Can you ever rationally justify spending thousands of dollars on a Rolex?
It’s one of many questions fielded by behavioural economist and New York Times best-selling author Dan Ariely in his Wall Street Journal column, Ask Ariely. His answer? Absolutely, because the reader had explained that he wanted it as a status symbol. “After going through such an elaborate mental exercise to explain why buying a fancy watch is such a good idea, you deserve a reward. As for whether all this is rational, you could argue that it is more than rational: it is rationalisation.”
Described as a master of both rationality and irrationality, Ariely has written two books on these subjects, Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality (both HarperCollins), in which he uses his trademark insight and wit to help readers reflect on why we make the decisions we do. “Jewellery, watches and fashion are about signalling, both to ourselves and to others – like a peacock’s tail that signals virility. Through them we tell ourselves what kind of people we are. The internal signalling is sometimes more important than the external signalling,” he told the Financial Times.
When it comes to investing in luxury watches and jewellery, the same rule applies. Because they’re very often works of art, the advice is always to buy what you like. When it comes to timepieces, the technical, mechanical ones are no longer the sole reserve of men. There’s a growing market for complicated watches among women, and watchmakers are addressing that need.
“Women’s watches shouldn’t be limited to shrinking, pinking and adding a few diamonds.” That’s Audemars Piguet’s view, writes hodinkee.com, following the launch of the first Royal Oak concept watch for women at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva earlier this year. The piece also contains the first flying tourbillon developed by the manufacture. This glittering beauty features white gold and diamonds on the case, fastened with a white alligator or rubber strap. Expect to pay approximately CHF395 000 for the baguette-cut diamond version or CHF190 000 for the brilliant-cut option.
Watch aficionado Ariel Adams would back the decision to invest in a Rolex specifically because of what he describes as “the absolute sense of confidence, reliability and dignity the brand name communicates”.
Fifth-generation jewellery brand Charles Greig was founded in Jo’burg at the beginning of the gold rush in 1899. Its studios design bespoke jewellery and retail some of the finest watch brands, including Rolex, in South Africa. It takes a year to make one Rolex, which will last a lifetime or two. The price is affected by myriad factors, from the more expensive and difficult to machine 904L steel the manufacturer prefers to use because it looks better than any other metal, to the handwork involved in assembling the parts.
What to consider when buying jewellery
At the recent Vincenza, the conference and exhibition highlighting trends in the global jewellery industry, there was much talk about supporting businesses that provide sustainable economic and social opportunities to people and communities who work with natural resources such as cultured pearls and precious coral.
Always purchase from a reliable, trusted jeweller whose materials are ethically sourced.
Buy certified diamonds. Ensure that the diamond is certified by the GIA. A Shimansky diamond is laser inscribed with a unique identification number connecting it to the original GIA diamond certificate, in letters no larger than a few micron.
Choose gemstones in colours that suit your skin tone.
And if it’s an investment piece to be passed down through generations, carefully consider the design as well. The House of Bvlgari’s Serpenti High Jewellery Collection is one that has stood the test of time. The serpent dates back to Greek and Roman mythology, and symbolises wisdom, vitality and seduction.
When will you wear the piece?
For daytime, keep it simple and classic. The structural lines of Bulgaria’s B.zero1 work on any size hand. Add some diamonds and it could even work as a wedding ring. For evenings or special occasions, opt for something a little more extravagant. American Swiss and Sterns have a selection of pieces that make the perfect gift for any occasion at prices to suit your pocket. Mix and match, or wear them as statement pieces to stay on trend or indulge your classic style.
Text by: Debbie Hathway
Header image: Ingrid Irsigler
Stylist: Karin Orzol