Listener Article: A Woman’s Experience Attending Her First Watch Fair – District Time
By LC (Instagram @watchmakers.daughter)
One could say watches are in my blood. My father is a watchmaker with his own business and some of my earliest memories are of sitting at his table at an NAWCC trade show scribbling crayon drawings of Hamilton chronometers while he sold tooling and parts. My first watch was a Minnie Mouse watch at age 3 (or thereabouts) and I’ve rarely been without a watch in the nearly 30 years since. Vintage ladies watches from the 60s and 70s make up the bulk of my collection, but I’ll buy pretty much anything that I like (and can afford).
I like talking about watches and learning from people who entered the industry/hobby in different ways, and I think watch shows are one of the best ways to do that. Ever since I was forced to walk past Wind Up Fair in NYC last fall, I had resolved to make it to the next watch fair within a reasonable striking distance. So District Time in DC has been on my calendar for the last six months.
I had a couple of goals in attending:
1) Try on brands like NTH, Nodus and Traska that you generally don’t get to see in person.
2) Get a better understanding of what sizes and shapes work best for my wrist and style.
Well, I accomplished both of those things and more.
Attending a watch fair as a woman is an interesting experience: you’re definitely in the minority, but I’m used to that in my 9-5 job as an engineer. It’s doubly interesting when the (90% men) repping their watch brands realize that you actually do know your Sellitas from your Seagulls and aren’t just there shopping for a boyfriend. It was fantastic to dive deep into assembly processes, inspiration, and our thoughts on the vintage market. But there was always that undercurrent of “she’s actually for real.” It’s something you get used to as a woman in a male-dominated field and there was no malice and very little condescension, but it did color the conversations. Interestingly enough I found that the older, more established industry representatives were more accepting of my interest as genuine than their younger counterparts. Age and experience does count for something, I guess.
Despite some initial shock that I was ready and willing to dive deep into watch talk, everyone was extremely welcoming and great to talk to, especially when we realized we knew some of the same people in the industry. It’s also the only place I’ve been where everyone was checking out what watch everyone else was wearing. After much debate before leaving my apartment, I decided to go with my orange and black ladies 1969 Omega Seamaster 120 and that was always a great way to start a conversation. I chose to wear that one because researching that watch was what really got me active in the online watch community. So many brand founders claimed watches from that era as inspiration for their own designs. I hope that as brands find their own identity, they take the influence of the past and push it into new and interesting directions.
Talking directly with brand founders and designers was educational: thought is put into details I would never consider, like the size and shape of the holes on the strap (though for that particular watch, which will remain unnamed, I think more thought could have been put into the watch’s readability). Designers were more than willing to talk about future design evolution, planned improvements, and lessons learned during the production process. I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about publicly, but let’s just say I’m extremely excited about the ladies segment of the microbrand watch market in the next year. Hopefully, some of the future plans that came up in conversation will make their way into full production.
Finally, handling watches and nearly finished prototypes was amazing. I’m never 100% sure about a purchase until I have the watch in hand, so being able to feel the fit and finish, play with the crown and bracelet, and look at the dial with my own eyes definitely helped me narrow down possible choices for my next buy. These are things you can’t tell just by looking at a spec sheet or even by watching video reviews. Until I can handle a watch in person, I really won’t know whether it’s for me or not.
And now my top 5 watches that I saw at the show:
5) Visitor Linden (coming this fall, price $580-$590)
Great cushion style case with amazingly machined lugs. The chamfers really added to the dressier styling of the watch. They’re very sharp though. The hands are detailed to look like fountain pen nibs, according to the owner. I really liked how it felt on my wrist, it had nice heft without overwhelming me. I do wish there was a bracelet option, but the available straps seem nice. The winding action feels solid, though it has my absolute pet peeve: a date wheel that contrasts with the dial. Sometimes this works because the date window ends up looking like a lume plot but this was not one of those times.
4) Ocean Crawler internal bezel diver (coming this fall)
It sat pretty high on my wrist, but the crown action on this was top notch. The way the crown unscrewed for the internal bezel adjustment was an absolute dream. I wish that the case was thinner, but the lug to lug was a good size for my 6.5” wrist. I’m not in the market for a dive watch, but if I was, this would definitely be on the list.
3) Traska Summiteer (Kickstarter starts 10/22)
I really dug the 1016 vibes I got from this watch. It was no-nonsense but with excellent personality. I loved how the bracelet tapered at the buckle (I am definitely not a fan of straight bracelets or straps). The dial is matte, but with a nice step to the inside of the minute track to keep things interesting. The contrasting seconds hand is a nice distinctive touch. I definitely think the Kickstarter for this will do really well.
2) EMG DL63 Black Panda (coming soon hopefully, pre-orders currently sold out)
I never expected a 42mm watch to feel this wearable. I loved the blue accents on the dial and the crown and pusher action felt very solid. I believe it’s powered by the Seagull ST1901 so it should be pretty reliable. The bent lugs make it feel much smaller, like closer to a 38mm watch. It’s honestly a brilliant design touch that really sets this watch apart from every other Seagull based chronograph out there (of which there are many). I think I’d probably also get a mesh or a straight lug beads of rice bracelet for it to complete the vintage look. It definitely reads as early 70s and I am 100% here for it.
1) Hager Watches marine militare homage prototype
My favorite watch of the show. If it had been a white dial, I’d have put the money down right then and there. It’s comes in both a 38mm and 42mm variant with either a GMT, time only, or small seconds movement. The bracelet is one of the most comfortable linked bracelets I’ve come across and has a very slight taper. I really liked the turquoise gradient on the sandwich dial and the yellow lume sandwich style dial was a great compliment to the dial color. I might end up buying one when they drop anyway, especially the GMT.
This was a great watch fair and I definitely plan on attending again next year. The people I met seem like great enthusiasts and I really want to see what the brands come up with to bring to the show next year. If you have an opportunity to attend a watch show, don’t question it, just go.