Watch This

If you like looking at beautiful timepieces, this article is for you. If you want to learn how these photographs are produced, this article is for you too. My interest in watches started on a trip to Geneva in 1982. The way I remember it, I couldn’t walk 20 feet without being confronted by another shop window full of wrist bling. Back then the dollar was strong, and I thought it was time to buy a cool watch. For about $1400 I bought a steel and gold Rolex Datejust. Today that watch sells used for just north of ten grand. 

I have traded watches on occasion since then and over the years I’ve learned more about the complications and craftsmanship that make particular watches interesting. Kudoke is a boutique German watchmaker manufacturing visually compelling watches. This watch is the Kudoke Free Oktopus (yes, it is spelled with a k). This is the second of two designs of the Oktapus. The first one had the octopod within the watch, this one has it escaping the case, I found this fascinating. These watches are handmade, so if you want one, expect to wait a year to get it. 

Rear detail

Front detail

Face view #2

Jump hour watches are rare. Instead of a traditional face with hour hand and indexes, it has a window  to display the hour. This model by Christian Ward displays in Roman numerals, so that is 2 o’clock, not 11 you are seeing in the photo.  

Jargon alert! You might be interested in how this is done. Macro photography means shooting close to the subject, it has its challenges. The first being depth of field. That’s the range in the photo in front and in back of the prime point of focus that is sharp. The closer the subject, the shorter the range of focus. To deal with this, focus stacking can be used, a series of exposures made at different focus points and composited in processing The face of the jump hour watch is relatively shallow and only required three exposures, the back of the watch, where the angle is more extreme, required 9 frames. 

Photographing watches or jewelry requires a specialized technique to deal with spectral highlights and reflections. The last thing I want to see is my old face reflected in the case of a nice gold watch. To that end, photographers use a tent or some other containment to defeat the reflections, I use a special portable box built for table top photography. I control the light from three directions to make it soft enough to avoid overpowering highlights and yet compliment the shape of the watch.  Depending on the reflective factor, I drape the front of the box with a cut in the fabric for lens access.

Here is the setup. 

My setup is portable; saw horses, wood base and foldable light box. Positionable clamps are used to position the watch. Focusing is critical, so I do not rely on the LCD back of the camera, but on an outboard monitor. When I am satisfied with the lighting, composition and exposure, I drop the fabric gobo (go between) and start shooting.

I don’t shoot everything with a solid background, alternatively, I will use whatever interesting item that will compliment the watch.

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