This originally appeared in Box + Papers, GQ staffer Cam Wolf’s watch newsletter. For more stories like it, hit the link and subscribe.
Anyone who’s into watches has become numb to the following image: a watch cinched tightly around a wrist, sleeve fabric and/or arm hairs spraying out in every direction. Maybe there’s a glamorous backdrop: a spread of Michelin-grade food or, even more likely, a glass of scotch lingering in the background. But the essence of the wrist shot remains the same. If you’re trying to flex a favorite watch, show how it sits on the wrist, and capture all the details that watch collectors go gaga over, nothing gets the job done more reliably than the wrist shot. I wanted to explore where the wrist shot came from—and how best to grab your own.
Wrist Shots, a Brief History
As B+P Illuminati Member Gary Getz wrote for Quill & Pad in 2020, people have been trying to take dramatic shots of their watches since way before Instagram existed. In 1968, while the Soviet Union was invading his home country of Prague, photographer Josef Koudelka took a photo of his watch with the empty streets behind it.
And while it’s not exactly a wrist shot, the first known artistic recreation of a watch was done by Italian artist Maso di San Friano in the mid 1500s. Look at this beaming “Man holding a watch,” as the painting is named. After multiple sittings and potentially years of painting—the Science Museum Group says it was made between 1558 and 1560—this man will finally be able to brag about his new watch and then it’s really over for this dude’s broke-boy friends.
A Taxonomy of Today’s Wrist Shots
Luckily, you no longer have to commission an Old Master to brag about your new timepiece. (Although that would be extremely tight!) Instead, Instagram gives watch collectors a place to immediately satisfy a craving to flaunt a new or old timepiece. That flaunting comes in many flavors.