Chances are good that if you buy, sell, or simply love timepieces, you’ve heard the buzz about A Man and His Watch: Iconic Watches and Stories From the Men Who Wore Them. Two years in the making, the $35 book—written by Condé Nast Traveler men’s style editor Matt Hranek and photographed by New York City–based Stephen Lewis—was published by Artisan Books on Oct. 31 and is already in its second printing.
The book stands out in a crowded market of holiday hardcovers for several reasons. Chief among them: Lewis’ original color photographs, which reveal all the hard-earned scuffs and scratches that make these timepieces so beloved by their owners.
Then there are the heartfelt first-person accounts that Hranek was able to pry from the nearly 40 men featured in the book, including celebrities, writers, and arbiters of style such as chef Eric Ripert, fashion magnate Ralph Lauren, actor Sylvester Stallone, and TV personality and author Nate Berkus.
JCK is fortunate to have worked with Lewis several times this past year—most notably for the cover and inside pages of our “best in show” July-August 2017 issue—so when I caught up with him in early November at JCK’s most recent still-life shoot (look for his photos in our forthcoming January-February 2018 issue), I seized the opportunity to ask him all about his cool horological passion project.
Photographer (and frequent JCK contributor) Stephen Lewis
How did you get involved with the book?
Matt and I have been friends for close to 30 years. He had started this project, and even though he’s a very talented photographer, he thought it’d be better to have me do it.
I was very excited about it. I came up with a system to photograph that was very portable, because we shot in conference rooms, watch factories, Mario Andretti’s house, all over—in Paris, Geneva, Le Locle, Los Angeles, New York. Matt hates the word no. We had to be ready to go.
What did you shoot on?
A Nikon D800 with a special lens. Everything fit in a backpack and small suitcase.
Are you a watch lover yourself?
When I was shooting with Matt, all these enthusiastic watch guys shared these great stories. Now I wear a Rolex Submariner (my wife bought me every nice watch I own). But when I was a kid, I used to cut out watches from magazines and tape them to my wrists. I came late to the game. Working on the book reawakened that memory.
What makes A Man & His Watch different from all the other watch books out there?
The magic behind this book is that it’s really story driven. It’s not your typical watch porn. And it’s not all fancy watches—there are stories about Casios.
The photos are all consistent. We wanted to create this intimate connection to the watch. They’re all very tight.
I didn’t light them in a slick, commercial way. Rather, the shots are intimate and tactile. We wanted to make it more of a storybook as opposed to one of these big, glossy books.
What are your favorite stories from the book?
My favorite story is from Dimitri Dimitrov, the maître d’ at the Sunset Tower hotel in L.A. He has a Timex Indiglo that Bill Murray gave him. Murray would show up at the restaurant and say, “Dimitri, I need a table.” Dimitri was struggling to find a table. It’s dark in there. He can’t see.
Bill Murray says, “You need my watch—take this.” And gives him the watch on his wrist. He’ll call him every once in a while and ask, “Dimitri—what time is it?”
There are some heartwarming stories. Adam Craniotes [cofounder of the RedBar Group] has a great story about the Casio his grandparents bought him. And I really like Mario Andretti’s story about the watch his grandfather gave him when he was immigrating.
Matt would start talking and these people who are normally close-mouthed, when they start talking about their watches, they’d open up.