Over the weekend, popular automotive blog Jalopnik ran a piece titled, “Can Someone Help Me Understand Why Car Enthusiasts Are Often Also Watch Enthusiasts?”
Is it the technology crossover? Are gears just cool no matter where you find them? Is it the subtle flex of owning a very nice watch that only other watch people will understand, the same way rich people like to buy their subtle rich people cars? Is it the unattainability? Is it the thrill of collecting?
To which we say: Yes! But there’s so much more.
These two mechanically driven hobbies appeal to the same type of person because our communities imbue these inanimate objects with a spirit. They mean more to us than only what they’re designed for.
Open the garages of the HODINKEE staff, and you’ll find all sorts of enthusiast vehicles. For many of us, if we’re not talking about watches, we’re lighting up the #cars Slack channel with everything from thoughts on BMW’s new grille design to recounting historic motorsports figures and their watches.
We’re uniquely positioned to take a stab at this question, having one foot (up to our knee) in the watch world and one foot (up to our ankle) in the automotive world. Our founder has reported from the Copperstate 100, Jason Heaton and James Stacey have discussed overlanding on TGN, and I recently examined the intersection of watch and car culture at a rally in North Carolina and previously at Goodwood Revival. Ahem, I even wrote a story for Jalopnik in 2014 (it’s a fun read!).
There’s a sheer sense of fascination and joy that comes from appreciating mechanical objects working together to carry out a particular task, be it accelerating to triple digits or measuring time to three decimal places. I get the same feeling of satisfaction watching the 405 parts of the Lange caliber 951.1 work in unison as I do from seeing an air-cooled flat-six cracked open to reveal pistons traveling in a horizontal plane.
The joy of taking apart both a Black and Orange Seiko Monster then swapping the chapter rings feels a lot like exuberance that comes from installing a blanking plate where the EGR valve used to be on a ’90s Mitsubishi 4D56T motor. There’s the appreciation bit, and then there’s the tinkering and modifying bit. Be it a new NATO or a new set of tires, the experience has a tactile – and often analog – component that leaves you feeling enamored and connected with your watch or your vehicle. If you understand one, you’ll understand the other.
Then there’s the emotional aspect that watches and cars share, making crossover appreciation easy. HODINKEE would be terribly boring if it were all articles looking at technological advancement and specifications, just like the car media landscape would be uninteresting if it only examined the automotive industry’s transition from petrol to electrical power plants. We form bonds with both our cars and our watches. You likely remember your first watch, and you might look back at your first car in the same wistful way. A beat-up Seiko and a hand-me-down hooptie are oftentimes the way we find our way into the hobby. And they remain just as memorable even when we’ve finally managed to snag our grail watch or that sweet new set of wheels from the poster on our childhood bedroom wall.
Mario Andretti is a watch fan. So are Spike Feresten and Phil Toledano. The crossover from watches to cars and vice versa is common – although I don’t know which one comes first. Ms. Blackstock, maybe you’ll start with cars, but have a look around the site and see if we can’t turn you into a watch enthusiast, too!
Watches transcend their intended purpose in the same way cars do. They become vessels for meaningful stories. But it becomes even more interesting when a watch achieves incredible accuracy and precision or a car pushes the limits of acceleration and top speed. Watches, like cars, are a way to mark a time in our life.