If you like watches at all, you have certainly seen wristshots, and perhaps you have even posted a few of your own. Here I’m talking not about advertising images or photos published by journalists, but rather individuals’ photos of their own, or others’, watches worn on the wrist.
Like the selfie (a related form of expression that was also unknown not that long ago), wristshots seem to be ubiquitous these days. But where did they come from and why do they exist?
Wristshots: the early days
Though the start of this phenomenon wasn’t that long ago, I have to confess that I’m not entirely sure when, where, or how the practice of posting wristshots online began even though I have done some research on the topic.
As far as I can tell, however, the wristshot movement really began to gain momentum when participants on various forums began to launch “what’s on your wrist today?” threads.
These threads were fun at first, but after a while began to get a bit annoying: if someone didn’t have any original views to express, but wanted to get a bunch of hits and responses to a post, they could simply put up a photo of the watch on his or her wrist that day and ask others to pitch in.
After a while, some forum moderators took steps to segregate these threads: on PuristSPro, for instance, through the creation of a weekly Friday “Wrist Scan” competition that persists to this day and draws a large number of creative photos each week.
The desire to show a watch on one’s wrist was not so easily contained, however. Both on individuals’ pages and in dedicated “wrist scan” groups, platforms like Facebook and Instagram began flooding the internet with images of wrist after wrist bearing watches of all types, brands, and price points.
Pretty quickly, new structures and traditions began to emerge. On May 29, 2012, for example, fratellowatches.com launched the now-popular “Speedy Tuesday” weekly feature about Omega Speedmasters.
These days we also have Tourbillon Tuesday, Caseback Thursday, and I’m sure a number of other weekly “days” that I’m not aware of in addition to the torrent of individual images put up each day.
The wristshot as a mode of expression seems to be here to stay, as evidenced by the popularity of Watchonista’s Wristshot group on Facebook.
An excellent question, to be sure – and as I’m the one writing the history here, I’ll take the liberty of asserting a taxonomy of motivations, from tame to titillating, with some examples along the way.
* Reporting: this type of wristshot surfaced quite early on, as enthusiasts who saw watches at shows or retailers took it upon themselves to snap shots of the pieces to let others know what they looked like on the wrist. Today, my friend F.X. Overstake remains the master of this style; he has access to a huge range of watches, and the straightforward photos on his blog Equation du Temps and his social media feeds provide a real impression of what you might expect if you put the watch on your own wrist.
* Love: got a new watch or an old favorite? No better way to show your love than to post an image online and bask in the flow of “wear it in good health” or “another great shot” responses. All the better if the watch in question is an object of desire for many viewers (like the Dufour Simplicity, for instance) or a rarely seen watch that many people may never have a chance to handle in person.
* Friendship: when good friends get together to share watches, it’s usually an opportune time to capture a few wristshots like the wild sight of four A. Lange & Söhne Lange Double Splits in one small space that we captured at a collector event. Here I’d also include the variety of charming husband-wife dual wristshots that have been emerging on the scene recently.
* Celebration: watch-related events call for visual capture! Whether it’s the opening of a brand’s new boutique or an event like the Jaeger-LeCoultre-sponsored benefit for ovarian cancer, themed wrist shots can help to give a sense of the occasion.
* Astonishment: this is the “you’ll never believe what I saw” category. Sometimes, one has the opportunity to strap on a watch so expensive or unusual that you just have to share with others, whether it’s a friend’s special piece or you’ve had the good fortune to sneak upstairs at the Patek Philippe boutique in Geneva and wear that cathedral-chime chronograph you’ve only dreamed about. This category also includes “brushes with greatness” like a photo I took of three A. Lange & Söhne Pour Le Mérite Tourbillons, including one on Walter Lange’s own wrist.
* Artistic expression: there are some very pretty images out there that happen to include wrists and watches! From Paris rooftop shots to the beautifully illuminated mood pieces of vintage Breitlings and other smaller and vintage brands favored by my friend Fred, for example, it is possible to inspire emotion through the pure visuals of a well-taken wristshot. As an aside, our friend, tennis and watch journalist Miguel Seabra, has also taken the wristshot to an art form, many examples of which you can see on his Facebook page Miguel Seabra Tennis & Timepieces. Elizabeth has even spied him giving extensive lessons to other enthusiasts!
* Humor: yes, wristshots can be whimsical! Teddy bear wrists, tiny watches on meaty arms, over-the-top bling, and even the “ankle shot” genre favored by my Singapore pal Kevin; all those, and more, can generate smiles and even laughs.
At the end of the day, most if not all of the above-mentioned motivations nest within one bigger one: connection. Repeat after me: it’s all about the people!
Whether it’s expressing shared brand pride, remembering moments together, or doing one’s best to show a watch in its best light, posting a wristshot is by definition an act of outreach to others. Viewing others’ images with pleasure, commenting on them, and encouraging other enthusiasts in their collecting and photographic habits are very enjoyable parts of our shared hobby.
Less wonderful wristshots: don’t let this happen to you
No form of expression is without its less savory side; sadly, I must confess that I’ve been guilty of at least one of the wristshot sins outlined below, but I pledge to do better in future, and hope others will as well – although frankly I don’t have much hope.
* Bragging: it’s a thin line between sharing something cool with others and bragging about your material wellbeing. If I’m honest about it, I’ve gone over to the dark side on this a few times with things like my series of barbeque grill images of some of my nicest pieces. Is the message “Isn’t this fun?” or “Why am I doing this? Because I can – and you can’t!”
* Exhibitionism: you have a girlfriend – congratulations! This doesn’t mean that it makes any sense to take, and then post, a photo of your wrist in front of her breasts. As for you guys who try this trick, but with a photo of a woman rather than a real person in the background: get a grip.
* Inappropriate situations: as the selfie goes, so eventually goes the wristshot, for better or worse. Happily, my search didn’t turn up any “funeral” or “Chernobyl” wristshots, but I did find this doozy with the caption “Wristshot during labour? Check!”
* Food: I know you eat because we all do. However, with the possible exception of the greatest single course you were served at a Michelin three-star restaurant, I don’t need to see photos of your food. Really, I don’t. And I have to confess that the zillion of photos online of watches in front of cups of coffee and plates of nondescript food make no sense to me whatsoever.
* Gross anatomy: this one’s in the eye of the beholder, I suppose – but for a while we were seeing a spate of watches dangling between the toes of men’s feet. I was a “no” on that for sure. Ditto for those unintended underwear shots where we see a reflection of the owner’s tighty-whities in the bezel. And whatever you do, don’t even think about taking that lavatory shot – I’m begging you!
* Size mismatches: if are you asking yourself, “Is this watch too big for my wrist?” rest assured it is. No one wants to see those lugs hanging out in space, and the wide-angle nature of most point-and-shoot and phone lenses makes watches on the wrist look even bigger than they actually are.
* Protective instincts: Panerais with the silicone case protectors still in place and watches encased in plastic wrap or with lots of blue protective film still visible. Really?
Before you post: closing thoughts
So what, if anything, does this mean for each of us? Perhaps just that it’s worth a moment of reflection on one’s motives before posting that image online.
Does your mix of images include almost everything in the box, or are you only posting your most expensive pieces? Does your usual post consist of five similar top-end watches spread up your arm with the question “Oh dear – which one today?” Do more than a third of your pictures include the logo of an expensive car brand in the background? You might want to think a bit about what’s really behind your wristshot practices.
I’m convinced that if and when the apocalypse occurs, someone will post a wristshot of it! Please don’t let that person be you.
And on the positive side, if, like me, you review your portfolio and see a sea of near-identical images of one or another watch on your bare wrist with nothing in the background, think about mixing it up. I know that I love seeing wristshots that include context or artistic elements, and I’m sure that others do as well.
But most of all, have fun!
This article was first published on March 2, 2015 at Wristshots: The Story So Far.