“Hey umm, can I borrow that Seiko Ripley that you got? I think it’s awesome,” he asked as I stood shocked in place.
The watch in question was in a safety deposit box in the bank and I could have said “sure,” but I felt very uncomfortable and somehow, bad.
“That watch and several others aren’t with me so no,” I replied. In the back of my head I was running through the many scenarios where this limited edition watch which has long been discontinued could possibly be replaced if something happened to it. In the past I lent out watches to dear friends, but those were close friends. People who I would be more concerned with their mental welfare after losing my watch than the loss of the watch itself.
This was not the case however. I had met this gentleman at this get together for watch enthusiasts several times, but I did not even know his last name, nor had I ever met him for a drink outside one of theses events.
After looking around I noticed that something was very wrong in these events. Grown adults were continually behaving in manners that belied the common sense that we all should be practicing.
This has happened to me too
Some of you who may be reading this have on occasion attended such gatherings and felt a certain social pressure to allow others access to your watches, knives, vintage books, or dive gear, just to name a few for example. The feeling of community can be a powerful and persuasive force when applied to a facet of one’s life that is ridiculed by the masses, or simply scorned upon by their significant others. This social pressure and level of elation some feel can lead to issues and anxiety. For those of you reading this, do not be afraid to say no or stand up to someone who is not behaving appropriately.
After speaking for what must have been ten minutes about his love for the Omega Speedmaster, a man dropped the vintage Speedmaster he was holding onto a glass table. The owner of the watch froze as I told the older gentleman exactly what he did wrong, and if he did that to an irreplaceable watch that I owned there would have been a scene.
The Burden of Responsibility
Here are some basic guidelines that you should employ when at such gatherings. Keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible for your property, not the organizers of the event. If you are in anyway uncomfortable with someone taking your watch to take a look at it, speak up. Respect and mechanical sympathy for these objects is not universal, especially amongst enthusiasts.
Operating and Handling of the Piece in Question
When it comes to watches, always ask whether it is alright if you operate the chronograph function or wind up the watch. Usually people do this for vintage watches but you never know the state of a modern timepiece either. It may need a service for all you know.
No One Cares About Your Photography
More importantly, do not immediately pull out the crown and set it to a desired time for a photo. There are a lot of people who attend these gatherings simply to take photographs of watches they never dreamed of being able to handle. There have been many occasions where people run off with a watch outside of the gathering’s area in search of good lighting or simply rush through aggressively taking photographs and handling the watches without care.
If you want to take a look at a watch, find the owner, ask if you can take a look at it, and return it to him within a reasonable amount of time – no longer than 5 minutes. Do not take the watch to another table to compare it with another piece and never return it. Being excited to be in a relaxed environment with like minded humans is not an excuse to disrespect other peoples valued property.
One time, I placed my Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial on the table in front of me when a gentleman I had recognized from previous events picked it up and simply walked away. Leaving the gatherings designated area to go outside where there was natural lighting, I did not see my watch or that person for at least 40 minutes. The sense of relief was understandably great when he returned and placed my watch on the table. However, the fact that he was holding another watch in the same hand did lead to a certain degree of anger on my part.
Treat Every Watch As If It Is Priceless
You do not know the story behind the watch that someone was kind enough to bring with them. An affordable Casio may have been a gift from someone that recently passed away. Treating it as anything less than a precious and delicate item would be disrespectful.
When trying on a watch, make sure that you already do not have a watch on. Having watches bump into each other is inexcusable. If your wrist size is different from the owners wrist, ask if it is alright if you fasten the leather strap onto your wrist.
Be Mindful of the Watch You Are Taking a Look At
If you are taking a look at a watch which is relatively common, do not walk away with it. There have been countless times where there is a standoff between two or more Omega Speedmaster owners staring at multiple Speedmasters wondering which one is theirs.
The same can be said about a very rare watch. Treat it with care and if you looked at it, place it back all within the eyesight of the owner. You would be doing everyone a favor.
Mind Your Beverage and Sticky Fingers
Having a drink spill on top of a set of watches ranging from a G-Shock to a vintage Vacheron Constantin rose gold dress watch is not acceptable. If you are trying to find a place to put your watches down, do so away from drinks. Approaching a table of watches? Be mindful of where you place your drink.
If you have had food, please wash your hands before handling a watch. I personally had a velour strap of my Nomos ruined because someone managed to get a large amount of syrup on that strap and the watch.
Expand Your Sphere of Awareness
Do not place your property on the outskirts of the event area where they can be taken easily without notice. If meeting like minded enthusiasts in a public place, always be aware of your surroundings and take only a couple of items out at once. As appealing as a “sex-pile” photo is, they are simply idiotic if done in an uncontrolled environment.
Lastly… Location, Location, Location
There are many people out there that would love for the chance to steal your watches and other valued property. This is why it is paramount that you keep the location of these events a secret. Even if every event is held at a different location, it is not hard for criminals of average intelligence to discern a set pattern of behaviour of the group and track you down.
This is the most serious section of this article, and one that I enforce personally when I see people doing this.
Do not take pictures that contain content which reveal the location. Whether it be a menu or an easily discernible piece of interior decorating. A lot of people do this for their Instagram stories and this is beyond stupid. And stupid is not too harsh of a word for this. Many of these events are private and for the eyes of those who attend only. Taking a video that may reveal the identities of the members and the location is selfish and idiotic. The people who do so are obviously there to show off that they are partaking in the event. If you do this, just stop, or expect to be thrown out or have the video/picture forcibly removed from your phone. Be there to enjoy the company of like minded individuals and the interest at hand.
A Special Note About The Trend of Lending Out Watches
When we see people engaging in a desirable activity on the internet and on Instagram, we naturally would also like to take part. Having a watch or a knife on loan from a friend can be an amazing experience. It is a great way to experience a watch that you would otherwise never had the chance to do so.
However, do not put someone in an uncomfortable position by asking them to borrow a watch if you are not close with them. Some may have no issue loaning out a watch that is several thousands of dollars, or is irreplaceable to someone who is an all out stranger. I however and many others do have a problem with this.
To quote a friend who rejected the notion of setting up one of the attendants of these events on a date with his wife’s friend, “We don’t know what dark secrets that man is harbouring. I’m not letting him anywhere near your friend until I find out more about him.”
If you do not know the person very well, have not seen them outside of the enthusiast gatherings, do not ask to borrow their watch. It is simply rude. If something goes wrong, you will be facing the full brunt of anger from the owner, and there will be scene.
The internet has allowed for many wonderful people to come together and to share in their passions where in the past it would have been impossible to do so. It is understandable to be excited, and to be very enthusiastic when at these events. One should not lose sight of what we value and how our hobby is viewed by the general public, and more importantly by criminals. Being mindful of the watches and of keeping the gatherings discreet is in reality not too much to ask, but purely common sense.
As the adage goes however, “common sense is not that common” applies to this topic, and in the way that many people from all walks of life and of all levels of sophistication conduct themselves at these events.
So please, moving forward, expand your awareness to more than just what is in front of you and to that of your entire surroundings. Remember the faces of those who are not in your group and who tend to linger near the gathering. Take care of yourself and of your newly found and old friends, and that of the integrity of your shared hobby.
Always be courteous, and alert.