Kim a.k.a @Lar5erik
I had previously abandoned the idea of ever getting my hands on the holy grail of watches, the Rolex Explorer 1, but even though my pockets aren’t deep enough, I’m now back on the hunt again for the one-watch collection timepiece.
It’s all this guy’s fault: Kim a.k.a. @Lar5erik.
I have learned something important from following this humble watch collector and photographer in the online spaces he inhabits. Watch collecting can be purposeful, and the watches we spend so much time reading about—and so much money buying—truly serve a purpose.
A couple of weeks ago I published an article about Allan a.k.a. @thewatchdude2. Allan is my personal daily source of inspiration on Instagram, the James Bond of horology, a lifestyle photographer who makes me want to not only buy his watches but get myself an old Defender and hit the mountain roads of Scotland, backpack in tow. This same person also inspired Kim to get into watch photography, so it’s no wonder that I got hooked on Kim’s Instagram account. His photography takes a different approach than Allan’s, but it is equally attractive and daydream-inducing.
Now that I have had the honor of speaking with Kim, I understand better who he is and what attracted me and a mere 21,000 other people to his work. A man who has dedicated himself to higher-end tool watches and uses them as someone would use a G-Shock. Kim doesn’t believe that his content is anything special; he’s just a passionate person who continuously seeks to connect with like-minded people in the watch community, which inspires him and allows him to inspire others in return.
Who Is Kim?
We don’t see much of Kim in his photos: just a wrist, sometimes an arm, but rarely anything more. I didn’t know what type of person I would be speaking with, but once I did, I was actually not surprised at all. Generally speaking, the person matches his photography, that is, he is well put together, and a polished collector to boot. In a way, he strikes me as an Ian Fleming type. His knowledge of watches is commensurate with the ways he uses them and the type of watches that draw his attention. If Ian Fleming had not written James Bond novels, I am convinced that he would have become a watch collector and embarked on nonstop adventures around the world just like Kim has done.
The latter grew up in a small town an hour away from Helsinki. His fascination with watches started as a kid, when he would play with his grandfather’s chronograph (alas, Kim doesn’t remember more details about it). The latter was in the Finnish Army during World War II and fought against the Soviets in the Winter War (1939–1940) and the Continuation War (1941–1944.) Afterward he remained in the army, but this time as a pilot. As you can imagine, his grandfather was Kim’s role model, and he instilled in Kim a deep appreciation for tool watches. This fascination is quite apparent in the selection of watches Kim posts on Instagram: three Rolex Submariners, an Explorer 2, an Explorer 1, and a Tudor Pelagos FXD. If this collection doesn’t evoke adventure, I honestly don’t know what would.
One of his fondest childhood memories was taking regular trips to Helsinki to visit watch dealers. He would collect their catalogs and diligently study them, hoping to find a watch like the one his grandfather had. By age 10, he was able to save up enough money to get himself a Citizen, the kind that displays the time in both digital and analog formats. Although he was still too young to drive off to faraway places, Kim began to dream of entering the Camel Trophy competition, a wilderness adventure match sponsored by Land Rover that tests the stamina, skill, and mental agility of contestants navigating the wilds in fully-equipped off-road vehicles. A special edition watch was produced for the competition (see photo below), and eons ago, Kim got one that recently surfaced from its hiding place deep in a drawer.
At university, Kim studied industrial design, and this proved to be the gateway drug into digital watches. He codesigned one watch as a member of a team, and during this process of digging through the world’s archives of horology, he came across mechanical watches that inspired a new chapter in Kim’s endless exploration of the world of watches. It is necessary to point out that thus far, Kim had only owned quartz watches. Both the Citizen and Camel Adventure watches were powered by quartz movements, and his grandfather’s watch was the only mechanical watch he had seen up close, although as mentioned, he does not remember much about it.
As we see in many such cases, discovering the world of mechanical watches is the beginning of the end for many amateur watch collectors. It marks the passage into a world from which no one returns.
The Beginning of His Community
After his exploration of various quartz adventure watches, Kim made the honest mistake of watching Christopher Nolan’s film, “Interstellar.” Any watch nerd would expect me to mention the Hamilton Khaki Field dubbed “The Murph,” but it was Matthew McConaughey’s Khaki Pilot Day Date that seriously grabbed Kim’s attention. What he didn’t know (or at least not until he looked into it) was that the Pilot Day Date was relatively affordable. Naturally, then, Kim bought one, and it became his daily wearer for the better part of two years. Considering his grandfather’s career as a fighter jet pilot, it is not surprising that Kim would choose such a pilot‘s watch with a rich history as his first mechanical timepiece.
Getting into watches built with wheels, nuts, and jewels marked the beginning of Kim’s entry into the watch community. Through his early explorations of these types of watches, he started meeting like-minded people. He came across Adrian’s Bark&Jack’s YouTube channel just after the latter had started, and after Kim created his Instagram account, he discovered the account of Allan @thewatchdude2. Adrian helped Kim expand his horizon of interest to include brands like Rolex, Tudor, and Doxa, while Allan inspired Kim’s artistic side. Kim was fascinated by Allan’s watch photography, his adventures driving vintage Land Rovers, and his moody, lifestyle-type photography.
As Kim so rightfully pointed out, watch collecting is like the branches of a tree that grow in many directions. Watch collectors either seem to focus on just one brand for their entire collecting career, or they branch out and dive into different types of watches or brands. Kim certainly did the latter. After getting the Hamilton, he entered his German phase, buying a Sinn U1—the quintessential ultra-tool watch—and a couple of Damaskos before veering off to Doxa and finally Seiko with the Marine Master 300. Having been introduced to Rolex by YouTube and Instagram influencers, Kim considered getting one himself, but he didn’t see himself as being part of the Rolex community—yet.
Let’s take the analogy of the branching tree a bit further and examine the roots that anchor it deep into the ground. Like a thought that lingers in our dreams and that we can’t shake off, the thought of acquiring a Rolex never vanished for Kim. Although he didn’t see himself as a Rolex guy, his brother is. Despite the fact that the two live far apart and don’t see each other very often, it only took one visit with his brother and seeing the Submariner his brother had gotten for himself before Kim began to rethink his position on Rolex ownership.
The rest of the story could practically write itself. Intrigued by the coronet brand, it was Tudor that first introduced Kim to Hans Wilsdorf’s concept of horology in the form of the Pelagos. Not long after this, Kim got a 39mm Explorer 1 ref. 214270 and eventually a ceramic Submariner ref. 114060. If you had an extra 30 minutes to hang out here, I might invite you to take a deeper dive into Kim’s collecting journey, especially in relation to his outstanding Rolex watches, but let’s go straight to the heart of the matter here.
Tool Watches for Real Adventures
Besides collecting vintage cars and works of art, collecting watches has to be one of the most expensive hobbies that humans have ever invented. Even if your jam is affordable watches, we all know that you can’t just buy one watch and feel satisfied for the rest of your life. You may end up spending a couple of thousand dollars on inexpensive watches, but you will never feel satisfied with just one affordable watch, so you keep buying until suddenly, you realize that you now have several watches and you never intended to spend that much. Well, there are people like that, but there are also people who collect luxury watches that they lock up in a safe or put behind a display case to protect from getting scratched, marked up with fingerprints, or dusty.
And then there is Kim.
When you consider how he grew up, it is no surprise Kim would have come to collect actual tool watches that can take a beating, get scraped and covered with mud and rain, sustain repeated bumps and shocks, and still keep good time. That’s why any one who wants to get serious about taking our watches on adventures must spend extra for them. They must be watches that are actually shock resistant and have reliable movements, sapphire crystals, and all of the high-quality components that allow a Submariner to dive hundreds of meters deep underwater, components that allow the Explorer 2 to get bounced around in caves and exposed to high levels of humidity. Kim’s current watches constitute archetypical adventure watches, and that’s what Kim uses them for. He doesn’t carry them in a box while on real adventures. He wears them.
When Kim is not working in his design studio, he hits the roads on his bicycle. He’s into competitive long-distance racing. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim did a 3,500-kilometer, solo Trans-Iberica race. Now he’s training for a transcontinental race in Europe that will hopefully take place this coming summer. Imagine riding a bicycle for several days in all weather conditions, having to repair your bike when it breaks down, setting up camp every night, riding up and down mountains, and racing through valleys, and all the while on your wrist, there sits an Explorer 2 or a G-Shock.
Boy, I felt proud of myself wearing just one watch on a month-long camping trip in an SUV that protected me from the elements, and I thought I was so tough.
Kim is like the airline pilot for which the Rolex GMT Master is designed or lab engineers who need watches that can resist magnetism or even astronauts who wear Speedmasters into space. It’s fascinating to meet someone who wears watches that rarely make it to the field but instead sit in drawers or get worn for weekend brunch despite being manufactured to be used for adventure travel. My wife can’t understand why I wear my favorite pair of boots every day until they wear out, or why I use a $700 watch for camping, but that’s who I am. I like to wear things for their intended purpose and build memories with them. Kim is the same and takes this fearlessness a step further by wearing luxury Swiss watches on his adventures.
He recently made a one-week bike trip with his wife and his recently acquired scratch-free Polar Explorer 2. He wore the watch everyday and built amazing memories with it. That’s what Kim is into as well: building memories with his watches so that every time he looks at his watch box, he can remember all the amazing adventures he has experienced and who he was with. He said he likes to wear his watches as much as possible and wears them on all occasions. Kim admitted (to my great pleasure) that he has been on a quest to create a one-watch collection. He’s fascinated by the idea of owning just one watch that he can use on all of his adventures, a watch that can do it all, one that will bear the marks of all his adventures in the form of scratches, dents, and tiny particles of mud that get stuck in between two bracelet links.
A Note About Time
The concept of time is actually rarely talked about in the world of horology. We collect watches for different reasons: the appeal of the engineering that goes into a watch movement, a fascination with the history of watches in the context of human development or their beauty as items of jewelry, or even their significance as symbols of our identities as businessman, adventurer, father, and veteran. We rarely talk, though, about the concept of the passing of time and the fact that we waste so much of it that we need to keep track of it. I for one have a very personal concept of time, and I use my watch for this reason. I like the relationship I have with time via this watch I’ve strapped on my wrist. Just like I strive to make good use of my time, I like to have a watch that is easy to read, reliable, versatile, and precise.
Kim has a proper sense of time too, but good timekeeping impacts his life more deeply than it does mine. For him, mismanaging time during a race is a more serious thing than not being able to properly brew a cup of coffee or arriving late to a meeting. In order to win the race—hell, just to make it to the finish line—Kim needs to keep a sharp eye on the clock at all times. He needs to calculate when he’ll make it to the next checkpoint or to the ferry that will bring him to the next leg of his trip. He has a significant need and use for a watch that I haven’t heard of since Neil Armstrong went to the moon or since Tom Hanks and his crew used watches to time booster burn to save their lives in the movie Apollo 13.
Photography & Instagram
As part of his curriculum to become an industrial designer, Kim studied architecture and photography. He first used film cameras and learned to develop his own film. He then moved on to digital cameras and started documenting the bike races he participated in. He would only photograph other people racing as it’s quite difficult to ride a bike and photograph at the same time, but these experiences got him used to photographing “in situ” using natural light. It started a passion for capturing a snapshot in time, and if you look at his Instagram account, you’ll see what he means by that. Kim doesn’t really stage or plan his photos, but takes the shot whenever he sees an opportunity.
Kim adopts this same approach when capturing images of his activities involving his third obsession (after bicycling and watches), which is drinking coffee. He shared that many of his shots are taken before, during, or after drinking a cup of coffee, as it is a time during which he relaxes and takes a moment to be in the present. The light is often nice at this time of day. He often has props lying around, like a notebook he uses for work or a glass of whisky for these cold days. Only a few times has he used a softbox for a client, which forced him to learn how to use it and also paved the way for later photographing watches. Kim likes to keep his process simple and not spend too much time photographing watches (10 to 15 minutes per shot).
As mentioned in the introduction, Kim gained inspiration from other Instagram watch photography influencers like @thewatchdude2 and @collector101, two people with a distinct style of photography who use natural light and are skillful at capturing a moment in time. Time, as we know, means something different for each one of us, and it certainly does to Kim. This is why he doesn’t spend too much time photographing or editing his shots. He instead prefers to spend time designing and going on rough solo adventures during which he likes to take along one trusty companion: a sturdy tool watch.
At the time of writing this article, Kim has about 21,700 followers on Instagram. Why do I keep mentioning how many followers one has? Because it’s a measure of something—usually success—but for Kim, it’s a signifier of the depth of his connections to the watch community. Sure, taking great photos of luxury timepieces helps, but as I see it, Kim has been very consistent for the past three years taking candid photos of his wonderful watch collection and interacting with fellow watch enthusiasts. He honestly did not realize he had that many followers until he hit the 10,000 mark and received congratulatory messages.
His biggest concern when it comes to Instagram is not getting more followers or losing them because of recent changes in the platform’s algorithm. He’s concerned about not being able to interact as much with his community if his posts do not get the visibility they used to. I now have to search for his account to see his latest post, as I do with my favorite watch photographers, which is not a way to reward the dedication of someone like Kim. Hell, Kim doesn’t even earn a penny on his account. He gets offers of free watches and straps everyday, and turns down 90 percent of these requests. He only accepts when it allows him to feature something he would have paid for himself.
There are thousands of people on Instagram photographing watches, and they do so for various reasons. Kim is one of these people who does it for the sake of community, not for the fame or the money. I think it’s admirable that there are people like him who exist, and even though you may have great admiration for his photographic skills, even this is not what matters. As he puts it, his first shots were not good, and he encourages people to go take a look so that they will be inspired to say, “It’s not about how good your shot is or how you famous you are, it’s about how passionate you are” (I made this up, but I am sure Kim would agree with this statement).
Thanks for reading.
Note: All photos in this article were taken by Kim @Lar5erik