Being a one watch guy or gal is a concept that has always fascinated me. My dad, the reason I got into watches, has worn the same 16610 Submariner for 20 years. For the sake of this article, I’ll define a one watch person as someone who wears one watch for an extended period, be it a few years or their whole life, but in general. They do not rotate watches based on style or purpose. Being a one watch person has an interesting place in the watch world. On one hand, the watch world is filled with collectors and enthusiasts who buy, sell, collect, and wear many watches. On the other hand, one watch people are an anomaly in watch enthusiast circles, but it’s often their well-worn watches that become highly collectible. For example, Paul Newman & Steve McQueen could be argued to be one watch guys. Even if you disagree with that statement it’s undeniable that the Daytona and Submariner references worn by them became iconic in part because they were trademark watches of two icons. Trademarks don’t become trademarks when worn in rotation. How much do you think Jack Nicklaus’ Day-Date will go for? Certainly, its value will be added to by the fact that he wore it day in and day out for most of his life.
Wearing just one watch is a common thought experiment that gets brought up in the watch world. It’s a bit of a Rorschach test for a watch enthusiast. It tells you a bit about the person, not just in the watch they pick but also in their thought process. For some, thinking about this is their version of hell and others it’s an out of reach aspiration, something they would like to do but know they never will.
Outside of the watch world, it’s a moot point because most people who are not watch enthusiasts or collectors only wear one trusty watch most of the time. They don’t think about it the same way a watch enthusiast does. They get a stainless steel sports watch as a gift and wear it until it breaks. Wearing one watch all the time and treating it like a capable sidekick rather than a collectible that needs to be maintained is after all, what produced a lot of the most desirable watches that current collectors want. The entire collectibility of the Rolex “Milsub” line is based on it. The collectibility of Rolex or any other quality steel sports watches is based on it. They’re built so well that they can be worn every day and still outlive two generations. A watch that was treated well but worn hard has a soul inside it. It tells the story of its owner with its sunkissed dial and dinged up case. This soul is what attracts a lot of watch collectors to the hobby in the first place.
Because of the recent increase in interest and popularity in watches, I think the hobby as a whole is in for some serious change. A lot of these high-quality brands cost quite a bit more than they did a few decades ago. They’ve transitioned from necessary tool to unnecessary luxury. These watches aren’t treated the same way they were a generation ago. I wonder if they will have the same soul or appeal in a generation from now. Will the influx of collection and curation leave us with a market flooded with mint examples of numerous watches?
Maybe the brands we collect in the future will be from more modest price points like Tudor, Nomos, or Seiko. Watches that are very high quality but not so expensive that you wouldn’t put a ding or two in them. Who fills the void of the humble tool watch now that Rolex, Omega, and others have moved solidly into the luxury category? While all the collectors are trying to pick out what watches will be idolized and collected in the future, is it the outsider non-watch enthusiast who dictates that? It’s going to be the one watch guy or gal who treats their watch respectfully as a tool, but otherwise couldn’t care less about the manufacturer or movement, who will dictate the future of watches.