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@watch_girl_life

We often think of the objects that remind us of places, people, and events as being mere things: a trinket we bought in a market, a garment we keep in a closet. Only those who do not have an inherent passion for horology would think of watches as being mere objects. Watches for us mean many things: a commemoration of a happy event or an inherited memento from a parent. In this quest to collect timepieces, some of us do so to celebrate life, and it might sound idiosyncratic to buy a time-keeping device to celebrate the passing of time, but with a little bit of soul searching and honesty, we can easily understand why we do this. 

 

Over time, watches acquire deeper and deeper meanings for all of us. This is something I was reminded of when I had the pleasure of interviewing Trish (a.k.a. @watch_girl_life) a few weeks ago to talk about her watches and what they mean to her, what attracts her to certain models and not others, and what has drawn thousands of us to her photography. We love her work, but we may not know why. There is a certain quality of immovability in her photos that makes sense now that I’ve spoken to her. This article tells a story about the deeper meaning of watches, how they connect us with those we love, and our life experiences (both happy and sad).

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It Started with a Seiko

 

Seiko is a brand that has often been dubbed the “gateway drug” for watch collectors. This Japanese brand has one of the largest catalogs of any brand that has ever existed, and the  prices of its models range from $50 to several thousands of dollars. While many kids are gifted a digital watch (the go-to one being the Casio F91W), Trish got a Seiko Kinetic at age 13. Most collectors I’ve spoken to remember their first watch but don’t necessarily still have it. Trish does and wore it for many decades. More surprisingly still, she has the box and papers that came with the watch more than 40 years ago. It’s not the watch in itself that is important, though, but instead the one who gave it to her and when.

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The Kinetic was gifted to her by her dad when she entered the challenging and memorable period of becoming a teenager. Try to think about a significant gift you received at the same age or what you were told about this crucial milestone. I suppose the significance of turning 13 varies from one culture to another. In some instances, turning 13 is just another birthday, while in others, it is accompanied by complex rituals to transition a young person from childhood to the early stages of adulthood. Being gifted a watch is meaningful, and the fact that it was Trish’s father (an avid Seiko collector) who handed her the watch box made it even more so.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Trish started collecting watches by adding a few other Seikos to her personal collection. She inherited her grandfather’s Seiko and bought herself a Grand Seiko Quartz GMT (which she eventually sold). She added to this growing collection several Rolexes and Omegas as well as IWCs, Tudors, and Cartiers. The ways in which her collection evolved over the years matched several subsequent life experiences, and also shows that our taste in watches—like in many other things—evolves over the years. Just like we might change our mindset and our core beliefs, we change what we look for in watches as we attempt to express something different about ourselves.

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Watches Are People, People Are Watches 

 

During the interview, I had to hold back tears when she related the passing of her wife, which took place four years ago. They were both connected through many passions, and horology was one of them. They were both watch nuts and collected watches that held a particular significance to each personally and to both of them jointly. I felt sad because my father passed away when I was 24, which is when I realized he was somewhat of a watch collector himself. My father had three sons and owned three watches. We each inherited a watch a year after his passing. Trish has continued to buy watches to celebrate life and remember her late life partner and has developed particular bonds to certain timepieces. 

 

Trish’s first significant purchase—what people often refer to as the first “serious” watch—was a black-dial Oyster Perpetual she bought after her wife died to celebrate their life together. As anyone who collects watches would know, this OP will never leave her collection. This watch signifies an important milestone in her life and reminds her of a special time period where the couple were going through meaningful experiences. In a way, the Oyster Perpetual represents a commitment to life and its challenges.

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Losing someone is an experience that is both traumatizing and humbling. It reminds us of the fragility of life and of the impermanence of things. Our lives are just temporary, and eventually, the watches we collect will disappear too. In the process of living in the moment and cherishing the things she has, Trish makes a point to celebrate another year of her life by buying a new watch on her birthday. She doesn’t buy just any watch, however, as she has a self-imposed rule to only purchase watches she can afford, otherwise, the watch wouldn’t be an entire part of her experience. 

 

As a watch collector, Trish has bought and sold several watches. She told me that buying and selling luxury timepieces is a daunting experience for a woman because horology is a male-dominated world. In her experience, men have deeply biased attitudes about women and watches. In particular, she has found that men expect her not to know much about watches because she’s a woman. Watch collecting therefore brings the best out of people and the worst, just like watches can remind us of the best of times and the worst of times just as easily.

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Being in the Moment, Pausing Time

At the time of this writing, Trish has 9,586 followers on Instagram. That means that more than 9,500 are attracted to the stories Trish tells about herself through her watches and photography. I don’t remember when and how I came across her account, but I do remember how I felt when I first saw one of her photographs: like a window into her life that captured a moment in time. Her photos have an inherent sense of immovability that is both expressed in how she composes the photos and how she works the light. To me, she makes some of the most interesting flat lays as they truly invite us to become a part of her universe. 

 

Actually, I wouldn’t call them flat lays, but something closer to a cross between still life and lifestyle photography.

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Trish sees watch photography as a way to tell a story. She first thinks about what she wants to express before she starts assembling the image in her imagination. She creates a narrative around the photo in order to communicate what she’s experiencing and how she’s feeling at that moment. This can be seen in the props she uses: a piece of fabric, a pen, leaves from the fall season, or an old camera that says something about her passion for photography. She puts so much of herself in each shot that those closest to her can tell how she was feeling the day she took the shot. 

While many of us created processes to simplify the act of photographing watches, Trish takes her time to be in the moment. The way she talked about photographing watches reminded me of the ways Allan (@the_watchdude2), Jens (@a_watchguys_life), and Mike (@m.adcock) go out of their way to be in the moment, connect with their watches, and figure out what they are trying to express. I used to spend more time doing the same thing, and hearing Trish’s story motivates me to do so again. Additionally, I bet she inspires many watch collectors and amateur photographers to follow the same path.  

 

If you’ve read some of my previous stories, you very well know that watches are much more than mechanical time-telling machines. They connect us to people, places, and events that we feel emotionally bound to. Trish’s perfect composition and use of light, which is both soft and moody, say so much about her and her personal experiences. We may not have the same taste in watches, but you most likely stopped to look at her account because you felt something special. Although you didn’t realize it at first, by looking at one of Trish’s compositions, you saw much more than a photo of a watch. 

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The Instagram Sphere 

It is this capacity for storytelling through watch photography that brought Trish to Instagram. A few years ago, she bought a 36mm Datejust on Gumtree for the modest sum of $5,000. What became a great deal brought her to the famed social media platform where she met popular watch photographers like @lydiaswatches, @hendersonshorology, @joey_c001, @rm_m100, and @bowlofsalmon. She learned how to tell stories through photography and the art itself by interacting with experienced photographers. Nowadays, people reach out to Trish to learn about her artistic process. She loves the fact that through Instagram, people who are into watches teach as much as they learn.

Trish created a separate Instagram account for her watch photography because she didn’t want her friends and close ones to know she was photographing luxury watches. I’m sure that by now, they know what she’s been up to for the past few years and can celebrate with her the success she has gained on the platform. Success is actually not something she has ever pursued. Truth be told, she couldn’t believe that a couple of thousand people started following her, but at a certain point in time, she started seeing gaining more followers as a personal challenge.

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Although she has a full-time career outside of the watch world—Trish leads an IT team in charge of disaster prevention for Australia’s largest companies—she sees her Instagram account as a second job. If this wasn’t clear already, Trish puts a lot of effort into conceptualizing and executing her photos, and she hopes that many people would as well. All of the people she follows and interacts with put effort into their art. As someone who has gone through hardship, she knows it takes effort to make anything happen, and that is what she looks for in others. 


Trish is so dedicated to her art that she has slowly been building a brand behind @watch_girl_life called Behind the Lume (see www.behindthelume.com). When she retires from her IT career, she plans to make watch photography a full-time job. Take a look at her website and see for yourself the wonderful results of her many years of photographing watches and telling stories about them.

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Conclusion: The Many Facets of Watch Collecting 

Hunting for, buying, and wearing a watch is much more than a commercial transaction for Trish. She doesn’t connect to or feel inspired by each watch she sees in the same way, and she looks for the ones that she will be able to look at years later and remember who she was and how she felt at that moment. She’s bought watches that now remind her of a previous life that was filled with a whole lot of different emotions, and each year, she buys a watch to celebrate life and how precious each second of each day is. Looking at her Instagram feed, one can see how much watches mean to her and how much work goes into creating beautiful art that celebrates who she is. 

 

Trish is meticulous and patient, and she likes to tell meaningful stories. As we saw above, the stories that she can tell about her experience being a watch collector and photographer are not always happy or easy ones, although things work out in the end. Trish can be criticized for buying a certain watch or wanting to sell it, she can be skipped over on the overwhelming world that social media is, and she can as easily draw in people who care for a good story and for authenticity. I encourage you to go check out her account here and to check out her website here. 

 

Thanks for reading.