My Journey into Watch Nerdism

For years now I have been carrying on a very public affair with my wrist watch. Or rather, wrist watches. From my first watch (a movie tie-in from the late 1970’s) to my latest (a Swiss made diver’s chronograph) and every one in between I have simply been fascinated by these little time keeping machines. What started out as an affair of necessity over time grew into one of admiration, marvel and a fair bit of obsession.

Growing up wearing a watch was simply a matter of necessity. It was the 70’s and 80’s (even 90’s) and small portable devices that also held the time were simply not found. In today’s era we have dozens of opportunities around us to find the time: mobile phones, media players, tablets, netbooks, laptops, you name it. Just look around your kitchen and I would bet you have at least three devices that have a clock (we have a total of six in ours). Not in my day, no sir. It was a wrist watch or you had to dial the time. If neither were present you guessed. I was a lousy guesser (I guess) so I wore watches.

My first watch that I can remember came right out of the late 1970’s: a Texas Instruments Star Wars C3PO & R2D2 digital watch. Man I loved that thing. I was seven when Star Wars came out and like any other kid at that time I became enamored with everything Star Wars. The watch was just another piece of memorabilia at first, but I became accustomed to it’s feel on my wrist and the convenience of having the time at hand (hey, I was seven but I had places to be, Jack). Sadly, it was not long for this world: my parents had (have) summer property with a creek running right through the back yard and I quickly learned the importance of “water resistance” in watches. My watch (and my brother’s Darth Vader version) both ended up submerged and were never to work again. That watch may have been short lived, but my interest had just gotten started.

The style of watch I wore for much of my youth.

For my teens and into my twenties the watches I wore came out of what was available where I grew up. Montana was not exactly a hotbed of watch activity (that’s different today, however, thanks to the Montana Watch Company and the Bozeman Watch Company) and as such all I knew of were quartz watches. Another fact to consider regarding my selection was the so called quartz revolution that took place in the early 1970’s which nearly killed off the Swiss watch industry (more on that another time). Quartz watches were the prominent timepieces throughout my childhood. I went through a number of quartz digital watches by Casio, Texas Instruments or Seiko, all of the same basic format: digital display, usually the days of the week abbreviated across the top, chronograph and an alarm that wouldn’t wake anything it was so quiet. I probably went through a couple dozen of these over time, and I can always remember myself being with one. When I reached high school and eventually college I grew out of the all digital phase and moved to three-hand analog watches: hours, minutes and seconds. Maybe the date thrown in as well. I also had more than one watch, sometimes two or three, maybe four, but that was pushing it (can’t imagine having that few now!). As with earlier I was still limited to quartz watches, both through my under graduate and graduate studies. It would take a revolution for my collection habits to really change.

My daily wear watch, Citizen Navihawk, from 1997-2002.

That revolution came about at the end of the 1990’s and early 2000: the internet boom. Suddenly everyone was on-line and raking it in, including, as I learned, watch manufactures. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of the www, I just had never considered it as an option to source watches. I had been wearing the same watch for about three years (a Citizen Navihawk) and hadn’t really had the itch to look. When that watch finally died in 2002 I turned to the internet and had my eyes thoroughly opened. For years I had thought that automatic watches were out of reach of “normal” consumers, that prices would be way too high for me to obtain one, so I hadn’t even considered it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were dozens and dozens of options available and models and styles and brands I had never considered, all at affordable prices. As a result, I went nuts. I joined watch forums for discussions and suggestions, I bought and sold, I photographed my watches to post and show others. I had entered what I call my “mechanical phase” of collecting. The quartz watches I wore for most of my life were no longer of interest to me, I wanted mechanical watches. These wonderful little hand made machines that, although less accurate than a quartz, were far more fascinating. The gears, the mainspring, the escapement, beat rates, hacking seconds, jewels; I had to consume all of this terminology and I loved it. Learning bit by bit the basics of how they work and then realizing that these little machines required me to power them up, not with a battery, but with the movement of my wrist or a winding of the crown.

It was then, in early 2002 that my interest in watches turned to a bit of an obsession. Since that time I have bought and sold over 100 watches from a variety of manufactures in a plethora of styles. I’ve been a moderator on a popular watch forum since 2003 and post regularly on several others. I have a few hundred photos of my watches posed on various backgrounds and with various props and own two home-made photo light boxes to aide in the process. I began to not only be obsessed with my own watches but those worn by others, so much so that I started a website capturing screen grabs of watches found in movies and TV shows as was recently interviewed by a London-based watch magazine on the topic. I made my biggest purchase to date of an Omega Seamaster Chronograph for my upcoming birthday in August; the hardest watch related thing I’ve ever done is not wear this watch as I’ve had it sitting safely tucked away for the past five months waiting for that day in August when I finally get to put it on. If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

The latest, an Omega Seamaster Chronograph

Thus chronicles my watch nerdism journey to date. I’m pleased that I get to share my nerdism with the community. In future posts I plan to detail some mechanical watch terminology and basics as well as look at some slick watches that are and have been available as well. I am also in talks with an American watch maker (a rare breed) for an exclusive interview. Watch this space for upcoming watch nerdism news.

Photo credits:
Star Wars Watch: Christopher G. Moy
Casio: Casio USA Website
Citizen Navihawk: James Enloe
Omega Seamaster Chronograph: rgautschi on WatchUSeek