How A Fashion Podcaster Who 'Thinks About Watches Too Much' Built His Collection
Nowadays, Jeremy Kirkland can admit it.
"At first, I got into watches for the wrong reason," he says. "I wanted to find a way to set myself apart, to communicate the status of who I wanted to be. I got into watches because I wanted the world to think more of me than what I thought of myself."
Kirkland is the host of Blamo, a podcast about clothes and culture, so his relationship with watches runs long and deep.
Somewhere along the way Kirkland, 37, started buying watches he liked instead – fun, accessible, often affordable. He started to love watches for what they were, "the stories behind them and the stories attached to them."
"I don't have a ton of heat," he says of his own watch collection, "but I have things that are really special and I've found my own niche in the watch world." In his early years as a freelance writer more than a decade ago, Kirkland even wrote about watches for titles like Esquire. He tells stories about how the founder of a little blog called Hodinkee would reach out to him, gently correcting Kirkland if he got a reference number or movement wrong.
But as a fashion guy – before launching Blamo, he worked at menswear shop The Armoury – Kirkland knows his stuff. Since buying a digital Casio, he's gone through many of the phases that might sound familiar to other enthusiasts: Casio, Seiko (lots of Seiko), falling in and out of love with Rolex, but mostly, just buying stuff that makes him happy.
Here's a peek at his collection.
Kirkland's journey into watches started innocently enough when he purchased a digital Casio upon his move to New York from his hometown of St. Louis.
"It was the watch my grandpa had," Kirkland says. "If you're a millennial, a lot of our grandfathers always wanted the latest tech, and in the '70s and '80s that was digital or quartz." These were the pre-smartphone days of 2006, and Kirkland just wanted a nice, functional watch.
"I think it was $20. It was what I could afford then, but it's really simple and beautiful. It was cool because watches like this, you can just like them for what they are." In those days, most people were still buying watches for their utility, and Kirkland was one of those people.
"I've owned it for over 16 years now. And when I would play shows – because when I went to New York, I was in a band and trying to play music – it was perfect because it was really small and I'd press the little nightlight button to see what time it was."
"It's been with me forever. In terms of value, it's totally irreplaceable. There's no way I could ever get that back because it represents a time in my life when I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a tiny room with milk crates to hold my clothes and a guitar in the corner. It was just this sweet part of my life when I didn't need anything and I had everything."
Soon, Kirkland started noticing watches – people wearing a Rolex or Omega would compliment his Casio, and eventually, he decided he wanted a Rolex, too.
"There's a beauty in New York because nobody cares or knows who you are, so you can be anything you want." Owning a Rolex was part of that – or so he thought – a way to elevate his place in life as he navigated growing up in New York: a job at an indie record label, various projects in the fashion world, and writing those watch columns in Esquire. So Jeremy bought a few, but they didn't give him joy. Like he said, he kind of got into watches for the wrong reasons.
But Kirkland did get joy out of the achievement and excitement of having a watch that was special to him. He started to learn about movements, history, how things were made. That's when he found Seiko.
"Seiko just ticked every box for me. It was cool, affordable, accessible, and the information was out there, so I really went nuts over Seiko." One of the first stops in Kirkland's vintage Seiko journey was the Seiko 6139 chronograph, a funky 1970s chrono that's most known for being worn by Colonel William Pogue when he blasted into space to crew the first U.S. space station.
"I love the story of Colonel Pogue and all that, but honestly it was just a cool vintage watch," Kirkland says. "I was just as into the fact that it was yellow and I've always had a love of yellow [editor's note: see yellow hat, below]. So that became my watch."
Kirkland admits he's got "like 15 vintage Seikos" around his house now, and he constantly wonders why he has all those watches. But the truth is he just finds vintage Seiko fun.
"When I got into Seiko, I realized that there was this wide world of vintage watches that had deep connections to history or culture that weren't Rolex or Omega," Kirkland says. "That pushed me to start to search for super obscure things. I've always loved Mickey Mouse merch – even right now, I'm wearing an old Mickey shirt."
A good friend helped Kirkland get this Bradley Mickey Mouse watch back in 2012 for a couple hundred bucks, along with the box, papers, and original certificate. As much as it's a watch, it's a cool piece of Disney history from years gone by; it dates to the 1970s.
"I love old, classic Disney stuff. It's just this fun little watch. It's not expensive and it's not something that I can go and flip, but it's special to me." Even if it's not the most practical wristwatch.
"I wear it when I can, but I usually can't because the ticking is so loud it sounds like there's a bomb on your wrist."
Rolex got Kirkland interested in watches in a new way, and eventually, he came crawling back. He's got two young kids now, and he purchased a modern Rolex GMT-Master II for each of them – a ref. 126710BLNR "Batman" for his daughter, and this ref. 126710BLRO "Pepsi" for his son, wearing each on their respective birth dates.
Of course, this is the part where you might ask: "But Jeremy, how'd you get a modern stainless steel Rolex at retail?"
Kirkland said he was straightforward with his local authorized dealer: He told the AD that they were having a baby, and he'd love to have a GMT-Master II by the due date. Believe it or not, it worked. By the time the due date came around, the GMT-Master II was his. All had gone according to plan, except for one thing: The day his wife went into labor, he forgot to put the Rolex on his wrist.
"My wife went into labor and we were getting ready to leave the house, and when we were in the driveway pulling out and her water broke, I realized I hadn't put on the watch, and I wanted to wear it when he was born."
"So I stopped the car, pulled back into the driveway, and she's asking me what's wrong. I just told her I left something important behind, and I went and got the watch and put it on and she asks me, 'Did you just go inside to get your watch while I'm in labor right now?'"
Of course, that's exactly what happened. But by then Kirkland had the watch and was able to wear it for the birth of his son.
"I'm going to keep wearing it, but the plan is to give both kids their GMTs when they turn 18 or graduate college or something like that. Honestly, they might not even want it by the time they're adults, but who cares?"
A decade or so ago, Kirkland started shaving his head when he realized he was balding. But he needed a hat to cover that bare scalp, so he went searching.
"I wanted a hat that was a little bit fun, a little bit different. My younger brother, Trevor, worked at Ted Drewes in St. Louis at the time. For me in New York, it was this tiny thing that only a few people had heard of," Kirkland says. So Trevor would take hats from Ted Drewes for his big brother to wear around New York.
I'll interject here: I went to college in St. Louis, and Ted Drewes is that local institution. Every town's got one or a few, and in St. Louis, it happens to be this little frozen custard (not ice cream) shack that's been on old U.S. Route 66 since 1929. Among other legends: St. Louis native Danny Meyer knocked off Ted Drewes for his Shake Shack custard.
"The hat's perfectly ugly and perfectly designed at the same time. It was a way to remind myself where I came from when I was in New York." During the pandemic, Kirkland found his way back, moving home to St. Louis.
"This hat, it's everything to me. And it's funny because it's just a dumb hat."
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON www.hodinkee.com