Why You Should Buy One Watch and Do Everything In It

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the Submariner

April 19, 2023 11:56 am
A Rolex Submariner on a blue background
Hot take: You only need one watch.
Danica Killelea, Deposit Photos

If you’ve been deep into the watch buying hobby for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with the trade shows that have come to define the industry — and that come regularly enough that it’s (nearly) possible to set your watch by them. Though consolidation due to COVID-19 means that Baselworld, which ran for nearly a century, is no longer running, Watches & Wonders Geneva (previously “SIHH”) happens each spring; Worn & Wound’s Windup Watch Fair NYC happens each fall, alongside WatchTime NY; and Dubai Watch Week happens every other year in Dubai.

There are plenty of other, smaller fairs — and some larger ones — that take place throughout the world, but the point is this: We are beset on all sides by brands releasing their latest wares in a manner and according to a schedule that’s largely predictable. Meaning, we know that at a minimum, there’s going to be a glut of new releases from the major (non-Swatch Group) brands each year in March/April, plus many others throughout the year. 

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This constant churn of newness plays directly into the brand’s hands, of course. Dedicated collectors of specific marques might purchase every new release within a certain product family, while others — watch editors among them — might purchase a new piece each year, but in a more brand-agnostic manner. The point is: if one is looking for an opportunity or excuse to fork over some hard-earned cash on a flashy new timepiece, the industry provides it regularly. 

On top of the pressure — or gentle persuasion — to buy via the constant onslaught of advertising, media coverage and endorsement from celebrity “brand ambassadors,” there’s also the editorial that the watch press publishes, which has folks convinced that they need multiple watches in order to successfully navigate a well lived life. (Those damned watch journalists! Who even publishes that lot of crazies, anyway?) I will fully admit that I’m as guilty of this as any other writer in the space: “You need an everyday watch, a tool watch, and a dress watch,” I’m sure I’ve said at some point on several websites and in several magazines. Furthermore, I tend to drink my own Kool-Aid, and I do own timepieces in these different categories. 

But lately I’ve been thinking about my actual, day-to-day watch-wearing habits, and, truthfully, I wear the same watch 95% of the time. If I’m sitting at my desk, writing, I’m wearing my Rolex Submariner. If I’m trekking up a mountain or on patrol during reserve service in the army, I’m wearing my Submariner. SCUBA diving? Submariner. Walking around town? Submariner. Traveling? Submariner. Swimming in the ocean? Visiting a friend? Playing with my niece and nephew? Meeting a colleague for dinner? 


There are exceptions, of course. If I’m wearing a suit and tie, I’ll likely put on something a bit dressier. (But not always.) If I’m in black tie, I’ll absolutely put on a dress watch. (I’m not Sean Connery — I’m a 5’8″ Jewish kid who grew up in New Jersey. I can’t pull off a Sub with formalwear.) What I’m getting at is that this one watch, this one fantastically built, do-it-all timepiece gets me through the great majority of life’s scenarios. And it’s done so for years and years and years. 

Part of this is practical: I time things every day, and I actually use the bezel on my watch. (The last damn thing I want to do is use my phone for one more task. I already abuse the thing like a 1960s bebop musician abusing the needle.) Additionally, I’m fairly active physically, and the water resistance and robustness of the Sub are huge — when I bang the thing around, it hurts me emotionally for about 10 seconds, and then I get on with my day. I don’t have to think about breaking the watch.

Part of it is that most of the other watches in my collection are vintage — not for any good reason, but simply because I love vintage watches, and several of them belonged to my grandfather. But the thing about vintage watches is that, well, they’re old as shit. And old stuff breaks. (A lot.) Most of these watches simply don’t function well; they lose time, they gain time, parts are rattly, etc, etc, etc. They’ll work for a while, and then they’ll need another expensive service. Frankly, they’re a pain in the ass to own and use. Some of them are more like jewelry for this reason — especially the dress watches.

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And then there’s this — and this is crucial, watch people: There’s something to be said for having one extremely well built thing that you do absolutely everything with. I don’t have kids, so I have no idea who’s getting this watch, which was engraved to me and given to me by my aunt and uncle on the occasion of my bar mitzvah. (Which was most decidedly undeserved, though I’d like to think I’ve earned it in the intervening decades.) But I can tell you this: When the next guy or gal inherits this watch, I can almost guarantee that it’ll still be ticking along just fine. And it’ll be infused with whatever kind of juju comes from having been part of — if nothing else — a life of extremely varied experiences.

In this Submariner, I’ve: been SCUBA diving in Bonaire; almost gotten shot by my company commander during a battalion live fire exercise; almost gotten run over by an APC during the same exercise; visited the small town in Austria that my grandmother fled on the eve of World War II with my grandmother; driven clear across the United States from NJ to CA with all my shit piled in the back of my Jeep; gotten sauced with my watch industry colleagues in Geneva, London, Paris, Singapore, and more; jumped out of a plane with one of my best friends in upstate New York; swam in oceans the world over; and spent countless hours writing, playing, and recording music. Hell, we just had a gig the other night, and I was wearing this watch. 

I feel pretty good about this watch

I’m not saying that you should hang up your watch-buying gloves and never buy another piece again. (Shit, I bought a small watch this year — half because it was too good to pass up, and I figured it’ll be a gift to someone one day, but still.) And I still think there’s a place in one’s life for one “beat-the-piss-out-of-it-and-don’t-think-twice-about-it” watch and one dress watch. That’ll never change. 

But I’m not sure I’ll ever quite wrap my brain around having so many watches that one doesn’t have the opportunity to make more than a handful of memories with any one of them. To me, that seems excessive. I say, find one good watch and stick with it. At least for a while. After all, there’s absolutely something to be said for using a thing so hard and for so long that you become known for it — even if only amongst your friends. 

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