Tom Ross: Time is money
October 31, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Tempus fugit. Time is on my side. Time is money. Time waits for no one. And I'll give you the time of day.
But I wouldn't spend $11,000 for a wristwatch.
One of the three Sunday newspapers that landed on my front porch this week reminded me, rather dramatically, that a person can spend large sums of money on a timepiece that essentially does the same thing as the Patrick the octopus (from SpongeBob Squarepants) wristwatch I keep in a commemorative designer tin in a box in my home. They both tell the time of day fairly accurately. And who knows, in time, the Patrick the octopus chronometer might be a valuable collectible.
The Patrick watch might have cost me $3 at Burger King.
My Sunday New York Times arrived with a gorgeous 66-page advertising section devoted to expensive wristwatches made by manufacturers, some of whom I'd never heard of. It's a safe bet that most of those watches cost five and six figures, though prices never are mentioned in such a public way.
Take, for example, the Grand Reverso Ultrathin by Jaeger-LeCoultre. You can purchase one of the watches for as little as $6,000 used, or you can step up to the Master Chronograph for $22,500.
The Grand Reverso, in the range of $6,000 to $10,000, has a watch face that pivots within a frame, allowing the owner to show off the engraving on the back of the watch. The advertisement for the watch suggests it is suitable for people wishing to "immortalize" their legacy, a personal accomplishment like sailing across the Atlantic. Should you desire, you could have the route of your trip engraved on the back of the watch.
Or, with the Grande Reverso Duo, the owner gets twin back-to-back watch faces, one for each of two different time zones. That could come in handy.
Who but people occupying the top 1 percent bracket of household income in the United States would spend $224,000 for a woman's Breguet Reine de Naples with 18-carat gold, blue mother of pearl and 86 diamonds? You know you occupy the top 1 percent if you can afford $168,100 for a Vacheron Constantin Regulator Tourbillon for your husband.
Realistically, if you're buying a Vacheron Constantin, you probably occupy the top 0.25 percent of incomes in America. After all, as the Times reported elsewhere Sunday, the top 1 percent begins at $343,927. I can easily imagine a two-earner household where two highly educated people work their rear ends off to keep their business moving forward and to reward their employees.
I also can hear Andy Rooney asking, "Why would anyone spend that much on a wristwatch when your laptop computer and your phone constantly remind you that you're late for your next appointment?"
The folks at Edition Temps International, who prepared the advertising supplement to the Times, have an answer for Andy.
They acknowledge that in these modern times, no one needs a watch to tell time. But they point out the hundreds of tiny moving parts in a fine timepiece that are assembled by dozens of craftspeople.
A luxury watch is a reflection of the values of the owner and a piece of art in its own right, they say.
Of course, I feel the same way about the timeless piece of pop art that is my Patrick the octopus wristwatch.
In the meantime, my computer is telling me that I'm pushing my deadline. I'm all out of time.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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