Morning Style Mongers. Am out in action in Zi Bazel doing Kettle-Fest 2016. No time for much more than to post this up. Wrote it for friend/Editor Caragh McKay AKA The Duchess of Dundee, who was such a creative, bold & chic editor know she would have damn well commissioned this if she could and ran it, somehow, in serious broadsheet. Its only getting publicly published here, now. Big shout out to The Duchess this morning from the Watch Citadel- BaselWorld! Images are randoms and from this trip, bar the Mitre. Telegraph Time is out Saturday/Tomozza, Caragh’s last issue. Not see it yet, but bet its killing it. <to insert watch images>
High End accessory scene in the Basel this week
I’m in an almost un-findable public house located in Farringdon’s Hattons Garden district. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is a pleasant and innocuous looking affair with window boxes and barrels outside as tables, yet it’s also harbours a secretive, burgeoning underground scene. I’m waiting to meet up with on of its unofficial founders and a leading protagonist. My contact in The Garden has recently informed me in hushed tones about a new luxury/gender-blurring stylistic cult. ‘Cross-Kettling’, as its known by some, is far from a recognised ‘thing’. Its what one might call niche interest, but the spectacle of a collection of serious power mongers, esteemed professionals and overtly Alpha males getting together under a common banner of the love of fine ladies watches is not to be ignored.
Ye Old Mitre-In The Garden.
I’m waiting for Jonny. Ex British Paratrooper special forces, half Londoner/half Afghani. A surprisingly well groomed, tanned and engaging, triangularly built chap who is now a fitness trainer/close personal protection unit combined. He also appears to have one glass eye. There’s not the only bit of honed crystal he’s sporting. Once securing his gin&tonic he wastes no time in explaining how he picked up a taste for feminine horologic finery on missions in the Middle East. “You’ve gotta have a get out of jail kettle when you’re on you’re out own in operation. Right? It needs to be properly flash. And it needs to have plenty of ice.” He explains earnestly, about the buy-out potential of a prestige watch when in need of emergency negotiations, while at the same time making no small gesture of letting me see me his remarkable de Grisogono Grappolo amber hued composition of complex orange sapphire of various sizes. Its like a rare peony fashioned in stones that jangles very subtly when he gesticulates. Its working very well juxtaposed with Jonnys Moncler track suit and highly developed forearm.
“Crossing the Jordon Iraq boarder, early Naughties, I had minimal kit and only some small ‘work’ we’d taken from the last job.” He goes on to explain there was no male watch in the haul inventory, and so he ended up with a rare Reine de Naples Breguet piece on his wrist as his only buy out option. That night past without challenge, however Jonny’s penchant for ultra feminine watches was whetted.
Before I can process this unusual scene, he introduces me to two men at the far end of the bar. Apparently executives of mid and late fifties are who are drinking pints, and greet Jonny warmly on approach.
One is clearly in Savile Row made three-piece and G.J.Cleverly shoes, but straight off I notice he’s also wearing a neat and striking La Mini D De Dior with black dial, diamond bezel and bronze leather strap. His older, and portly companion is also suited but wearing an extraordinary piece which I think appears to be a Bulgari Diva in yellow gold set with pale pink and blue stones. There’s no time to dwell on the model in question, as more men arrive and need greeting.
Jonny is off, welcoming them to the fold. I am left with Lionel Dior at the bar. He seems relaxed after Jonnys intro and quickly explains how his involvement. He’d tried his wife’s Hermes Double Tour Chain d’Ancre while on holiday and found its fine feminine lines somewhat compelling. The next thing he’s bidding for cocktail watches on ebay. Which in turn brought him to The Garden scene. Another chap joins and it’s the same story. He started with a modest 70s men’s Cartier Tank de Must, then next thing he’s trying on Baignoires down Bond Street and teaming them with Love bracelets while claiming they’re for his wife. He’s remarks that he is now single.
As the Mitre fills, I’m spotting more and more fine women’s watches. Young men in separate jackets and chinos topped off with relatively discreet, Vuitton Emprise 23mm. I even clock one chap wearing a double ironical Chanel Boyfriend watch.
According to H.Moser.
More businessmen, professional looking lawyers types are joined by rugged and non-business looking fellas, yet all are talking on equal terms about their latest fancy and what they’re all wearing. The only female in the gaff is the barmaid. The more masculine and straight the man and job it seems, the more fem the watch. I meet one chap who tells me about ‘double wristing’. As it’s all about more dainty pieces, no one needs to know if you don’t want them too. So it seems many top end execs/CEO/power brokers practice wearing one standardly masculine large men’s watch on the left wrist, plus a second hidden on the right one. To be revealed with in more ‘agreeable’ company.
These high power business men who are turning to fine woman’s watches a way to express their more sensitive and delicate natures, without dropping the carapace of the pinstripe three piece, shirt and tie.
The rise of unstructured tailoring and the abandonment of the suit a general uniform has seen further relaxing and softening of the rules of engagement for business, however in many jobs its simple not acceptable. It seems their need to express a gentleness and sensitivity has simple come out in other ways. For this select group it’s via cross-gender fine horologic passion.
They come together to socialise, under a common love, to show off, relax forget the pressures of modern Alphaism and talk women’s watches without inhibition. When an elder Gent walks in replete with bowler hat and brolly, while accepting his usual glass or Sangiovese handed to him by Jonny he exposes his baby pink Boucheron parrot watch set with pink and white stones, I’m reminded of Kenny Everett’s ‘Mr Angry’ ranting cross-dress-only-from-behind only character. His demeanour is one of the most relaxed in their place yet with clipped annunciation. He laughs at my astonishment as he brandishes his wrist parrot and confides in me a surprising turn of phrase “of course we all rebelled in the end. It was inevitable. This entire watch caper has been a enormous wind up, dont ya know?”
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