Time Is On His Side: The Immortal Keith Richards And His Beloved Watches
As the Rolling Stones hit the road for their No Filter tour, it's high time we take a look at five ways in which their legendarily louche guitarist is the ultimate watch man.
At the age of 75, Keith Richards is the ultimate rock and roll god. First of all, he deserves this accolade for surviving to the ripe age of 75 (his drinking and drugging are legendary), but also for inspiring the fashion choices of aspiring musicians for generations. Richards wore guyliner when emo kids like Pete Wentz were just twinkles in their parent’s unlined eyes. Johnny Depp took his wild hair, scarves, skinny jeans, and layers of accessories, as the basis for his 'Pirates of the Caribbean' look.
Does it seem strange that a guy who embodies the sex and drugs and rock and roll lifestyle would make wearing a wristwatch an anchor of his style? Yes and no. Keith doesn’t need to be on time for anything, he can do whatever he wants, when he wants, and make it cool. Here’s a look back at some of his signature timepieces.
Panthère de Cartier
The Rolling Stones have always defied time. Even though they exploded onto the scene in the sixties, n and made some of their most accomplished albums in the seventies (Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Some Girls), they have still managed to remain relevant throughout the decades. In the Eighties, they had a string of MTV-staple hits like Start Me Up, Waiting On A Friend, and Harlem Shuffle. By the nineties, Richards’ days of drug busts and creating international scandals by partying with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s wife were over.
Likewise, at the time, Cartier was reinventing itself. After Pierre Cartier’s death in 1964, the business was split up into three branches: Cartier New York, Cartier Paris, and Cartier London. Each branch had different lines, including the introduction of the less luxurious Must de Cartier collections. In 1983, new investors amalgamated the different branches and one of their first introductions was the Panthère de Cartier.
This elegant, time-only watch was also one of the first gender-neutral watches and therefore perfect for the androgynous look of Keith Richards. While the collection vanished in the early 2000s, it was resurrected in 2017 as a women’s collection (the largest size is the medium at 27mm). Good news for ladies that like to move like Richards (after all, Patti Smith has cited him as an influence).
IWC Portugieser Chronograph
In 2006, the then 62-year-old Richards got a concussion after falling out of a coconut tree in Fiji. This says something about his ability to keep trying new things while proving to be un-killable. Likewise, when IWC released the Portugieser chronograph in 1998, they updated a much-loved classic and made it even more iconic. This watch soon became a favorite of some of the most fashionable men on the planet, including designer Tom Ford and Keith Richards.
Just as Richard’s technique pays homage to the great rhythm and blues guitarists, this chronograph gives a tip of the hat to the design details of the original 1930s Portugieser with its Arabic indexes and clean white dial. The addition of two sub counters at 12 and 6 o’clock just give it a little extra swagger.
And like Richard’s stripped-down musical style, the caliber 3714 movement is, simple yet robust. Not a lot of decoration, but updated with a higher quality escapement, balance, and hairspring (which reminds us of the false rumor that Richard’s beat his heroin addiction by having his blood replaced at a Swiss clinic).
STAUER 1922 Automatic
This now discontinued Stauer 1922 seems to have been a staple of Richards’ wardrobe in the Aughties. During this period, Johnny Depp cited Keith Richards as an inspiration for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Eventually, Richards was cast as Sparrow’s father Captain Teague in At World's End (2007) and On Stranger Tides (2011).
Richards is not a conventional guy, and Stauer is not a conventional watch company. This online and catalog only brand markets itself as “The Robin Hood of Watchmakers” and is best known for selling retro designs for under $500.
Now Richards is not a steal from the rich type (sources estimate his 2019 worth to be over $300 million dollars). And he has been with his partner Patti Hansen since 1979, so he doesn’t have the alimony issues of a Mick Jagger. Nor is he a pillaging pirate sort either. Still, Keef seems to appreciate value. Hence the slightly flashy but reasonably priced Stauer.
Zenith El Primero Skeleton Tribute to the Rolling Stones
Keith Richards is as cool a watch guy as they come. Sometimes he even wears two at a time.
While Keith has never been a brand ambassador, the Rolling Stones have. Back in 2014, Zenith began making special ‘Rolling Stones Tribute’ editions. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a photo of any of the Stones sporting one. However, we think Richards would wear the El Primero Skeleton Tribute to the Rolling Stones well.
After all, the Rolling Stones are legendary. The Zenith El Primero is legendary. This black ceramic and open-worked version is not only rock and roll, but it’s also got some impressive complications. It’s powered by the 326-part El Primero Caliber 400B with chronograph, tachymeter and date functions, and over 50-hour of power reserve.
And with its famous “tongue and lips” logo on the seconds disc, it’s much better merch than any concert t-shirt. Unfortunately, this 250-piece limited edition sold out years ago, but liked scalped concert tickets, they still occasionally show up on the secondary market.