“If all I cared about was timekeeping, I’d get a digital watch!”
January 13, 2024 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I don't know why, because I have read many worse things about many worse people recently, but this is giving me unusually strong eat the rich vibes this morning.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:20 AM on January 13 [47 favorites]

a certain subset of stylish guys—Andy Warhol notably among them—haven’t concerned themselves with correct timekeeping for decades.
Am I missing something here? Warhol hasn’t concerned himself with much of anything for, oooh, 35 years or so now. So this is technically true But.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:21 AM on January 13 [57 favorites]

That's fascinating, if maybe unsurprising on reflection. I've never owned a Cartier or equivalent and presumably never will, but I do like bracelets, and I have a few wristwatches, though I haven't worn them for years now. I feel vaguely ridiculous for saying this, but I resent the heck out of Big Wristwatch for taking up any of the artistic and cultural space where men's bracelets would otherwise happily reside. Big Epaulet, I'm coming for you next.
posted by cupcakeninja at 7:24 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]

It’s less a watch, and more a bracelet. Flavor-Flav wearing a Fabergé egg on his wrist. You don’t need a watch to tell the time. You know what time it is. It’s my time.
posted by bigbigdog at 7:26 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]

You know, I appreciated this article just because I really enjoy reading articles from wildly different perspectives that I’ve never shared. It’s never occurred to me that a watch might be primarily an ornament and not a timekeeping device.

Like, I do think watches can be beautiful objects. But that’s not why I have them.
posted by learning from frequent failure at 7:30 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]

a certain subset of stylish guys—Andy Warhol notably among them—haven’t concerned themselves with correct timekeeping for decades.

In the future, everyone will be famous for an indeterminate period.
posted by box at 7:32 AM on January 13 [81 favorites]

This was the bit that got me:

"I do use my phone,” he said. “I'm guilty as everyone else. But a watch is just a lovely thing to own, isn't it?”

I do love analogue watches, especially self-winding ones (although after a near-miss catching a flight home once when my beloved Seiko ran down, my wife got me one that self-winds only to charge the quartz battery that runs it). I've loved digital watches, too, like my first, a black Texas Instruments one that lit up its red LEDs when you pressed a button to read it (a bit like this), or the calculator watch with tiny rubber buttons that my dad bought me in high school. I've stuck with wearing watches even through the smartphone years, and couldn't imagine not actually using them to tell the time. Until now...
posted by rory at 7:33 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

I know a couple of watch enthusiasts and I can appreciate watches as beautiful pieces of machinery, but when I was in grade seven I got one for my birthday, spent a few days constantly checking the time while at school and making it go by even slower than it already was, then took it off and haven't worn one since.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:48 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

This makes me think of cars. Not utilitarian cars, but expensive supercars, or antique cars, or project cars. The chance that they'll be used to get from point A to point B is low, with the exception of the very occasional actually-working, actually-road-legal project car.
posted by clawsoon at 7:49 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Any other Gen Xers here who remember competing with friends in high school to see who could get the lowest time on the stopwatch on their digital watches? Pressing that side button as fast as you can, dit-dit, di-dit, d-dit. Who needs a PS5.
posted by rory at 7:53 AM on January 13 [61 favorites]

My instinct is to hate this and to think that it kind of insults the people who designed the watches. The whole point is that functional objects should be beautiful and that you shouldn't have to prioritize function over design or vice versa. You're losing part of the point if you treat them merely as decorative objects, because they are supposed to be both decorative *and* functional. But I also think that there's no way in hell I'd remember to wind a watch every day, so if I happened to be the kind of person who collected watches (and I could be, because I definitely share the collecting impulse), I would only set the self-winding ones.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:53 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]

I wondered about the Warhol reference too. Maybe if you don’t care about your watch working, you don’t care if your favorite artist is working either.
posted by heyitsgogi at 8:11 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]

My dad was very into watches, he hoarded a couple dozen nicer* watches over the last few decades of his life. From what I observed, it seems a lot of men form European/North America background's where there's not a tradition of masculine jewelry sublimate their desire for adornment with watches (or class rings,** my dad had three of those that he only purchased once he had the disposable income in his 50s). While none of them were regularly set except the one he wore that day, he absolutely set the time whenever he put on a watch while he was still working. But at the end of his life, as his eye-sight and executive function declined to a certain point , he still wore watches when he had trouble using them.

*Full (class conscious) disclosure, while we're very lucky and grateful that the parents were able to afford luxury items, Pa never could afford a Rolex or Phillip Patek. I'd guess the most expensive watches he bought were still on the order of an okay-level Mall Jewelry Store bracelet or necklace.

** Or medical alert bracelets. Dude always had a pretty nice medical alert necklace or bracelet.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:12 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

I have a number of watches (nothing this high end), because, yeah, my culture gives men so few chances to accessorize without it becoming A Thing. It makes for a small luxury, makes me feel good about myself and how I look, it’s a small means of self-expression. So, I totally get this.

But *wearing* a watch that wasn’t set right? That I can’t do. I’d be checking it even more then.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:22 AM on January 13 [11 favorites]

the irksome bit in this is the "TRUE WATCHHEADS DO X..." and then he goes on to find people who kind of support his position, but not entirely, then not at all.

So, yeah, people wear watches, some for timekeeping, others for sparkly bits, thanks GQ.

I like watches, I have a few and wear them often but I think this article is strange
posted by djseafood at 8:23 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

In the future, everyone will be famous for an indeterminate period dead.
posted by chavenet at 8:31 AM on January 13 [16 favorites]

> I have read many worse things about many worse people recently, but this is giving me unusually strong eat the rich vibes this morning.

IKR?? I'm unreasonably angry with this guy for refusing to just call it a bracelet and flaunt his jewelry honestly.

... wait I may have solved the puzzle for myself, our rage is not unusual or unreasonable at all, it's just a response to the sheer bro-ness of this guy layered on top of his flashy rich person antics.

This right here is the guy who tells you he "reads" Infinite Jest all the way through every year ---- by rolling all his joints out of pages from his custom-printed copies of the book. And also his copies of the book all have diamond covers which he uses to light up his joints, because the diamonds act as lenses concentrating light beams. Bro will insist that these are books and not something else, and that he is "reading" them in his own, much purer way than any ordinary person could hope to. He is a true Infinite Jest aficionado BECAUSE he smokes it instead of reading it.

You know what I mean? This bro is exactly the bro who also collects fajillion dollar luxury timepieces that deliberately show the wrong time.
posted by MiraK at 8:44 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

On the plus side, I now know why it's virtually impossible to read the time on the super-busy watch faces of many expensive watches.
posted by clawsoon at 8:52 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]

Never underestimate the fashion aspect of man baubles.

I get that watches are a peculiar corner of men's fashion, but I'm a little irked by the trend over time for the wrist watch to grow to silly proportions. I guess there's a need for one's watch to match the size one one's truck. A lot of men would seem to be embarrassed to wear a moderately sized watch Don Draper would have worn (even though they would probably hold the Don Draper image as some kind of masculine ideal).

In a somewhat similar vein, I kind of hate that so many digital watches seem to follow either the 80s throwback, or space trooper survival tool aesthetic. I kind of wish someone made a reliable, stainless cased, thin, LCD digital watch with muted styling.

I wear a watch every day, but it's first and foremost for practical timekeeping. So it's a plastic Casio digital almost always. Occasionally a quartz analog. I have a couple mechanical watches, because I like mechanical things, but they rarely get worn.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:58 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

From what I observed, it seems a lot of men form European/North America background's where there's not a tradition of masculine jewelry sublimate their desire for adornment with watches

This may well be the case. The wealthiest friend I know (one-percenter but well aware of his privilege and very progressive) has a couple of nice sports cars and a collection of (to my mind) absurdly overpriced watches.

And I mentioned on the blue a couple of years ago a Toronto legal proceeding where the police had raided a private casino in a suburban McMansion. The operators/residents allege that during the raid, the police pocketed two watches… valued at respectively $200,000 and $250,000. As I said then, I think the police should not be using people’s homes as a buffet, but my sympathy for people with multiple pieces of bling each the price of a modest house is also finite.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:02 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

Yeah, no, I don't like this one bit.
posted by WhenInGnome at 9:05 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

This story is made up nonsense. If anything, watcheads ( stupid term btw, gq), are overly concerned with the accuracy of their jewelry. Theír may be a few folks with hyper expensive complications that do not ensure they are set, but most of not all enthusiasts are a rounding error away from all keep them set when wearing.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:09 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]

I can understand that fancy watches are basically jewelry, but one of the (albeit a bit odd) joys of having a mechanical watch for me is winding it and setting the time. It is still a time keeping tool.
posted by winther at 9:10 AM on January 13 [11 favorites]

I was someplace where it was just inappropriate to pull out the phone and thought about getting a mechanical (auto wind) watch so I could just more easily ruminate about how soon this thing would be over. Probably a bad reason and I'd forget to put the watch on anyway.

Also saw a thing where the advice to a young lawyer was they "would never take you seriously" without a fancy watch.
posted by sammyo at 9:12 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Is this like people who wear optical glasses with prescription-free lenses? Or people who buy vinyl but don't own a turntable?
posted by dobbs at 9:14 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

This would feel less stupid if it weren't for the fact that these watch ads are always referring to "chronometers" and precision and explorers and profess intricate machinery with hundreds of tiny moving parts that track the movement of the moon and planets and galaxies.

So it's strange to discover the whole thing is as fake as a Hollywood set.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:15 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I guess I may have been successfully rage-baited. Well played, GQ magazine.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:17 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]

watcheads ( stupid term btw, gq)

Yeah, aren't they supposed to go on your wrist?
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:29 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]

So, it's distressing to see "head"--originally a word that symbolized an internal, non-materialist pursuit--dipped into a solvent, rung out to dry and thrown in the dirt.

Head, noun. Somebody committed to exploring the psyche via plants or chemicals, valuing the immaterial acquisition of self-understanding over the material acquisition of things.

Acidhead. Pothead. Or simply "head," to refer to the serious or casual psychonaut.

Among the 1960s lexicon created by our grandmothers and grandfathers, no other word summed up the search for psychedelic truth so precisely and succinctly.

Heads grew weed, lived in caves or tree houses, and held ritual dances every month to worship the moon. Heads were considered legally insane by the government due to experimentation with LSD.

Heads lived outside of time. If they owned a watch, it was a ten dollar Timex.
posted by Gordion Knott at 9:37 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]

aren't they supposed to go on your wrist?

They're obviously not watching their wrists.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:42 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

This right here is the guy who tells you he "reads" Infinite Jest all the way through every year ---- by rolling all his joints out of pages from his custom-printed copies of the book. And also his copies of the book all have diamond covers which he uses to light up his joints, because the diamonds act as lenses concentrating light beams. Bro will insist that these are books and not something else, and that he is "reading" them in his own, much purer way than any ordinary person could hope to. He is a true Infinite Jest aficionado BECAUSE he smokes it instead of reading it.

Um do you know where one would get this book? Asking for a friend…
posted by chavenet at 9:42 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Gordion Knot, don’t worry I think these guys are probably all cokeheads.

But likely the etymology of watchhead came out of sneakerheads, who I think also don’t wear the shoes they collect.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:46 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

Apparently "gearhead" only dates back to 1982 or so.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:57 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Gearheads too for automobile enthusiasts
posted by Keith Talent at 9:57 AM on January 13

Cannot relate... watches are cool because they are intricate and precise machines, and *also* acceptable man jewelry. I literally track the seconds per day my watches lose/gain (and have warrantied fancy watches that are out of spec). All the watch people I know are the same, but most of us are middle-class nerds, ofc.
posted by so fucking future at 10:11 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]

My wife and I both wear a couple of automatics, and she fixed this problem by gifting us an electric watch winder for Christmas one year. Some of the lesser worn watches still might drift by 5 minutes over a couple of weeks, but at least the day/date complications stay in time.
posted by Huggiesbear at 10:29 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I kind of wish someone made a reliable, stainless cased, thin, LCD digital watch with muted styling.

There are stainless Casios, but I don't know if I'd call them muted. Ditto the Bulova Computron, which to modern eyes kinda looks like if the Cybertruck were a watch.

Maybe a Hamilton PSR?
posted by box at 11:06 AM on January 13

I'd feel naked without my watch on, and it does tell the time, but not all that well. I treated myself to a Seiko when I got a modest bonus for putting in a lot of overtime on a project for Radley College, about 20 years ago now, and it's rarely left my arm since then. It's nothing that watch guys would covet, basically a Swatch in stainless steel and with a face in what I think of as Tintin yellow, but it never needs winding or a battery. Trouble is, it's a wee bit fast and gains a minute or so a week and I probably only bother to correct it every 6. So I know at a glance roughly what the time is, and that's usually good enough.
posted by Flashman at 11:22 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I have a couple nice watches (by which I mean $100-$150 watches), but then I had eye surgery and now I can't really read them. I'm weighing whether this article gives me "permission" to wear them without even trying to make them keep time. That would be fun, actually!
posted by penduluum at 11:28 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

I just wear a $27 digital thing that vibrates when I get an email, but by god if I managed to get my hands on a Daniels original I would basically never stop talking about it.
posted by aramaic at 11:33 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I can't imagine not actually knowing what time it is.

I've worn a watch most of the time for the last 20 years, and every day since Apple Watch came out in April 2015. Before the Apple Watch it was various Nixon and Timex Ironman variants. Right now I'm wearing an Apple Watch Ultra 2.

I started making a decent living right before AW came out, so I never got around to buying expensive analog watches. At this point, my various Apple Watches are too integrated into my daily life to be replaced. I'll switch to a Series 9 with a Hermes leather band if I'm wearing a suit or something like that, but otherwise it's my big ol' Ultra. It helps that I can track my swim, go for a run, take a phone call, listen to music, get directions, remember to do something because of an alert, all while leaving my phone somewhere else like in the trunk of my car.
posted by Back At It Again At Krispy Kreme at 11:43 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine not actually knowing what time it is.

I have bad news for you, previously.
posted by clawsoon at 11:51 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]

I hate to yuck someone else's yum, but I HATE THIS SO MUCH
posted by rikschell at 11:59 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

This really triggers my form-follows-function compulsion.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:14 PM on January 13

I could totally see never setting the time if you have a digital watch. The experience goes:

Goodbye to the misery of pulling out a knurled knob, turning it to adjust the time, then pushing it back in!

Hello to the misery of wondering which of four buttons starts the time setting process (the writing gets knocked/rubbed off almost immediately, and it isn't that helpful to begin with), which button advances the flashing time component, and which advances its value. Once or twice pressing the fourth button, and not liking that at all.
posted by BCMagee at 12:21 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

It’s never occurred to me that a watch might be primarily an ornament and not a timekeeping device.

That's exactly the conclusion I've drawn, during the few periods in my life when I've worn a watch. I guess my lifestyle's just too active, but how in the world do you keep those crystals clear and shiny? Mine would get all scratched up, and even cracked, so quickly...
posted by Rash at 12:33 PM on January 13

I wouldn't do this myself, but I actually appreciate this perspective. It's a pretty piece of jewelry; let it be just that!

I have two analog watches I like, but unfortunately I am too hooked on my sleep / exercise trackers to wear the analog watches very often. I suppose I could Bananas Gorilla them, but that would somewhat take away from the intended classy vintage Movado vibe.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:45 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

This doesn’t surprise me; I have an uncle who is very well off and whose wife and him gave each other Rolexes for some anniversary. But they kept their Timex quartz watches for when they actually wanted to have an accurate time. (This was back in the 80s or 90s so they may have upgraded their Timexes to something more modern.)

Also, according to Merriam-Webster (who don’t give a citation) “hophead” dates to 1895, so the -head concept goes back a while.
posted by TedW at 12:49 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I feel like this article is really stretching the truth on this, they found one watch dealer (who probably has hundreds of watches for sale) who doesn't wind them all every day, why would he?
Then a collector with one watch that doesn't run, and another who doesn't like to futz with the date setting. I don't think it would be hard to find a bunch of watch nerds who obsessively set everything on their watches correctly, but I guess that wouldn't make much of a story.
posted by Lanark at 12:53 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]

Lanark said it better than I could have. Exactly right
posted by Keith Talent at 1:38 PM on January 13

I love watches, but what I love are the intricate gears and jewels in the innards. The outsides are not very interesting to me. It's like, "Make a beautiful thing and encase it in something kind of Blah." I mean, I know the gears need to be encased for best function, but my ideal watch would be one where i could absolutely everything that was going on inside.

That said, I stopped wearing watches in about 1999. I had a habit of taking my watch off at, say, restaurants, and then leaving it on the table, and one time when I lost yet another watch, I said to myself, "No more of this." Eventually I figured out that I really dislike having things around my wrists*, which is almost certainly why I was always taking them off anyway.

*except in certain private circumstances, where I find it satisfying.
posted by Well I never at 2:20 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

Face it. Some times are boring (9:00), tacky (1:35), cliche (10:10), or just plain ugly (6:00, 10:54). How embarrassing would it be to be seen (or worse, photographed) wearing a $500,000 watch with the hands set to 10:10 like it was a newspaper ad for a Timex?

So of course you're not gonna leave the hand positions on such a premium timepiece pointed in any old directions based merely on what time it happens to be.
posted by straight at 2:31 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]

This is totally absurd. I use a Seiko automatic which keeps time great but have my grandpa's old Hamilton for any occasion where I might have to wear a tie, and wind and set that as needed. Any desire to acquire further timepieces is immediately halted by remembering that the whole point of an automatic is that it's self-winding only if you use it.
posted by St. Oops at 2:37 PM on January 13

When I am be-watch-ed, I wear a Casio calculator watch. It is 100% an ornamental affectation. I almost never need to check the time there, when I have a phone and work on a computer. I mostly just wear it because Marty McFly had one, and I figure a watch good enough for a time traveler is good enough for me. If it kept absolutely awful time, I'd continue to wear it for the same reason.

Also, I work in data analysis. Not that I ever have to do math on my wrist, but I find my job goes smoother if I play to type. Present that "numbers guy" character. I also wear horn-rimmed glasses, and do OWN a leather southwestern themed pocket protector, though i don't wear it cause there's a point where it becomes parody.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 2:45 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

Maybe if you don’t care about your watch working, you don’t care if your favorite artist is working either.

Or breathing
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:10 PM on January 13

I'm confused by all the talk about design and beauty, etc. Rolex, Patek Philippe, etc., watches are butt ugly and tacky AF.
I get that people buy them for clout and because they're expensive and because people know they're expensive, but anybody claiming they're some sort of aesthetic pinnacle gives me very strong Graphic Design Is My Passion vibes.

When I am be-watch-ed, I wear a Casio calculator watch. It is 100% an ornamental affectation. I almost never need to check the time there,

Strong ditto.
posted by signal at 3:12 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

So much for yucking on someone’s yum.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:23 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Once cell phones were a thing, I was excited to never wear a watch again. Then a few years back, my boss decided that checking my p[hone at the desk was not (here's that word again) professional. And to solve that problem I got an apple watch.I had wanted one for a while, but could not come up with a strong enough reason to get one. I use it for multiple time keeping reasons, alarms, runs, checking how soon til my bus gets here, but it does other things I like. It's probably the first watch I've ever liked enough to wear every day. Frankly, I don't find the fancy rich guy watches all that appealing. When I was in art school I took jewelry design (which I was terrible at) and art furniture, so I'm ok with the philosophy of the watch as a beautiful objet de art. I always felt though that a piece of art furniture, had to fulfill both of the roles in it's nature, and I extend that to watches as well. Though, none of this is important enough to get all twisted up about. Some rich guy has a groovy watch he only wears as jewelry, and never winds or sets it? I believe that's known as conspicuous consumption, and perhaps he should stop worrying about other peoples opinions. Well at least until the slicy boi is trotted out.
posted by evilDoug at 4:08 PM on January 13

The closest I get to this is having an Italian designer wool sweater (purchased on consignment, I'm not richy rich) that has the word Tuesday on it and never wearing it on a Tuesday.
posted by misskaz at 4:15 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

There is a line attributed to Thorstein Veblen to the effect that, “At either end of the socioeconomic spectrum lies a leisure class.”

At age 24, I was kicking around the Middle East, staying in locally-owned hotels meant for locals and thus requiring minimal expenditures. I arrived in Dahab in the Sinai, which was (maybe is?) a massive backpacker haven, frequented by hippies and hostellers, all living on a few dollars a day.

I think my little travelling band had come up that morning on an inter-city taxi from Sharm-el-Sheikh; one of our fellow passengers was a thirtyish dude from Chicago. I noticed he had a digital watch with what appeared to be a hologram on the face of it. I commented on it and he showed it to me: it was indeed a hologram of George Jetson.

I said, “That’s pretty cool, but the hologram must make it hard to see the time.”

The guy shrugged, “Oh, it’s opaque. The watch stopped working months ago, but I put the sticker on because I like looking at it.”

As if ordained by fate, the day after I arrived in Dahab my watch stopped working and I have never really worn one since then.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:34 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]

I had two friends who were the classic combination of Stoner and Uptight Guy. We're walking through town, and UG is anxious because he thinks we're going to be late to the party, which S and I are like that's not actually possible, and UG notes that S is wearing a watch, the kind with hands. "What time is it?" he asks her; she responds by sticking out her wrist and saying "It's half past three: see?" It was like 2230 in fact: Stoner just randomly twirled the hands here and there. It's always been my favorite watch moment, just where two people sorted out that the other was a sentient alien.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 4:46 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

I wore a (cheap) watch for its utility, and up until I got a smartphone I still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea. But once I had a handheld computer I stopped wearing a watch because I no longer needed it - in addition to its other features, the phone told me the time and let me set any sort of alarm I wanted.

The idea of a watch as ostentatious social status marker is foreign to me - but then, so is any other form of status symbol. That's not anti-snobbery or anything, I'm just honestly baffled by the apparent allure of "bling" in general, including fancy watches.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:35 PM on January 13

I like watches in general and like BCMagee says, I go for a solid week or more with the time wrong on my $15 casio because the actual instructions on how to set it are completely wrong and daylight savings time sucks. My only saved/subscribed/whatever youtube video is a video some kid made on how to set it. I watch it and set it when I get around to it.

Also, with reguard to cell phones, my watch is always a little bit wrong anyways. It used to be a truism if you had one clock you knew exactly what time it was. If you had more than one, you were not so sure....now cell phones, you know exactly what time it is again.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:55 PM on January 13

posted by phooky at 7:16 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

When I was in second or third grade, Swatches were cool. The gimmick was that the actual watch was a tiny digital thing, and you could pop it out of the band and into another band that was a different 1980s neon color. I liked to wear two or three of the empty bands in addition to the watch.

Since my arm was visible through the empty part of the band, my dad thought it was really funny to announce that the current time was "a hair past a freckle."

Profile me, GQ. Profile second-grade me. I was also a superhero, and I read enough books that I got lots of free pizza.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:25 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]

I never wore a watch and still don't. Even when I worked at a newspaper I had a clock in my car, on my analog camera back, and almost every wall. I always knew what time it was.

I'm with signal as well. Expensive watches are big and ugly. I don't get the appeal.
posted by cccorlew at 7:28 PM on January 13

I've doubled down on watch wearing. I now wear a normal watch on one wrist and when I'm out and about an iwatch on the other. I started collecting cheap automatics that now seem to be no longer cheap (mainly Seiko divers but the odd Orient & Citizen) and more recently a couple of G-Shocks (there is a lovely one with a dot-matrix display that is really nice to look at). As per the article I can rarely be bothered to set the date unless I know I'm wearing a watch for a few weeks in my rotation to make it worthwhile (+ my eyesight is getting terrible so I can barely read the tiny day/date stuff anyway). My iwatch is less about the time than as a music controller + getting messages without pulling out a phone.

What I also like about a watch, particularly if I'm in a social setting, I can sneak a glance at the time without pulling out a phone and giving the impression that I'm not fully present\ (a table of people absent-mindedly checking their phones for messages/status-updates/doom-scrolling always strikes me as sub-optimal but maybe its more acceptable now?)
posted by phigmov at 7:29 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I love watches. I think they're gorgeous. I love little machines and I love rituals. I wind my automatics on the way to work (Lord knows what the other commuters think I'm doing) and set them when I get to my desk. Everybody else at work has an Apple Watch. They keep asking me when I'm going to get one, but I enjoy missing notifications and I don't really care what my heart rate is and they look like ankle monitors to me.
posted by peachfiber at 9:01 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]

I love the fact that humanity made self winding automatic watches that run on springs and gears and got them to levels of accuracy that they could stay within a few seconds a day if properly maintained. Centuries of work to get the right metals and oils to work together. Right as they’d solved all the problems and made these nearly perfect machines — good enough to take us to the moon and back — along comes the cheap quartz movement and all that craftsmanship is replaced by an inexpensive circuit and a battery. The few watch makers that remained had to reinvent themselves as fashion items/ status symbols. One moment they are prized scientific instruments used by professionals and now they are basically men’s jewelry.
posted by interogative mood at 10:21 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]

Note - you can get an automatic self-winding Seiko 5 for <$100 or an Orient Bambino for <$150. Not cheap (quartz is cheaper) but less than an iWatch, they'll outlast an iWatch (battery isn't going to die on you and the vendor won't drop s/w support in a few years time) and they're generally plenty accurate for most requirements. A fully mechanical watch doesn't need to cost an arm & a leg + you can actually carry a nice bit of clock-work precision engineering around on your wrist.
posted by phigmov at 11:19 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I’m not a watch-head. Only have the one stupid heart monitor watch for my stupid heart. But. I hate knowing exactly what time it is. I would be thrilled if my “smart” watch would allow me to have a single-sweep time hand that goes around in a circle once a day. Because I have the digital time turned off, and set in analog for minimum anxiety available, at all times. I don’t want to imprison time on my wrist. I just want to watch it ebb and flow. But the smart watch insists on being a boring analog watch with absolutely no innovation in “seriously this is anxiety-inducing could you please just dial it back a notch further” category. I guess I’m not surprised that fancy watch club people often don’t care about time, and I envy them their privilege to disregard it. I just don’t want a precise temporal anchor on my wrist. Imprecise is enough. More precision is worse. Ugh.
posted by Callisto Prime at 12:01 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

I’ve had a non-flashy, but if you actually look at it, really nice Rolex for almost 25 years now. What makes people aghast when they notice my watch is a Rolex is that I actually wear it. What if you break it? Well then I’ll get it repaired. Zero times in 20+ years is pretty low risk, I think.

It was a gift because I like analog watches. And yes I wind it and use it to tell time most days. GQ didn’t call me though.
posted by ctmf at 12:49 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I read this article a week or more ago, and hadn't planned at first to make this single-link post to it: I agree with the comments that it smacks of rich privilege, is surely in no way an accurate reflection of all or most watch wearers or collectors, and is frankly a bit rage-baity. Just posting the thing here could be considered trolling...

And yet. I was fascinated by the idea that some people would treat watches as nothing but jewellery, and thought that others might be too. And I had a feeling that this article could prompt my favourite kind of Mefi thread, the kind that blossoms from a small seed into a field of flowers, full of our collective memories and lore. Which it has—thank you.

I couldn't bring myself to include the headline's "true", and had to resist the urge to insert "some", but it's still a hell of a hook.

The watch on my wrist isn't just a timekeeper: it's one of the few accessories that remains a long-term part of my visual identity, even if (like my glasses and belt) the specific watch sometimes has to be replaced. From that point of view, even I can connect to the watch-as-fashionistas. But mine isn't a fashion item, changing according to trends and my mood. This is watch number eight of all the watches I've worn in my 50-something life: each one was an era, a period of me.

My parents gave me my first when I was ten or so: an analogue with a leather cover over its face, fastened with a press-stud, such that you had to make an effort to check the time. I wore it constantly until I forgot to take it off before a swim and accidentally killed it (I can still remember that oh-no moment, glancing at my wrist underwater after I'd dived in). They replaced it with a circa-1980 TI digital, which ushered in a decade of digital watches, so in-keeping with my new teenage obsession with computers.

But in my twenties, I went back to analogue. By then I was aware that I'd lost something by going digital, which others at the time were noticing too: there was a minor moral panic around then about how digital kids couldn't read the time on analogue clocks any more. The way to address that in myself was to start wearing an analogue watch again. To doubly reinforce those analogue neurons, I made sure it was one without numbers on its face.

I liked, too, that it reminded me of my dad's watch, the Seiko he'd worn for as long as I could remember—part of his visual identity, and one of the markers of adulthood, like a wedding ring and a Parker pen. Part of me was trying to forge small visual links in that chain of family to bind me to them, as by now I lived a long way away. I bought my analogue watch at a duty-free shop in Fiji, where he had bought me my last couple of digital watches (he'd grown up there, and visited regularly)—another link.

My next one was purely automatic, battery-free, like Dad's Seiko: the opposite of those 1980s digitals. From a duty-free shop in Thailand, this time. There was something romantic about the craftsmanship and centuries of technological development embedded in a timepiece that worked by the constant winding of a spring purely from the movement of my arm. I wouldn't ever own one of those amazing mechanical calculators from Liechtenstein, but this was within reach. I loved it, until the day it died and almost led to my missing a flight home from Denmark. (It took an hour or two to realise it had stopped, at a time when I could least afford to waste an hour or two.)

And then there's the last one that my dad has given me so far: his father's watch, a fine late-1960s model, again an automatic, which I wore for a few years until one of the strap links broke. The strap couldn't be repaired, so I took it to a dusty clock-repair shop near my workplace and got it replaced. When the repairer handed it back, he said, "I'll just polish the glass for you," and before I could stop him he'd polished away the scratch on its face that had always reminded me that this was the watch my grandfather had been wearing the day of the car accident that led to his death when I was two.

I'm looking down now at number eight, an anniversary gift from my wife: I just took it off and gave it a shake to wind the mechanism that keeps its battery charged, even though I don't need to—it's a pleasing sound and ritual. I still like wearing watches because, as others have noted above, a quick glance tells me the time in contexts where pulling out my phone would send the wrong message, or take up a hand I was already using. It means I can manage that device better, too, keeping it out of reach at times when I don't want to be distracted by having the internet in my pocket. But the main reasons I like wearing my watch are woven through all of those memories and meanings. A pretty long way from watch-as-bling.

I'm not looking forward to watch number nine, but I know there'll be one. Dad's in his eighties now.
posted by rory at 1:33 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]

> That's not anti-snobbery or anything, I'm just honestly baffled by the apparent allure of "bling" in general, including fancy watches.

That's because you've never seen the Pac-Man watch I had in 8th grade.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:19 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]

I wear the most accurate watch ever made, the Accurate by Mr Jones. The hour hand reads 'remember', the minute hand reads 'you will die'. It's right even if it's not running.
posted by Hogshead at 7:32 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]

On the subject of stainless steel Casios I was blown away to discover last year that there’s more than one business devoted to re-casing one of the cheapest Casios in steel and sapphire.

Yes, you can do $100+ modifications to your $20 watch. (Ignore the price in the link. This one’s always half price somewhere.)
posted by The Monster at the End of this Thread at 9:02 AM on January 14

I guess I sort of fall in this category though my watch only cost the equivalent of $170. It's one I bought in Bangkok by a local company called Simpl, and it only has one hand, so you can only estimate the time to the nearest 5 minutes. I like it because it has made me mindful of how little in my life needs to be accurate to the nearest minute and for things that do need more accuracy, like trains or whatever, I can always check my phone.

I've always worn a watch. My wrist feels funny without it. I like having a watch that celebrates not being overly bound by time.
posted by tavegyl at 9:23 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

That's because you've never seen the Pac-Man watch I had in 8th grade.

Ehh. I was never into Pac-Man, or any other arcade (or video) games.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:16 AM on January 14

I'm not a watch guy but I guess I sympathize as the owner of an often not set, lower-end Nice Watch, an Oyster Perpetual from the '50s. It originally belonged to my paternal grandfather, who died two years before I was born. I wear it a lot and don't always remember to set it because I'm one of those people who almost always knows what time it is to +/- 10 minutes or so, but putting it on is habit (and I'm a bit afraid of misplacing it if I don't wear it regularly). Also you can still totally use a watch to measure 15 or 30 seconds when the time isn't set. Sometimes when I'm alone I hold it up to my ear and listen to it ticking, so it also serves as a memento mori.

But, ultimately, it is primarily a kind of family jewelry, and as other folks have noted one it's of the only kinds of jewelry I can wear as a middle-aged dude in a business casual job without feeling like I'm making a play to draw attention to myself. It's stainless and has an off-white dial, which make it nondescript enough that the vast majority of people probably don't clock that I have several thousand dollars of jewelry on my arm--it sort of just looks like the platonic ideal of a men's wristwatch. I'm glad my grandfather wasn't into diving or whatever (or wanted to pretend he was).
posted by pullayup at 10:45 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]

I'm in camp "no watch" because (a) I don't wear jewelry of any sort, and (b) my phone tells me the time along with all its other stuff.

I do have a fancy Swiss watch, given to me as a present, but it is only worn when Mrs 43rd requires me to Dress Smartly.

I had an Mk 1 Apple Watch when I was traveling a lot for work - as others have said, it's convenient not to have to keep looking at your phone in meetings - but when I tried starting it up the other day I found it was stone dead, another piece of digital detritus.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 11:14 AM on January 14

Hogshead, I love how clean “The Accurate” is. I actually use my watch for measuring pulse and respiration, so now I’m tempted to upgrade, but I’d hate for a patient to somehow read the hands while Im doing it.
posted by whuppy at 11:19 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

I think of the watch market as representative of a certain type of economics - a key indicator of the smart/dumb money question. Like if I was someone who owned a 5980 Nautilus watch and saw one go at auction for 80 grand I would really question where the smart money is at. Because as recently as March 2022 that watch fetched over 180 000 USD. So would the smart money go and buy another Nautilus on the expectation that it would go back up, or should I just hold on? Or sell and get what I can now? The difference between a smart move and dumb one is timing.

And let's say my timing is pretty basic - so maybe I jumped on the bandwagon a few years ago and paid a bit more than the 60 grand retail for a 'hype watch', like a Nautilus 5980 from Patek Philippe. And maybe I'm not some true watch head but I know the whole market is steady moving down. Like even I know that the watch nasdaq is down 13% from last year, and the tread is steady down.

And now I read in the The Rolling Stones that folks are just treating these fancy watches as essentially ornamentation, because it's just too much of a bother to set up this mechanical doodad when they have so many? Even the folks who don't use the watches to avoid wearing them down are just riding a speculative value wave? Double yikes.

And there is so many of these watches - in 2015 there was 28 million watches exported from Switzerland. But that was the year the Apple Watch was introduced - and the response to that crisis was to constrain supply and switch to special editions and hype. So much hype. Watch dealers don't control what models and editions are sent to them. It's no accident that folks upthread can't find a decent basic model of these watches - the small portion that are getting shipped out are getting picked up by speculators.

Just like that dumb stereo in the other thread, you can be certain that many of the people about to inherit these crapulent collections going to dump them with prejudice.
posted by zenon at 1:02 PM on January 14

I inherited my father-in-law’s Citizen eco-drive watch, which has a solar panel face, so the battery never dies. The titanium watch band broke, though, and was not sold separately, so I bought another watch of the same model off eBay. Which came in handy later when the stem of the original watch popped off during lockdown.
posted by rikschell at 1:55 PM on January 14

An article by "Cam Wolf" in Gentleman's Quarterly? Yes, please, sign me up for... Oh, look, it's snowing outside
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 2:05 PM on January 14

Every community has its insufferable obsessives. Audiophiles. Coffee snobs. It's fine. Let people enjoy things however they want.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:50 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Head, noun. Somebody committed to exploring the psyche via plants or chemicals, valuing the immaterial acquisition of self-understanding over the material acquisition of things.

Some of us prefer "inner space cadet".
posted by flabdablet at 7:26 PM on January 14

Some people call me Maurice...

I think "gearhead" would work even better for people into watches than for people into cars, because for watches it's literally all about the gears. For car enthusiasts the gear-changing aspect a a distant second to the primary goal of going fast...because let's face it, sitting in a room just changing gears without going anywhere would be freakin' boring.

The UK term "petrolheads" is better than "gearheads" for car nuts. (It's too bad "speed freaks" has already been claimed by a very different group...)
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:51 PM on January 14

(It's too bad "speed freaks" has already been claimed by a very different group...)

And even worse, so has "motorhead", by the same group.
posted by The Tensor at 12:39 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]

I own two watches, neither working at the moment. A Rolex Air King from the 70's that I inherited from my grandfather and a Slava watch made by the second Moscow watch factory just after the fall of communism for the tourists. The second I inherited from my father. I wore it continuously until it stopped working. I like the way it looks, it amuses me to have a hammer and sickle on my wrist, and it reminds me of my father. I'm still not going to wear it unless it can actually do what it's supposed to. Ditto the Rolex, although it doesn't have the hammer and sickle on it. I have a smart phone which keeps close to perfect time. A watch exists so I can leave my phone in my pocket just a little more, which is not a bad thing. (This is also why I refuse to get a smart watch.) I cannot fathom having a broken object as a fashion accessory. There are other objects that do the job more effectively than a fancy watch. That's been true since the first digital watch.

Also, Cartier offers cleaning, time checking, complete refurbishment, etc. of the movement. The starting service, to have the inside and outside cleaned and tuned up is roughly $400. While expensive to us, that's not much to them. If the movement wears out, they can get it replaced. That's the beauty of watches, they can be a ship of Theseus without losing any of their appeal or beauty.
posted by Hactar at 4:44 AM on January 15

I am so used to wearing watches to check for time that I feel 'weird' when I forget to wear one. I got sick of replacing batteries in my quartz watch, so got myself a couple of entry level automatics (Seiko5, Orient, and a Bulova) and a Citizen Ecodrive. Started with just one and it kinda went from there. I got them as store models off ebay for cheap, nothing cost more than 125. The automatics have a glass back so I can see the mechanism, which is kinda cool. If I get another, it will be something like a Grand Seiko from the 1980's (used) for a special occasion (maybe when I turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare).

I don't think of it as ornamentation as much as something I really need/want. But I can see why people get really into them. They are mechanical marvels.
posted by indianbadger1 at 8:38 AM on January 15

There are stainless Casios, but I don't know if I'd call them muted.

These watches aren't stainless steel, they are chrome/gold painted plastic case with a stainless steel BRACELET. Also the back plate is metal. I don't think there are many if any all-metal Casios in production nowadays. Some more info in a reddit thread.
posted by fridgebuzz at 7:28 AM on January 18

Yea even though that link fridgebuzz has is almost a decade old Casio still does not have any affordable digital watches that are made out of nice materials. For that you will need to go with a Armitron Rubik or Rogue. But Casio does have a variety of dual (both analog and digital) and analog watches, like the Casio MTP-B145.

Over a couple of decades I have steadily moved up the Casio duel range and have settled on one from their Lineage series, based mainly on this review from Ben, a watch nut who appreciates decent, reasonably priced watches that are normal sized.

As he argues, it is in fact the best. It's made out of titanium and a sapphire and I wear mine constantly and it still looks amazing. It's solar and I set the time once when I got it a couple of years ago. It picks up a radio signal to self correct its time everyday. I have done absolutely nothing to it since, apart from turning an alarm on or off.

I have time blindness and this watch is absolutely reliable. If I need to be a functioning adult it is with me and it requires nothing of me to actually fulfill its primary function. I just checked: my watch is showing the official time. As close as I can tell anyway.
posted by zenon at 2:29 PM on January 19

Then a few years back, my boss decided that checking my p[hone at the desk was not (here's that word again) professional.

In the nineties I was canned at different times from a full-time job and a bar band. In both cases, the aggrieved party explained that they discerned my lack of interest from the way I was checking my watch all the time.

I had not at that point worn a watch in years, since well before my involvement with either the company or the band.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:36 AM on February 6

« Older The GDPR of your dreams   |   Obsessions Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments