Something happens when you pass 30: those yellow gold watches that, for the longest time, you had more than a passing disinterest in, start to look cool. Maybe it’s the few extra pounds that begin to settle around your midsection or the odd grey hair in your beard, but something changes when you reach your thirties that makes gold watches attractive even to those who had disavowed them years before.
At first you fight it. You think of your other watch-nerd friends with their steel Submariners and Speedmasters laughing at your pieces of man-jewellery. Because, as we all know, any watch that is in gold is jewellery, adorning only old men and young dandies, whereas anything in steel is a tool, there to provide utility to the manly man who wears it. But then you find the gold watch that puts a wedge in the door.
For me, it was a Forties Universal Genève Chronograph on a brown alligator-leather strap. OK, it was a rare Climate-proof Compax, to be specific, and while it was a good 38mm in diameter, this watch had presence. As I wore it to more events, I began to realise people were simply drawn to it. It’s as if they couldn’t help themselves from passing over those bulky steel divers’ watches on the wrists of salesmen to this slim, almost sultry, chronograph in gold. Oh, and the fact it was worn by a man born after 1977 added to its charm (or so I’ve gathered).
Such is the life of a gold-watch-wearing man. You are constantly confused with a more mature, wealthier, worldlier version of yourself. And you know what? After a little while, you might just grow into that better version of you. The thing is, from a design and economic standpoint, gold watches make a lot of sense. Few people under the age of 60 wear them; when they do, it’s usually a rapper and the watch is the size of a hockey puck. But a skinny guy wearing a slim, gold watch? Now that’s class.
But, if you’re like me and getting a little bigger in the midsection, greyer in the hair and more weathered in the face, a bit of golden sheen doesn’t hurt. After all, you deserve a gold watch now, don’t you think?
Bulgari Octo Finissimo
Here’s a lounge lizard of a watch if ever there was one, made for prowling the Riviera dusk, chinking tumbler in one hand, a vampish blonde in the other. Like the Royal Oak, its eight-sided design, milled laboriously from one piece of gold into 110 edges and surfaces, means the metal really is showcased to its maximum brilliance.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41
The ultimate Eighties rendition of yellow gold has to be in a “bicolour” mix with steel, and it has to be a Rolex Datejust. This year’s update keeps the quite-frankly magnificent fluted bezel intact, while upping the diameter to 41mm to suit modern tastes, as well as fitting the latest iteration of Rolex’s bulletproof automatic movement. That corner office beckons.
Tiffany East West 3-Hand
Inspired by a pop-up Tiffany travel clock from the 1940s, this art-deco doozy is vintage Noo Yoik to a tee. The sideways orientation could have been gimmicky, but while certainly a conversation point, it’s particularly practical for drivers who like to have both hands on the wheel. Or the handrail of the A-train.
Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold
Always, defiantly, the black sheep of the Swiss firmament, Hublot likes to challenge people’s perceptions of a traditional watchmaker by “fusing” cutting-edge materials with old-school mechanics. The most impressive bit of alchemy yet has to be Magic Gold, which, by genuinely fusing ceramic with 24-carat gold (in Hublot’s in-house foundry, no less) yields scratchproof 18-carat gold.