22 Jun Wear Wide Faces Wristwatch to feel dominant during business negotiations
Wall Street execs love to wear wristwatches that signal their wealth, but it turns out there could be another reason they choose certain timepieces, a new study has found.
People generally don’t like to interact with people who have wide faces, because they perceive them as dominant and therefore menacing. But they like to own products such as watches that have wide faces because they help them feel dominant, researchers at the University of Kansas and University of Toronto found in a study published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Wide Faces Watch Need An Extra Wide Wallet
So it’s not surprising that one of the most popular watches on Wall Street these days is the Rose Gold Panerai Luminor 1950, which clocks in at 44 millimeters wide (on the wider end of the watch spectrum). And you might need an extra wide wallet to buy one!
“It’s big, it’s meaty, it’s an in-your-face watch, and that’s why people like it,” said stylist Jessica Cadmus, founder of Wardrobe Whisperer, whose clients are mostly senior finance executives.
Study co-author Ahreum Maeng, a University of Kansas marketing professor, said Wall Street’s penchant for saucer-sized timepieces is in line with her findings. “They probably do a lot of negotiation type of work and they may need to hold the upper hand compared to others, so probably they have more need for competence or dominance than other people,” Maeng said.
In the study, researchers had 990 participants pick out a watch to wear to an important business meeting and to their 10-year high school reunion, where a bully who beat them up would be in attendance. In those scenarios, most participants chose the wider watches over the narrower ones. In another part of the study, researchers asked participants to pick out a car to rent for a business trip that would involve a tough negotiation with a competitor. Participants preferred cars with wider “faces” (the front of the car).
In situations where people would be seeing an old sweetheart or spending time with their families, they had no increased preference for the wide faces watches or wider cars, researchers found — a sign that the wider products were only useful to users in scenarios where people wanted to feel dominant.
A key takeaway from the research that watch and car companies may be interested to know: participants said they were willing to pay more for the wider products that made them feel dominant, researchers said.
In the highly stratified finance world, even wristwatches have a pecking order, said Cadmus, who worked at Goldman Sachs for eight years before starting her styling business.
Lower level employees, “who are always looking to communicate status,” tend to go for bigger watches, she said. The wider a watch face is, the more room it has to showcase complicated gadgetry — another status symbol, Cadmus said. And bigger watches read as more masculine, an important trait in the boys’ club atmosphere of the finance world, Cadmus said. “Anything that could be regarded as feminine, especially among traders, is not regarded well,” Cadmus said. “All the signifiers on them need to read very masculine. A small watch might communicate femininity on some level.”
A classic watch for a junior banker is the Rolex Submariner (40 mm wide), which sells for about $8,000 — a relative bargain that helps rookie employees broadcast that they can afford a Rolex, Cadmus said. The “quintessential banker watch” is the Rolex Daytona (also 40 mm wide; about $12,500), Cadmus said. Insiders see it as a “you have arrived” watch that someone buys when they become a vice president. A junior level employee who dares to wear a Daytona would be frowned upon for overstepping their bounds, Cadmus said.
Higher level employees such as managing directors prefer Patek Philippe “chronographs,” which can run past 42 mm and cost upwards of $40,000. And only Wall Street types at that very high level are “allowed” to wear a Patek Philippe, Cadmus cautioned.
Short-lived White House employee and founder of Skybridge Capital Anthony Scaramucci is reportedly a fan of Breitling Avenger, which has a staggering 48 mm-wide case, but is more reasonably priced at $5,835.
A watch may seem like a relatively inconsequential accessory, but it’s the type of detail that is closely monitored in the hierarchy-obsessed finance world, Cadmus said. Even fashion features that are almost invisible to the naked eye can speak volumes to insiders — contrast stitching on jacket buttonholes is a status symbol that means a suit was probably custom-made, she said.
Debates regularly break out on the career forum Wall Street Oasis about watches, and one rookie recently asked the forum which watch would make the best impression during a job interview handshake. “I’m looking for something with a lot of class [that] will say a lot about me,” he wrote .
Patrick Curtis, founder of Wall Street Oasis, told MarketWatch that many people in finance seem to prefer “more prestigious, less flashy watches.” That’s true: some high-powered execs wear a relatively low-profile timepiece. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is known for wearing a plastic Swatch.
The ultimate status symbol may be a naked wrist – Narrow or Wide Faces
“The new power move is to not wear a watch — to have your arsenal of very fancy watches at home and only wear them on certain occasions,” Cadmus said. “It’s like saying ‘I’m so confident I don’t even need to wear a watch.’”