The meanings that watches hold for each and every one of us is highly subjective, but there are some predictably recurring themes that underlay the reasons for why people collect.
More often than not, we buy watches because we want to outwardly express our personality by showing an accessory that by its design, function, and history says something about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. That was the case with Mark (a.k.a. Average Bros) throughout his journey into horology. Before starting his popular YouTube channel on which he delights his 25,000+ followers with his honest take on horology, he spent 10 years in the United States Marine Corps, a work environment that requires uniformity in dress and leaves few options for showcasing individual personality (Mark told me one hilarious story of how he used to wear a green-dial Timex during formations; one day, he went through a particular motion that uncovered his wrist on which he was wearing the watch, after which he was asked to promptly hide it in his socks).
Let’s take a look at Mark’s story.
The Average Bros YouTube Channel
What started as a school project and a professional rerouting ended up as a successful YouTube channel on which Mark now shares his opinions about many types of watches. He’s known for creating long-form videos that feel like you’re having a conversation with him over a good cup of coffee on a sunny Saturday morning. His approach to reviewing watches is chill and low-key, which is an exact representation of who he is. Although this was our first time speaking together and despite the fact that we were chatting over video thousands of miles apart, it felt like I was catching up with an old friend who was telling me about his latest acquisitions and random tidbits of horological history.
As we mentioned in the introduction, Mark had a very different career before he created his YouTube channel. He was in the United States Marine Corps for a decade and went on deployment more than once in the Middle East. He’s lived abroad on several bases and spent some time in Okinawa where (thankfully) he bought himself a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Casio G-Shock with all the shebangs that go along with it: a solar-powered movement with GPS connectivity, a true military watch that he wore daily while deployed. This G-Shock was not his only one, as we will see later, as soon after this, he got himself a dual-tone white and gold G-Shock that immediately became his going-out watch.
Mark’s resolve to get into watches was encouraged by an unfortunate series of medical issues that eventually led him to leave the Marine Corps and start a new career as a customer service professional. After spending so much time abroad and separated from his wife and newborn, he decided that it was time to change pace professionally. While in graduate school, Mark and his classmates were assigned a project in which they had to create a fictional men’s magazine that offered a variety of services on multiple platforms. One of these was producing a YouTube channel about men’s fashion and accessories, and that’s how he got into Average Bros.
The Average Bros YouTube channel has been up and running since 2014, but in 2019, Mark started working more seriously on it.
I dare say that it wasn’t completely random chance that led Mark to decide to make videos about watches as part of the fictional men’s magazine. There’s something about watches and his experience buying them at the base PX (post exchange) stores that started something that would manifest itself many years later as a passion for collecting watches and talking about them. Before getting into watches, though, Mark was big on cars and modding them, spending his hard-earned cash buying parts and getting his buddies to install them for him.
Just like with his work customizing cars, Mark also spent a lot of time modding his own watches to make them look as if they were limited editions coming this way straight out of the factory. He has made numerous videos about modding watches and especially his Seikos. Mark has always been a tool watch kind of guy, and his first watches consisted of Tissot, Hamilton, Seiko, and Orient pieces, the kinds of popular brands that modders process through their home-built workshops to make them look better than when they started. He was convinced that he could make them look and feel as good as popular Swiss watches by modding them appropriately and with good parts.
Judging from his videos, I’d say he was pretty successful.
What Watches Mean
Mark has a deep passion for horology and telling stories about watches. As mentioned in the introduction, speaking to him felt like talking to an old friend with whom I share a common passion for watches. Wearing a summer shirt and short-brimmed fedora, Mark has an inviting personality and exhibits a natural flow of conversation that truly made me feel I was just chatting with someone and not running a professional interview. Our conversation jumped from one topic to another, and he had so much to share about himself and horology that I couldn’t type fast enough to record everything.
There are different types of passionate people out there: the calm and quiet ones and the energetic and free-flowing types. Mark is the latter. As I mentioned, wearing watches is how Mark expresses who he is and what he’s about. Watches, however, are more than that for him. Having been in the Marine Corps and having had to wear strictly-regulated uniforms for a decade, the only accessory he was allowed to have to express his personality during his time in service was a watch. His early purchase of the G-Shock and his career at the time naturally gave Mark a preference for tool watches.
In addition to being a mode of self-expression, then, watches are also a way for him to be himself. Not Mark the customer service professional or Mark the dad but just Mark. The YouTube channel is not his full-time career, and he actually only earns meager income from it, mostly from ads. His Monday-through-Friday job pays for the bills and sometimes for a new watch. He plans on acquiring a Moon Watch this year (2022) that would nicely complement his collection Seikos, Orients, and other popular tool watches, and I cannot wait to watch his take on the Speedmaster in a future video.
As many of us do—even though we don’t admit it to ourselves—Mark likes to embark on imaginary scenarios in which he would picture what kinds of collections he could assemble, which brands he would choose for a three-watch collection, and which models from the same brand would work together. I do this too, and I can utterly relate to how exciting this process is. Once you’ve pictured the watches you could have, you can picture when and in what circumstance you would use them. This relates to the idea of getting a watch that represents a better version of ourselves and working to become that person.
Another reason why Mark loves watches is that, as he openly admits, he likes to sometimes find a watch that would serve as a good conversation starter, something I’m sure many of us can relate to. Wanting to wear something different or something that stands out once in a while is just part of being human. Wearing a two-tone Casio G-Shock on a date night, for example, is not a common sight, but it sure helps start a conversation. Not that he does wear this kind of watch in that type of situation to get attention, of course—let’s get the right message across here—but spotting someone wearing a watch that we often don’t see definitely prompts us to want to talk to that person.
I think it’s like being part of any group and having certain types of salutations or ways of speaking about a topic that tells us, “I’ve found my crowd.” Although it might be hard for you to believe, I achieved one of my dreams of owning a Harley Davidson not too long ago. What I found out while riding the country roads of Virginia—and this was so awkward at first until I figured it out—is that bikers have a way of waving at each other when passing on the opposite lane peculiar only to bikers. In this case, it involves joining the index and middle fingers together and pointing the hand at a 45 degree angle. Wearing watches is sort of the same: we spot a watch on someone’s wrist and immediately recognize we’re part of the same community.
Now that we know how Mark got into watches and what they mean to him, I would like to talk about authenticity, a common character trait of those I have been writing about.
Staying True to Himself
It’s interesting to me that everyone wants to tell everybody else how things ought to be done. Whether it’s a parent telling us what kind of education to get, a friend telling us who to date and who not to date, or a spouse telling us what to eat and what not to eat, we humans are inherently driven by the desire to tell others how to live their lives. Mark was not immune to this quintessentially human character trait when he started his YouTube channel. In contravention of conventional wisdom, he officially started the channel in 2014 just after finishing his second round of education. Just like anybody who gets into the public eye, Mark faced criticism about his channel, but he found the courage to ignore it and do what he was interested in doing and how.
As soon as he started to get popular, Mark received unsolicited advice from other YouTubers telling him to shorten his videos, to write scripts, to look into certain brands, and to improve the production of his videos. Just like no one could have made him abandon his Casio G-Shock during Marine Corps formations, none of these criticisms affected Mark and the ways he goes about creating videos. To Mark, he would be better off staying clear of YouTube and reviewing watches if he cannot do it on his own terms. I can totally relate to that, as I have no doubt you do too. At some point in your life, and perhaps every day of your life, you are confronted with the need to set boundaries and do things your way despite what others may say or think.
Another criticism that Mark faced was that he’s not critical enough of watches in his videos. Early on he recognized that his pet peeves about a watch are different than other people’s, but when his voice started to carry a certain weight, he had to be mindful not to be too negative about watches because he didn’t want to negatively influence the perception of said watches to his viewers. He told me that he had watched videos of the Tudor Pelagos that criticized the watch and negatively depicted a timepiece that he had been lusting over for a long time. It’s like hearing a movie critic trash a movie we were excitedly waiting to see in the theater.
Mark has 25,000+ subscribers on YouTube, which says something obvious: he’s doing something right, people like the way he talks about watches, his format, the length and the production style of his videos, and it should stay this way. More than anything else, Mark is a passionate human being who has found a way to communicate his interests with a decently large chunk of the watch community. I came across his YouTube channel about three years ago, exactly when Mark was starting to put more work and time into it, and since that moment, I’ve been delighted to hear his takes on so many types of watches from so many brands.
Average Bros is the kind of channel I know will produce a certain quality of work from a unique angle, and just like I wait for the new episode of my favorite show to come out every week, I anxiously await a new episode of Average Bros.
Thanks for reading.