Why watches?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had an obsession with watches. This fascination is so strong, that in elementary school I would do something called “double-wristing,” a watch on both wrists. Very stylish, I know. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out why this appreciation started. At the time, men’s wristwatches did not hold the popularity they do now. And, as a kid, I certainly did not have any deadlines to meet. So why did I need to know the time?

Seiko Alpinist SARB017 on Strapcode Oyster Bracelet

One of the first distinct memories I have of watches is my dad reaching into the top drawer of his dresser. Everyone knows that dads keep the coolest thing in the top drawer of the dresser, so I knew something exciting was happening. He pulled out his dad’s watch, a beat up Seiko 5. Specifically, it was a Seiko 6619-8060 MACV-SOG. A watch, that turns out has a fairly interesting history. And he gave it to me, explaining that the watch was “automatic,” meaning it was powered by movement.

Now, I never got to meet my grandfather. I don’t know the sound of his voice, what his laugh was like or those personal mannerisms you can’t experience from a photograph. But what I do have is a mechanical watch that accompanied him through the Vietnam War and in normal life. And I believe that’s what fuels my own, and many other’s obsession with watches. A connection.

Seiko 6619-8060

Watches give us a throughline to the past. They allow us to connect with an era that we may not have been a part of. The Seiko 5 from my grandfather? It was manufactured in the early 1960’s. Yet now, in 2021, it is still keeping great time. With proper care, a watch can outlast you. Making it to the next generation of wrists, which is something I find comfort in.

Author Gary Shteyngart wrote an insightful article for The New Yorker on the hobby of watches. He took the artful words of Jack Forster to heart. Forster said of watch collectors, “There’s some pocket of rot in the oak of their soul that can only be patched up by watches.” And I’d agree with that statement. Staring at the sweeping seconds hand of one of my watches brings me a sort of peacefulness, a testament to moving forward that helps me get through even the most stressful of days.

Boman with Halios Seaforth III on-wrist, Humboldt Peak CO

Not only can a wristwatch bring solace to its wearer, they also mark memories. My Halios Seaforth III bears its fair share of scratches from a hiking trip in Colorado, and countless other outdoor adventures. It’s as much a part of my hiking gear as my Mystery Ranch pack or trekking pole. I do not have to take my phone out while on-trail to check time, I can simply check my wrist.

Halios Seaforth III

Of course, this is all just simple justification. Ultimately, I may never fully understand my infatuation with watches. I’ll keep consuming content from Hodinkee and religiously checking the watch forums to find the next big purchase. But deep down I know, a watch likely purchased at a PX for under $10 will always be the most valuable piece in my collection.