Engagement Watch – Seriously?

Rolex engagement watches

“As the vintage watch market booms and savvy collectors sell particularly in-demand models for a hefty profit, the engagement watch is beginning to emerge as an appealing alternative to the traditional engagement ring,” hypebae.com reveals. Wait. What? What does the “booming” vintage watch market have to do with the idea that men are buying their beloved a watch in lieu of an engagement ring? I’ll save you the click. Nothing. As for the “engagement watch,” is that even a thing?

Cartier engagement rings

This “appealing alternative” to slipping a sparkler on your betrothed’s ring finger goes up against a practice that’s been been around since ancient Roman times, through to 860 (when Pope Nicholas I gave the practice his blessing), to March 2019 (when Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez gave Jennifer Lynn Lopez a $1.8m emerald-cut engagement ring). The engagement ring industry accounts for no small part of the $82b annual global diamond jewelry market.

Now you could say the engagement ring shouldn’t be a thing. “It was invented to signify that a virgin was taken – on hold – until the day of her wedding,” smh.com writer Wendy Squires posits, “the unspoken part of the deal being the engagement often allowed for a sampling of the goods before buying.” I reckon that’s about as unwoke as you can get  (says the guy who likes free samples). Not to mention the whole totally non-PC blood diamond deal.

Cartier Santos Chronograph on steel

In contrast, the engagement watch concept’s been around since yesterday. That’s when hyperbae.com’s editor hit publish on the article in question, complete with a hyperbolic headline: GOODBYE CARTIER, HELLO ROLEX: ENTER THE ERA OF THE ENGAGEMENT WATCH. Couples are eschewing the engagement ring for something more functional: a watch

I guess no one could be bothered to tell the headline writer that Cartier makes watches. Never mind. Applying journalistic standards to Alexandra Pauly‘s article is like asking Joe Biden to play Password’s lightning round. The evidence Ms. Pauly martials consists of one – count it one – example and conjecture, “backed-up” by dealers who have a vested interest in promoting the engagement watch shtick (a.k.a., lost cause). Like this:

Vintage Cuervo Y Sobrinos chronograph engagement watch

Chung was an early adopter of a nuptial trend that seems to be gaining momentum. In May, global shopping platform Lyst reported a 42 percent spike in watch searches that include terms such as “wedding,” “couple” and “engagement.” As the vintage watch market booms and savvy collectors sell particularly in-demand models for a hefty profit, the engagement watch is beginning to emerge as an appealing alternative to the traditional engagement ring.

As they say, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. In this case, as in so many others, the stats quoted in support of Ms. Pauly’s argument “prove” sweet FA. If nothing else, common sense tells us that the engagement watch “trend” is destined to remain stillborn.

Engagement watch and ring

The reverse – a woman buying a watch for her betrothed – has some juice. Not enough to fill a shot glass, but some. And yes, there is a tradition of the groom buying groomsmen matching timepieces. Plenty of men have bought their bride-to-be a watch to wear on her wedding dayand an engagement ring.

But again, the idea that an engaged man would buy his future wife a nice watch as a token of his affection/commitment prior to tying the knot – rather than spending two month’s salary on an engagement ring – is both horlogically wonderful (yay us!) and completely improbable. In fact, the hyperbae.com article reads like what it is: an article designed to blow smoke up the ass of advertisers, and increase watch sales.

Bulgari Sperpenti

As people increasingly eschew traditional notions of marriage, opting for minimal Zoom weddings and abandoning ceremonies completely, engagement watches are poised to become the next big thing. The pandemic, too, could be contributing to couples’ newfound taste for timepieces. Burdened with a heightened awareness of mortality, couples regard watches — the very mechanisms that track our course in seconds, minutes and hours — as precious reminders of life and health.  

Poised = hasn’t happened yet. At all. Except for a single anecdotal example. Not to put too fine a point on it, the chances that the engagement watch will catch on are only slightly more likely than a sudden run on engagement fire extinguishers. Unless and until the lifestyle press stops pimping for advertisers and favored brands, you can tag articles like this one #aintgonnahappen. Which ain’t gonna happen anywhere but here.

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