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Plain, boat and trainspotters: I get it. No, I don’t make myself comfortable near airfields, railways and shipping routes with camera and notepad or laptop at the ready, but I am definitely a spotter. A watch spotter that is, with a nudge to Trainspotting, the cult movie whose title refers to a junkie watching his train wallpaper in his childhood bedroom, but that’s an aside.

Some brands invite discussion, whereas other brands say everything there is to say with their flamboyant look.

So: watchspotting is my thing and I do it all the time and wherever I am. When I’m watching TV – I spot Charlie Sheen wearing a Patek Philippe in a repeat of Two and a Half Man and I find myself chuckling, not at the corny jokes but because of the fact that I’m spotting a Patek – when I’m eating in a restaurant – to the serious displeasure of my dinner companion who is feeling neglected – when I’m on a plane – the fellow passenger can feel eyes on him, but strangely enough on his wrist rather than the back of his neck.

I find flying irritating for several reasons – it takes a lot of time just to get to the airport and on board, it is always too cold or too hot on the plane and the KLM snacks are pathetic – but there is one reason I think it’s fantastic: watchspotting. It starts with a warm-up round past the watches in the glass cases at the airport – the comprehensive collection of watches at the modest Geneva airport gives me lots of pleasure every time – and then moves to the seats in the gate waiting area. Spying on others, looking around discreetly, assessing, another look. During my most recent flight from Geneva back to Amsterdam I spotted two Rolexes – a GMT Master II and an Explorer I – plus a brand-new IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar with a blue dial. Incidentally, that IWC is a watch that invites you to do more than just spotting. An IWC wearer has usually made the decision with his head and his heart, and is quite willing to talk about it to like-minded people. Some brands invite discussion, whereas other brands say everything there is to say with their flamboyant look.

Of all the watches I have spotted there are two that I remember the clearest: a Royal Oak Tourbillon that I spotted – a jaw-dropping moment – when I was pushing my way through business class trying to get to economy and the yellow gold Cartier Santos 100 Chronograph with brown alligator strap with staples. Yes, staples. The owner of this chunky watch had punched two staples through the strap so it wouldn’t keep sliding through the clasp. The watch contained just a little too much heavy metal for the strap system, so the staples were there to stop the annoying sliding of the strap. Although inventive and intriguing it did not result in a conversation. But my watchspotting continues unabated – I’m sure you know how that goes.

 

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Lex Stolk

The author Lex Stolk

Lex Stolk studied Journalism in Utrecht and it was during his time as a student he developed a passion for mechanical watches. He has spent his entire career in the publishing industry working for a wide range of publications before entering the watch world professionally seven years ago. His work for several watch publications made it possible for him to combine his love for both watches and magazines.