We take on hobbies because we are drawn to the fact that it’s more different than anything else we do in the rest of life. We want to escape from the daily anxieties of our 9-to-5 jobs and find respite in creative outlets. Famous political figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt collected stamps and Winston Churchill built brick walls on the weekends. Other people—I’m talking about you, dear reader—collect watches. We hunt them, wear them, photograph them, and talk about them with like-minded people. Then there are those like @6ixinchwrist who merge their passion for horology with mystical, self-taught digital artwork.
A Watch Collector Who Was Not Into Watches
Virtually every single story I’ve written so far starts by telling you how the person I interviewed got into watches. I do so for a good reason: I want to set the stage for the story to come, to draw a parallel between that person’s early encounters with horology and the ways this impacted that person’s collecting journey. In the case of @6ixinchwrist, this part will be short: when she was about eight years old, her parents got her a quartz Citizen watch that she promptly lost at a sleepover. Her parents replaced the watch, which she again lost. That could have been it for @6ixinchwrist and her collecting journey, but that would have made for a short and boring article.
Let’s think about this, though. A kid who is gifted a G-Shock is likely to end up creating a tool watch company as an adult, just like a kid offered a Swatch may grow up to become a Rolex watch collector. Wearing one type of watch won’t necessarily lead to collecting a particular type of watch—getting a Swatch as a child, for instance, won’t automatically lead to collecting Rolex as an adult—but it is true that no one becomes a watch collector unless they had a watch as a child. I can hear you saying already, “Well, back then all kids had a watch because we didn’t have smartphones to keep track of time.” True. But on the other hand, not all kids who had a watch became collectors, but all collectors had watches as kids.
Exclusive artwork created by @6ixinchrist for this article.
From age eight to . . . well, a gentleman never asks a lady her age . . . many years later, @6ixinchwrist got back into watches, this time on her own accord after getting her first post-college job. She did so to look and feel more professional. She began looking into Seiko (not surprising since Seiko probably has the largest watch catalog in the world) and decided on a SKX013 on a jubilee bracelet. Not only did she want to wear a watch to look professional (I did too!) but she also got one to help her begin acting like a professional by keeping track of time using a watch instead of checking her smartphone (many watch collectors initially struggle internally with the question of why they should buy a watch if they have a phone that tells time).
I will speculate here—and I hope @6ixinchwrist won’t mind—as to the reasons why someone who lost two Citizen watches as a child (which looks almost deliberate) would end up as a watch collector. To answer this question, it is necessary to look at the relationship we have with time and how we like to keep track of it. As professionals, we need to know what time it is at all times (pun intended) so that we don’t miss a meeting or a deadline. What happens when we use a watch for time-keeping? We look at a piece of artwork, a marvel of engineering made by dreamers and explorers of time, a tool for adventurers who need to know when they will arrive at a destination or how much further they should go before setting up camp. @6ixinchwrist is an artist who also dreamed of exciting adventures.
Watch Collecting & Escapism
Many of the watch collectors and watchmakers I’ve interviewed thus far started doing what they do at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us found ourselves with extra time on our hands, so we started hunting for watches, which almost became like a hobby in itself. Those of us who always wanted to create a watch company found that being stuck at home was the best time to do so. Influencers who now have 20,000 followers started with none at the beginning of 2020. We all needed to escape from whatever stressed us out, whether it was through retail therapy and finding creative outlets in photographing watches outdoors or in complex indoor flat lay setups (almost always featuring one or more of the following props: randomly organized coffee beans, a dimmed light, the book A Man and His Watch, a knife, a glass of whisky, and a cigar that will never be smoked).
@6ixinchwrist found her own path into making horology a form of escapism by mixing watch photography with digital art. If she was solely looking at horology as her tool for escapism, then she would have acquired many more watches that she currently has (see below). Instead, she found an opportunity to repurpose something she had been doing for a long time—her digital art—and put it to good use. I often mention that watch collecting is one of the most expensive hobbies out there. @6ixinchwrist can attest to that: not only does she have to buy watches but also all the props and camera equipment necessary for her creations. Her form of escapism is not cheap, and her dedication to it shows how dedicated she is. Nothing else online looks like what she does.
A Dream-Like Stage
@6ixinchwrist’s approach to Instagram is different. Instead of learning how to take the perfect flat lay, she has let herself be guided by her fascination for the mystical and the outlandish ideas she gets while drifting in and out of a childlike daydream state. As an adult, she has continued to let her imagination wander in many places, playing her favorite game of the “What if . . .” on any and all occasions. This imaginative state of mind started in childhood when her parents used to drive to the south of France from Germany while telling mystical stories. On each drive—and later on each plane ride—she would study the world drifting rapidly by and let her imagination run free. She would create stories in her head that she eventually started rendering into imagery 10 years ago when she taught herself to use Photoshop to create her intricate digital collages.
@6ixinchwrist’s Instagram profile headline reads “Part-time grownup.” It is fair to assume that we are all part-time grownups in one way or another, but some of us like to keep it on the down low and keep our part-time childishness in the background. To be honest, the fact that we collect watches proves that we are all children pretending to be somebody else or aspiring to be a better version of ourselves. Some of us wear luxury timepieces to signal our social status, others for the pure love of collecting watches and geeking out about the brand’s history. Still others buy specific types of watches (diver and field watches) to signal that they are underwater explorers à la James Cameron or land explorers like Naomi Uemura.
@6ixinchwrist’s watch collection includes four “luxury” pieces (she would have put the quotation marks there herself), two of them being an Omega Speedmaster and a Rolex Submariner ref. 168000 with tritium lume. One wouldn’t buy a rare and vintage Submariner if one did not have dreams of embarking on adventures. She has certainly had adventures in her professional career as a journalist and has traveled far and often to various parts of the globe. One can easily imagine that doing this much traveling has allowed her to see things many of us haven’t. This is apparent when studying the scenes she portrays in her artwork. Take a look at her Instagram account (@6ixinchwrist) or her new website (www.gallery6ix.com), and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
How Does She Do It?
Each piece of artwork starts with a feeling or an emotion she has experienced and tries to convey feeling through a storyline. As mentioned earlier, @6ixinchwrist always used to let her imagination wander while traveling, a courageous act that many of us, I suspect, do not feel comfortable doing. We are often afraid of whatever our subconscious comes up with, the dark or bizarre thoughts that, to our surprise, live unseen in our own minds. We often try to suppress them by pretending that we are fine, or we find discreet ways to let them out. @6ixinchwrist is not afraid of her expansive imagination. She instead welcomes it and allows the feeling or emotion to come to maturity in her subconscious before she embarks on the creative phase. Such freedom can be liberating and scary at times, and I think it’s particularly admirable that @6ixinchwrist is willing to invite us into her world so regularly.
Once she has freeze-framed the emotion, she starts thinking about a protagonist—a robot, a giant octopus, an indescribable monster—and what they are up to. Each image is unique in that each one has a different character that does something different; other characters do make reappearances, such as the Speedy Robot, which can bench-press or masquerade as a watch thief. She then starts photographing the watch, which could be her own or somebody else’s, and once she has made enough good shots, she starts looking for all of the physical or digital elements that will complement the story. Most of the time she uses actual figurines that she photographs separately, although recently she has been using more digital elements to cut down costs.
The phase during which she puts the image together is time consuming. She has to adjust the composition, add or remove elements, create the artificial lighting to support the storyline, and constantly adjust the perspective for each element of the artwork so that they all come together nicely. If you know anything about Photoshop, then you can imagine how many dozens of layers and masks she has to create for each piece. Just as she taught herself to photograph, she has taught herself to master Photoshop. @6ixinchwrist said that whatever she sets her eye on, she dedicates herself to it and teaches herself everything she possibly can.
From Instagram to Charities
So what does she communicate through sharing her artwork on Instagram? It shows us that she knows about watches (getting a rare Submariner is cool), and she also signals that we can all be a bit more honest in our social media encounters. Most of us who take photos of watches rarely ever show more than a wrist or an arm. While some do have a concern for anonymity—which I fully respect and support—showing a bit more of ourselves would not put the majority of us in any immediate danger. We nonetheless hide behind our cameras and showcase how good we are at photographing watches. Don’t get me wrong: it’s totally fine to do so, but I admire that @6ixinchwrist really shows us something of her inner self through her creations.
When asked what watches mean to her, she was bluntly honest and responded that watches are status symbols and that it is true for all of us. She said that anyone who pretends otherwise is being dishonest. Then again, @6ixinchwrist is being authentic and truthful, two character traits rarely seen on ego-boosting social media platforms such as Instagram. Here’s a little bit of nuance, though. It’s true that some of us buy a Rolex to show we have been professionally successful, but some of us buy a Rolex because we want to be a James Bond or a James Cameron. These are two types of status signaling, but status symbols nevertheless.
What is even more so amazing about @6ixinchwrist’s path is that she does not make money on Instagram and instead supports charities. I ask you to please check out her website (www.gallery6ix.com) and message her directly on Instagram to buy her prints to support the German Red Cross’ emergency relief for Ukraine (@6ixinchwrist donates part of all proceeds to them). Additionally, she is also part of an Instagram watch group called @casiof91wmafia that has donated money to charities (see below.) Her point is that if we can get a “steal” on a Swiss luxury timepiece, we can certainly spend a fraction of that money on a piece of artwork for a good cause.
The Mafia did a raffle with lots of cool, watch-related prizes: watches, accessories like straps, books on watches, watch art, both provided by companies as well as individuals. Everybody who made a donation (no matter the amount) was eligible to take part in the raffle. The raffle benefited mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
The world of horology enthusiasts becomes more fascinating each day. Each person’s story is strangely similar but yet different, and what seems to be common to all of us is that we attach great emotion to our watch collecting journey. I have a sincere admiration for anyone who has the guts to photograph a watch and post it on Instagram. Some go a step further and try to do something different by taking pictures of lesser-known watches or by photographing watches in different ways. And then there are people like @6ixinchwrist (actually, she’s the only one I know who does this) who go a big step further and transform the entire concept of watch photography on Instagram.
It’s amazing that she was able to support causes close to her heart by doing what she loves, which allows her to escape a life that is hard as it is already. To @6ixinchwrist, it is important to nurture our youthfulness, whimsy, and the magical aspects of our lives. Please check out her Instagram account and her website (www.gallery6ix.com). That would be very appreciated.
Thanks for reading.