Are you someone who enjoys conflict? Do you like to stir it up on social media? In the watch world, certain topics are predictable in their ability to generate dissonance. Earlier this year it was Baselworld, for years it was the quartz crisis and in recent times, Rolex has been a centerpiece of controversy for a variety of reasons. Most of these topics have been chewed on to the point of tedium. They are the chyme in the watch world’s alimentary canal.
Less common, but even more controversial, is the topic of guns. Post a photo of a firearm along with your favorite wristwatch on a watch forum and you’ll see what I mean. Reactions will vary from “Sweet pistol!” and “Great combo!” to “What a manly man” and “Short barrel?” Some watch enthusiasts find the mere mention of firearms to be an affront to the pursuit of their happy hobby while others are delighted to find even more common ground with virtual “friends”.
I’ve been thinking about this topic lately and there are clearly points of intersection between these two pastimes. Let’s look at some of them.
EDC (Everyday Carry)
The things you carry with you in this world, the essential items, gear and kit all come under the heading of everyday carry (EDC). EDC items will vary from person to person. For example, my wife says her EDC is her watch, phone, wallet, keys, sunglasses and handkerchief.
Are there other things in that purse? Most definitely, but she finds these particular items to be essential for her daily survival in the suburban jungle. For millions of people, handguns are part of their EDC along with flashlights, folding knives, multitools and so forth. For me, essential is defined by the following question: “If I forget and leave the house without it, what will I always go back home to retrieve?” Answer: “Wristwatch and handgun.” Again, that’s just me.
The “pocket dump” has become a common theme of wristwatch posts on social media. The term is pretty self-explanatory but it’s basically a shot of your watch along with certain items supposedly carried in your pockets, be it your wallet, pen, folding knife, etc (I say “supposedly” because, unless you are EMS, Police or Military, you probably aren’t carrying half the stuff that I see in these shots!).
When firearms are included in a pocket dump, it’s almost always a handgun. Like wristwatches, those handguns are often accessorized and full featured. Things like tritium sight illumination, special grips and holsters are common.
Watches, Cars, and Guns
What do watches, cars and guns have in common? That’s easy to explain. They are functional, personal, mechanical and often cleverly designed. They can also empty your wallet. Check out the Chatterbox section of car and gun forums and you will find folks (usually guys with some exceptions) who are just as passionate about watches as they are about cars and guns.
Oh sure, anybody can wear a watch, drive their car or shoot a gun. True enthusiasts go way beyond that…. they tinker, modify, lubricate, repair, collect and compete. They absorb data and specifications. They fantasize about their grail machines. They also form closely held opinions, e.g., Omega > Rolex, Chevy > Ford, SIG Sauer > Glock (or perhaps vice versa?).
My own descent into the rabbit hole of wristwatches was solely due to a watch thread on the Audizine forum. I was astonished by the number of car guys who also collected watches. Their close-up wrist shots were quite enticing and I was particularly smitten by a striking photo of a Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military. I had to have one. And just like potato chips, one is not enough.
Further evidence that watch guys are often gun guys is found on ar15.com. That site has a very active watch subforum and their equipment exchange has a separate section for private party watch selling. Some interesting watches currently up for grabs include a Marathon JSAR, Spinnaker Croft, Alpina Seastrong, Rolex GMT-Master II, Bulova Oceanographer and many others (I doubt that Watch Recon is capturing these so maybe there are some deals to be had!).
Watches, Guns and Social Media
In general, Instagram and Facebook don’t seem to have much of a problem with firearms. As mentioned above, EDC postings with handguns are not uncommon. On the other hand, certain watch forums put guns (and knives) on the same level as political discussion and general rudeness. Postings are tolerated to a point but photos of guns and knives are banned outright.
My unscientific observation is that tolerance for gun chatter on a watch forum is somewhat related to the culture of a forum member’s jurisdiction. In other words, where private ownership of firearms is more restrictive, attitudes toward the comingling of watches and guns are less favorable and, in some cases, downright hostile.
Two Broke Watch Snobs has a very active and vibrant Facebook presence driven by several thousand enthusiastic followers. The TBWS policy on guns is summed up by Moderator Skip Rose: “….because watches are widely popular in the EDC community where knives and guns are commonly depicted, pics with guns will be currently allowed so long as a watch is also shown.” In essence, there must be some relevance to wristwatches to avoid the moderator’s gavel.
With respect to watch companies, guns are generally not part of the marketing plan although a small number integrate them into their social media on occasion. Brands such as Traser, Lum-Tec and Marathon are popular with military and law enforcement professionals and firearms are sometimes a natural component of their EDC aesthetic.
The Collector Gene
Before watches, I collected Makarov pistols. Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov was a Soviet engineer and firearm designer. The pistol he designed was adopted by the Soviet military and police forces in 1951 and was only recently replaced by a more modern design. They are not pretty to look at and, when disassembled, tool marks and other signs of crude finishing are revealed. On the other hand, they are robust, easy to service and demonstrably reliable.
I built up quite a collection as they were produced in Russia, East Germany, Bulgaria, China and post-unification Germany. They were available in various finishes including blued steel, nickel, chrome, satin stainless and two-tone. When you factor in production codes, import stamps and Cyrillic versus English script, there is a vast hunting ground for the serious collector.
At some point, my collection was eclipsed by shiny objects. I began to sell those Makarovs one by one and repurpose the proceeds for, you guessed it, watches. My wife marveled at how I seemingly toggled a switch to move from guns to wristwatches. At first, I began to collect Seiko SKX variants, then Russian and German watches. More recently, I sold off much of my collection so I could focus on just wearing my watches instead of admiring them collectively in a box. I’m not even sure if I’m a collector anymore.
There is a large subset of the watch world that appreciates all sorts of mechanical devices. It’s not hard to find a watch enthusiast who also dabbles in fountain pens, folding knives, flashlights, cameras, cars or firearms. While watches and guns don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and chocolate, there are tangible similarities in their respective enthusiast communities. I find both groups to be highly opinionated and passionate.
On a more hand’s on level, watches and guns are the product of inventive minds that long ago figured out how to make these things work effectively. In spite of that, new ideas, technologies and materials are continuously employed to improve functionality, durability and accuracy. It’s a never-ending quest for perfection that is worthy of effort but will never be achieved. That’s one of the things that make these pastimes so similar and so enjoyable.
Mark retired in 2018 after 37 years in the financial services industry. He “Discovered” watches in 2015 after seeing a photo of a Steinhart OVM1 in a car forum. Ever since then he’s filled two watch boxes (and is trying to decide between buying a third one or thinning the herd). His additional pastimes include hiking, working on cars, exploring and photographing abandoned military bases.
12 thoughts on “Watches and Guns: Sometimes One Hobby Isn’t Enough”
This was everything I hoped it would be.
I thought I was the only one. Lol
I’m curious what some of these anti-gun forums’ policies are on watches with gun components, rather than a whole gun.
Like a watch pic that has just has the barrel from a revolver near it cause it looks cool, for example.
Andrei, My best guess is that something overt like a barrel would get tossed. I think it may also come down to who notices the photo and if they decide to report it to the moderator.
I’ve got an interest in history. So another thing time pieces and firearms may have in common is the development of industrial manufacturing for mass production. Both went from essentially one-off commissioned pieces to mass production with all the standardisation, quality control and supply chain management that requires. I think firearms went through this process a couple of centuries earlier than watches, but both had important roles in industrialisation and the associated increase in wealth.
Another combination I’m interested in is watches and cycling. Bikes are amazing pieces of engineering, like watches, and there are some parallels with the range of watch enthusiasts. People can be interested in vintage and retro bikes, modified bikes, weird designs, or the latest new materials and high tech, and they cost similar amounts to watches.
SMB, I hadn’t thought about the commonalities with bicycles but you make a good point. Thanks for the observation.
Guns help me decide who I want to avoid socially. Indifference to guns is acceptable. Enthusiastic ownership is better. Hostility to guns tells me the avoid any further social contact with that person.
Slipping a gun into a watch photo, or mentioning a gun during a conversation about watches, and observing the reactions aids the process of eliminating those whom I should avoid.
But this this not guaranteed to establish social compatibility. I avoid the snobbery of the horological elite, and a watch snob who owns guns is probably a gun snob too. Both are boorish and boring.
Michael has been slipping firearms references into the podcast, so there is hope for him.
I collect Makarov pistols as well. Which is actually how I found this article. Curious which ones you sold and kept? If you have any left that you’d like to unload. Definitely give me a holler.
A fascination with guns I can understand, but a gun as EDC? Something you need in order to leave the house? Is that because you use it as a talisman or because you feel unsafe where you live? Watches are not weapons, unless you put all those rainbow Invictas in a bag. They are not threatening to people. Yes, both watches and guns are precision instruments, but their use is vastly different. Their intended purpose is very different.
That intended purpose is, of course, part of the fascination. I love F-104 Starfighters even though (and because of) they are weapons. It’s an uneasy fascination, not least of all because that plane sent hundreds of pilots to their death. Issued watches are collected for similar reasons. We can be close to something powerful, often used against humanity, and feel a hint of danger without getting burned. The Glycine Airman, I’m pretty certain, wouldn’t as popular if it hadn’t been used during the Vietnam War. Flieger watches wouldn’t be in such high demand if the Nazis hadn’t used them.
My own attraction to products meant to harm people (or helping people to harm other people) makes me queasy. I don’t think any good comes from it, though suppressing it won’t do any good either. But guns are simply on a very different level. Not because they are worse than Starfighters, but because they are readily available. From the fathers who shot each other at a San Diego Walmart, kids killing each other because their parents didn’t lock away the firearms, to people bringing guns to protests — guns rarely help anyone. But their presence escalates dicey situations all the time.
I remember Michael talking about not wanting to see half-naked women with his daily fix of watches, because it made him feel uncomfortable at home. My dislike of guns in watch photos might be similar — their reality is perhaps a bit too naked.
I’ve only recently discovered a love for mechanical watches, I was drawn in specifically by the mechanical design and precision of the fine movements. The exact same reasons I have an interest in guns. I have no interest in hunting or using guns for personal defence (its illegal in Australia), I just like target shooting and servicing/cleaning/working on them.
As a mechanic by trade I have a love of all things mechanical, I don’t discriminate. V8’s, rotarys, single cylinder or 3 cylinder turbo they are all amazing feats of engineering. I collect cars, I have some guns and now it looks like ill be collecting a few watches too.
Thank you for your comments. Yes, I agree with your thoughts about appreciating all things mechanical. Even with the wave of EVs that are coming, we find ourselves at the absolute peak of great ICE designs. Given your interests, it was probably inevitable that you would “discover” mechanical watches.