How the Timepiece Became the Alternative Engagement Ring 


Spring 2024

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Many traditional industries have accused millennials of destroying them, from real estate and banks to disposable napkins and cutlery. But where established and ossified systems have failed to keep up with a tech-savvy and socially-conscious generation, new ones have taken their place.

Take the wedding industrial complex, for example. Passé wedding planners (and movies like The Wedding Planner) would have you believe that the only way to celebrate nuptials should be via larger-than-life, extravagant affairs, but the customary expectations of a white dress, grand venue, live music, tiered cake, and colour-coordinated bridal party have been completely revamped from the moment of engagement onwards.

The traditional presentation of a diamond-studded ring to a hoped-to-be-fiancée started with a bit of clever marketing by De Beers in 1947. Their famous slogan, “A diamond is forever,” helped to cement the precious gem’s status as the most acceptable (and flashy) way to declare enduring love. Of course, the circular shape itself is symbolic of something that has no end. 

However, a new trend has cropped up in the last few years. Instead of a man proposing to a woman with a minimum-1-carat, brilliant-cut, Tiffany-set stone on a platinum band, there are many more options to cater to other, non-heteronormative scenarios. 

For modern women and members of the LGBTQ+ community looking to pop the question to their beaux, the wristwatch has become an alternative option to the engagement ring. From classic Rolex Submariners to custom-made varieties, the engagement watch can hold the same prestige and meaning as a traditional ring but with added functionality. 

These timepieces can still be treated like heirloom items, fashion statements, and investments. They have versatility in design as well – you can have their faces encrusted with gems, backs engraved with intimate messages, and swap out the bands as often as you please. And of course, there are also variations that can suit classic, sporty, minimalist, and other aesthetics, depending on the style of the beloved individual.

The price point closely follows that of an engagement ring, starting from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on income. Legacy brands like Cartier, Piaget, Longines, Patek Phillipe, Chopard, and Omega are popular choices, but more affordable — yet still stylish — options can be found through Movado, Vieren, Original Grain, Nixon, Shinola, and Tissot. Many of these brands also offer customization so that deeper meaning can be imbued in the watch.

Another selling point is that the engagement wristwatch doesn’t come with the same social baggage as a ring on the fourth digit on the left hand. Instead of displaying relationship status (or as some may see it, ownership), a watch is less open for others to decipher meaning or make presumptions, although it can still mean a lot to the happy couple. And it is less likely to get lost than a tiny ring!

For non-traditionalists who have locked down their relationship with a timepiece, the rest of the wedding planning (or, gasp, elopement) can be as unique and out-of-the-box as they are. And with COVID allowing virtual attendance to be socially acceptable for the planning committee and for out-of-town guests, the options are even more open for creativity.

So, as we settle into our new normal, let new traditions form to bind us together in love and joy.

The Elixuer Team

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