Wrist Shots: The Watch Obsessive’s Guide to Taking Photos of Your Watch


This originally appeared in Box + Papers, GQ staffer Cam Wolf’s watch newsletter. For more stories like it, hit the link and subscribe.

Anyone who’s into watches has become numb to the following image: a watch cinched tightly around a wrist, sleeve fabric and/or arm hairs spraying out in every direction. Maybe there’s a glamorous backdrop: a spread of Michelin-grade food or, even more likely, a glass of scotch lingering in the background. But the essence of the wrist shot remains the same. If you’re trying to flex a favorite watch, show how it sits on the wrist, and capture all the details that watch collectors go gaga over, nothing gets the job done more reliably than the wrist shot. I wanted to explore where the wrist shot came from—and how best to grab your own. 

Wrist Shots, a Brief History 

As B+P Illuminati Member Gary Getz wrote for Quill & Pad in 2020, people have been trying to take dramatic shots of their watches since way before Instagram existed. In 1968, while the Soviet Union was invading his home country of Prague, photographer Josef Koudelka took a photo of his watch with the empty streets behind it. 

Picture 034Magnum Photos

And while it’s not exactly a wrist shot, the first known artistic recreation of a watch was done by Italian artist Maso di San Friano in the mid 1500s. Look at this beaming “Man holding a watch,” as the painting is named. After multiple sittings and potentially years of painting—the Science Museum Group says it was made between 1558 and 1560—this man will finally be able to brag about his new watch and then it’s really over for this dude’s broke-boy friends. 

Painting. [Man holding a watch] / [Maso da San Friano?]. – nd. [1558-1560]. – Oil on panel; 117 x 92.1x 3.5 cm. – Formerly attributed to Venetian artist Sebastiano del Piombo who died in 1547. This work has since been attributed to the Florentine artist Maso di San Friano (Tommaso Manzuoli, 1532/6-1571/5). – Three wax seals on verso of panel carry arms of the Hapsburg-Lorraine family, perhaps one of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and Medici arms on one of the quarterings. – This is an early depiction of a 16th century watch (not a tableclock). – Portrait, TQL; an unidentified man holds a German, drum-shaped watch with chapters marked I to XII in Roman on an outer ring and 13 to 24 in Arabic numerals on an inner ring. The hinged, pierced cover of the gilt metal case is open. A looped tape passes through the pendant for suspension of the watch round the neck. A detached alarm mechanism stands on three feet on the table, surmounted by a bell and alongside, a carrying case. The owner is finely dressed, his left hand brc. rests on the head of a dog; Renaissance periodScience Museum Group

A Taxonomy of Today’s Wrist Shots  

Luckily, you no longer have to commission an Old Master to brag about your new timepiece. (Although that would be extremely tight!) Instead, Instagram gives watch collectors a place to immediately satisfy a craving to flaunt a new or old timepiece. That flaunting comes in many flavors. 



This story originally Appeared on GQ.com

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