Watch Curmudgeon 6: On Voyuhrism


What is it with watches that turns them into such an obsession? They’re just little machines you strap to your wrist that tell you the time. No big deal. But that’s the obnoxiously boring left side of my brain talking. The right side, which has me under complete control, tells me that these little machines are captivating, stimulating, enticing, sensual, provocative, life sustaining, and the list goes on. “Obsession” is a mild way of describing my passion for watches. And it may well apply to you as well. After all, you’re voraciously reading Worn and Wound and most likely identifying with my every word.

Nope! There’s no known cure for people like us. We’ve got watches on our minds morning, noon, and night. I, for one, read most of the blogs, continually visit the brand sites, scour e-bay, check-out the internet retailers, and read all the magazines. And if you visit many of New York City’s watch retailers, you’ll find my nose and forehead smudges on the windows.

You’ll also find salespeople who are less than pleased to see me proceed from the confines of the windows to the beckoning doors. I can feel them peering at me saying things to their cohorts like, “There’s that looker and tryer-oner, but rarely a buyer! He thinks he knows more about watches than all of us combined. His eyes tear and he pants upon holding any new divers watches.”

Yeah, I guess I can be pretty annoying. So are plenty of others I recognize who share my (or should I say “our”) affliction. We haunt the stores on a regular basis attempting  to satiate our horological urges. But my problem goes even farther than this. I find it irresistible to look at watches on peoples’ wrists. For some stupid reason, watches that are being worn and enjoyed are a lot more real to me.

So, like the voyuhr I really am, I’m a devoted wrist watcher, always ready to steal a furtive glance at what unsuspecting* targets are wearing. No matter where I am, I’m always practicing the art of wrist watching. When I walk into a restaurant, for example, I notice what everyone’s wearing on the way to my table. And I always want to sit in a crowded area because there are more potential sightings. It drives me nuts when I notice an interesting crown and corner of a bezel peeking out from someone’s shirt cuff, and I’m unable to identify the watch. While straining my eyes, I sometimes wonder if staring at someone’s wrist is bad manners. Or could it be considered perverted? No. Forget I even said that.

Great watches are always in abundance while walking down a busy street. You just have to learn how to see them. You have to perfect the art of synchronizing your gait with that of the person whose wrist you’re watching. Then you have to synchronize the movement of your head with the swaying of their wrist. It’s much easier than it sounds. Just takes a bit of practice.

If you’ve been following a particularly interesting watch down the street and its owner stops at the corner, you’ve hit paydirt. With a little finesse, you can bend down and get a full face view, maybe even read some fineprint on the dial. Just pretend you’re slumping over to tie your shoe or peel some crud from your trouser cuff.

Close up peeping is even easier while riding a bus or subway. When the vehicle isn’t moving, viewing is a simple pleasure. But when you’re bumping along and gently swaying, you’ve got to perfect the art of image stabilization. After another bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

Distant wrist watching can be much more of a conundrum. While sitting in the park, I’ve often noticed the tell-tale glint from a crystal up to a hundred yards away. I’m thinking of investing in a pair of high power binoculars for this situation. Of course, this may well disturb some of my targets and even attract the likes of Homeland Security.

But if I could get away with wrist binocularing, I might even carry a notebook to log-in all the watches I’ve spotted. Maybe I could start the watch equivalent of the Audubon Society. Via walkie-talkies, you could alert fellow watchers to rare spottings. “Now hear this: Sarpaneva dive watch seen at Northwest park entrance. Owner is wearing an orange ball cap and a light blue Armani suit.”

The most serious of all wrist watching problems occur during important business meetings. Proper etiquette advises you to make as much eye contact as possible with people. But what if the person you’re speaking with is wearing a De Witt Phantom Tourbillon, for example? I, for one, would be intently staring at their wrist, and they, no doubt, would find me some kind of an unprofessional lout. Who wants to lose a client over a lousy watch? Even if it is something incredible. And rare. And enticing. And painfully desirable.

It’s all a perplexion, this wrist watching thing. But you have to learn to live with it. Just accept the fact that there’s no cure, and if there were, most of us would avoid it like the plague. So, enjoy your voyuhrism, and don’t listen to those who feel it’s an invasion of privacy.

*Some targets aren’t so unsuspecting. They flaunt their overly conspicuous watches on outstretched wrists, hoping the world will see them. From my point of view, the two most in-your-face brands are Rolex and Panerai.

One last point of interest: A couple of years ago, I saw ads in the major watch magazines for shirts that were made to show off a watch. The strap actually went through the top of the cuff, then around your wrist. This is the essence of tacky, but a rare delight for us sly voyuhrs.  

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