As admirers of watches, at times, it seems hard for us not to become judgmental and defensive. But that is not what being a watch aficionado is all about. I would like to argue that it is a trap that can ruin our individual experience and that of others. It is the purism trap, and it is something to avoid. The key, I think, is to be a watch aficionado without being a watch purist. Let’s explore this!

I think we can reach enlightenment in this watch hobby if we remind ourselves of a few basic principles now and then. In fact, these ideas apply to any hobby. The key is to strive for joy over anything else — especially over being right.

Purism is a problem

People often seem to follow a specific path as they inform themselves about a new topic, such as watches. They enter it curious and very aware of their lack of knowledge and experience, then they get more and more informed. Their tastes evolve as they substantiate purely intuitive preferences with knowledge and the (collective) storytelling within the field. And then, for some, a very hard line between what is “good” and “bad” emerges — purism.

So what I mean by “purism” is a judgmental state of mind created to maintain one’s self-image as a watch aficionado. Typically, things considered too mainstream or commercial will be “unacceptable” among purists. But purism takes all kinds of shapes. The overarching theme is that it is a mind state of judgment rather than curiosity and enjoyment.

A certain brand, genre, or technology may fall on the bad side of that line. It is considered “unacceptable” to like it. Now, everyone is free to nourish such sentiments, of course. It becomes problematic when we start judging others by them. Another reason why it is harmful is that it is often too conservative. It puts the brake on innovation and progress since anything that “isn’t the original” is considered sub-par. The purist tends to live in the past.

Sharing the passion for watches with fellow collectors and enthusiasts

Purism is a sign of weakness

But I want to take it a little further — purism is not merely harmful but also a sign of weakness. When we get defensive about some minor detail of a watch, it shows that we are insecure about ourselves as watch aficionados.

Why would one ever want to call an admirer of small watches “unmanly”? Or why would one label an admirer of big watches “unrefined”? I know one thing for sure: it isn’t because that person is comfortably secure and satisfied. There is something that triggers people to bash what they consider “unacceptable”, and it is within themselves. In that sense, if you are ever attacked with snarky comments here or on social media, consider this: those who make them are merely showing their insecurities in the most clumsy and embarrassing manner.

Especially under the anonymity of the internet, you get a ton of keyboard warriors in this hobby. These are people calling each other out for admiring “the wrong” watch brand. This is pure insanity, of course, as we are talking about a completely inconsequential pastime. It is crucial to realize that a watch is a form of self-expression. Thus, saying that someone is wrong for wearing a specific one makes no sense at all. The biggest conclusion you can justifiably draw is that a watch isn’t for you. That’s it. And that, frankly, doesn’t matter to the rest of the world.

watch aficionado

Talking watches with friends

A watch aficionado in the positive sense

Okay, let me stop ranting about purism. I would recommend trying to be a curious and positive watch aficionado. But what does that mean? According to Merriam-Webster, an aficionado is a devotee — someone who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest. I know this has a snobby connotation for some, but that’s not how I intend it. Personally speaking, I have that issue with the commonly used term “watch idiot savant” (WIS) because it implies that a very high level of knowledge is required.

The key is that, to me, the term “watch aficionado” is inherently positive and inclusive. It applies to all people who consider themselves as such. It is for all the people you can spontaneously walk up to in a bar, asking, “Hey, are you wearing the…?” and who will engage in a fun conversation about watches. Interestingly, most watch aficionados are like that in real life. It is behind the keyboard or smartphone that the venom comes out.

Wolf 1834 Watch Collection Box

Watch enlightenment: be an open-minded watch aficionado

I think it is worth striving for enlightenment in this hobby, and I consider a watch aficionado enlightened if he or she is positive and open-minded. Now, that is not to say there is no room for criticism. Of course, it makes sense to say, “That watch seems expensive for its feature set,” or, “I feel they went overboard on the dial text.”

The art of being an enlightened watch aficionado is in maintaining an underlying positivity and curiosity. Instead of bashing others for wearing watches you dislike, try to find out what they love about them. When bashing, at best, you manage to win an argument. When asking, you may actually learn something.

As a watch aficionado, you can also feel confident in whatever watch you wear. It is, after all, an expression of yourself. As a purist, you have to adhere to what is considered “acceptable” by your peer group. This means you are inherently not doing all of this for yourself. And you do know that the existence of “that other group” is no threat to yours, right? If you are a Rolex fan, there is absolutely no need to be an Omega or Tudor hater. The three quite happily coexist and push each other to greater heights.

Vintage Seiko Alpinist Watches

Closing thoughts on being a watch aficionado

At the end of the day, we are all doing this for enjoyment. We are passionate about watches for a plethora of personal reasons. We pursue that passion as a fun pastime, purely for the sake of pleasure. If you find yourself getting angry at people who have a different experience from yours, you have some introspection to do. My advice would be not to jot down an angry comment but to ask yourself why it aggravates you. Anger really shouldn’t be part of a lighthearted hobby.

But I am fighting several very human flaws that are unlikely to change. Lex addressed tribalism in watches in an excellent article a while back. I explored how the narrating self makes us overly defensive about this stuff. After all, a passion is, by definition, something we deeply care about. And even if that something has very little actual importance, it makes us emotionally involved.

I do think we can all strive for enlightenment in this watch hobby, though. Being aware of our purist tendencies and trying to be open-minded, curious watch aficionados is doable. Maybe then, the aficionados of Rolex/Omega, big/small brands, and the pro/anti-Hublot crowds can all just have innocent fun. And if this lighthearted article has aggravated you, may I suggest you take a few deep breaths before attacking me?

How do you ensure watches remain a positive and lighthearted factor in your life? Do you have any good tips? Let us know in the comments below.