The Watch Obsessive’s guide to taking pictures of your watch

This originally appeared in Box + papers, GQ contributor Cam Wolf’s original newsletter. For more stories like that, hit the link and subscribe.

Anyone into watches has become numb to the following image: a watch strapped tightly around a wrist, sleeve fabric and/or arm hair spurting out in all directions. Perhaps there is a glamorous backdrop: a spread of Michelin-starred food or, even more likely, a glass of scotch lingering in the background. But the essence of the wrist shot remains the same. If you’re trying to bend a favorite watch, show how it fits on the wrist, and capture all the details that watch collectors go crazy over, nothing gets the job done more reliably than the wrist shot. I wanted to explore where the wrist shot came from – and how best to get your own.

Wrist shot, a brief history

Like B+P Illuminati member Gary Getz wrote for Fill & Pad in 2020, people have been trying to take dramatic pictures of their watches since way before Instagram existed. In 1968, while the Soviet Union invaded his native Prague, photographer Josef Koudelka took a picture of his watch with the empty streets behind it.

Picture 034Magnum pictures

And while it’s not exactly a wrist shot, the first known artistic reproduction of a watch was done by the Italian artist Maso di San Friano in the mid-16th century. Look at this brilliant “Man holding a watch”, as the painting is called. After several meetings and potentially years of painting – the Science Museum Group says it was made between 1558 and 1560 – this man will finally be able to show off his new clock, and then it’s really over for this guy’s broke-boy -friends.

Painting. [Man holding a watch] / [Maso da San Friano?]. – n.d [1558-1560]. – Oil on panel; 117 x 92.1 x 3.5 cm. – Formerly attributed to the Venetian artist Sebastiano del Piombo, who died in 1547. This work has since been attributed to the Florentine artist Maso di San Friano (Tommaso Manzuoli, 1532/6-1571/5). – Three wax seals on the back of the panel bear the arms of the Hapsburg-Lorraine family, perhaps one of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and the Medici arms on one of the quarters. – This is an early depiction of a 16th century clock (not a table clock). – Portrait, TQL; an unidentified man holds a German, drum-shaped clock with chapters marked I to XII in Roman on an outer ring and 13 to 24 in Arabic numerals on an inner ring. The hinged, perforated lid of the gilded metal case is open. A loop band passes through the pendant for hanging the watch around the neck. A detached alarm mechanism stands on three feet on the table, surmounted by a bell and next to a carrying case. The owner is finely dressed, his left hand is brc. resting on the head of a dog; Renaissance periodThe Science Museum’s group

A taxonomy of today’s wrist shots

Fortunately, you no longer need to order an old master to show off your new watch. (Although that would be extremely tight!) Instead, Instagram gives watch collectors a place to instantly satisfy an urge to show off a new or old watch. That boast comes in many varieties.

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