When a Hairy Wrist Gives Your Watch Bangs

This is a safe space, right? OK, cool, because for the past seven or eight years I’ve often felt insecure about my left wrist. I haven’t opened up about it before, but maybe some of you will relate.

It all started many years ago when I took my first job as an editor at a watch publication. The higher ups instructed me to include “one decent wrist shot” in my photo sets. “Wrist shot” was a new term back then. I initially thought it had something to do with hockey, but I soon learned a wrist shot was a claustrophobic image of a watch shot “on-wrist” while “going hands-on” with the watch “in the metal.” The lingo seemed strange, but I understood the assignment: Shoot the watch on my wrist.

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When I delivered my first wrist shot to the photo editor, he looked at it and told me that the editor-in-chief, “usually prefers wrists with less hair.” This editor-in-chief had an ample head of hair, so he obviously wasn’t suffering from alopecia, but he also happened to have had exactly zero hairs on his arms. As a responsible reporter, I should clarify that I am inferring this gentleman’s total arm-baldness from hundreds of his Instagram “wristies” (cute for wrist shot) in which we could see only about three inches of his left wrist. So, conceivably, he shaves that wrist. As of this writing, I can neither confirm nor deny.

Patek Philippe 5226G
Underexposing here hides the author’s arm hair as he sports what is his favorite Patek of the modern era, the 5226G white gold Calatrava.

Anyways, after being so abruptly removed from my role as the publication’s latest wrist model, my first thoughts were: Wait a minute, I’m Italian—I can’t help it if I’m hairy. This is discrimination! My next thought was defensive: I actually think bald wrists look kind of weird. That opinion, of course, makes perfect sense for a man like me who has, since puberty, been gazing down at watches nestled in a Southern Italian forest of wrist hair.

Panerai Luminor PAM01467
Italian on Italian—the author wearing a Panerai PAM01467 New York City Boutique Limited Edition.

I didn’t sue for pelt-based workplace discrimination, but I did walk away feeling I’d suffered a low-grade micro-aggression. Was I too hairy to model a watch? What is the right amount of wrist hair anyways?

I scrolled thousands of wrist shots on Instagram back then. After my traumatic work experience, I started looking more closely at men’s wrists than at their watches. Like a Mediterranean fortune-teller, I believed I could read these wrists, that I could come to know the men attached to them.

Truth time—a few stray hairs were Photoshopped out of this image.
Truth time—a few stray hairs were Photoshopped out of this image.

I’d see a sparse yet masculine crop of tonal arm hair flowing in one direction askance to a vintage 36 mm Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar and think, “I bet he’s handsome and fit.” I noticed other wrists with slightly crackled skin and gray hair sporting a perfectly faded four-digit Rolex Submariner, and I’d think, “Distinguished, and probably drives an air-cooled 911.” Some of those older wrists looked a little overcooked, so—as a discriminating New Yorker and an armchair sociologist—I’d check to see if the sun-damaged wrist originated in Los Angeles, or maybe Miami, which they sometimes did (tisk-tisk) but mostly did not (whatever).

Other wrists were bald, which didn’t seem so odd to me after seeing so many on Instagram. And some wrists were Tony Bennet-hairy, such that by comparison my left wrist appeared lightly dusted with a longish tricolored coat of brown, strawberry and gray fleece. Maybe my wrist wasn’t so shabby after all.

Omega Speedmaster 57 is a fairly thick watch that works well for the author.
Omega Speedmaster 57 is a fairly thick watch that works well for the author.

Having taken in the diversity of men’s wrists from around the world, I even started to like my wrist. It looked good with a 44 mm Panerai Radiomir, or with a chunky Omega Speedmaster 57, or a Rolex Explorer II. Big watches were great on my wrist.

And then I bought a Vacheron Constantin ref. 92239/000P-4 dress watch in a 33 mm platinum case. From caseback to crystal, that watch measures just 6 mm thick, which I now know to be significantly fewer millimeters than the hairs on my left wrist.

Vacheron Constantin Platinum Historiques
The author’s 1990 Vacheron Constantin Historiques is only 6 mm thick.

I’m constantly noticing one, two, five or a dozen hairs resting against the Vacheron’s crystal. Sometimes when I glance down at this watch, it looks as if it has grown bangs over the 9 o’clock hour marker. I began obsessively using my right index finger to comb those hairs under the case of my Vacheron. I’m still trying to train those hairs to go against their natural tendencies, but it’s not working.

I have a friend who greets me each morning with a text: “What’s on-wrist, dude?” I’ve never told him that I comb my arm hair before snapping the wrist shot I send him in response.

Hair on top of my watch—this wasn’t the wrist-hair problem I thought I’d have when I grew up. I figured that—like my father who wore a Bulova Accutron with a stretchy metal Spidel band—I’d be complaining about the hair on my wrist getting caught in the bracelet. I can still see my father pulling that bracelet wide open with all five fingers of his right hand and gingerly slipping it onto his left wrist. When I’d tug on his watch to hear the whine of the Accutron electronic tuning-fork movement, he’d always wince and say, “Hey, take it easy.” Obviously, this is not the kind of pain I’ve experienced with watches interacting with body hair.

So where do we stand regarding our wrists? I’ve mostly made peace with my own, and I hope no one ever tells you anything other than that your wrist is gorgeous just the way it is—bald, curly, dark, light, sun-baked, Italian or otherwise.

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