You might think that the only thing watches and bicycles have in common is gears. However, for this edition of Tool/Kit, photographer, watch enthusiast, and cyclist Hunter Kelley, takes us through how these objects have more in common than meets the eye. Along for the ride is the fun, yet completely capable Ahoi by NOMOS Glashütte. Now clip in for our latest Tool/Kit…
Hey Hunter! Thanks for being the subject of a Tool/Kit for us. Can you tell us, and our audience, a little bit about yourself?
Sure. My name is Hunter Kelley. I live here in New York City. I’m a freelance photographer and graphic designer by day, and I’m an avid cyclist whenever I’m not shooting or designing. Despite the traffic and potholes, you might be surprised that NYC is actually an ideal place to embrace both my hobbies and skills.
How did you get into cycling?
I got interested in cycling around 2017. I wanted to stay healthy and have an active lifestyle, but running wasn’t for me. So the next best thing was riding bikes. And being a photographer, you end up basically being a bit of a gear geek. I’m always nerding out on equipment and there’s an appealing overlap with cycling. You buy a bike, and literally every single component can potentially be swapped out for something more effective and more personalized. I just have a ton of fun with it, and ever since then, I’ve really gone down the rabbit hole.
So you’re a cyclist, a designer, and a photographer—in fact you recently worked with us to shoot a stunning lookbook for NOMOS—but we happen to know that you’re also a watch guy. What got you first interested in watches?
My dad always had a fascination with vintage dive watches and has dozens of them. I’d always be enamored by each one he’d bring into his collection. So back in middle school, when the time had come to get a watch of my own, I decided to go with a very capable, modern dive watch. And I used to wear it every day, regardless of whatever activity I was involved in. So for me, wearing a dive watch while riding feels completely natural. I’m so glad my dad gave me such a good foundation for this hobby.
You talked a little about the crossover between gear enthusiasm in cycling and photography. How does a watch fit into the life of a gear enthusiast?
Just like bicycles and cameras, at the end of the day, a watch is a tool. It’s another piece of equipment in your kit. I rarely leave my place without all three. A capable watch ensures that I hit my appointments on time, it helps me gauge where the sun’s going to be so I can always find the best light, and for me, it’s also a piece of gear that helps complete my look and personal aesthetic.
This edition of Tool/Kit is about NOMOS Glashütte, what was your first encounter with their watches?
I was doing design and photography for a gear review publication, and one of their watches came through for me to shoot. Thanks to my background in graphic design, I immediately noticed and was drawn to its strong Bauhaus vibes. It just stood out. I don’t think there’s another watch brand out there that’s as understated, yet dedicated to the Bauhaus style of design as NOMOS. A lot of watches can become cluttered and disproportionate. But the typography, the line work, and the colors of a NOMOS are always really refined and I think their watches are just timeless because of it.
And then if you turn it over and you’re lucky enough that the model has an exhibition caseback, it’s almost like a complete contrast to the front. It’s ornate, polished, and complex. I particularly love the decorated movement in this Ahoi–it looks absolutely incredible.
So you were riding with the Ahoi neomatik Atlantic. Why does this watch work so well for cycling?
The Ahoi is the NOMOS take on a tool watch. It has 200 meters of water resistance, it’s got a guarded crown, it’s stainless steel, and has sapphire crystals on front and back. It comes in both 40mm and 36mm cases. I chose the smaller of the two cases, which meant the size made it perfect for cycling—completely uninhibiting. If you’ve ever felt a crown dig into your wrist while riding, then you know exactly how crucial this is. I knew I had a watch on, but it didn’t limit my hand and wrist position at all.
It also comes with a very comfortable nylon strap, and since it’s not leather, you don’t need to worry about it getting destroyed by sweat. But the whole time it felt like a luxury watch that was ready for active use. It also has an extremely legible dial, which is perfect for when you’re cycling. When you’re riding in NYC, you need to be able to read the time at a glance or you might find yourself eating asphalt. Best of all, the deep blue dial matched my cycling kit. And at the end of the day, you want to look good while riding.
Great segue. Let’s talk about both your cycling kit and the Tool/Kit you’ve paired with this watch. What did you use for this ride?
I’m fortunate to work with a bicycle brand called PARLEE who lent me one of their beautiful RZ7 road bikes. I always wear a helmet, because, yes, at some point, after you ride for a few years in the city, you will get hit by a car or cab or something. I love the Italian helmet brand Kask made famous by Team Sky. I love it because it’s light and safe, while not being too bulky.
I never leave home without a multi-tool, which in this case is also by an Italian brand called Silka. I chose it for this Took/Kit because it’s almost like a luxury version of a multi-tool, which reminded me of the Ahoi. I brought a Lezyne Pocket Drive Pro mini-pump that’s small enough to fit my cycling wallet. I carry a Pirelli P ZERO™ SmarTUBE, which is only 35 grams. You might have guessed it already, but flats in the city are inevitable. I ride with Oakley Encoder sunglasses. And I decided to wear a cycling kit with an appropriate theme. It’s a limited run by Rapha called the Time Edition. And coincidentally, the colors perfectly match the dial, lume plots, and nylon strap of the Ahoi.
What are your recommendations for someone getting started in cycling, specifically road biking in a city?
You have to be prepared with the right gear and know that city riding is ultimately an exercise in patience. Anything can happen in front of you in a split second. So give yourself plenty of time, because I’ve seen it time and time again—it’s when cyclists are rushing that accidents tend to happen. Riding in the city is all about learning to expect crazy things to happen and, even more importantly, it’s about learning to live with it once they do.
Any final impressions you’d like to share around cycling with the NOMOS Ahoi as your copilot?
Yes. I noticed there’s something special about the relationship between an automatic movement and the constant momentum needed in cycling to keep you going. Both are these mechanical marvels powered by our motion with gears designed to efficiently accomplish a single task. Looking at a watch like the Ahoi inspires me to go and ride. If you think about it, that’s an even more important benefit than keeping accurate time.