Alice Arden had already planned to ask his partner to marry her when he surprised him with a proposal. His partner Ben Knudtson and he were on a weekend-long vacation in Bellingham, Washington in November 2020. When they got back to their Airbnb, Knudtson popped the question. . .
Arden and Knudtson decided to make their union official with a watch, instead of an engagement ring. Arden says, “I believe he was looking to find something that would fit us both aesthetically and also feel personal. Watches feel more personal.”
Knudtson and Arden aren’t alone in feeling this way. “Engagement watches,” are quickly becoming a fad. The hashtags #engagementwatches and #engagementwatches have been growing in popularity on Instagram. Moreover, sellers are promoting their watches to soon-to be brides.
Watches are an option for some, particularly women who want to propose to their gay partners or to get engaged.
Knudtson and Arden aren’t big believers in the institution marriage. However, they believe it is important to formalize their relationship legally. Arden said they wanted to take this step on their terms.
They don’t match but they do come from the same brand, Original Grain. Original Grain specializes in handcrafted pieces inspired the Pacific Northwest. Knudtson and Arden have made the watches in a nod to their “forever home” of Seattle, and their favorite drinks: They are made from repurposed beer barrels and wine barrels. The watches provided the couple with a way to share in the tradition of marriage and engagement in a more personal manner, without having to worry about outdated social norms and the high price of rings. Each Original Grain watch is worth between $200 and $6,000.
Morgan Le Caer is a global content lead at Lyst. She says that this season more couples are choosing to forgo traditional rings for engagement presents and instead choose gender-neutral watches. Lyst has experienced a 42% rise in searches for “couple,” engagement, and “wedding” watches over the past year. Le Caer adds that models usually marketed for men, like the Rolex Pre-owned 40mm Submariner, are getting more attention from female shoppers. . .
Since the 15th century, engagement rings have been in various forms. Men traditionally gave women rings to signify a marital agreement. The modern use of diamond rings for proposing dates back to the 20th century. After diamond rings were made more popular in 1947, De Beers, a British firm, launched an advertising campaign to increase their popularity in the United States. Diamond rings are the most expensive form of engagement gift.
According to the De Beers Group’s 2019 Diamond Insight Report, 72% of brides got a diamond. Prices for engagement rings vary depending on their carat size, brand, and metal. However, according to The Knot’s 2020 Jewelry & Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,500. This is a significant amount to drop for many couples, especially if one of the partners has to pay.
Some people find the absence of a tangible object that announces their relationship status appealing to them. Arden claims that they have not been asked about their relationship or engagement since November last year, which is something that he is thankful for.
He says, “I believe that if we wore rings, people would have an interest in it. But my watch doesn’t indicate that it is an engagement ring.”
According to McKinsey & Associates, watches have seen a surge in popularity over the past few years. Co’s 2021 State Of Fashion Report. The appeal of high-end pieces as investment items made them a strong category during the pandemic. Experts interviewed say that rings are still the most popular engagement piece. However, watches offer intimacy and versatility that could eventually outweigh the cons of a traditional ring.
Lisa Fristik, senior director of fine jewelry and watches at Fashionphile, has also seen an interest in the trend: Fashionphile is currently on track to sell more watches in 2021 than it did the previous year, doubling its revenue from this category. The site has seen 73% more searches for “watch” than in 2020. Meanwhile, the number of searches for “women’s watch” has increased 92% over last year. Fristik adds that watches are often considered jewelry by women.
Fristik claims that watches are increasingly popular as engagement gifts because they are considered heritage investment pieces, much in the same way as rings. Fristik says that watches can also be tailored to individual tastes.
Fristik would be able to tell. She gave her husband a watch in 2012 when they got married. He didn’t want to wear any wedding rings. He said that he has long thin fingers so rings looked silly on him. She remembers that she would like a watch. It’s personal preference.
Knudtson and Arden will wed in a small ceremony for 30 people on October 20, 2021. The couple will then be able to wear wedding rings. Arden reflects back on their engagement and says that even if it was the other way, he wouldn’t have picked a ring.
He says, “The more I think about this, watches are what I would have gone for.”