It sounds a bit dirty, but I’m definitely being influenced. Furthermore, I know that I’m influencing others too. I notice that I don’t really feel particularly proud or comfortable as I write this. It seems like it’s not cool to admit that Instagram — or any other social medium, for that matter — is affecting your thought processes. But I think that for me, Instagram has actually played and still plays an essential role in the enjoyment I experience while collecting watches. And based on the reactions I get and the people I speak to, I think it does the same for many others. Why should we be ashamed of that?

When I noticed that the feed on my personal Instagram account was featuring more and more watches, I decided to start a dedicated, watch-centric account. It was also to avoid posting about my watches on my personal account because I figured my friends and family wouldn’t enjoy looking at watches each and every day. And as we were right in the middle of multiple lockdowns, I figured it could also be a great way to get in touch with other watch enthusiasts. So a little more than half a year after buying my first serious watch, I opened that new Instagram account. And I have to admit, I’m still enjoying the heck out of it!

A crop from the first post on my watch account

Not a great start, but then…

I started my account during a summer holiday in Spain. You know the scene — the sun is shining, your watches look good on your tanned wrist, and you start taking random shots. In the beginning, I got little interaction out of posting my wrist shots quite simply because I didn’t have a lot of followers. At some point, I actually asked myself why I was posting every other day. I even stopped doing so for a few weeks. But then when I came back to Amsterdam and geo-tagged my posts with that same city, the engagement started to increase.

A few watch enthusiasts from Amsterdam seemed to already have something going on between them. It was clear that they had already known each other for a while, and they were challenging each other with hashtags. And when they started with their #stackedhandsseptember one, I hopped on the wagon and started to actively participate. The aim was to take a shot when all the hands, including the seconds hand, were overlapping each other. That’s quite a difficult task when you’re not allowed to show a pulled-out crown. But I got some shots in, and that’s when the interaction really picked up. Then it started to become fun!

My favorite reference point

In the meantime, I was still building my collection, and seeing so many watches on your feed is a dangerous thing, let me tell you. Especially when there are some very skilled photographers who take amazing shots of their watches. But what I most enjoyed was seeing pictures of watches that I was aspiring to buy. It is great to see what a watch actually looks like in real life instead of the perfect renders in press releases or the photos taken by (semi-)professional photographers. And that’s really what I used Instagram for in the beginning. It was a reference point to see which watches I wanted to put on my wishlist. Remember, at this point, physical meet-ups were not happening, and most stores were closed.

So for me, a confined watch lover, Instagram was the perfect place to get inspired and talk to other enthusiasts. Of course, I also became a member of various forums, but Instagram was my favorite, and it still is. It’s quick, and I think the fact that it is mainly focused on photography is why I like it so much. It has also really increased my skills as a smartphone photographer, especially with the help of people like Verne (@watchstudies) and Tom (@bowlofsalmon). And that’s what I most enjoy about Instagram, I think — the fact that it quickly started to have effects on my offline life.

A crop from the first proud post with my new Tudor Black Bay 36

Influencing my own and other people’s watch purchases

It might have started with those photography skills, but I’m certain that Instagram also had/has an influence on some of my buying decisions. For example, I bought the Tudor Black Bay 36. At one point, that watch was all over Instagram, and with its perfectly symmetrical design, it looked so damn good on my feed. I really enjoyed that watch on my wrist, but I also parted with it quite quickly. I think I did so because I hadn’t had many opportunities to try one on before buying it. And that’s a lesson I’ve certainly learned by now — not every good-looking watch on Instagram is for me!

But in addition to being a place for inspiration, the platform also turned into a marketplace for me. When I shared some stories on the Blancpain Bathyscaphe I was considering, one owner sent me a DM and offered me his. We made a deal, I transferred him the money, and a few days later, the watch was on my wrist. Yes, I was a bit nervous about whether everything would go well. But in the end, it did, and I think it’s because of the credibility that users can build with their accounts. Of course, there are some rotten apples among all those thousands of watch enthusiasts. But I think I can now make quite a clear distinction between a trustworthy and a shifty user. That credibility is also noticeable in the physical world.

Added credibility in the real world

That became very clear when I heard about a get-together that was being organized by a group of Dutch enthusiasts. When I asked one of the organizers if it was okay for me to tag along, he immediately said yes. I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have said yes that quickly if it weren’t for my active Instagram account. And I’m still thankful for that invitation because that get-together really opened my eyes and made me fall in love with this hobby. A few of those get-togethers have followed since. But that’s not the only real-world influence Instagram has had on my life.

Sometime last year, out of nowhere, I received a DM from Fratello asking if I’d to try writing an article for the site. I decided to do it, and after it was published, we stayed in touch through Instagram. Then, at the end of the year, RJ invited me over to the office and actually offered me a job. Of course, my Instagram account wasn’t the only thing that led to this job offer, but I’m confident in saying that without it, I would never have landed this dream job! So for me, Instagram has really been a very positive influence during my time as a watch enthusiast. But of course, there are also downsides.

A crop from one of my most popular Instagram posts

The dark side of social media

It is true that much of the Instagram interface is designed to lock you in so you spend as much time as possible there. I must admit that I spend quite some time on the platform every day, and I kind of justify it with the fact that I now work as a professional in this field and have to keep up. But the more time you spend on the platform, the harder it gets to leave it alone. Of course, it’s great fun to interact with all the other enthusiasts, but sometimes you really have to overcome your fear of missing out and not unlock your phone for the umpteenth time.

So yes, Instagram and its users definitely influence my watch hobby experience. I get inspired by beautiful shots of watches. I use it as a marketplace. Even better, it has yielded me many friends and a job in the real world. But you have to be cautious to not get lost in it. Otherwise, it could lead to a lot of purchases that you’ll later regret. So please, if possible, make sure to try out a watch in person before you buy it after seeing another great shot from your Insta-buddy.

I know many of you are also on Instagram. What has your experience been like as a watch enthusiast on there? And what do you do to not spend hours and hours on end scrolling through your feed? Please let me know in the comments below.

You can, of course, also find and follow me on Instagram: @fliptheparrot