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Are your preconceived notions hiding something you might like?
A few days ago I was reading a post about how our preconceived notions might hinder our decision-making… I thought it was applicable to watches, and wanted to share it here with a few comments.
When the Japanese overran the Philippines during WWII, an American exporter found himself confined to an internment camp in Manila. To supplement their inadequate rations, many fellow prisoners took to eating insects, wild plants, and stray animals. But though the businessman lost significant weight, for months he couldn’t bring himself to try this seemingly disgusting foraged fare. Yet when he finally gave in, he found it was . . . not that bad, actually: “In a few days, an old tomcat tasted better than spring chicken to me. I would undoubtedly be dead now if I had not, in desperation, made myself eat the first one.”
The moral of this story is self-explanatory… In our own lives, we will often allow similar preconceptions to keep us from trying things which might even be life-enhancing, let alone life-threatening. It could be anything from broccoli, or certain travel destinations, to certain types of exercise.
In the case of watch collectors, the examples are endless; NATO straps, date complications or not, smaller watches versus larger ones and so on; People are often absolutely certain, that something is not for them.
Of course, one of the things we often take for granted is the freedom to choose. We can simply buy more of, or do more of, the thinks we prefer and enjoy… and we can avoid the ones we do not. The thing is, we can sometimes prematurely determine we must avoid certain things, without even trying them, just to be sure.
Now, it is possible you did try it to be sure, and the stars were not quite aligned in that moment. Perhaps it was a long time ago… or you tried it at a different stage in your life (e.g. a gold dress watch, as a teenager)… perhaps you didn’t give it enough time to grow on you (I am guilty of this with NATO straps)…. or maybe you didn’t have a mentor who could have helped educate you and grow your appreciation simply due to education (applicable to me with vintage Seiko watches) … and, maybe, you simply weren’t ready!
I feel that writing this post might lead to me trying a NATO strap for at least a week, to give it a fair try. It is no secret that I despise them due to the chunky nature of the straps, but I do think they look decent in photos. Maybe I just need to take some time to get used to wearing it, and I will find the comfort which every NATO-strap-lover speaks about.
In addition to NATO straps, another personal change is with regard to dates on watches. Until about a year ago, I always preferred a to have a date on a watch, where possible. I was unequivocally in the “Submariner date” camp! Particularly due to the lockdown, I found myself changing watches and needing to set the date, even though I almost never used the date function. Over time, the date became an annoyance; Today, I see the date being a disruption to the symmetry of the dial, or simply an additional chore that comes with wearing a particular watch. This led me to exploring time-only pieces in more detail… but that’s rabbit-hole for another day.
A final example in my mind is F.P. Journe. Before the current hype, there was a lack of readily available information about the man, and his brand. The information was out there, but you had to dig deeper to find it. Today, you can read posts like this one from A Collected Man, and learn a significant amount about the man, and his watches, with very little effort. This is a contributing factor to the hype we see today, but the point I was thinking of was more to do with collectors’ thinking.
I recall how people used to say things like “I don’t like the layout” or “the font on the dial isn’t to my liking” … little things which perhaps were not quite deal-breakers. They just disregarded the brand to a certain extent, without any real understanding. The very same people today, appreciate the man, and his ingenuity, and would be more than willing to overlook certain perceived faults to own one of his masterpieces. To me, this highlights how people can, and do change their minds – sure, many are buying into the hype – but I know for a fact, many are not. They simply realise there is much more to appreciate about F.P’s watches than the physical object. Incidentally, being able to change one’s opinions due to the introduction of new information, is a sign of higher intelligence. Stanford University professor Paul Saffo has a simpler way to think about intelligence. Have a “strong opinion, weakly held.” This framework allows your mind room to change.
To conclude… we often make choices, and avoid others – and we then hold on to the choices even after we outgrow our old identities or our tastes change. In the watch world, this might be notions like ‘smaller watches are dressier’ or ‘dive watches can’t be used with leather straps’ and so on. These ‘rules’ are all made-up, and frankly, you can do whatever you want… but as your tastes and preferences change, try and revisit the options you previously excluded; they just might surprise you.