“It’s excessive in some way, but there is a certain excessiveness to ambition as well,” says John Mayer at the conclusion of the very first episode of Hodinkee’s “Talking Watches” video series. Hodinkee has become the benchmark for watch content and the website is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. I re-watched the John Mayer episode this morning, as it was a staff choice favorite Hodinkee story. I’m really glad I spent time to re-watch it.
In the video the singer and guitarist takes the viewer through his own journey of discovering his love of watches. It started with an Explorer II he explains. Although Mayer can afford pretty much whatever watch he wants, he tells everyone watch collecting is not as materialistic as an outsider may perceive it to be. It’s about the details and being obsessive about those details and building memories with certain watches.
For me I started getting into watches because I was into men’s fashion. My mom has a great design eye and I inherited her sense of personal style. I read on GQ (if I recall correctly) about a company called DaLuca Straps that made Horween leather straps and somehow as I went down the Google rabbit hole I saw one of these straps (a green one) paired with a Timex Weekender watch. The idea of customization is what got me digging deeper into watches.
Then I discovered you could modify the watches themselves and that the Honda Civic of watches was the Seiko SKX007, a $200 automatic with lots of aftermarket products available. So I didn’t know how to modify a watch, so again, back to Google and I discovered the online community WatchUSeek.com and discovered a guy in Hong Kong named Harold Ng (aka Yobokies), who sold modified Seikos. I promptly ordered my own Seiko Monster pimped out with an orange sword hand a Bell&Ross-style aviator dial. It’s probably still the most complimented watch I have ever owned.
Long story short, this led my into Seiko dive watches. I had a Marinemaster 300, several Tunas, and several others. But throughout this time I was always struck by the classic Rolex design language when people posted photos of the WRUW (What Are Your Wearing) threads on WatchUSeek.com’s forums. By the way, I spent way too much time on WatchUSeek but learned a lot about watches and people’s obsessiveness about the minutiae.
I finally saved up for my first Rolex. I had sold my entire collection to fund the purchase. I owned a first-generation Tudor Pelagos (which I loved) but the Rolex bug has gotten me bad. I picked up a ceramic n0-date Submariner for my hometown dealer Govberg and fell in love. I felt different inhabiting my own space. I only ever got one compliment on my Submariner but wearing one made me feel like a million bucks, and I learned quickly that’s what it’s all about.
Since then I’ve added a Panerai 112 and replaced the ceramic sub for a 14060M and in the careful, calculated process of trying to fill out two other slots in the collection. I do still wear and cherish my Casio G-Shock GW-5000 1JF, but I’m trying now to build my own stories with watches that I am passionate about.
I get what Mayer is saying. We have one life and some of us get excessive about objects. That’s more than fine. Excessiveness is quite often tied to ambition.