There is a saying in urban lingo that goes “black don’t crack” and the same can be said for gold. One of the world’s most expensive natural minerals, gold serves a particularly interesting relationship with watchmaking.
Just as a reference is always made to the Nubian beauty of Nigerians and Africans in general due to colour their skin, well such can be said for gold. Essentially, to get that shiny valuable gem loved by jewellers and customers alike, one has to deal with the gold ore, which is a far cry from its shiny finished product.
The attractiveness of gold, its shine, and ability to resist weather elements and tarnishing, has made it the choice material for watch cases, from as far back as the 16th century to today’s multi-motor quartz wrist chronograph. But the use of gold was never just limited to the case and other visible parts.
In an effort to give watches an unprecedented value and linking that with functionality, most watch parts have been made using gold alloys or have been gold plated, as the mineral serves as a brazing compound, used for chip bonding and frequency adjustment in electronic watches.
A two ounce fine gold bank bullion bar, hollowed out to serve as a watchcase. (Century Time Gems, Nidau)
Anyways, this is not a history lesson on the use of gold in making watches, we cannot deny however, that the shiny metal is a staple in the wardrobe of many, many Nigerians, even if it is a fake. Truth is the role of gold hasn’t varied too much from the past. Gold is used to represent significance and personal worth.
And it is very common among several societies for power holders to dress in a way that’s emphasises the kind of power and wealth at one’s disposal.
Our Ghanaian brothers started the trend of dressing up in gold, as accounts have it that as far back as 1817, a local chieftain was said to be encrusted in glittering gold jewellery to the point that one wrist is so heavily laden with gold, that it was supported on the head of a small boy.
In today’s culture, the gold trend in Nigeria has shown no sign of stopping down. It almost feels like as if the watch market for Nigerians and indeed Africans acknowledges that fact and even though the claim is yet to be substantiated, there is belief that watches made for this market include more gold pieces.
There’s no denying that the intricate connection of having a connection to mother earth might play a role with our love for shiny watches – like a soul connection (even our African-American relations live for the “bling-bling” of gold). But it also boils down to the fact that as a people, we love to show-off. And what better way to show-off than with a gold-encrusted timepiece at a wedding or meeting or simple get-together with friends.
Of course, keeping in line with personal style, especially in Nigerian circles, the flashier the gold the more you are taking care of yourself and putting yourself ideally in proximity to the people who matter – the who-is-who.
Nigerians would shop for gold not just because they can’t help it but because there’s a need to be part of a particular class system and if there’s anything that speaks volumes at an event, it’s a watch.
Beware though, all that flash is neither right for the boardroom nor the ballroom, and certainly not for the streets of Mushin. But when you hear “Owambe”, “biko show them”.