“A Man & His Watch” Book Review

Before the internet we had books. We learned from books, we relaxed with books, and we relied on books to achieve thoughts and knowledge. Now we learn via Google and relax by thumbing down on our phones or reading a blog. But the art of books is still very much alive for passionate collections: art, cars, and watches being prime examples. There have been a number of amazing watch books published over the years and these become collectibles themselves and, as watch lovers, we love to absorb the pictures and information.

One such book came to our attention that we just had to get our hands on….and we loved it. At Tech Writer we are passionate about watches with a story and the tales behind timepieces, thus this book was a complete delight for us.

Matt Hranek’s, A Man & His Watch: Iconic Watches and Stories from the Men Who Wore Them, is a collection of watches and the stories behind them. Featuring watches from both individuals and a few brands, Hranek lifts the lid on some amazing watches. There are some grand pieces in the book and some fabulous stories. There are some very ordinary watches in the public’s eyes but to the owners they mean the absolute world.

If you judge a book by its cover, this one does not disappoint. The book comes encased in a very attractive and thick rigid cover. This in itself is nice, but the book’s cover is its magnum opus.

It features a Rolex Daytona owned by the legendary Paul Newman. But look a little closer and something special is happening there. The cover image is embossed with the key outlines of the watch from the case, to the hands, and even oyster bracelet links.

These little additions may not seem like a big deal, but for us it made all the difference. This attention to details make this “coffee table book” all the more worth it to own. (And believe us, this is so much more than a mere coffee table book.)

A Man & His Watch – What to Expect When Reading The Book

From presidential watches to James Bond movie props, this book has it all!

What this book isn’t- you are not about to go on whirlwind tour of the most expensive watches in the world, which I was glad to see. This is a book of real watch stories and what a particular watch means to the owner. Have you ever been to a watch meet up? Or a car show? This book is written as if you bumped into a fellow watch enthusiast and asked them about their watch.

It’s also important to note that this book focuses on relationships that the owners have with their watches and the stories behind them, not the history of the watch itself (in most cases).

Matt Hranek has created an interesting look at the ownership of a watch: an amazing image of a man’s watch on one page, and a heartfelt backstory from the owner on the opposite side. Easy, refined, deeply compelling.

What really makes the book pop of course are all the watch pictures. What I liked here is how they took a full picture of the watch itself rather than some artsy, zoomed in picture. You get the full feel and view of the subject matter.

This may sound simple is writing, but the fact that all the images are from a similar perspective reinforces that common thread that those who love watches are on a level playing field. That all watches are equal as each watch gets the same treatment, from inexpensive to outrageous.

This idea is best shown by author Hranek’s own precious Winnie The Pooh watch that his grandmother gave him when he was just a kindergartener. Showing the Winnie The Pooh watch on equal footing as the Omega that JFK wore during his inauguration, deepens the message that on this book’s terms all of the watches have some common ground. I actually was somewhat biased before I read the book and was not expecting to enjoy or like it at all. As it’s one of the most famous backdrops for watch pictures on Instagram, i was expecting pretense, snobbery and frankly, stupidity. I was surprised to find the book had none of that and was just a honest look at a man’s beloved watch.

An Insight Into Other Watch Owners

I personally enjoyed seeing all the dents, dings and scratches in all the watches. To me, these marks are the real storyteller here. It shows and highlights all the adventures and life the watched has lived. In my own collection I have a 1982 Seiko 6309 that I absolutely love to wear and wonder where the watch has been. I am the third owner and I do know a little history of the watch. It was originally purchased the the PX on Fort Bragg in 1982 and was strapped to the first owners wrist for Operation Dessert Storm. It was his daily watch for a very long time. I look at all the marks and imagine how they were received. So, I very much appreciated all the patina, scratches and war wounds on the watches in the book.

These are first hand accounts of watches that have seen much of the world. One survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Another was a gift straight off the wrist of Bill Murrey. While one more washed up on a beach in Dorset, England, where the English navy’s Special Boat Services trained. These watches have been properly enjoyed by their wearers, not pretentiously displayed like a piece of art in a museum. If this book teaches you one thing, it is that you should not mistake a watch’s beauty for fragility. Watches are built tough, withstanding wear and tear, and that’s precisely how they get their stories.

I thought it was very cool to hear the stories about either how someone got a watch, who gave them a watch or what the watch means to them. One of my favorite quates from the book is from Tom Sachs- “There is a sense of pride that I’ve been wearing the same watch for the past twenty years”. I so identify with this statement on so many levels. Early on before I was “into” watches like I am now, I would see how long I could wear a watch. I had some Timex Ironman that I almost never took off my writs. I would wear them until the strap would stat to crumble and fall apart.

A Visit To The Archives

As part of his research Hranek visited the archives of famous watchmakers. His visit to the Cartier archives reads like a spy novel. After repeatedly asking for permission to visit, Cartier relented and took Hranek to an undisclosed location which houses the archives. A lot of security later, he entered the inner sanctum and met the archivists who were as genial as the security was tight. This chapter is memorable in the collection not only because of the watches he was allowed to photograph, but also as a reminder of how pivotal Cartier was in watchmaking. Without Cartier, men would still be using pocket watches.

Flipping through the pages the book really reminds you of the love affair one can have with their watch. That these simple devices ( and some not so simple) can captivate so much of our time, thoughts and of course money.

As the author puts it, “Watches tell the world a bit about who you are, and they can if you’re lucky, connect you to the people in your life who matter most.” 

If your a watch nut or like wearing watches beyond the normal time keeping ideals of the piece, then you will immediately identify with the stories and experiences of other watch owners on the pages of the book. This is where I really enjoyed how all watches were portrayed somewhat on the same playing filed. It didn’t matter if it was a inexpensive Timex or collectable Rolex, the book is about the person and the connection the watch has to them. Not how much was spent, how exclusive it is or how amazing hey are, it really is about the innate connection to the watch on your wrist.

Whatever it is about watches that tends to tug at our hearts and souls and send us into blissful moments of wonder, it typically eludes those of us who try to express it. But Hranek’s book takes a straight path to the heart of the matter by simply letting these men tell us about their emotional relationship with their watches. After you have read a couple of these personal stories and have viewed those hypnotic photos, the broader story of how engrossing watches can be emerges. This is a book where even a previously blasé tolerator of watches can get hooked. This is no small accomplishment.

Some Rough Edges

One small quibble: A Man & His Watch mildly disappoints in its text as much as it delights in its photography and emotional context. The typography and copy editing could have benefited from the same editorial attention so obviously lavished on the images. Should you add this book to your collection? A definite yes, but maybe wait until the third printing (and there will definitely be a third printing) smooths out some of the book’s rough edges.

Should you buy Matt Hranek’s A Man & His Watch ? If your a watch nut the answer is a resounding yes. I have found myself picking up the book and flipping through the pages to stare at the same watches I have seen on the first reading/ I thought it was kind of funny, it’s a retro type of social media. Even if your not a watch nerd, I think you can enjoy the book with it’s lavish images and enjoyable storytelling.

Mat Hranek also has a similar book called “A Man & His Car”, which is equally as fun to read. If you like A Man & His Watch, I would definitely grab A Man & His Car.