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Wristwatches and religions
SDC's first-ever guest post! by @AWatchCritic
Today is a proud day for me, as I get to share a guest post by a friend I made on Instagram… through our shared appreciation for watches. I have shared his entire essay below, in his own words, which he produced all on his own, including the images which I am sure you will agree, are epic! For this, I just want to say thank you, bro! I truly appreciate the effort and time taken to prepare this, and I am honoured that you think this platform is worthy of such an effort. I hope the readers agree, as I certainly enjoyed the thought experiment very much!
Some of you may have come across me, A Watch Critic on Instagram (@awatchcritic). As the name implies, I enjoy giving criticism and debate around watches as 'nothing is perfect' in my view. My Dutch roots have endowed me with a direct, no-nonsense perspective we Dutch are known/infamous for!
I collect with a 1 watch per brand philosophy, which broadens my horizon allowing me to appreciate a myriad of brands rather than fixating on just one. It also avoids strong bias in my collection and hopefully enforces my credibility as a critic, with a wide appreciation and understanding of what different brands offer. I do a lot of research on each brand before a purchase and around watchmaking in general, and have a professional interest and expertise in branding and consumer behaviour.
I see no need to play any of the typical AD games or have any particular loyalty to dealers or brands. And yes, every piece I own, no matter how cherished, isn't exempt from my scrutiny!
Fanboys, tribes & brand loyalty
The watch community, like many others, often falls prey to the allure of 'fitting in'. Many collectors feel compelled to own 'the basics'—a Seiko 5, G-Shock, Submariner, Speedmaster, or even a Patek. Without these, do you even 'belong'? So, what drives this need for validation?
My collection of over 30 watches, lacks all of these, but perhaps I just enjoy being different… Many enthusiasts are drawn to specific watch brands for a myriad of reasons. For some, it's a symbol of status or a reflection of personal significance. For others, it's a genuine belief in the superior craftsmanship of the timepiece.
Rolex, for instance, enjoys almost universal admiration or envy from most watch collectors (non-collectors may be more biased against what it represents). Its iconic status is undisputed, and its appeal spans both the casual wearer and the discerning collector.
Conversely, niche brands such as Grand Seiko cater more to the purists. These are the aficionados who are vocal about the unparalleled quality and craftsmanship they believe the brand offers, often asserting that it provides exceptional value for money at any opportunity they are given.
Both Rolex and Grand Seiko have cultivated a dedicated following. These aren't just casual admirers; they are fanboys in the truest sense. Passionate, loyal, and often fervent in their advocacy for their chosen brand, they congregate on dedicated forums, sharing insights, reviews, and experiences that often go beyond the watches themselves. Their discussions often transcend mere appreciation for the watches, delving into the history, mechanics, and nuances of each model.
This phenomenon isn't exclusive to the watch community. It's a manifestation of tribalism, a social construct that has been ingrained in human behaviour since the dawn of civilisation. Historically, humans have always sought to identify with groups that share our values, beliefs, or preferences. Our attire, our language, the symbols we adorn ourselves with including jewellery – these have always been markers of our affiliations and status in society.
In the context of horology, this tribal behaviour has evolved over time. As watch brands have developed their identities, narratives, and USPs, they've attracted specific segments of enthusiasts. These tribes, whether they rally around the utilitarian robustness of a Sinn or the artisanal precision of a Grand Seiko, are a testament to the powerful allure of branding and the deep human need to belong.
Watch Brands as Religions
Whilst my Instagram is strictly horology-centric, I can't help but notice the broader issues my Watchfam friends discuss and share, such as the Arab–Israeli conflict. With stories and posts from both sides of the conflict as the watch community in particular features many collectors and dealers from both religious backgrounds.
As an optimistic nihilist myself, I have no skin in the game and try to remain neutral and focused on what is objective truth and what goes against agreed social norms such as the killing of innocent civilians, which I obviously condemn entirely, regardless of the perpetrator. I try to listen to both sides and question information in an informed way. However, the media's biased portrayal of such issues is evident from both sides.
In DM’s with @kingflum about this subject he pointed out this notion of a 'party line' that media, similar to politicians have to support. And how we can see something like this often happening in watch media that tend to support the party line, even when a controversial watch is released.
To me this raised the question: What are these 'parties' in watches?
Brands, from Swatch to Patek, from mainstream to independent, even fashion brands like Daniel Wellington, seem to operate very similar to religions or tribes, advertising their values, creating tribes (literally in the case of MB&F), loyalty and even with ADs serving as places of worship to these brands!
People seem to like equating watch brands to things like cars and other brands. That in turn got me wondering how much watch brands actually equate to religions.
Rolex and Christianity being the most obvious match to me, I decided to ask what ChatGPT (4) had to say…
ChatGPT Prompt: "I want to equate watch brands to religions, what watch brands would each major religion be and why?"
The results seemed very intuitive to me and the explanations quite insightful and funny:
“Comparing watch brands to religions is a highly subjective exercise and might be interpreted differently depending on individual perspectives. However, if we were to do this purely as a fun, light-hearted exercise without intending any offense, here's one possible interpretation based on some general traits of watch brands and religions:
1. Christianity - Rolex: As one of the world's largest religions, Christianity has widespread recognition and influence, much like Rolex in the watch world. Both are deeply rooted in tradition and have had significant impact on history.
2. Islam - Patek Philippe: Islam places great emphasis on tradition and the passage of knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. Patek Philippe’s slogan, "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation," aligns with this idea of generational legacy.
3. Hinduism - Jaeger-LeCoultre: Hinduism is known for its depth and complexity, with many deities, rituals, and scriptures. Jaeger-LeCoultre, with its intricate watch mechanisms and multiple complications, mirrors this complexity.
4. Buddhism - Seiko: Buddhism emphasizes the middle way and harmony. Seiko produces a range of watches, from affordable to high-end, catering to various tastes and budgets, much like the inclusiveness and balance Buddhism promotes.
5. Judaism - Audemars Piguet: Judaism, with its rich traditions and emphasis on history and legacy, could be compared to Audemars Piguet, known for its distinguished history in watchmaking and commitment to craftsmanship.
6. Sikhism - Omega: Sikhism emphasizes service, honesty, and dedication. Omega, with its history of creating reliable watches used in space missions and the Olympics, reflects this dedication to service and precision.
7. Taoism - Nomos Glashütte: Taoism is about simplicity, naturalness, and spontaneity. Nomos watches are known for their minimalist design and pure aesthetic, capturing the essence of Taoist principles.
Remember, this is a whimsical and generalised exercise. Any comparisons made are broad and not to be taken too seriously. Moreover, the importance and depth of religious beliefs and practices cannot truly be compared to commercial products.”
I also asked it about some other religions/belief systems:
Prompt: “How about an Agnostic, Satanist or an Atheist?”
- Agnosticism is about uncertainty or lack of commitment to a particular belief about the existence or non-existence of a deity. Their choice might be versatile and open-ended.
- Seiko: They offer a wide range of watches from quartz to mechanical, from dressy to sporty. Their vast variety can mirror the open-mindedness of an agnostic.
- Citizen Eco-Drive: It's reliable and doesn't commit solely to battery or mechanical operation, somewhat reflecting the middle-ground approach of agnosticism.
- Modern Satanism, especially as seen in the Church of Satan, is more about individualism, secularism, and skepticism rather than the worship of Satan. A watch that is bold, individualistic, or against the grain might appeal.
- SevenFriday: Their avant-garde designs and distinctive look set them apart from traditional watch designs, resonating with the idea of challenging the norm.
- Invicta: Known for bold and often oversized watches, this brand's audacity might align with the rebellious spirit of some forms of Satanism.
- Atheism is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. An atheist's choice in watch would likely be based on personal aesthetics and functionality rather than spiritual or religious symbolism.
- Richard Mille: Their technical prowess, focus on innovation, and disregard for traditional watchmaking aesthetics might resonate with those who value empirical evidence and modernity.
- Fossil: Functional, fashionable, and devoid of any overt religious or spiritual symbolism.
So there you have it, Invicta is the brand for Satanists, that explains a lot about their current lineup actually!
All jokes aside, there is a serious hate against some brands like Invicta and Hublot, that shows similarities to some religious hatred that is usually lacking much substantial basis or taken out of context such as price.
I will happily admit I bought a left-hand drive Invicta pilot chronograph watch (pictured) as a (much) younger man who couldn’t afford much more, alongside a Tissot Tank and ultrathin Swatch Skin which were a lot less impressive compared to the 46mm Invicta, but ultimately more in line with my current taste. But the fact Invicta made a left-hand drive watch made me feel it was for me, as a lefty myself.
I wore it proudly for a year or two and received many compliments as I was still in ignorant bliss about the crappy throw-away movement hiding inside and that big watches would soon go out of fashion! Did I perhaps buy this partly because I had an older cousin that had a Breitling and I wanted to belong to that tribe? This was the closest thing to a ‘luxury’ watch within my reach at that age. And did push my horology journey further.
For those wondering, I did ask what a Nihilist would wear too, but ChatGPT struggled to answer any brand as it believed brands wouldn’t matter to a true Nihilist. But with some persuasion finally suggested a Casio F91-W (a suicide terrorist favourite by the way). Or for an Optimisitic Nihilist it suggested something like a Nomos, Junghans, Braun or Skagen which do appeal to me I must admit!
Let's visualise, using Stable Diffusion
Next, I decided to play around with some stable diffusion image generation around this topic, to bring it to life. This was harder than I had hoped for a couple reasons:
1. Stable diffusion image generators aren't great at generating text like you would expect on a watch for the brand, numerals, dial orientation etc. and often ended up illegible double crowned watches like this:
No-problem! I can photoshop the watches in later, I figured.
2. DALL-E (2 and 3) and services like Bing and ChatGPT that use this generator have some interesting content limitations that made it basically impossible to get any image of a “Muslim man wearing a luxury watch”! Perhaps not unsurprising given the amount of fake news that may be generated with this, but a disappointment nonetheless given my harmless intentions I felt unnecessarily policed:
Even less explicit variations wouldn’t work:
Oddly, Jesus (or any more generic Jew), a Buddhist or Sikh wearing a watch didn't seem to be as much of an issue for these, here is a selection I enjoyed:
Imagine how many Followers Jesus would have on IG with these fire wrist shots!
These really show off the Dall-E 3 improvements but the watches outside Rolex are still not recognisable, despite specifying brand in the prompts.
Other services are luckily available and I found one that helped me generate some images that I could put my own choice of watch on. Of course I used ChatGPT again to help me select what watches each would be wearing with prompts like:
"Which Rolex model would Jesus wear?"
This is a light-hearted and speculative question, as it's an anachronistic scenario — Rolex watches didn't exist during Jesus's time. Additionally, considering the teachings and characteristics attributed to Jesus in religious texts, he lived a life of humility, simplicity, and service to others. Thus, material possessions, especially luxury items, were not a focus.
However, for the sake of entertaining the question:
Rolex Oyster Perpetual: It's one of the more understated Rolex models, lacking the gemstones, gold, or other flashy materials seen in some of the brand's more luxurious models. The Oyster Perpetual is simple, reliable, and functional.
Rolex Air-King: Another model that's relatively modest in the Rolex lineup, with a straightforward design. Its name might also whimsically resonate with the "King of Kings" title often attributed to Jesus.
That said, it's essential to approach such speculative questions with respect for the religious and cultural significance of figures like Jesus. In all likelihood, based on his teachings and lifestyle, Jesus would probably not focus on wearing any luxury items, let alone a specific brand of watch.
The watches I finally selected to illustrate were:
Christianity: Rolex OP Tiffany
Islam: Patek Philippe 5207
Hinduism: JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph
Buddhism: Matching Seiko 5
Judaism: AP Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
Sikhism: Omega Moon Watch
Taoism: Nomos Tangente
Without further ado, and my apologies for the crappy phone-photoshop skills:
So, where do you stand in this horological spectrum? Are you a staunch brand loyalist or a horological polytheist? While tribalism offers a sense of belonging, it's crucial to remain open-minded. Brands like Hublot or Daniel Wellington might be the antichrist to some, but is such disdain justified or merely a byproduct of popular tribalism? And are sole-brand collectors, in essence, horological zealots?
The watch media, with its brand affiliations and underlying agendas, often treads a fine line between advocacy and bias. As collectors, recognising and combating this inherent tribalism can pave the way for a harmonious watch community, where diverse tastes and critiques are celebrated and all brands respected. Let's strive for unity and shared love of watches that isn’t flamed by brand interests, ensuring that long standing ‘conflicts’ like Rolex vs Grand Seiko remain a thing of the past.
-A Watch Critic-
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