As many friends and readers may have realized, over the past year I’ve become increasingly fascinated with watches — especially those with timeless or unique designs, and those powered by mechanical movements. Prior to last August, my black rubber and plastic Garmin Forerunner 235 suited me perfectly for everyday wear, with its variety of fitness functions, legible display, and general hardiness. When I picked up my first “real” watch in August last year (now sold). It came on a metal bracelet, which I quickly replaced with a brown leather strap. I had never understood the appeal of a watch bracelet — though that didn’t mean I liked every leather strap, either. To me, the watch bracelet just seemed garish, with finer metals more so than simpler metals like steel.

To me, the watch bracelet just seemed garish, with finer metals more so than simpler metals like steel.

Over the past year, however, I have come to learn and love the basic bracelet, and its [literal and figurative] multifaceted appeal. Especially over the last two to three months, the two watches pictured above have become my regular daily-wearers; I’ve forgone the majority of my other watches.

The watch on the right (a Seiko SKX007 certified dive watch, reviewed here) arrived on a horrendous rubber strap designed to be worn and expand over a wetsuit. Like with my first watch, I quickly replaced it, this time, with a slim “perlon” (a thin, mesh-like, woven nylon strap). Perlon is light, breathable, waterproof, and sated me and my style on the watch for several months. But the longer I looked at this somewhat beefy tool watch on this little slim strap, the more there seemed I experienced some persistent cognitive dissonance due to the contrasts in scale.

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Though the watch + strap combo looked appropriate from above, the side or section view looked weird, and the band was so light that in order to hold the watch steady, I had to really STRAP it down tightly. (Pun intended.) It also caused the watch to sit a millimeter or so higher off the wrist, and the watch was already fairly tall for me to begin with.

Certain models of the watch ship with a bracelet, but as I mentioned, this model came on a rubber strap, so I set about finding a third-party bracelet that would fit flush with the case like an OEM one — but that would be sturdier than the generally poorly-reviewed OEM bracelets. I ordered a well-reviewed model from Long Island Watches, and unfortunately it had a poorly-milled end link — the piece that sits flush against the case. Luckily, both LIW and the company that made the bracelet — Strapcode — have excellent customer service and sent me a replacement link.

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Fitted with the stainless steel bracelet.

Later in the year (just a few months ago, over the summer) I was lucky enough to come into possession of the other watch in the header photo: a vintage (1967) Rolex Air King. Like most Rolexes (both modern, and vintage), it came on a bracelet. In fact, the bracelet on the Air King is an original Oyster bracelet: invented and patented to fit each watch case perfectly, the Oyster bracelet spawned a myriad of homages and copies, including the “Super Oyster” bracelet from Strapcode that I put on the Seiko.

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Rolex Oyster-Perpetual Air-King on an original Oyster bracelet.

What I’ve discovered about this pair of stainless steel watches, with their respective bracelets, they’re pretty much perfect GADA (go anywhere, do anything) watches. Bracelets are waterproof — unlike leather bands. And unlike a watch with a leather strap, I can pick up either of these watches and they’ll automatically match whatever color my belt and shoes are. They can look either sporty, to match Chacos or running shoes, hiking boots, etc., or they can pull off business-casual / semi-dressy with a button-up shirt or a blazer and look right at home.

…with their respective bracelets, they’re pretty much perfect GADA (go anywhere, do anything) watches.

Neither of these watches are the PERFECT size for my wrist: the Seiko is a shade too big for my liking, and the Rolex positively petite by modern men’s standards. But what the bracelets are able to do, is marginalize any size discrepancies, making the small watch wear slightly bigger, and the big watch wear slightly smaller.

Though I formerly thought that bracelets were more bling-y than useful, recently thanks to these two watches and wearing them every day, and due to their durability and flexibility of the bracelets, the stainless steel link bracelet will surely have a spot in my collection for the foreseeable future. Which isn’t to say that I don’t put the watches on other straps occasionally (see below), either for variety or safety when sporting, but they certainly stay on the metal the majority of the time.

Photographing the watches has proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of appreciating them. As both a photographer, and a budding watch enthusiast, I want to take and share photos of my watches with my friends, and the world.

Most of the images I take of the watches are taken with my iPhone; part of that is certainly the convenience of almost always having the phone on me, but the phone also has some technical benefits over my current DSLR camera kit as well. Namely, the iPhone focuses closer. For those that don’t do photography, there is a minimum distance that one must be from their subject, and that distance varies based on the lens you’re using. For instance, the iPhone is somewhere around 4–6″, while my standard 50mm lens is about 12–16″ and my telephoto lenses are 5+ feet. With a “real” camera, then, that makes it rather difficult to take wrist shots, whereas the iPhone both focus closer, and be held more easily with one hand. Thus, most of my wrist shots are taken with the iPhone.

Of course, the downside is image quality. While with the proper technique, light, and editing style, iPhone photos can be superb images, I take a lot of completely garbage iPhone pics…and you give up artistic control of depth of field, and you lose a lot of fidelity in resolution, magnification, and colors.

“Thus, most of my wrist shots are taken with the iPhone.” As are the above images.

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I think the colors, clarity, and depth of field renderings with a “real” camera speak for themselves when I get it right.

The other challenge when photographing watches, is managing reflections “in” and on the crystal. Even watches with AR (anti-reflective) coatings still give off a blue-ish tint, and can, in the right light, give you reflection problems.

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A 40mm automatic dive watch from the micro brand Dan Henry (currently broken by my brother); here, the day I got it, exhibiting some brilliant reflections off the domed crystal.

Even in watches that don’t have AR coatings, or in situations where the reflections aren’t brilliant and shimmering, there’s often the [for me] problematic occurrence of minute but distracting reflections the watch’s surroundings.

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Though at first glance you might not notice it, after more than a few seconds (or zooming in), the reflection of the window I was next to when I took this picture at the pool becomes visible, and quite detracting from the face of this Russian mechanical chronograph.

I’ve even taken pictures before where my face or the front of the camera was visible in the face of the watch.

For the cover photo of this post, also placed below, that was one of my two biggest problems.

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Initially, I needed to figure out how to “pose” or arrange the watches in a way that didn’t look clinical, but that also didn’t look purposely faked or intentionally casual. Then, as mentioned above, the first big problem was how to light the faces of the watches in a way that didn’t mar their beauty with frustrating reflections. I achieved this by using a soft box placed above the “studio” area (my kitchen bar), and “feathered” on to the watches, so that most of the light fell in front of them, and only a tiny bit of the softest portion of the flash fell ON them. Then I took a second flash, on one of its lowest power settings, and wrapped it in a white dry-fit shirt, and placed it in front of the watches as a tiny bit of fill light. Eventually, after about 45 minutes of toying around and making minor tweaks, I had the setup consistently generating nice light and intriguing, sexy reflections off the Rolex’s sunburst dial.

Then, the next time-consuming problem was to figure out which lens to use, to satisfactorily blur out the background (here, a Hawaiian shirt I bought for $5 from Goodwill), while also keeping both watches suitably in focus. I won’t bore you with any more of the technical details here, but I went through three different lenses before figuring out for sure how I wanted to compose and shoot the single frame that I kept.

But I think the hour and a half of creative work was worth it; I doubt I’ll make any money off the image, but the creativity stimulate my brain and passion for photography, and problem solving is one of the things that I would like to think I’m good at, but can certainly improve on. (Can’t we all…?)

Thanks for sticking through my wordiness, and if you didn’t, no hate — I hope you enjoyed the photos, and maybe I inspired you to get into one of my other hobbies…

Best to all of y’all, feel free to give me a shout though email or social media.
-Colin

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