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A Collector’s View: 5 Etiquette Tips for a Happy Watch Get-Together

by Frank Chuo on January 1, 2018

A new year, a new start. Are you a model watch get-together attendee? If not, you might want to heed these words! A watch get-together – better known as a GTG – is unlike any other get-togethers. Because unlike other get-togethers, this one potentially has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of people’s most prized possessions crammed within a relatively small area. Attend a few watch GTGs and you will soon pick up its unspoken rules. That said, many still fail to self-impose the behavioural constraints expected during a GTG, and so we are here to make it clear once and for all. Here are 5 etiquette tips for successful, drama-free watch GTGs in 2018:

1. Always get permission first

Asking for permission is something you teach your kids to do before borrowing other kids’ toys. Now imagine if that toy is a $100,000 Laurent Ferrier – all the more reason to ask for permission, right? You’d think that was common sense, yet many watch GTG attendees still neglect to do so. This normally occurs when a watch is being passed around which gives the owner enough anxiety as is. Asking for permission before handling or trying on another person’s precious timepiece, as well as fiddling with its functions, is common courtesy and the first step to watch GTG nirvana.

 

You should ask before borrowing someone else’s Game Boy for Donkey Kong, or borrowing someone else’s EUR17,500 RJ x Donkey Kong watch.

 

2. Never touch a watch with unclean hands

So you’ve acquired permission to handle a fellow GTG attendee’s $175,000 Breguet Tradition Fusée Tourbillon. You just had some spring rolls with your hands because the Vietnamese restaurant where the GTG is held makes the best darn spring rolls in town. Do you a) promptly perform a surgical hand scrub to ensure your hands are clean before touching the grail Breguet, or b) grease that Breguet up, box-form sapphire crystal and all with your filthy paws? If you answered b), then you need to reevaluate your life. Too many times have I had to give my watch a thorough wipe-down (and a PTSD counselling session) after a GTG because it was caked in food grease. Nobody likes their watch returned all greasy. Because watch gatherings more often than not occur in the presence of food, dirty hands are almost a given. You owe it to your fellow watch enthusiasts to make sure that your hands are clean.

 

Nobody wants their beloved timepiece to be oiled up… unless that timepiece is the Ressence Type 3.

 

3. Handle with care

We all have a heavy-handed dude/dudette in our GTG-attending lives. It could be Bob who last time slammed your gold watch onto the table like it was a mahjong tile, or Jane who spins the bezel of your Rolex diver like a potter’s wheel, or Irwin who pushes every damn button on your split-seconds chronograph without a care in the world for the right sequence. If you don’t know a heavy-handed person, then you may be it! It’s important to remember that GTG-goers more often than not bring their most beloved piece to show and tell. We always hear of horror stories where watches are found dented or scratched post-GTG. It doesn’t matter if that watch is a $600 Seiko or a $600,000 Greubel Forsey, one thing’s for sure: it’s someone’s baby. You handle babies with care, not knock them till their limp. Always hold a watch with both hands and if you’re going to try it on, be extra careful while strapping it onto your wrist. Ensure that the watch doesn’t bump or scrape into anything hard, including another watch if you’re ‘double-wristing’, or jewellery. If the watch has an interactive complication like a chronograph or a minute repeater, seek permission before actuating it (refer to rule 1), and be sure you know the right way of operating it. Last but not least, when setting up multiple timepieces for a photoshoot, gentleness goes a long way; place watches onto the table gently, and if they have to come in contact with each other, be sure to be as light-handed as possible.

 

The Greubel Forsey Perpetual Calendar has impressive built-in safety mechanisms that disengages the setting mechanism of the perpetual calendar during the critical period when you’re not supposed to fiddle with it. One less thing to worry about during a watch GTG.

 

4. “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”

If Thumper from Bambi gets it, so should you. The watches you see at GTGs are, again, like babies, sometimes really ugly and almost always loved to bits by their owners. You shouldn’t go around explicitly deriding people for their choice of timepiece just because you don’t fancy said choice. Instead of saying “you’re stupid because your 45 mm-wide dress watch is stupid”, say “I personally prefer smaller dress watches”. Instead of saying “A diamond-encrusted Richard Mille? Overcompensating, aren’t we?”, say “I can’t pull of diamonds on a watch”. Even when discussing watchmaking with another attendee, do not get too political or sling insults. Someone said to me in a GTG a year ago that Lange’s finishing is disappointing, that a friend’s watchmaker once opened up a Lange 1 to find poorly finished components hidden under the three-quarter plate. Not only was this meant to rile someone who was wearing a Lange, it was also a blatant lie. Criticism and debate is always welcome, as long as it is constructive, in good spirit, and meant to educate.

 

“It’s a… fun… watch.”

 

5. Drunkenness is a sin

Drunkenness is a sin in any semi-decent watch GTG or event. How would you expect to have a productive gathering of like-minded people if your sobriety has left the building and you’re lying on the floor in a pool of your own vomit, inebriated? I once attended a brand event where someone got so drunk, he started harassing other guests before ralphing all over the place. This was disrespectful not just to the attendees and organisers, but also to himself. Really, this etiquette tip applies to most social events where being appropriate is expected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for drinking at social functions but there are no excuses for getting drunk when you’re also representing other people or an organisation. If you can’t hold your liquor, stick with lemonade lest you drop and shatter an all-sapphire crystal Hublot or something.

 

Getting drunk and handling fine watches is a big no-no. Getting drunk on fine watches is highly encouraged though.

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8 Comments
Leave a response
  • HB
    June 5, 2018 at 5:50 am

    Hi Frank, that looks like the Shanghai Lange boutique, on Nanjing Road. Is it?

  • harris cohen
    April 5, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Leave the grease on 47th Street

  • Vinny
    January 3, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    very good point Mike. Going to a GTG and not let people touch or try on your watch is like a over protective parent whom won’t let your friends hold and play with your baby. It is frown upon and give others an impression that your watch is too good for them, simply digging your own grave in the realm of enthusiasts.

    • Frank Chuo
      January 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Vinny. I do believe it is fine to let people hold and play with your watch, no matter how expensive. After all, that’s what GTGs are for right? But there is a clear distinction between responsible and negligent handling. My view is that watches should be respected; it is disrespectful to soil a watch with food grease, or to be so heavy-handed and careless during handling, especially when it is not your watch.

  • Loydb
    January 2, 2018 at 3:59 am

    Don’t ask what they paid.

  • Mike
    January 2, 2018 at 12:04 am

    I couldn’t agree more with these rules and have certainly seen each violated in one form or another (sometimes by one person all at once). But I think there is one all important rule that was not covered. Don’t bring a watch to a GTG (or at least don’t take it off your wrist) if you don’t want people to touch/play with it. GTG’s are about sharing, maximizing experience, and getting excited. Expect that people are going to want to try on your Sky Moon Tourbillon. If you’re not OK with that maybe it’s best to leave it at home until you’ve had the privilege of giving it the first scratch and you’re more open to sharing.

    • Frank Chuo
      January 3, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Mike. I agree that GTGs are for sharing your precious watch with people, and getting excited together. This, as you have mentioned, will involve letting people interact with the watch. However, there is a big difference between fingerprint smudges and food grease, the latter clearly arising from negligence. If I were lucky enough to own the Sky Moon Tourbillon, I believe I’d love to show it to people and let them try it on – I also believe that with reasonable care, that watch would not end up with a scratch or worse, broken. I guess the best approach for owners of such expensive watches is to personally chaperone every person that handles his/her watch.

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