Watches Tell a Lot More Than Time

Michael Tobin OBE, Founder and Chairman, Crystal Peak Acquisition

Is a wristwatch a tool to tell the time or a status symbol? For some people, a wristwatch is more than that. It’s a statement. It’s also a great icebreaker. You can approach someone you don’t know at a party or a conference and instantly strike up a conversation with “Nice watch.”

I view my watches as things of beauty and intrigue. One of my favorites is the Frank Mueller Crazy Hours, which is something you should never try to understand or read, especially after a few drinks—but it’s so much fun! My wife Shalina gave me the most beautiful Breguet Tourbillon as a gift. It sits in a safety deposit box along with all my watches. No one gets to see it, but I know it’s there, and I love it. I also have pieces from Patek Phillipe, Gucci, Glashutte, Vacheron Constantin, Bulgari, Cartier, and several others.

I don’t see watches as a tool that tells me the time, but nor are they a statement piece or fashion accessory. For me, a watch is a sentimental connection. They are themselves physical safety deposit boxes of memories that evoke wonderful emotions for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watches. The crazier the better. I just don’t wear them. My phone is with me 24/7 and it tells me the time amongst so many other things and that’s good enough.

A Cartier timepiece

I’m also not the only tech exec who mostly goes watchless. In 2012 Elon Musk collaborated with SpaceX and Tag Heuer to create the limited edition Carrera Calibre 1887 SpaceX Chronograph, but despite being kind of obliged to wear it occasionally, he is more often than not watchless. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t wear a watch either, so I guess he and I have that, along with untold wealth and fame, in common. (I wish!)

Michael Tobin OBE, Founder and Chairman, Crystal Peak Acquisition

That said, there are plenty of executives known for wearing watches. You may think you can tell what type of person someone is likely to be, depending on if they have a blinged-out, gold-diamond Hublot or a simple stainless-steel Zenith chronograph, but some of the watches of choice may surprise you:

  • Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, has a 70 USD Casio Duro.
  • Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Walmart, is regularly seen wearing his Apple Watch, which retails at a few hundred US dollars (probably cheapest from a Walmart).
  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, of course has one, too (probably not from Walmart).
  • Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, has a TAG Heuer Kirium CL111A, which sells for just under 3,000 USD.
  • Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, wears a Breitling Colt Automatic that sells for 3,600 USD.
  • John Watson, former CEO Chevron, has a very rare Breitling Aerospace E79362, which although not that pricey, is almost impossible to find.
  • Dieter Zetsche, former CEO of Daimler, and Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, both wear the Chopard Mille Miglia GMT Chronograph, which costs around 7,000 USD.
  • Jeff Immelt, former CEO of GE, has a Breitling Chronospace M78365, which also lands around 7,000 USD.
  • Tony Aquila, former CEO of Solera Holdings, has an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean that likewise costs around that price.
  • Larry Ellison, Founder of Oracle, is a watch fiend! He seems to own everything from the classic Panerai Luminor Marina to the avant-garde Richard Mille.
  • Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, sports a yellow-gold version of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which would set you back nearly 30,000 USD!
  • Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, owns quite a few watches, but his favorite appears to be a Ulysse Nardin Dual Time that is roughly 10,000 USD and he wears it along with his “Wall Street Bro” vest.
  • The late Steve Jobs always had his faithful Quartz Seiko on his wrist.
  • Whatever a watch means to you, and whatever your preferences and price points are, remember that thousands of hours have gone into the design and manufacture of these little works of art. Good ones are worth keeping. Great ones are worth giving.
A Gucci timepiece