The moon-phase and date Clifton Baumatic 10736

What makes a gentleman tick?

Of course, there are watches and there are watches, and then there are watches


This article is taken from the April 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

It is said that you can spot a gentleman by his shoes and his watch. At least, it was said in the days before contemporary incarnations of the noblesse de race (actors, civil servants, sons of peers, trustafarians and anyone in the media) affected to look like they had spent the weekend sleeping in a hedge. Nonetheless, these two items of apparel still have the power to mark the man from the masses, especially a fine watch — which even hedge-dwelling sons of privilege have been known to own.

Of course, there are watches and there are watches, and then there are watches. Most of us at one point or another have had a mass-produced timepiece on our wrists, save perhaps the late, great Gianni Agnelli who only ever wore the best and then only over the sleeve of his shirt. We can all probably admit to owning a Seiko, a Sekonda or a Rotary. There is nothing wrong with such watches, of course. They keep time and some look rather smart.

Yet I suspect that anyone in possession of Rotary would really like a Rolex. We all look in our lives for things that are better, that will please us and of which we will be proud (even if their cost makes our blood run cold). We see in others what we would like ourselves to be. Hence when Paul Newman first donned his Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, he transformed what was a modish but relatively unknown design into an icon of cool class.

Icon of cool: Paul Newman with his Rolex Daytona

Newman was an influencer before that ridiculous term was minted. Subsequent celebrities, thanks often to their agents, for not all stars are themselves inherently stylish, have stalked the red carpet or been snapped in the street whilst sporting all manner of bling bunged their way as brand ambassadors.

Even fictitious characters have been roped into the brand game. James Bond wears an Omega Seamaster whilst Dennis Wheatley’s proto-Bond, Gregory Sallust, swanned around in Sulka ties and a Cartier under his cuff.

Watches like these are part and parcel of a celebrity’s catwalk kit, and I place them in a second category of marvellous mechanical instruments which we desire not only because they are beautiful and expensive, but because they are showcased by the beautiful and expensive people that many of us wish to be.

And then there are watches. Slim, simple and elegant chronometers, whose voices speak softly of sophistication but for whom no brash showbiz name stands public sentinel nor do any soi-disant influencers shout their name. These are gentlemen’s timepieces.

I place Baume & Mercier wristwatches in this third and most special category. Founded in 1918, although the Baume comptoir horloger story stretches back almost a century before, Baume & Mercier’s maxim is “accept only perfection”.

In the beauty and the balance of their precision instruments, you will find only perfection. The Guillod Gunther workshop was renowned for its art in the mid-20th century, crafting chronographic masterpieces marked with the “punch of the master”.

Since then, Baume & Mercier has lovingly launched series after series of the most consistently elegant designs I have seen. Of their latest collection, the moon-phase and date Clifton Baumatic 10736 and Clifton 10583 are two wonderful timepieces, both with white enamelled faces, lacquer finished and encased in pink gold.

For the purists who still like to wind their watch each morning and night, the new Classima 10735 with its sapphire-blue skeleton face through which the movement is visible, is both modern and manual.

A watch, more than anything on a man’s dressing table, speaks to others on its owner’s behalf. Chaucer told us that time and tide wait for no man. But a first class timepiece lends weight to any gentleman, carrying him forward on a tide of self-confidence with the added assurance that, wherever his destination, his watch will not cause him to be late.

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