Modern society is shrugging off many of its old-world values, and the ways we approach romantic relationships, engagements, weddings, and families are not immune to the trends. These days, giving an engagement ring can seem almost as up to date as busting your love interest over the head with a club and dragging them into a cave by the hair (with apologies to any who may find that trope culturally insensitive). Given contemporary values of equality (real or hoped for) in today’s marriage dynamic — not to mention the wider acceptance of same-sex nuptials — a fresher and more visible decoration of your intentions may be the engagement watch! The gender-neutral accessory is not only practical, but it can also be a great long-term investment, and appropriately speaks to the hopes for a lifetime together.
Reach back into European history and you’ll discover that wedding and engagement rings were once signs not of true love, but of ownership. Ancient Romans made these symbols of bondage from materials like ivory, flint, copper, iron, and even bone. It wasn’t until 850 A.D. that the Pope declared that, within the Catholic Church, giving a ring represented an absolute intent to marry. Of course, only the wife was expected to wear it back then: Wedding rings for men didn’t become common until World War II when soldiers wanted to express their love across oceans and battlefields. Engagement rings themselves could have featured any precious stone before DeBeers sank its marketing budget into promoting diamonds (an industry that’s had its own fair share of questionable moral practices) in the mid-20th century.
We attempted to reach jewelers for a comment on this trend, but let’s say their money remains on the classic diamond engagement ring. If you, your potentially betrothed (and his or her family) are in the least bit conventionally minded, you still won’t go wrong with something “square-cut or pear-shaped,” and your local jeweler will be more than happy to help you with that. But if you are at all open to unconventional thinking, a matching timepiece may be the way to go.
Look at your engagement as the beginning of a beautiful friendship: Communication is key in any relationship, and if you haven’t already learned this, let’s get that habit started before the honeymoon. Be sure that you’ve taken the time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your potential spouse to determine expectations. Do you both like the idea of a more innovative approach to the festivities? Ask a lot of open-ended questions about what a proposal and wedding should look like. How will family and friends react if you start doing things in a non-traditional manner? Think of this conversation as being less about spoiling the surprise, and more about making sure that the proposal is the most memorable moment possible. Showing up with a watch when a ring is expected could ruin the moment, not to mention the romance.
Just like the old-fashioned down-on-one knee, engagement ring scenario, style is key to this conversation. Is your girlfriend more traditionally feminine? Or is she earthy? Even androgynous? Does your boyfriend wake up each morning and tie a perfect Windsor knot in his necktie before skateboarding to work? Let’s make sure the watch you choose is something that both of you will enjoy wearing. Would you rather have a watch that is worn mostly on special occasions? Or celebrate your union every day with something more durable?
Finally, how much is appropriate to spend on an engagement watch? According to the wedding website The Knot, the average cost of one engagement ring is $5,500. That could buy a couple of sweet timepieces. An old rule was to spend one to three months’ salary on an engagement ring, but let’s get real: in an age of crazy student loan debt and when homeownership or a child’s education may be a higher priority, spending that kind of money may just be foolhardy. Again, have the conversation before whipping out the credit card.
Here are a few styles that we think represent modern love in a timely yet timeless fashion.
If price is no object and you’re really looking for an expression that’s also an investment, consider a Rolex. Since exploration is what a relationship is really all about, this update to the 1953 classic is a perfect proclamation of your intentions. At 36 mm, the watch’s dial is a good size for all but the most delicate of wrists.
Still want to have some of that classic Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend cachet? Go for Cartier’s classic tank watch. The spare styling looks as great with sporty clothes as it does with dressier styles. Thinner case styles offering a more feminine appeal are also available.
If the “in health” portion of the wedding vows is a priority, the Apple Series 6 may be the ultimate way to get and keep both of you in top form. Besides being able to measure your blood oxygen and take an ECG, the watch packs in its distinctive fitness, safety, and connectedness features. We chose the top notch 44 mm titanium case, but it’s also available in a smaller 40 mm size, as well as in aluminum or stainless steel to bring the price down to fit your budget.
Save some money for the honeymoon (and the mortgage and the tuition). This rose gold watch features a neutral 32 mm face and an elegant mesh strap, paired with a minimalistic cuff for a celebratory look.