The wristwatches of The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Yes, men wear jewelry, too. Our next Black Tie Guide installment looks at the precious metals used to fasten your shirt’s chest and cuffs — and what maybe shouldn’t be on your wrist.
Part 7: Cufflinks, Studs and Timepieces
Rarely do men wear jewelry items and like all jewelry items the price can go as astronomically high as your wallet wants to spend. Cufflinks, shirt studs and timepieces are no exception.
The standard for black tie is gold and black onyx cufflinks and studs. It seems, however, gold is falling out of favor and silver is becoming an alternative and mother-of-pearl is sometimes used instead of black onyx. Regardless of what you pick, it’s important to also point out that your metals and stones should match.
The best cufflinks are those which are double-sided, linked in between by a chain or bar. This allows the cufflink to be seen from either side without one looking like the “back” like you see on most modern cufflinks, a.k.a.: the swivel bar.
A great place to look for cufflinks and stud sets are both eBay and Etsy. If you would rather purchase brand new, I’d suggest Kent Wang, which has a stud set for $75 and dual-sided cufflinks for $25 to $55, depending on the model.
In regards to timepieces, the tradition is to either wear a pocket watch, but to avoid wearing a wristwatch. Wearing a watch signals to the host that you’re more concerned with the time than the occasion.
Still, modern “tuxedo” watches exist as an alternative for those who want them. Typically they have a black face with no hour or minute markings and no second hand and a simple jewel at the 12-o’clock position.
Here’s a lovely gift option for someone you know - or yourself. The Maratec Mid Pilot is a very simple pilot’s watch. It has a sapphire crystal (for scratch-resistance) and an automatic movement (for convenience). It’s a reasonable size (39mm), and best of all, it’s an exceptional price: $195. A really great everyday watch for folks who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.
Perhaps I’m a contrarian, but the bigger wristwatches get the smaller I want mine to be. I understand why one needs a chunky, oversized watch when diving, or maybe when piloting a helicopter, but I don’t understand the point of wearing a clock on one’s wrist. Might as well go all the way, like Flavor Flav, and wear it around the neck— at least that’s original.
Seven Things Better Bought Used
It’s sometimes easier to buy new, but there are some things that are pretty much always better bought used. Here’s our list of seven.
- Peacoats Every designer in the world has “riffed” on the pea coat, but the original is still the best. The heavy melton wool has protected sailors from the elements on-ship for decades, and it’ll protect you from pretty much anything. Best of all, vintage pea coats are freely available both from local vintage shops and online vendors. I love the ones from the 1940s-1960s, but it’s hard to go wrong. Remember that they’re sized to fit over heavy sweaters, and expect to pay $50-100.
- Cufflinks There was a time when men wore suits, and with them, double-cuff shirts. So just about every man had cufflinks. That time has mostly passed.
The result is a market glut of links. Go on eBay any day of the week and you’ll find literally thousands of pairs, from costume to fine jewelry… 1970s to 1890s. We prefer double-sided links here at PTO, and you’ll find plenty at any estate jeweler or vintage seller. Try Edwardian eight-carat gold, or enamel from the Art Deco era. Or grab yourself a cheap pair of Swank novelty links from the 1960s. Get some shirt studs while you’re at it. They’ll all be much cheaper on the second-hand market than new.
- Formal Wear Unlike most men’s styles, formal wear has remained largely static since it was codified at the beginning of the 20th century. That means that if you can find a conservatively-styled tuxedo from almost any era, it will be right at home today. The bonus: it’ll probably be better-made than all but the finest new equivalents. With a bit of diligence, you can find a great tuxedo for a hundred dollars or less.
- Knock-Around Ties Once you have a basic wardrobe of ties - a few solids, a few basics - you’ll find yourself wishing for novelty. Unless you’re shopping the highest end of the market, you’ll find plenty of functional ties at your local consignment or thrift stores for pennies on the dollar. Get a sense of the difference between a fine tie and a poor one, and don’t settle for less than decent… but once you’ve done that, go wild. There’s no shame in a necktie wardrobe filled out at $10 each, rather than $100.
- Watches A fine watch is a status symbol these days, when most men just wear a thirty-dollar quartz model on their wrist. Luckily, there’s a vintage option for almost any budget. Handsome mechanical watches from lesser-known brands are easily available for $50 or so second-hand. You can buy a beautiful Longines or Hamilton for a hundred or two. Kick it up to five hundred and there’s a pile of gorgeous Omegas within your grasp. And of course if you bump it into the thousands, there are many more choices, almost all for less than new.
Try paging through the buy-and-sell forums of watch enthusiast communities like WatchUSeek and TimeZone, or visit a reputable jeweler in your town. Heck - if you’re buying something cheap, just take a flier on eBay. No matter what, you’ll get a more distinctive piece at a better price.
- Cashmere Sweaters For a variety of reasons, cashmere’s gone downhill in the last twenty years or so. The good stuff has a smoother, tighter, denser finish… and you’ll only find it second-hand. The good news is that second-hand cashmere knits rarely go for more than $50-100 each. If it’s in good shape (be diligent), it can literally last a lifetime.
- Hats Men’s hats have declined precipitously not just in popularity, but also in quality. Low-end hats from the middle of the last century are as good as the high-end hats you’ll buy in a department store today. There are a few fine makers left, mostly making custom hats, but even once-fine brands like Borsalino and Stetson now make mediocre, expensive products. Vintage hats, though, are inexpensive, freely available (another supply/demand thing) and often of very fine quality. Great hats effortlessly hold their shape without being stiff, and feel fine to the hand. Expect to pay between $50 and $200 for something really good.
(Thanks to PTO twitter followers @D_Lippy, @frivmo, @voxsartoria, @platypusjones, @prairie_oysters, @SkySwartout, @HoffM, @TheMikeSwartz, @TheS_P500 and more for your ideas!)
“When it comes to a watch’s quality, the truth is that the movement sucks ass or the movement kicks ass. With me, you are going to get the heavy metal answer from the heavy metal dude.”— Dan Spitz, watchmaker and former lead guitarist for Anthrax
If you’re looking for a beautiful, prestigious watch at a reasonable price, there’s little reason to look past the mid-century Omegas. The Constellation and Seamaster models from the 50s and 60s are beautiful, elegant, carry a well-regarded brand name and frequently sell for as little as $300-500. Try searching the buy and sell areas of WatchUSeek or TimeZone, the fora for watch nerds, or take a chance on eBay. You can also buy from a trusted local dealer, though there’s likely to be a 30-50% markup over internet prices.
The end result? For less than the price of a lot of fashion brands’ quartz watches from the deparment store, you can have a beautiful, classic timepiece from one of the best names in watches.
New Watch Alert: Omega Flightmaster Ref. 145.036
After a few years of considering the idea, I pulled the trigger and bought myself an Omega Flightmaster. It was an early chronograph, in the late 60s and early 70s, and features the aforementioned stopwatch functions, along with a nice time zone hand for travel and a rotating interior bezel. I saved a bit by buying one with a cracked crystal, and having it replaced with an OEM crystal by my watch guy, Mr. Yoon when it was serviced. It’s hefty - definitely a casual or sporting watch. But I have a lovely little gold Longines manual from the 50s that my grandfather gave me for special occasions, and a Junghans Max Bill automatic for in between.
$30? With a nylon strap and a metal case? Yeah, that’s the kind of cheap watch I can get behind. Available in light and black faces, with a variety of different bands, as well. Way to go, Timex.