As new as wristwatch culture is — and the explosion in watch lust has only taken place over the last 30 years — wristwatches have been totems for far longer. No, not necessarily in the same way as a couple of modern-day Wall Street reptiles breaking each other’s balls with a game of who has the more expensive perpetual calendar, but as accoutrements that make a statement about one’s taste or status.
We now know that lunch in any decent London restaurant or business class lounge will provide a parade of well-adorned wrists. We’re used to counting TAG Heuers and IWCs at sporting events, Big Bangs in bars. We know about various cults such as collectors who swoon for tropical dials, while entrepreneurial enthusiasts such as George Bamford have addressed the need for individualism with blackening the cases of Rolexes. It’s the modern world. But I was stunned to read about the cult for after-market straps that was prevalent among Los Angeles policemen in the 1950s.
Fascinated as I am by what you might call “the film noir era” of the 1940s and 1950s, I never investigated it in terms of horological interests. I loved both the true history of the times and the on-screen interpretation. Movies and books with their roots in Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich, Chandler and Hammett and Cain, brought to life by Lloyd Nolan and Mike Mazurki and Elisha Cook Jr. Thus, I was a sucker for a recent, short-lived TV series called Mob City.