Time as a Veblen good

Jack Baruth lays down the smack on the ultra-expensive Swiss watch:

If you wear a Swiss “luxury watch”, you’re a douchebag. (Full disclosure: I have a few of them myself.) The bigger the watch is, and the more elaborate/flashy it is, the worse you are. The newer and more quick-bake the brand is, the more horrifying your personal presence is to people who weren’t raised in a trailer prior to the IPO/Goldman bonus/first-round draft pick/real-estate deal/personal-injury settlement. I’ve complained about this before, but wearing a watch that is unnecessarily complex and impossible to fix amounts to a Nero-esque destruction of capital without the attendant flair. This goes double if your watchmaker’s brand was “dormant” for fifty years or more before being pried out of the hands of someone’s step-great-grandchild by a venture-capital firm, triple if Nicholas Hayek imagined your brand while he was having a “speedball” medically administered by a twenty-two-year-old Italian nurse who does figure modeling in the evenings.

I’m pretty sure my watch, the very antithesis of Swiss craftsmanship, isn’t fixable, unless what ails it is a dearth of battery power, which can be replenished for $5. Then again, it only cost me $30 to begin with, thirty-odd years ago, and maintenance — it’s on its fourth band now — has run less than $100.


  1. fillyjonk »

    10 March 2014 · 2:59 pm

    It seems odd that the “unfixable” watches fall into one of two categories: the ultra-cheap, bought-at-Target model that enraged me last summer when I realized I couldn’t pry the back open to replace the battery when it died, or some nouveau-riche look-at-me-I’m-so-special thing that costs as much as a cheap house.

    I prefer watches with cartoon characters on them, myself. Current watch has Eeyore, but if there’s an affordable MLP watch out there, I might just consider that.

  2. McGehee »

    11 March 2014 · 10:08 am

    Watches… a dedicated device whose sole purpose is to tell time — having no GPS, no ability to make phone calls, no games, no photos, no music…

    How quaintly indulgent.

  3. fillyjonk »

    11 March 2014 · 10:49 am

    I don’t trust cell phones as clocks. I know more than one person whose iPhone apparently decided they were in Mountain Time, not Central.

    I prefer technology that I, rather than some random ‘cloud,’ have control over.

  4. Charles Pergiel »

    11 March 2014 · 1:04 pm

    “Quick bake” luxury watches are designed for one purpose only: to extract money from people with more money than sense, which is what Reagan intended. Right?

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