Cutting Through The Noise, and Finding Your Lane

For many of us, the entry to watch enthusiasm can be traced to a single watch or moment that proceeded to set the tone of our collections and serve as the foundation of our taste. For some that watch or moment may be embarrassing, for others, defining. The moment responsible for pulling me deeper into this world was a hands-on experience with a vintage Submariner, reference 5512. This watch, and its impossibly romantic history, spoke to me and, for better or worse, cast the die of my collecting motivations for years to come. Looking back, it’s a rather unremarkable entry point, and one that I undoubtedly share with many others. “Oh, a vintage Sub got you into watches? You don’t say…” eye roll

Now, I have no shame in that (this was well before the explosion of vintage Rolex prices, after all), and I still love a good Sub, vintage or modern, to this day. Very original, I know. But with time came more experiences with a wide range of watches, many of which appealed to me for very different reasons than a Sub. The more watches I encountered, the more fleshed out “my lane” became. I’d call the Sub the center point of that lane. Today, over a decade later, that lane is still taking shape almost everyday. An edge-shift here and there with every new corner I round.

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Today, finding and nourishing your own lane is more challenging than ever. We are inundated with new products, trends, and styles on a near daily basis, each more appealing than the last. The level of FOMO on limited editions and what gains are yet to be realized by in-demand references can cloud our ability to decipher what it is that truly appeals to us about these watches. At the end of the day, it has to be about more than just how ‘investment grade’ these investments may be. So how then, do we carve out our lane in this here hobby of ours? Do we even need to? Is it possible to confront the myriad of influences and influencers and come away with something of value to our own tastes and preferences?

First, there’s nothing wrong with being influenced per se. We are all the time. The challenge is maintaining a sense of yourself through it, and not succumbing to every whim. It’s perfectly natural to ooh and ahh at something new, nice, and attractive, but it’s worth taking a step back to fully digest the ‘why’. Given some time, those knee-jerk reactions aren’t always on-point, and we learn something about ourselves and our taste when we come back to something after first blush. This is most evident when you’re able to get some hands-on time or even just see ‘IRL’ pics of a watch after release.

But even then, do you really like the watch on its own merits, or does its cultural status weigh the scales, even subconsciously? Here, it’s important to be honest with yourself and accept that factors outside of the watch itself can and will have an impact on your appreciation of a watch, both positive and negative. Take the Speedmaster, for instance. This is a watch heavily associated with space, and has deep ties to some of NASA’s most dramatic moments in history. Omega has done a great job of keeping that history front and center when it comes to the Speedmaster. That association alone doesn’t make the Speedmaster great, of course, but it will almost certainly deepen your love of the watch if you own one. And I’d argue that’s just fine. 

Finding your lane doesn’t have to mean enjoying and collecting watches that no-one else will. It means being comfortable with where your own taste takes you, and understanding that you’ve ended up there for your own reasons. If that means liking a few watches that aren’t always en vogue, well, so be it. Conversely, if you find yourself attracted to the hottest references, the 116500s, 5711s, and SPB149s of the world, there’s no shame in that, either, assuming you’d feel the same way about them should their values crash back down to earth. As Emily Dickinson said, the heart wants what the heart wants (or was that Selena Gomez?).

I will take a moment here to advocate for watches that might be way outside of your usual comfort zone, really explore the edges with odd cases, colors, brands, or even complications. Not every collection needs an oddball in the box, but straying from the beaten path from time to time provides some enlightening experiences that provide meaningful context to your core preferences. 

Whether it’s a collection you’re building out over time, or a single watch you’re looking to rock for the rest of your days, your lane is likely to evolve with time and experience. It’s important to let that happen organically, which means you’ll probably make a mistake or two along the way. Embrace it, recognize outside influences, and take your time in deciding what works and what doesn’t for you. If you can do this, and manage to put yourself in front of as many experiences as you can along the way, even if they’re outside of your comfort zone, you’ll have no problem finding a lane of your own that you feel comfortable in. 

How do you find and stay in your lane, free from outside distractions and influences? Has your collection taken any left turns you weren’t expecting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and we’ll incorporate them into a video discussion in the coming weeks.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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