Talking to Shane Warne taught me how a man should choose his watch Talking to Shane Warne taught me how a man should choose his watch

Talking to Shane Warne taught me how a man should choose his watch

Luke Benedictus

I met Shane Warne last June on a photoshoot. He turned up slightly late with his mahogany suntan and dazzling white teeth and instantly won over the crew with his forthright charm. Not that he needed to make any effort. Because we were already completely in awe of him.

Shane Warne
Fans visiting Shane Warne’s statue at the MCG after the cricketer legend’s sudden death

It’s hard to explain what a big deal Warnie was in Australia. Of course, it was partly due to the impossible genius of his right-arm leg-spin, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Following his cricketing retirement, he was a brilliant commentator too, his insights as penetrating as his leg breaks that arrowed into the batsman’s crease.

But the national love affair with Warnie also stemmed from the way he exemplified the larrikin spirit. A “larrikin” is defined as “an uncultivated, rowdy but good-hearted person”. Or a lovable rogue in other words. This is a character trait that’s become mythologised into the Australian identity, that notion of being a free-wheeling, straight-shooting kind of bloke with enough charisma to ensure your various indiscretions pass unnoticed. Think Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee. Or Bob Hawke necking a beer at the Boxing Day Test.

Shane Warne

The larrikin myth feels increasingly out-of-step with modern Australia and that’s if it was ever truly relevant in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this is a wonderful country. But I must also concede that behind the easy-going image, Australia is much more rule-bound and conservative than outsiders may think.  Life in Oz, is increasingly regulated – when I lived in Melbourne’s CBD, for example, I twice got cautioned for jay-walking. Nanny state accusations are hard to dismiss in a land where bicycle helmets are mandatory and you’re not allowed to buy a full-strength beer at the MCG. And that’s before we get into the severity of last year’s lockdown restrictions. As Clive James wryly observed: “The problem with Australians is not that so many of them are descended from convicts, but that so many of them are descended from prison officers.”

Shane Warne

Warnie, who died of a heart attack last week at the age of 52, represented the antidote to all this. He was a Marlboro Light-smoking bundle of chutzpah and irrepressible fun. Sure, he occasionally screwed up – the sexting, the Indian bookmaker scandal, that undignified scene in a pair of Playboy underpants. But we invariably forgave all these scandals because he was, well, Warnie.

Plus he was shrewdly aware about his weaknesses too. ‘‘The problem is there’s still a big kid inside me who likes to have fun,” Warnie confessed in an interview with GQ. “I am passionate about my cricket and I love my family. But I’m also a kid, and maybe I need to grow up, and maybe I don’t. Life isn’t a rehearsal, it’s about having fun.”

What’s all this got to do with watches? Well, at that shoot, Warnie was being photographed with his son, Jackson, for a Father’s Day story in Men’s Health. As the stylist fussed about removing specks of lint and tweaking collars, Warnie clocked his son’s watch – an unremarkable quartz piece (so unremarkable I can’t even remember what it was). “Why aren’t you wearing that Hublot I got you,” he asked Jackson.

Shane Warne

And so we got talking about watches – a subject that Warnie turned out to be passionate about. He was wearing a black Panerai Radiomir that day and admitted he was a big fan of the brand, also owning a white Luminor Marina. But his collection was quite broad, he said, and included everything from TAG Heuer to Hublot.

Shane Warne

Asked to pick his favourite piece, he immediately selected his Rolex GMT-Master II “Batman” that he wore on a Jubilee bracelet. But he suspected the pieces that had got most wrist time over recent years were his Breitling for Bentley watches.

Warnie was sufficiently enthused with all this watch talk to say that he’d consider doing a proper T+T interview at some stage down the track. Sadly, I didn’t get around to organising it and now I never will.

The reason I’d liked to have spoken to him in greater depth is that in 2022, a watch is now more about self-expression than time-keeping. And Warnie’s choice of watches succeeded in delivering the ideal line and length for the man. The Panerais, the Breitling, the Rolex are unapologetically macho watches. As such, they feel pitch-perfect for this legendary sportsman and lover, who lived life with the handbrake off and packed as many hijinks into his 52 years as humanly possible. A demure 36mm dress watch wouldn’t really have been Warnie’s jam. He needed watches that were as big, as bold and as blatant as his magnificent life.

Shane Warne

Shane Warne

For some guys, a Panerai or Breitling might seem a bit testosterone-heavy. But that was Shane Warne’s essence – he wore watches that mirrored who he was and the reason we loved him was for precisely this authenticity and lack of pretence. Warnie understood his nature and his watches reflected that self-acceptance. As he observed in the recent documentary, Shane: “I smoked, I drank, I bowled a bit. No regrets”.