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Silicon Valley elite like Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook are obsessed with these watches

Silicon Valley elite like Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook are obsessed with these watches
  • Business Insider asked style experts about the most popular watch brands worn by technology titans.

  • They say a watch has become more than a status symbol — it's a tool for personal branding.

  • Old-school brands like Casio are hot, and luxury brands like Omega and Cartier are on the rise.

Unlike professionals in finance who have long seen the value of "a statement," those in the tech industry have been characterized — and even mocked — for their fixation on utility and simplicity. (Think: the old tech bro uniform of jeans and a hoodie.)

But some tech titans are moving toward fancier fashion choices of their own, and since the pandemic, that increasingly involves a watch, according to experts.

Paul Altieri, CEO and founder of online watch resale marketplace Bob's Watches, told Business Insider that there are two kinds of Silicon Valley elite. "Some, like Bill Gates, go for the $50 model, and some are wearing Omega, Richard Mille, or Rolex," he said.

Plus, there are those like Apple CEO Tim Cook and 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki who prefer the convenience of a smartwatch.

Most executives are looking for "the genius factor" or something unique about their timepiece, Victoria Hitchcock, a fashion lifestylist and personal brander in the San Francisco Bay area, told BI.

And as they have more public-facing roles, they're looking to up their style and status as potential fashion icons, Hitchcock said.

What you have on your wrist, it seems, has become yet another tool of personal branding. With that in mind, here's a closer look at the watches trending in Silicon Valley.

Casio is considered an old favorite among Silicon Valley's heavy hitters.

composite image Bill gates walking with Evan Greenberg and Casio watch
Bill Gates wearing a Casio MDV106, which retails for about $60 on Amazon.Kieth Dietsch/Getty Images Amazon

Casio is a Japanese electronic manufacturing company that was founded in 1946. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is often seen sporting a Casio Duro, a model that retails for around $70.

 

Omega has an extensive history of being worn by those in engineering and science.

Jeff Bezos hugging his mother
Jeff Bezos wears an Omega Speedster watch. The particular model can be purchased for around $6,000.Joe Raedle/Getty

Omega has been making Swiss luxury watches since 1848. The 1970 Apollo 13 mission relied on the capabilities of the Omega Speedmaster watch to help the crew return safely to and from Earth.

In 2021, Jeff Bezos wore an Omega Speedmaster on his own expedition into space.

Elon Musk has also been seen wearing an Omega watch. His model of choice appears to be the Seamaster Aqua Terra, according to GQ.

And more recently, Hitchcock said she has clients asking after an Omega made in collaboration with fellow watchmaker Swatch. The Mission to the Moonphase collection features two space-themed watches with Snoopy from "Charlie Brown" on the dials for $310.

"That one actually is a very low ticket one, but it's sought after by a handful of people already," she said.

Oracle chief technology officer Larry Ellison has been photographed wearing a Richard Mille RM 0029.

Larry Ellison talking into microphone
The Richard Mille RM 0029 as seen on Larry Ellison sells for more than $170,000 on retail site Jomashop.Kimberly White/Stringer/Getty

The Swiss luxury brand Richard Mille is known for creating watches that cost up to $2 million, and it's a favorite of athletes and musicians. Yet it also remains popular with the tech crowd for its understated approach to luxury.

"Across sectors, professionals select watches that broadcast their identity and aspirations. Watches remain profound personal statements regardless of whether one is developing software or sealing a game-changing deal," Altieri said.

Altieri said watches, in general, are being used more and more for personal branding. There's a level of showmanship to wearing a watch now, even if Silicon Valley leaders are sticking to their tried and true favorite brands.

For example, Oracle CTO Larry Ellison has an extensive Richard Mille collection, according to Altieri.

The Apple Watch performs as an extension of the iPhone.

Anne Wojcicki (R), founder and CEO of 23andMe, and Marcus Wallenberg speaking
Anne Wojcicki is the CEO and founder of personal genomics company 23andMe.Kimberly White/Getty

Apple debuted its Apple Watch in 2015, and it quickly gained popularity among those looking for wearable technology. Apple Watch models range from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 on the company's official site.

While most of Silicon Valley sports understated gray or black smartwatch faces — including 23andMe's Anne Wojcicki — some women gravitate toward yellow or rose gold accents for the face, Hitchcock said.

Appropriately, Apple's chief executive Tim Cook is often photographed sporting his Apple Watch with a variety of band colors.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
When Tim Cook is dressed casually, he can usually be seen with an Apple Watch.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In more recent shots, it looks like Cook is sporting the latest Apple Watch Ultra 2.

The tech giant has had trouble rolling out its Ultra 2 and Series 9 watches in the US over patent disputes, but the pieces are still available for purchase on Apple's website. The Ultra 2 retails for around $800.

Mark Zuckerberg has said he's not a watch guy, but he was wowed by another billionaire's Richard Mille.

Anant Ambani (left) and Mark Zuckerberg (right).
Anant Ambani (left) and Mark Zuckerberg (right).Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images; Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Zuckerberg was among many billionaires invited to a wedding hosted by India's richest family. A clip of him being stunned by Anant Ambani's 18-karat rose gold Richard Mille RMS10 Asia Tourbillon Koi fish Edition went viral online.

The watch, which has a dial decorated with koi fish — as the name suggests, falls under the "distinctive" category that Hitchcock said more tech execs are looking for.

"You know, I never really wanted a watch, but after seeing that, I was like, 'Watches are cool,'" Zuckerberg can be heard saying in the video.

The blinged-out timepiece would reportedly cost him about $1.25 million, but he can certainly afford it.

Cartier makes watches for both new collectors and seasoned enthusiasts with pieces ranging from under $3,000 to more than $1 million on the secondary market.

Cartier Ballon Bleu
The Ballon Bleu de Cartier 33mm costs about $6,200 for some models.Cartier

Jack Dorsey has been seen wearing a rare rose-gold skeleton Cartier Crash — a rare watch that fetches at least six figures on the resale market.

Yet many people in Silicon Valley who wear the French brand opt for simpler watch models. Hitchcock said the Ballon Bleu de Cartier is becoming a favorite with women in tech and can cost up to $30,000 for larger models.

 

Dorsey was spotted among Jay-Z and Beyoncé at Super Bowl LVII wearing a flashy watch.

Group of people watching a sports game from the stands, with a skitched yellow arrow pointing out a t-shirt
Jack Dorsey at 2024's Super Bowl.Carmen Mandato / Getty Images

This isn't the ultra-rare, uber-expensive Cartier Crash he's been seen in, but the watch still makes a statement with its yellow dial.

Still, exactly which brand he decided to wear to the Super Bowl in February is unclear.

Demand for Rolex watches surged throughout the pandemic as people began seeing their investment potential.

Rolex Lady Datejust
The 28mm Rolex Lady-Datejust in white gold with factory diamonds is priced at over $16,000 on the official Rolex site.Bob's Watches

While prices for Rolex watches have recently dropped to record lows on the secondary markets over the past two years, they remain popular for their design.

Caitlin Hausser, a store director for a New York-based official Rolex retailer, told BI that she often sees female clients looking to celebrate milestones like a promotion or a new baby.

While Casio watches may be the cheapest brand on the list, Hitchcock believes the piece still makes a statement about its wearer.

Casio G-Shock GBD800 Watch
Casio's G-Shock GBD800 is priced at $110, according to Casio's website.REI

"They are the same people who are buying the old-school kind of daddy sneakers or grandpa sneaker buyers," she said, adding that there's a nostalgia factor to the brand.

Patek Philippe watches remain popular with tech professionals for their understated take on luxury, Altieri told BI.

Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek Philippe's Nautilus Chronograph from the brand's current collection is priced at $108,820.Patek Philippe

In general, Altieri describes a "Patek Philippe enthusiast" as the kind of person who digs into the finer details of watchmaking.

"They're all about craftsmanship, complex features, and exclusivity," he added, not to mention having a pretty high budget for a timepiece.

The Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph, a go-to for the tech crowd, can be upward of $100,000.

Hitchcock said the luxury Italian brand Panerai is one of her "all-time" favorites.

Panerai
The Panerai Submersible collection has several different models, which range in price from under $10,000 to more than $85,000 according to the brand's website.Bob's Watches

Because Panerai produces just a fraction of the timepieces that a brand like Rolex does yearly, they're not likely to be spotted on everyone, Hitchcock explained.

"Part of the allure is recognizing its small group of in-the-know fans," she said. "Those that know it definitely discuss it amongst each other in social settings and business."

But Altieri said that Panerai has experienced a "lull in marketability" compared to other luxury watches in 2024. Still, he said the company has the potential to bounce back.

Timex watches are known for their affordability and dependability, and most models are priced under $500.

timex
Timex watches are a simple yet popular option in Silicon Valley. The Metropolitan+ Activity Tracker Smart Watch is $199 on Amazon.Amazon

In its nearly 170-year history, Timex watches have been worn by celebrities and US presidents alike. Hitchcock said the no-frills functional brand is also a staple in the tech industry.

"I believe that a good timepiece, even if it's a Timex or Casio, does say something about someone," Hitchcock told BI. "It should have function; it should be streamlined and customized to that person's personal brand and personality."

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