With holiday travel season upon us, the team here at Worn & Wound ponders the logistics of traveling with watches, both from a practical and style standpoint. Here’s how we get around with our watches, we invite you to share your process and/or rituals in the comments below.
Rolls, Pouches, & Folds: How We Travel With Watches
When I travel, I tend to lose stuff. It’s just a reality of my life: when I pack up a bunch of stuff, move it to another place, and then put it all back together to take back to the first place, something inevitably goes missing. A cell phone charger, that cheap pair of headphones, or something from the dopp kit that’s easily replaceable at the pharmacy down the street. It’s never a crisis, but it happens fairly often, and it always mystifies me, because in general I’m a fairly organized person when it comes to this type of thing. I think this is the reason I like to travel with a minimal number of watches. I haven’t lost one yet, but bringing a bunch with me feels like playing with fire.
Traveling with only the watch on my wrist is actually something of a freeing experience. At home, I’m surrounded by my own watches, constantly switching them up throughout the day, which is impractical and unnecessary on vacation. Hauling a significant number of watches with me on a vacation would necessitate having to make choices about what to wear and when, which would seem to kill the relaxing vacation vibes I’m almost certainly after. Generally speaking, when I’m on the road, the fewer decisions I have to make, the better. And with only one watch per trip, I have an exactly zero percent chance of forgetting one or more in a hotel room, never to be seen again.
Luckily for me, the watches I own tend to be suitable for all manner of vacation activity I’m likely to participate in, so I never really have to play the game of trying to pick one for a fancy night out, one for a diving excursion, and one for a brisk rock climbing session. While I think my Grand Seiko could actually handle all of the above, more or less, a vacation watch in my mind is one that doesn’t beg for attention. It’s a reminder, after all, that at some point you’ll need to check the time to make sure you catch that flight home, which is the last thing I want to think about when I’m trying to get away.
Travelling near of far doesn’t change my habits – even crossing time zones doesn’t automatically make me pick up a GMT watch for the trip. Typically, I stick to my own mantra of “One watch per day. One day per watch”. I don’t often switch out watches during the day, and I don’t tend to wear the same watch for two days running. As such, my trusty old two-watch pouch from the WindUp Watch Shop is perfect. It fits in my luggage without taking up too much space, and combined with the watch on my wrist lets me flit between three different watches during a trip. Of course, a beach vacation might mean a slightly different three watch selection than a city break (and business trips are thing of the long distant past for me), but generally I’ll select the three that will give me the most versatility with my newest watch always taking one of those spots.
I don’t think my rituals around travel and watches are that bizarre, though I do consider a few things when I’m packing for a trip. First, is just how many watches should I bring (a notion that is likely bizarre to anyone but a watch enthusiast)? Depending on the duration of the trip and the activities involved, it’s typically anywhere from 2 – 4. So, either a watch pouch or a roll’s worth. Plus whatever’s on my wrist. Ok, 3 – 5 watches.
In terms of what watches, there are a few more considerations. Obviously there is some risk in traveling, so I don’t want the overall value, emotional or financial, to be too high. Then there is function. If I’m crossing time zones I will grab a watch with a 12-hr bezel. This is likely also going to be the watch I fly with. Do I really need that function? Debatable, but it’s nice to put it to use. Given the bezel, this is likely a sportier watch too, so it can serve the function of being my “activities” watch. That said, a more straightforward diver might make it into the kit as well, not that I’m diving anywhere.
And then there are the rest, which are likely to include a good everyday, but less toolish watch (or two), and something a bit dressier, for that one fancier dinner or meeting. If all goes right, I neither feel like I have to wear the same watch everyday, nor that I’m unprepared for the various requirements of the trip. In terms of straps… well, that’s a different article I suppose.
I don’t travel often, but when I do it’s typically with two watches at most. For a time I would wrap the watch I wasn’t wearing in a pair of (clean) socks, be it my Captain Cook or Grand Seiko. Provided it was surrounded by enough clothes I was comfortable with the venture. However, recently, I’ve switched between single watch sleeves and my personal favorite selection of a single watch hard case. For watches on bracelets – nearly all my watches – a hard case enclosure with the “dimple” top and bottom ensures that the bracelet links would never rub on one another and inadvertently damage my timepiece. All in all, these options are only slightly more sophisticated than the Dickies.
Before any big trip I have a moment of excitement when thinking about just what I should take with me. It offers a chance to use some of the cool gadgets and complications we prize so much. However, I often end up falling back to the simplest solution, a single, non-complicated watch. My trips in recent years have seen time-only watches on my wrist, as I’m generally within an hour or two of my home time, and quickly adjusting the hour hand without the possibility of having to futz with the date on the trip back (if you’ve ever had to bring that date on your vintage watch all the way around you know what I’m saying).
This equation changes if I think I might be spending time with any other watch enthusiasts, but around this time of year, traveling with a kid and seeing family, I’ll keep it simple. This year, I’m fortunate to find a GMT-Master II in my collection and feel I’d be doing it a disservice if I didn’t travel with it. Right? So that leaves a single watch, worn on wrist. Easy. At least, that’s what I thought.
While recording a recent podcast our producer comment about bringing a few watches with him as travels because it’s fun to have a variety, and that forces you to wear more of your watches during events that matter. I took this as a challenge, and I’ve got plenty of watches, so why not put them to use when traveling. So, this year, I’ll be packing a roll, full up with three watches, plus the GMT on wrist, and will do my level best to rock a different one each day. Cheers to you, Josh!
Anthony Bourdain knew a thing or two about traveling, and one of my all time favorite quotes comes from him and it goes, “Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance”. So when it comes to planning for a trip, whether it may be putting an itinerary together, packing the duffel bag or figuring out which watch (or watches) to bring, for me, the preparation is most certainly something that takes up more time than the actual packing itself.
Typically I travel with two watches, and how I travel with them varies based on the location I am traveling to, and what things I may potentially get into. If I find myself traveling to a major city, such as NYC to visit friends and family, or to work out of the W&W headquarters, I’ll have a watch on wrist that can take a ding (or two) going through the motions at the airport and then seamlessly fit in at the bar for a welcome home cocktail; something tough, and easy to wear, like my Explorer 14270. In the event I needed something a bit more special and dressier, especially with the holidays around the corner, I’d swap out the watch on wrist with something like my vintage ‘70s Seamaster, which would have been wrapped up and packed away in a simple leather watch roll.
If I end up going to a more exotic location, which more often than not, will have a large body of water nearby, I’ll throw on a robust and reliable diver. It also would be something that wouldn’t draw any attention and would easily fly under the radar. Usually this calls for my Seiko SKX 013. It’s on these types of trips where one watch is suitable for me, but for the sake of being prepared, tucked away in the dopp kit would be my CWC G10 Quartz, just in case. Another thing Bourdain said that resonated with me and meaningful travel is that, “travel leaves marks on you”, and hopefully if we’re lucky, our watches will get some marks along the way too, with a good story to accompany them as well.
You’re all familiar with the move — standing there, arms crossed, just staring at your watch box trying to figure out who the lucky ones are that’ll make it on the trip with you. While my collection isn’t super extensive, there are usually a few watches in the running. What I bring with me depends on where I’m going and what I’ll be doing, but most often it’s a watch or two (max) that has decent water resistance and good grab-and-go-abilty. In the past, my Sinn 856 has made an excellent travel companion, but I suspect that my current favorite Grand Seiko SBGN003 will be pulling exclusive travel duty when the time comes. When I’m getting away, the last thing I want to do is worry about my watch. Ideally, I’ll put it on and leave, snagging a few choice wrist shots along the way. The GS is an excellent candidate for looking good, staying accurate, and having the specs to back it up during nearly any activity.
For carrying things, I love a good EDC pouch. My current go-to is the EDCM-Husky by Vanquest. It’s a tough 1000-D Cordura nylon pouch that’s loaded with elastic straps and pockets, perfect for organizing your travel essentials. Grey on the outside and hi-vis orange on the inside, it’s great for carrying charging cables and bricks, a pen, Swiss army knife, extra straps, extra watch — you name it. I find that it’s beneficial to keep all my essentials in one place, eliminating the need for extra watch-specific carrying cases for a simpler approach. When traveling with two small kids, even a little simplification goes a long way. Typically, I’ll carry this as a bag-in-bag system, throwing it into my backpack (my current go-to is the DSPTCH Daypack).