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Editorial - The Many Levels Of Wristspotting

Editorial The Many Levels Of Wristspotting

Taking a closer look at a favourite pastime of watch lovers

One of the occupational hazards of being a watch writer is that a large number of your human interactions tend to be dominated by timepiece-oriented observations. And this doesn’t even have to be a two-way thing. Quite often, if I’m meeting someone for the first time, my eyes go straight to the wrist to check out the watch being worn (if there is one at all). This gesture is rarely reciprocated, unless I actually happen to be at a watch-related event. If long sleeves are involved, this can involve extended periods of fixed staring trying to figure out whether those exposed pump-style chronograph pushers and fluted crown belong to a TAG Heuer Autavia or Omega Speedmaster 57. 

You might say: Why not just ask them what they’re wearing, Suzanne?

I would say: Because it’s rude?

You would then counter: Is it ruder than staring at someone’s wrist whilst they’re trying to introduce themselves to you?

I would then reply: Shut up. Also, the wrist is not the worst place I could be staring at when meeting someone for the first time.

The truth is, I like figuring out what people are wearing on the wrist. It makes me feel smart and cute. Also, people tend to appreciate genuine and unexpected compliments. Someone wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute to 1931 did not just pick that up anywhere. It’s such a specific model; the person who chose that watch out of the entire range of Reverso timepieces clearly thought about it and made a conscious choice. If I meet someone wearing one of those and manage to slip in an admiring off-hand comment about it five minutes into our conversation, I’ve just made that person’s day. It’s a few stages more advanced than complimenting someone’s outfit, and in my experience it always works like a dream. 

And you can’t really do it for anything other than outfits and watches, otherwise it’s weird and creepy. You couldn’t say to someone you met for the first time, “That’s a lovely Porsche you have, I was watching you in the basement carpark.” I mean, you could, but please don’t. Stick to watches if you want to leave a favourable impression and remain clear of stalker accusations.

Obviously, there are different levels to wristspotting, as we call this activity. The casual “Hey, nice watch” is always appreciated, and you have the option to go further into detail, although the extreme end of this, where you reel off things like model reference, movement history and dial variations, is risky. It could go two ways. Either you bore your counterpart to tears and are shunned for the rest of the evening, or people start flocking to you like a performing seal in a 1950s circus. 

That’s for face-to-face interactions, something that may or may not interest you. If you’re an introverted writer who prefers spending her evenings with Netflix and a Labrador Retriever, online wristspotting may be for you. This is when you scroll through Instagram — or the internet in general, although Instagram is particularly well-suited for this activity — looking at the watches people wear in their social media posts. If you want, you can even leave comments. (People you know, of course. And try to make them nice comments. Once again, don’t be weird and creepy about it.)

By the way, it doesn’t count if these are celebrities who are clearly carrying out their contractual obligations as watch brand ambassadors. That’s too easy.

Then there’s the high-level investigative stuff. Spotting what actors are wearing in movies or TV series (again, it doesn’t count if it’s sponsored product placement that’s been communicated by the brand). Last year, a WhatsApp group of women collectors I’m in was all abuzz about a blurry screenshot of a reality TV star wearing what looked like a gorgeous miniature-painted enamel dial timepiece, which I eventually managed to identify as a Patek Philippe ref. 5077 Calatrava Rare Handcrafts wristwatch. There were never any official photos or press communications about this watch, and my only clue came from watch forum photos of a Patek Philippe exhibition held in Tokyo five years ago.

Lately, my good friend Anish Bhatt (of @watchanish fame) has taken to calling out people wearing fake watches online — mostly counterfeit Richard Mille. His eye for detail and quick British wit make his posts a humorous and fun way to pass the time, especially if you enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing social media show-offs being exposed. Another friend, the ultimate Mr Wristspotter himself, Nick Gould (@niccoloy on Instagram), unearths rare images of historic and contemporary personalities of note, identifying their timepieces and sometimes rewriting watch brand history in the process.

What kind of wristspotter are you?



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