The Fashion Memo

Why a fine timepiece is the ultimate sustainable, luxury purchase

A classic watch lasts a lifetime – or longer. Here, CHARLIE BOYD looks at the enduring allure of fine wristwatches and their sustainability credentials

Fashion
American actor and model Lauren Hutton, pictured here in 1974, wearing a simple, oval-faced wristwatch

If fine jewelry is the antithesis of fast fashion, then fine timepieces are its nemesis. Swiss watchmaking maisons are as old as the hills that surrounded them, and many of their tools and techniques have remained unchanged from centuries of skilled artisanal handiwork. This age-old savoir faire has since been complemented by cutting edge, avant-garde technology, resulting in a pedigree of fine watches that are built to last, well, forever.

When you buy a fine timepiece, there is no question that you’ll ever discard it – it is an investment purchase intended to be a lifelong companion, eventually passed down the generations. While true connoisseurs may be lucky enough to amass a collection of fine timepieces, most of us will only be lucky enough to invest in one. Our wardrobes may be punctuated by the casualties of fast fashion, but the sustainable credentials of a classic timepiece are undeniable: we buy one, and we wear it to the bitter end.

The reason that fine watches escape throwaway culture is largely down to the intrinsic value of the materials – and precious gemstones are inherently valuable and therefore rarely cast aside. That said, in a digital age where we all carry at least one time-telling device about our person at all times, we no longer strictly need to wear a watch. Many timepieces are bought to mark special occasions or serve as poignant memento mori, and there are few other accessories that hold such intimate value; a beautiful timepiece is precious and practical in equal measure.

The eternal allure of the wristwatch is bolstered by its illustrious history. Queen Elizabeth I was one of the first known women to possess one, gifted to her by lifelong friend and would-be suitor Earl Robert Dudley in 1571. After receiving the royal seal of approval, the watch became a revered essential – and almost exclusively worn by women. In fact, men didn’t trade in their pocket watches until well into the 20th century. More than four centuries later, the options can seem endless, and it can feel tricky to pinpoint one timepiece that will always encapsulate your personal style. As a hefty purchase that will last you a lifetime, however, you’re going to want to get this one right.

When it comes to women’s watches, most models fall into two distinct camps. There are the classic styles that are destined to live on your left wrist and work perfectly with your everyday look; then there are the more ornate designs, previously saved for special occasions. Our top tip? Forgo these outdated formalities. Whether you love the simplicity of ‘Portofino’ designs or the clean lines and art deco styling of classic ‘Reverso’, don’t be afraid to pair your chosen timepiece with everything from blue jeans to an evening gown, because one piece can cater to all occasions – especially in a post-pandemic world where luxury athleisure sees us through from boardroom to bar. Prefer statement to understated? Consider ornate diamond-adorned timepieces by the likes of or – or choose a design by featuring a vibrant leather strap that you can change yourself. A different color for every day of the week will amplify its versatility, deflate your cost-per-wear metric and ensure you are maintaining the ultimate mantra of sustainability: buy less, but buy better.

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