Between Two Vitrines: Love In The Time Of Gold Subs
In honor of Valentine’s Day, Watchonista’s very own J.J. Owens and Kat Shoulders sit down for an open conversation about first dates, first impressions, and all the strings that come attached when one of you wears a watch.
Kat: Okay, real talk. Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and we could go on and on about watches that we would wear on a Valentine’s Day date, right?
Kat: And that would be interesting, but because so many people will be going on first dates tonight, I think more people would be interested in finding out whether we check out our date’s wrist on first dates. And, going a bit further, whether we judge a guy based on the watch he wears when we first start dating.
“C’mon, does it really matter?”
JJ: As watch people, it becomes ingrained in us to automatically look at a watch when we see one on a wrist. We can’t help it; it’s second nature. And, admittedly, you do form an opinion. That isn’t to say it is an opinion about the person. But it’s an opinion about what’s important to them, at least in relation to watches, and, to some extent, the public image they are trying to project.
What watch you wear does say something about you, whether you realize it or not. If you’re wearing an Apple watch, it may say that you like to run or work out and track it or something along those lines. Think about Tyler The Creator wearing a Crash or Ryan Gosling in a vintage 34mm Air King, it’s a statement not just about the watch but the guy wearing it.
Kat: So, unless he’s wearing a very under-the radar-piece hidden under his cuff, it’s going to be noticed.
But where it really gets interesting is if they’re wearing a piece that is universally considered in watch circles to be a statement piece, like a gold Rolex Sub or a Richard Mille RM-11.
I mean, they have to know it will get noticed, whether or not their date is a watch person. Wearing a statement watch on a first date takes guts for sure.
JJ: I 1000% agree. It takes guts to wear a gold Sub on a first date, and nine times out of ten, I do not think it’s pulled off well. But that tenth time, when it’s worn with such ease and discussed with such enthusiasm, that statement watch might be the reason behind a second date. That kind of genuine enthusiasm can be an extremely attractive quality.
“But gold is like my thing!"
JJ: You and I, we are both pretty casual people. Yet, despite that, we love the idea of a gold daily wear, right?
Kat: Oh, yeah, for sure.
JJ: Yet recently, a friend of mine said to me, “You cannot be low key if you have a gold watch of any variety.” But half the time I’m in a t-shirt, jeans, a baseball cap, and a gold watch.
So, yeah, while I understand how hypocritical my previous statement might be, I stand by it. I think if a guy isn’t incredibly casual and (more importantly) isn’t down-to-earth, and he’s wearing a gold Sub on a first date, then, yeah, that would be hard for me to get past.
Kat: Because you feel like they’re showing off?
JJ: Yeah. It’s the same as them picking you up a very flashy sports car or going out to, say, an Omakase dinner on a first date. It doesn’t work. I respect and appreciate the gesture if they are genuinely trying to do something nice, but more often than not, it doesn’t send the right impression.
Kat: I personally think it comes off as trying too hard.
JJ: Totally. If you roll up in a flashy car with an over-the-top watch and go to an equally over-the-top spot, what are you saying is important? Substance or image? I mean, at the end of the day, if there’s a connection, there’s a connection, it’s going to happen whether you are at a pizza place or a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Kat: I agree completely. Like you mentioned, I think the move is to go with a more understated gold watch or one with a story. Wear something that you love and that you’re passionate about so it can spark conversation. Nothing is better than seeing someone get excited about something. I am a watch person, so it will be exciting for me as well.
JJ: Exactly. Wear something you genuinely like and can discuss. And look, if that’s a gold Sub, fine. But my argument against it is this: if you have a watch like that, you also have something else at home you can wear (at least for the first few dates).
“What, BS! I’d totally be into my date wearing a Rolex! Plus, it’s a Rollie!”
Kat: I mean, plus, you must be aware of how it looks when first meeting someone.
JJ: I’m incredibly sensitive to this. And I would hope that someone else would have that awareness. It’s very important to me. I mean, for the first three months of a relationship, I wore the same watch. I never changed it because I was hypersensitive to what wearing multiple, expensive watches would say about me and what conclusions the guy I was dating would draw.
Kat: I feel like, in a weird way, we have an unfair advantage being women in this hobby. Because I feel like, if we showed up to a date wearing a gold Submariner, the guy would most likely be like, “Oh, shit, she’s actually pretty cool!” Whereas, you and I would be far harsher in our internal commentary if he showed up in one.
JJ: Phenomenal point. It is a double standard.
Kat: It’s such a double standard. But based on what many collectors have told me, guys appreciate when women wear a watch typically worn by a guy. So, it undoubtedly says something about the woman as well!
JJ: You know, it’s an interesting hobby because there’re so many potential strings attached to certain pieces and what it says about you. And your preconceptions could so easily turn out to be incorrect! You never actually know why someone is wearing a specific watch until they tell you.
It’s the same as a first impression. You could be wrong! And I think the likelihood of that happening is even greater now with more people getting into watches or at least recognizing them.
Kat: Social media has changed things so much. In the luxury space, people know what a Richard Mille is now. They might not have known that ten years ago; you just can’t hide these things. But I would be impressed if a guy wore a watch he could discuss passionately. Far more impressed than if he wore a piece because of the maker or price.
JJ: Oh! Wearing it because everybody in the office or club would recognize it, not because he actually likes it? I can’t stand that!
“So, you’re saying size does matter!”
Kat: Would you wear one of your gold watches on a first date?
JJ: Well, the watch I wore for three months straight was a 26mm gold Royal Oak. But, that is not the same as wearing a 40mm gold piece. So I stand firm: It would be really difficult to get past a big gold watch being a guy’s first date choice if he didn’t carry himself casually enough to create an appealing dichotomy.
Kat: I guess the question for me is: Do you want the girl to pay attention to your wrist, or do you want her to pay attention to you? When you wear something super luxurious, you’re kind of throwing it out there right off the bat, and it’s like, okay, where do we go from here? It just doesn’t sit right.
JJ: It’s fascinating because you want to look nice, and you want to impress them, but it’s a fine line. Impressing someone with noise – whether that’s a fancy watch, car, or whatever – is very different than impressing them with yourself. And I don’t think you can genuinely have both. It may sound harsh, but the kind of person who is impressed by flash probably isn’t one who’s going to last.
Kat: No, no. Save the gold Sub for date number five! After you’ve been dating for a decent amount of time and gotten to know the person enough to feel confident of their reception of it.
“This is hopeless! Is there anything I can do?”
JJ: It’s an awareness that’s needed. I find being aware rather attractive. When you’re dealing with a frivolous hobby like collecting luxury watches that requires a certain level of disposable income, I think some level of awareness is imperative. It’d be very hard to be with someone, whether romantically or as a friend, who didn’t recognize the privileged nature of high-end watch collecting.
Kat: That’s a great point. I think we all have pieces that, while we enjoy them, there’s a time and a place. It’s a consciousness since the community is growing by the day.
JJ: I feel like watches are almost the new shoes. Remember how women used to judge men on the shoes he wore? I think it’s shifting to the watch he wears.
Kat: I think you're onto something there!
JJ: It’s just another thing to worry about when dating.
“Whatever, it’s not like they will actually remember the watch I wore!”
Kat: So, with that, I must ask: Do you remember the watches guys have worn on dates? I, myself, remember. And I think that shows how much we actually pay attention to them.
JJ: I remember people’s watches so vividly.
Someone very dear to me in the industry, Geoff Hess, said, “Whenever I think of a ladies Royal Oak, I think of you because that’s the watch you were wearing when I met you.” And after he said that, it all clicked with me.
I remember the watch you were wearing when we met, it was your Pepsi Tudor, and when I think of that watch, I think of you, Kat. And I don’t remember anything else about the day we met.
When I fell in love, it was love at first sight, and I distinctly remember the watch and what’s funny is it’s not a watch that fits his personality, it’s very plain. But because that was the watch he wore when I met him, I’ll always love it! Just like I’ll always love the Yachtmaster I was wearing when I met him.
That’s exactly how a watch becomes so much more than just a watch; you think of it as an extension of someone close to you much more than you think of it as a timekeeper.
Kat: But like that’s the ultimate thing, right? That’s what we’re all chasing in this hobby. And certainly, for me, I want to get to that point when I’m 50 years old, the people I love are like, “Oh, that’s Kat’s watch!” Or “That watch reminds me of Kat.”
JJ: I completely agree. It wraps back around to the notion that your watch is a part of you, and it undeniably says something. Whether you are meeting someone for a scheduled date or it’s a serendipitous meeting, you never know, and you might as well wear a watch that you’d be happy to be forever associated with you.
Kat: And that’s where we leave you. When on a first date: Don’t wear a piece that impresses everyone; wear the watch that means the most to you!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell, front image by Rolex, other sources mentioned)