top."
I realize I am new to this world and will end up changing my mind 1,000 times about every single "my favorite" or "the best" but I pretty much think that the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse is the best work watch (I'd go for the blue dial if I had the choice, but I love them all). Then again, watching this video and hearing Nora talk about it so passionately made me wonder if maybe the Patrimony is a little bit better? (I do like the Santos de Cartier quite a bit, too, but it's more "top ten" than "top three.") These are all pretty iconic office/work watches. I'm interested to hear what HODINKEE readers think about this, and which watches they would add to this category. Let us know in the comments, below.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date is probably the work watch I like best that I might even be able to afford. It's just such a classic-looking, no-nonsense, beautiful piece of design, and what I like about Cole Pennington's piece from 2020 introducing the newest version of it is the phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Cole points out that this new version still has the older model's Caliber 899 movement, but with a reshaped escapement, pallets in silicon for less friction, and essential screws made of titanium rather than steel. But other than those updates the watch is pretty much the same, Cole is happy to report, and what a beautiful same that is.
And while we talk about work, let us not forget the hard work of raising children. The late nights. The homework battles. The sports practices. The procuring of a Patek Philippe so that you can bequeath it to the luckiest of your brood when you're gone. This Steven Pulvirent piece from 2016 looks into the origins of the famous Patek Philippe campaign built around one of the great bits of copywriting of all time: "You never truly own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation."
Mad Men is the ultimate work-as-life television show. The attention to detail paid by this show's set and costume designers is the stuff of legend, and it will surprise no one that timepieces, too, were selected with meticulous care. For season five, the show sought the help of watch dealer Derek Dier, who supplied the show with Don's Cross Hair Omega Seamaster, Roger's Tudor Tuxedo, Pete's Hamilton Sputnik, and Megan's white gold Jules Jurgensen. Felix Scholz examines the reasoning behind each selection, the also-rans, and why each piece worked. I want you to read this piece, so I won't tell you everything, but I like this detail: "We think [the Hamilton Sputnik] is the perfect piece for Campbell; it's a watch with more than a hint of boyish wonder, and as Dier suggests, a perfectly plausible watch for a young Campbell to receive as a gift, perhaps given along with a Chip 'n Dip."
The Mad Men watches went on to have new life. In 2015, they were auctioned off at Christies, and Ben Clymer wrote about it.
We think [the Hamilton Sputnik] is the perfect piece for Campbell; it's a watch with more than a hint of boyish wonder, and as Dier suggests, a perfectly plausible watch for a young Campbell to receive as a gift, perhaps given along with a Chip 'n Dip.
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