I wear a cute little digital Casio watch. I’d say it gets the job done, but in reality, there’s not really a “job” to speak of — my iPhone has negated any real need for a secondary source of time-telling. That’s fine, though, because it’s an accessory above all else, and it cost me a meager $20. Nevertheless, this shift in the necessity of watches hasn’t put a stop to the culture of gaudy, ridiculously overpriced niche watches and the men committed to asserting their caché. The barrage of shit-talking surrounding this culture on Reddit’s r/WatchesCircleJerk only confirms it.
On the subreddit, more than 56,000 subscribers relish the opportunity to dunk on watch guys. Members constantly share memes, shitposts and screenshots of insane watch people in the wild, mostly for the purpose of communal trashing.
“I was at the drive-through picking up a few cappuccinos for my wife and her boyfriend,” one of the top posts of the week reads. “As I reach out to pick up the tray, the clerk exclaimed, ‘Oh my goodness, is that a Rolex GMT Master II reference 16710?’ To which I responded, ‘Why, yes, of course. I take it you’re into fine Swiss watch-making, as well.’
‘Of course I am,’ she says, ‘I also love big, meaty cocks. Do you have one of those, too?’
‘My penis is only slightly average, unfortunately, but I do have an impressive collection of Swiss mechanical watches.’
‘Oh my god, show me both,’ she said, biting her bottom lip, nostrils flaring.”
The post continues on, bringing the fictional interaction further into the realm of absurdity. But it’s obvious that the author, king_noro, is himself considerably informed about the world of watches. Of course, he and almost everyone involved in the subreddit is a watch guy themselves. That’s really the only way the subreddit works — without the knowledge of the difference between a Seiko and a Patek, most of the jokes just don’t hit. Case in point: When I scroll through the subreddit, the majority of the jokes go right over my head.
Such is also the case of any watch subreddit, satire or not. That said, someone unfamiliar with watches probably learns more about them by analyzing the content on r/WatchesCircleJerk than they do on r/Watches, an earnest watch forum. For example, this is literally the first time in my life that I’ve ever even written the words “Seiko” and “Patek.”
Reddit obviously isn’t the only place where people make fun of watches. Just a few weeks ago, Succession had a bit where Kendall Roy essentially threw a temper tantrum after his girlfriend bought him a watch he didn’t like. Earlier in the series, Tom Wambsgans stresses over choosing the right gift for his father-in-law Logan Roy, and ultimately chooses a watch that Logan barely glances at before handing it off to one of his henchmen. Anyone who watches these scenes can grasp what’s being implied — that watches are a sort of generic male gift, that their value is purely symbolic and yet people remain particular about them — but I imagine someone who actually knew the watches being displayed in the show would have had a much better read on the dynamics at play.
r/WatchCircleJerk guys probably had a field day with scenes like these, and as some of its members tell me, it’s really the ideal place to roast such a culture. “I found most other internet spaces dedicated to watches to be a bit awkward, and even though WCJ is mostly memes and jokes, it’s also very informative and filled with people who know their stuff,” ForSocialResearch, a subreddit regular tells me.
Still, while the group gets at the ridiculousness of watch culture, it never quite gets at the ridiculousness of watches as a utility writ large. “Watches are inherently obsolete, but that’s partly why they’re appealing to a lot of people,” king_noro, author of the above shitpost, explains to me. “At the risk of sounding trite, we live in really crazy times right now. Owning and wearing a mechanical watch is a throwback to a place in time that wasn’t so batshit insane. I get plenty of screen time on my smartphone. I don’t need my watch to tell me that my student loan payment is due soon.”
And even though he clearly put in a decent amount of time on his recent post making fun of watch people, he still feels warmly about them. “My grandfather loved wristwatches, Seikos in particular,” he says. “He meant a lot to me. So when I wear my Seiko, it reminds me of him.”
Nevertheless, he and others are aware that watch culture is basically begging to be satirized. “Sometimes you read something on Hodinkee [a watch publication] or r/Rolex, and it just sends you running to the hills,” says ForSocialResearch. A screenshot of someone saying that buying a watch is more valuable than the “fleeting memory” of a vacation or complaints from people afraid to shower in a watch capable of being worn while diving are just a few examples.
The outlandish costs and barriers to entry to watch culture only enhance this phenomenon. Even the cheapest Rolex is $5,700, and that’s considered rather entry-level. “There are extremely complicated mechanical watches that can cost tens of thousands of dollars,” says king_noro. “It’s just extremely ripe for snobbery and gatekeeping. And that’s why it’s such an effective circlejerk group, I guess.”
Watch collectors remain, in my mind, a completely ridiculous community. The fun of r/WatchCirclejerk is that they all know that, but just like watch culture generally, the goal of the subreddit is to signal their knowledge of watches to each other. After all, it’s called a circle jerk for a reason — the goal is to impress each other, not anyone else.
Allow me, then, to take things one step further: Why can’t you, as a man, tell the time by analyzing the position of the sun in the sky? That’s what would impress me.