I was recently reading Mike Tyson’s Autobiography “Undisputed Truth”. Next to pearls of wisdom from his trainer Cus D’Amoto, the pages are packed to the brim with descriptions of his flamboyant lifestyle.
Tyson claims to have inspired the rap scene with his extravagance, setting the theme of the braggadocio rapper we have come to accept as the norm today. And as much as men like Tyson are the polar opposite to the reserved watch industry, they played a major role in helping save it.
How we have come to know our rappers; complete with the big iced-out watch
To understand the significance of this new wave of luxury it is important to remind ourselves that during this time the watch industry was in the depths of the Quartz Crisis. Suddenly mechanical watches became obsolete as tools, outperformed by their electrical counterpart on every level.
Adapt or die. The watch industry had to learn that the hard way. By 1983 the industry had declined to only 600 manufacturers from what was originally 1700 in only 10 years. Tyson and co. however all of a sudden gave a new purpose to watches. Where once you would buy a steel Rolex because you wanted a reliable tool, suddenly solid gold timepieces studded with diamonds became all the rage as a fashion (and wealth) statement.
More than just helping pump big money into the industry, they offered unprecedented exposure. Suddenly a mechanical timepiece wasn’t something for your grandpa, but you could see your idols on TV sporting them. Jay-Z alone has made more than 30 references to his timepieces in his music and countless more on the red carpet.
Did this really have to be? Arguably yes
So what is the point of all this? If you look at blogs about encrusted watches you will find more nasty comments than diamonds. While I can understand from an enthusiasts perspective that jewels are one of the last things you might want on a timepiece, I think it is important to learn to appreciate also this side of the industry.
The watch industry has come a long way. It has survived the biggest challenge it ever faced and came back stronger than ever. Not all parts of it were pretty (I’m looking at you Rolex Daytona Panther). Then again not everybody has the same taste. Snobbery should not be supported, and respect is due for all parts of the industry. At the end of the day, any watch is better than no watch in my opinion.