Who we become, what we do, and how we do things are all unique to us.
There might be millions of bankers, for instance, but each one of them looks at their job a little differently. They each talk about it differently and write their client emails differently using their own perspective and tone. Consequently, the results they get are unique too. This is fascinating to me because although we all share so much in common as humans, we are at the same time unique. There are no two people with the exact same combination of DNA, looks, and physique as you.
There’s only one you.
Among the tens and thousands of people taking and posting photos of watches each day, there’s only one person who could have become Kevin a.k.a. @the_vintage_guy. His style of photography easily falls within the Koda style of photography. What makes him unique is who he photographs, how and when he photographs them, and how he edits. His most unique trait of all is his eye for composition. He has a certain way of playing with hard shadows and switching back and forth between various angles that imbue his photos with the look of documentary-style photography.
This article is about the positively unique ways in which we each contribute to the watch community. We’ll see how Kevin’s particular background prepared for this role.
Hid Grandfather Had a Rolex
As we now know, not all people who wear watches become collectors, but all collectors wear watches in their early years. Most of the time, a parent or close relative (an uncle, a grandmother, etc.) gifted us a watch that made a profound impact on us, as testified to by the fact that most of the people I’ve interviewed so far clearly remember what that watch was. Kevin himself was gifted a steel Casio Edifice Calendar by his mother when he was in high school. Although he doesn’t know where it is now, he knows for a fact that he still has it.
Fast forward a few years to the day Kevin became the owner of a 1978 Rolex Datejust 1601. This watch originally belonged to his grandfather, who later passed it on to Kevin’s uncle. Unfortunately, the latter tended to find himself in financial difficulties and was forced to pawn his Rolex to pay his bills more than once. His aunt would then buy the watch back, but it would eventually find its way back to the pawn shop. Finally, Kevin’s mother found it necessary to intervene and ended up buying the watch, keeping it safe until 2009. That year, his mother—who knew that Kevin had become a watch enthusiast—showed him the watch. His reaction of pure amazement was so profound that his mother gifted him the Datejust, which became his first significant timepiece.
As any tragic story that ends well would have it, the watch with a tumultuous history now rested in the caring hands of Kevin.
Fast forward another few years. As Kevin’s interest in watches kept growing, he said, he began to feel naked without one. Watches now mean so much to him that he has since turned the decision about which watch to wear the following day (based on what he would be wearing) into a regular ritual. I can relate to this in a way. I pick which watch to wear based on what the day will or probably will bring as a way of preparing myself for it, something that we all do in one way or another.
Now Kevin has roughly 30 watches in his collection. If you take a look at his work, you’ll immediately notice that he has numerous vintage watches. He’s been collecting them for a while, and the first one he bought was a Seiko 6139, an iconic day-date chronograph from the 1960s and 1970s. Although we will talk about this in greater detail later, it’s important to note that many of his friends also gravitate towards vintage watches. Beyond that, though, the first serious mechanical watch he bought himself was an Oris Big Crown Pointer date.
Macro Shots of Teeth
What is clearly not apparent looking at Kevin’s Instagram account is his profession. When he’s not photographing watches, Kevin’s hard at work at his dental practice. The fact that such a talented photographer has a profession millions of light years away from the watch photography/Instagram world begs the following question: what on Earth pushes people like Kevin to put down his dental tools, grab a camera, and photograph a mechanical timepiece? Although we didn’t directly talk about this during the interview, I would guess it’s because he’s a storyteller at heart as all Koda photographers are, and Kevin really likes to tell stories of people and their watches.
Kevin’s brother gifted him a camera to take macro-shots of teeth as part of his job. He taught himself how to use it. Photographing teeth in macro eventually turned into taking macro shots of watches. Over time, Kevin broadened the perspective of his photos and started taking wrist shots of strangers on the street. Working like a legitimate street photographer, he practiced his art without limits. He spent many hours scouring the streets of Taipei to practice his craft. What got him to start an Instagram account, however, seems to be (for us) a pure stroke of luck.
One random morning in 2019, Kevin woke up with the determination to post a photo of a watch on Instagram. He thought there were not many people doing wrist shots back then, and since he had created a collection of them, he thought he might as well try and see what would happen. Kevin immediately got positive feedback and felt encouraged to post more. Thanks to this energy, Kevin came across the Instagram account of the father of Koda photography, Allan a.k.a. @thewatchdude2. To put it simply, Kevin got hooked on Allan’s photography style. Unbeknownst to Allan, he had become an icon for someone living 6,000 miles away (Kevin lives in Taipei, Taiwan and Allan in Glasgow, Scotland).
In an unusual way, what you see on Kevin’s Instagram now is an outgrowth of what he was seeing in his dental practice on a day-to-day basis. An unusual connection, even unique, I would say. Kevin started with what he had and expanded on it.
His Unique Entourage
As soon as I came across Kevin’s Instagram account, I thought I was looking at the work of a full-time professional Taiwanese street photographer. I hesitated to contact him for a long time because I felt intimidated. As always, though, folks who are into watches and photography are by far the most welcoming and fun people to talk to, and Kevin is no different. We started chatting on Instagram because I wanted to know what his process was and who all of the people he photographs are. While most Koda photographers photograph themselves, Kevin photographs others. This distinction between him and the others is what made me assume I was talking to the Henri Cartier-Bresson of Taiwanese watch photography.
I was lucky to spend a week in Taipei back in 2016, and I remember feeling in awe of many men’s trendy and classic fashion sense. I now am finding this again in every single one of Kevin’s series of images. He made friends through a classic menswear community in Taipei that also happens to be into watches (Kevin actually got them into horology, and he now advises them on what to buy). Being friends, they often pose as models on the streets of Taipei. Kevin created a solid network of people to work with to create his photography, one of them being the owner of the Taipei location of The Anthology, a trendy men’s clothing store.
What was slowly cooking within this community is Kevin’s unique take on watch photography. As we mentioned earlier, he started doing wrist shots of strangers on the street, after which he started using his friends as models. He started pairing specific watches with certain clothing looks to provide a more compelling visual environment. The more photos he took, the more clear it became that he wanted to tell stories about watches and those who wear them. He widened his perspective and started taking portraits of his friends. The more he works on his craft, the closer I feel we get to the subjects of his photographs. To me, his photos give a certain sense of intimacy that is quite unique.
What Watches Mean
As we saw earlier in the article, watches mean so much to Kevin that he regularly coordinates his watches with what he’ll be wearing the next day. Now we know that watches are also important to his friends, who are also his models. There are different things Kevin does differently that really fascinate me, not only the way he photographs and edits his photos but also the perspective he provides on the wearer. I can’t think of another watch photographer who invites us into the private world of other collectors and does it in a way that shares his own perspective of their collections.
As he put it himself, most of the people he photographs have a special relationship with their watches, and he believes that it’s the people who give the watches their meaning. Kevin got his friends into watches, thereby sharing with them the way he sees watches. In return, they then tell him about their relationship with their own watches. It’s a give-and-take dynamic that is rather unique (I know, this article is full of this word!), and that’s what first unconsciously attracted me to Kevin’s work.
Lastly, he explained his artistic process, which seemed too easy to be for real, although it makes sense when it’s explained. It’s the remarkable frequency and volume of his Instagram posts that made me think that photographing watches was his full-time job. Actually, each one of this series consists of six to eight photos that take roughly 10 minutes to shoot. He has a process and experienced models. He generally shoots in the afternoon, (preferring cloudy days in good Koda fashion), after which he edits his images in Lightroom.
In case you were wondering—shoutout to you camera nerds—Kevin photographs with a Leica M Type 240 for the portrait shots, his lens of choice being 50mm f/2.0. For the macro, he uses a Fuji XH1 and a 60mm macro lens.
At the end of the day and regardless of how good one is at photographing watches, it is the community that keeps us going. Kevin doesn’t seek fame or praise. He does what he does because it makes him happy and helped him find his way toward successfully interacting with watches and people who wear them. At his core, Kevin cares more about telling a good story than taking the best shot. Interestingly enough, it’s because he doesn’t try to impress with the intrinsic quality of his work that his photography comes out so well.
For Kevin, Instagram is merely a platform where the finest watch photographers in the world can interact. Through their work, he learns how to do things differently and better. As we know, he sees @thewatchdude2 as an icon and source of inspiration. I for one see Kevin himself as a source of inspiration because of the amazing way he captures other peoples’ relationship with their watches. While there are many people who do the same flat lays using the same props—I have a particular issue with coffee beans—Kevin found his own way to photograph watches, and he gives back to the community by sharing the fruits of his labor.
Kevin is just like everybody else. He loves watches and what they mean, and he has a unique style of photographing that he shares regularly with the Instagram community. This makes Kevin a major contributor to the growth and well being of our dear community that he is.
Thanks for reading.