Wall Street professionals can be a bit snobby, and at the very least, they are highly attuned to class and status, whether consciously or not. Even if you’re in the midst of achieving an incredible rags-to-riches story, how you’re perceived matters. And how you're perceived can be helped by a watch.
"Most juniors in banking tend to stay away from higher-end watches, due to both the cost and the perception," says an analyst working in New York at a Canadian investment bank. "My guess would be that 70% or so of juniors wear watches, and they tend to be either smartwatches such as Apple Watches and Fitbits or more mass-produced pieces from brands like Seiko.
"Occasionally you see a junior banker wearing a vintage piece, typically a Rolex, that was passed down from a family member," he says.
Once you get to the VP level and up, luxury watches tend to become more common.
"Rolex is by far the most popular brand, with the DateJust and Submariner appearing most frequently," the IB analyst says. "Rolex's stainless-steel GMT models are also quite popular, and occasionally you will see a Rolex Daytona, but these are definitely rarer than other Rolex models.
"Outside of Rolex, other brands that are popular among senior bankers include Panerai, IWC, Omega and Tag Heuer," he adds. "Bankers who are extremely senior and have a passion for watches may sometimes wear Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantine and A. Lange & Söhne.
"These are by far the rarest choices, largely because of the astronomical cost, as well as the relative obscurity of some of these brands for those who aren't watch-aficionados."
Here's a rundown of suggestions for which watches bankers should buy at various rungs of the ladder on Wall Street, and how much they will cost you.
An Apple Watch is the default accessory for many banking interns. Others mentioned the Casio G-Shock (ranging between $40 and $190), but those don’t garner respect from old-school senior bankers.
One IB analyst, who says he doesn’t get caught up in the office fashion competition, notes that watches with "leather straps" are increasingly common and that he's spotted peers in an Autodromo Chronograph (from $700 to 1,800) watch and another wearing a Breitling Avenger ($5,835). Plenty of analysts wear a Fitbit or another activity tracker, especially as dress codes get more casual (relatively speaking – he still wears a suit and tie every day but can sometimes take off his jacket and roll up his shirtsleeves in the summer).
The most watch-conscious analysts go for the Rolex Submariner ($7,200), which is popular among second- and third-year analysts but also impressive enough to last you at least a promotion or two.
One cocky IB associate says he likes his Tag Heuer Grand Carrera ($4,600), which BlackRock CEO Larry Fink also wears, but it’s not a slam-dunk choice for a junior banker.
An IB vice president at a major Wall Street bank touted the Panerai Radiomir 1940 collection (ranging from $7,600 to $22,500).
The Rolex Daytona ($12,500), which Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti both wear, is incredibly popular among investment bankers, especially VPs – or you can go with a Vacheron Constantin Overseas ($19k) or a Panerai Luminor (ranging from $7k to $28,300).
An IB ED said he went for a Glashutte Senator Skeleton Dial ($46,500), but he doesn’t wear it every day. He still has a Submariner that holds sentimental value for him.
A Wall Street managing director said that his favorite luxury watch brand is A. Lange & Söhne.
As an MD, you can’t go wrong with a Patek Philippe such as the Nautilus Chronograph ($50k) or, if you want to walk the line between ostentatious and classy, the coveted white-gold Perpetual Calendar ($93k).
If you reach this level, you won’t need to impress anyone. For example, Goldman’s David Solomon often sports a Shinola Runwell Chronograph (ranging from $750 to $1,500), Lloyd Blankfein wears a Swatch (from $50 to $245) and Hank Paulson has a Nike sport swatch ($85). Some big-wig bankers – including J.P. Morgan chairman/CEO Jamie Dimon – don’t wear a watch at all.
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