Travelling with watches – a guide

Travelling with your precious… watches.

This will be a post a little different from the others that have been published so far. More of a dialogue if you will. Also, I don’t claim this to be the “be all and end all” of guides when it comes to watch travels. There are many very good such guides out there, covering everything from insurance and customs to travel pouches. I might be covering a little bit of all. But this will also be anecdotal in terms of my own thoughts on what is good to consider when travelling with those precious pieces of wrist candy that we love to love so much. 

So you have decided to go on a holiday? Or maybe it’s a work thing? Regardless, you’re about to be out and about. So what to wear? Well that is the million dollar question right? If you ask my girlfriend, it’s not and I’m a silly person for thinking so. 

Whenever I go on a trip I like to take a few things into consideration first, where am I going? What will the circumstances be like? What will I be doing? How long will I be gone for? And then there are follow up questions to that… you know, like a sane person. 

Anyway, lets start this journey, together we should be fine. 

The planning:
So, where are we going and under what circumstances? Are we going to be living in the bush for a week or are we cocktail partying all week? Or perhaps a little bit of both? Well, as you can see this is not as easy as my girlfriend seems to think, but I digress.

To not get completely off track here, let’s tackle that first question. Where we’re going and what we’re doing can be seen as essential to the watch we’re choosing. Some, myself included like to go with a toolish watch, one that can do a little bit of both. Or, if I’m honest, I usually bring a few. Of course this also depends on what type of person you are and what kind of watches you prefer. If you are a person who prefers more dressy pieces or more tool-watches, that will influence your decision on what type of piece you bring along.

One thing you should do, regardless of the type of watch you decide to bring, is to bring extra straps and strap changing tools. This little manoeuvre can extend the wear of any one particular watch days, even weeks if it comes to that. Another benefit of straps is that they take up very little space and they do not add any weight to your packing, if that is a consideration. Changing from a bracelet to a strap can sometimes transform a watch from sporty to somewhat dressy, a good way to dress up for evening dinner for example.

Going back to the point of where you are going and what will be the activities. If there will be much water involved, say like a pool, the ocean or even humidity, you may want to consider a diver or a watch with respectable water resistance, 100m if often plenty. Try and stay away from vintage pieces, as these tend to have more fragile cases and movements and their WR can often times not be guaranteed. If you are totally into the vintage look, then there are many good options available today that mimic the vintage looks, but with modern build quality and proper WR and shock protection.

Another thing to consider that still falls squarely under the question of where and what is the type of activities you’ll be up to. I for example am a part of the “Swedish National Defence Forces”, a part of the military with volunteer soldiers that deal with everything from assisting natural disasters, helping find missing people to armed combat. Naturally, there are several military exercises per year, ranging from just a day to over a week in length. During these exercises I tend to wear my trusty G-Shock GBA-800 in tan. It’s watch that fit the task at hand, I don’t have to worry about banging it about and it also adds a little bit of “tactical feel”, morale is ever so important… It also gives me a few handy features that a purely analogue watch, be that mechanical or quartz usually cannot give. Some of these are countdown timer, night light, alarm, stop watch etc. All in all, it’s a perfect example of a watch that I’ve chosen because it’s the best fit for that particular travel & activity. Naturally there is no strap changing business going on during these exercises…

But let’s move on with normal travel and what to consider. How long we’ll be gone for will also play a big part in the wrist game we need to pack. Usually, I try and go by the following “rule” (it’s not a rule, it’s not even a suggestion, it’s just me trying to formulate some kind of boundaries for myself so I don’t go completely overboard): away for less than one week – two watches, more than a week – two to four. Now, these are obviously not set in stone, but can serve as a good guide to how many watches one should bring for any given trip.

The travelling:
One we have decided what watches and how many depending on where, what and how long we’ll be gone for, we need to consider storage and how to transport our loved little timekeepers. One watch will presumably go onto your wrist, so that leaves another few that needs some kind of storage to be safe while you travel. We’ll also need to consider what straps and tools to bring, and where they will live during our away time.

This is where watch cases, rolls or similar items come into play. Again, this depends on the type of watches you’re brining and how many. A hard case, think Pelicase, with a soft padding inside is the best way to go, it’s practically indestructible, waterproof, dust proof, will float and some are lockable with padlocks etc. There is a huge downside to this kind of case, namely space (and in some cases weight). So what to do if you want the protection but not add so much bulk and weight to your packing? Fret not, there are plenty of options available, namely watch rolls. They offer relatively good protection in relation to their weight and bulk.

Often they offer storage for both watches and straps, and some even offer space for tools. In my opinion watch rolls are the best option for travels and when bringing multiple watches, with the caveat that you are not brining fragile vintage pieces, and as said before, I’d try to stay away from bringing those on any but the most special travels. Not just for their fragility, but for another topic we’ll segue into now; theft and safety.

Safety, not just for yourself but also for your wrist game is paramount and on par with keeping them safe while on the move. Watch related theft have increased exponentially in the recent years, due to the bad guys being more in tune with the watch world, likely thanks to services like YouTube and Instagram where everyone and your uncle is flaunting expensive wrist wear in more and more creative ways.

So what to think about? Well, there are a number of things that I think about when out and about. The first is to stay away from social media before your trip, that is broadcasting that you’ll be going to such-and-such wearing so-and-so around specific times. Not just for the watches you’ll be bringing but also the ones you leave at home.

Thieves have an uncanny sense of knowing what good stuff you have and when you are vulnerable to loosing it. And that goes for when you are travelling too. So what to do? Before leaving, check your insurance coverage, make sure what is covered and what is not. And check what your deductible is and if travel is covered.

As said, stay away from broadcasting your location on socials, and try to avoid those tempting wrist shots, not only due to the socials, but also due to the fact that it’s easy to target someone who’s photographing their wrist and the watch that is attached to it. In short – don’t draw attention to yourself and always have a plan.

I also try and think about my surroundings when away, not only about staying out of the “rough part of town”, but also about keeping your wits with you in places like restaurants, bars, public transport etc. Again, try and keep a low profile and don’t showboat your wristwear, even if it’s a watch that is not so expensive, flaunting it may garner unwanted attention and a robbery is something no-one want to experience.

If you’re going to a place where there will be a bog crowd and you feel that you cannot keep an eye out for your watch, maybe consider wearing one that you are not afraid of loosing or, and bear with me now, go watchless for that particular event. I know, I am practically swearing in church now, but sometimes extreme situations call for extreme measures.

That brings us into storing the watches at the hotel room. Most, if not all hotels have that little safe in the room that you can set a code for, or open using your room key. Those are usually a good place to store valuables, but the cleaning staff and other hotel staff likely have access to those. That does not mean that they will go into them, but just be aware that other people than you can access your items.

If you are travelling with a particularly expensive piece and you need to leave it at the hotel, there is always the option of contacting the hotel management and asking them to safeguard it for you for a limited time. If you are staying at a reasonable hotel, most likely they’ll be happy to help you out!

Another thing that I try and stick to when staying in hotel rooms, is that I never store anything in the drawers that are in dressers or nightstands and the like. The reasoning for this is that I tend to forget things, and checking out is ususally for me a rather time pressed affair, and then

The conclusion:
Travelling with watches (sometimes multiple and sometimes expensive ones) is a subject that requires some planning to pull off without unnecessary hiccups. I’m not saying all will go down the drain if you don’t plan, 9 out of 10 times all will be well, but chances are that when or if something goes wrong, some planning could have taken care of that.

As watch lovers, we do love our little wrist companions, and sometimes they can be a nice reminder of home or a certain person. It’s also fun, being a watch nerd, to create memories with a certain watch, adding scars and scratches as you embark on your adventure.

If you only want to take one thing away from this article, please let it be this; have a plan and think ahead before going on a trip.

Now, go out there and make memories, not just with your watches, but more importantly, your loved ones and dear friends.