Using Your Time to Make a Difference: an Interview with Chris Baker

Chris Baker is not the typical watch enthusiast we’re used to reading about. He’s not an actor, a titan of industry, or any sort of celebrity brand ambassador. He is, however, the type of person we need more of. Chris describes himself as a “homelessness and housing advocate and service provider.” In fact, he is the founder of The Other Ones Foundation (TOOF) in Austin, Texas, a nonprofit that offers humanitarian aid, case management and extremely low-barrier work opportunities to people experiencing homelessness. 

You may know Chris from Netflix’s hit reality show, Queer Eye. He was the hero featured in season 6, episode 8. For those unfamiliar, Queer Eye is a feel-good show where five hosts come into the lives of extraordinary people who do and represent extraordinary things, but need a hand in claiming ownership of the incredible people that they are. This was my introduction to Chris. I connected with his story so much that I began following him on Instagram, and over the last couple of years he’s become a friendly online acquaintance. Eventually I found out that Chris is a watch enthusiast, so I reached out to him to have a conversation about his love of watches and where they fit into his life. 


Chris comes off as a rocker who’s made his way around the block, cracking jokes, delivering a bit of snark in a gravel tone, evoking some 90s grunge vibes – I was waiting for him to croon “Black Hole Sun,” alas, it didn’t happen. Instead he explained that he “doesn’t fit the archetype of a watch enthusiast…I’m not somebody that puts a lot of value in very expensive things.” He went wide-eyed in recollection as he explained that his “love of watches came from an interest in horology,” adding that “we [as watch enthusiasts] tend to conflate horology and the watch world as one and the same, and they’re not.” Essentially, his watch enthusiasm is a side-effect of his curiosity over the concept and study of time. 

He remembered growing up in New York, standing atop a hill in the snow, waiting for his turn to take his sled down. In that moment he had thoughts about how it is we move through time, thoughts that an elementary school child couldn’t articulate. Frustrated, he fell into the snow and cried. Then Chris asked me if I remembered the first time I had experienced deja vu, as he remembered his, and how it also made his adolescent mind combust. It is evident how valuable time is for Chris, not only in his explanations of his own curiosity, but in how he chooses to use that time now. So, I asked him why he believes we cling to what is essentially a technology that we no longer need to measure what is perhaps the most important thing we have.  He responded: 

“I mean, what do you need? What do you not need? You need shelter, food, water, clothing, and relationships. You don’t really need a lot else. It’s about finding things that bring you joy. I think that there is a tremendous amount of wonder in how things work.”

Chris grew up with Fossils, Casios, and talks about having purchased and modded thousands of dollars worth of Seikos that he’s gone on to sell or give away. Money that he attributes to his number eventually coming up for a Rolex Submariner he had pined over, yet after he got it felt, in his words, “meh” about. In getting to know him I could see why. The Submariner is possibly the most recognizable watch in the world. A symbol of status, one that Chris just doesn’t care about, and I found that so refreshing. He grabbed at his current Seiko diver and said if he wanted to wear a black dial diver, he’d reach for the Seiko every time, holding it up to the camera with pride, as I’m positive he’s opened and modified that watch as well. 

Eventually, we got around to a watch whose story he couldn’t wait to tell. His IWC was a gift from the cast and crew of Queer Eye. A segment of each episode is a day spent rebuilding the wardrobe and fashion choices of that episode’s hero. Chris explained that he worked with producers months before the filming of the episode, and fashion was one of the topics of conversation. 

“We talked a lot. All of this stuff about fashion kept coming up and it was just not a topic I felt comfortable talking about. A question they asked me in a 100 different ways was to tell them about a person who has a style that you like. Some celebrity. Pop Culture person. I don’t know – the whole thing made me uncomfortable. But at one point somebody asked me the right question about wearing jewelry and accessories. I said, I kind of like watches. And we really dove into that and had a whole thing.”

Chris had explained what he looks for the most in his watches: Arabic numerals, a day-date function, and on a watch that serves a purpose. 

“At the end of it, this watch was given to me. They took enough time to understand what I liked about watches and what choices I would make. If I told them I wanted a Rolex or an RM they probably would’ve gotten that. I cried when I got this watch…because it was so thoughtful, because they took the time to get to know me, and understand me, and the design elements I like. And they found a watch that was for me. Like for my personality.”

The impact of this gesture became more relevant as I understood more about the evolution of Chris’s collection. He stated that he’s had the Queer Eye IWC for two years, and that it is the watch he’s had in his collection the longest. 

Turns out Chris’s watch collection is quite malleable. He has only a few watches that he wears often: the aforementioned IWC, a Luminox that he received as a gift from his wife, and a Hamilton Khaki. Many of his other watches he’s thoughtfully given away, on top of frequently purchasing watches as gifts, with the same attention to detail that he so admired from the gift of his own IWC. 

As someone who’s dedicated his life to helping others, Chris reconciles with these things we see as indulgences. “I am very well known to be a humanitarian activist. I spent most of my adult life trying to cure the world of poverty. And when that is your mission it feels like the world is against you.” In spite of the factors piled against Chris’ The Other Ones Foundation, they’ve managed to serve over 600 clients, move 170 of them into stable housing, and pay out over $950,000 in earned income through low-barrier work opportunities to people experiencing homelessness in 2022 alone. Chris also provides access to mental health services for his employees and to the clients they serve, as he noted the trauma experienced by many of the individuals he works with. 

“Engaging in hobbies is self-care. And it’s really important that we all do those things. The cool thing about watch collecting is that it’s personal. To me it’s deeply personal.” Hearing him say this touched me as I started to completely understand why he had so few staples in his own collection. Chris only holds on to the watches that are deeply meaningful to him, and he will give away, or buy watches as gifts that he feels will be deeply personal to others. He told me about a Luminox that he purchased for an engineer he worked with, and a Hamilton that went to his tattoo artist. And remember that Rolex Submariner? It went to Chris’ brother-in-law. It would seem that his approach to watch collecting mirrors the thoughtfulness he’s filled the rest of his life with.

There was one thing that Chris said to me that has resonated with me deeply in the time since we first spoke. It’s something that will stick with me when considering my place in this hobby, and whenever I’m deciding what I need to do with my time: 

“[A moment is] the single most common thing, and the single most rare and fleeting thing. You’re looking at something that happens all the time, but will also only ever happen once […] My life has been profoundly influenced by time as a resource. It’s not something that you can influence. No one can.”

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Chris Antzoulis is a published poet and comic book writer who over-romanticizes watches. Ever since his mom walked him through a department store at the budding age of six and he spotted that black quartz watch with a hologram of Darth Vader’s face on the crystal, he knew he was lost to the dark side of horology. He is currently eye-balling the next watch contenders now caught in his tractor beam.