A while back, I wrote an article sharing tips on how to travel with watches. While I stand by the tips I shared, I wanted to write another article to talk about my updated thoughts on this topic after going on a one-week journey to New York City for the Wind Up Watch Fair. Because of my profession, I traveled with seven watches that I wanted to show fellow watch collectors and journalists. Before going on my trip, I thought long and hard about all of the things that could go wrong and what I could do to prevent them from happening. So I will go about this article in the following way: I’m going to share one concern I had and what I did to address it.
Where To Put the Watches
I don’t think twice about where to put my clothes when I travel: the luggage I check in. And I don’t think twice where to put all of the trinkets and gifts I carry with me to my destination or from it: the luggage I check in. However, on this trip I did not check in any luggage on the way to New York and instead carried a backpack and rolling carry-on luggage. So I will definitely be with my watches at all times which both reassured me and stressed the heck out of me. I felt responsible for the watches and was concerned that I would misplace the luggage or the watch roll, especially going through the security checkpoint at the airport.
Yes, I’m an anxious person.
As mentioned in the introduction, I traveled with seven watches. One on my wrist and six in a watch roll. The watch roll was the item of luggage I kept an eye on the most during my entire trip. I carried it with me while traveling and in New York City. I could not leave it anywhere and especially not at my hotel. So I put the watch roll in my backpack and checked that it was still there at the end of each key step of my journey: leaving the taxi that dropped me in front of the airport, after checking in at the airline counter, after going through security, once I’ve arrived at my hotel, etc. To remain discreet, I would just visually check it was in my backpack and not open it.
Checking so often that the watch roll was still in my backpack can seem obsessive—well, it is—but that’s how I managed to deal with my anxiety as it related to traveling with so many watches. Everything went well. I checked two luggages on my way back home (a long story in itself) and I kept the watch roll in my backpack. This time I had nine watches (a perk of being a watch journalist is that I borrow watches from brands) which I put in individual pouches (like the one below) and kept in a secure pouch in my backpack.
Watch Case or Roll?
I spent many days pondering how I should pack my watches before going on my trip. Watch roll or watch case? By watch case I mean those that open vertically and in which each watch rests on a little pillow. (See below.) That’s how I store watches at home and for a while it seemed like the best way to transport the watches because the case has hard sides which seem more efficient at countering potential shocks. (You know when you put your backpack on the backseat of the taxi cab or drop it on the floor at the check in counter.) But I was worried that a watch case holding six watches would look like I was a salesman transporting samples that would have required special paperwork to pass through customs.
So I opted for a watch roll that could hold six watches. It fits better inside a backpack or even a handbag (a “murse” as people call it) and I thought it would look like it’s my personal collection of watches and not commercial samples. Sliding the watches inside each slot of the watch roll made me realize that they are held tight in place and protected, since the watch roll is rolled onto itself creating several layers of protection. My watch roll is made of leather on the outside that feels solid, and of a felt material lining the inside that protects the watches against scratches.
A watch roll is also easier to put in and take out of a backpack and takes less space than a watch case. Writing about this now made me realize how silly of me it was to consider using a watch case.
What About Security Checks?
My biggest concern was going through security at the airport. Each time I travel I seem to be forgetting something in my carry-on luggage I’m not supposed to have with me, regardless of how many times I’ve traveled in the past. Although I am not into luxury watches, carrying seven watches with me meant transporting something like $10,000 worth of horology. That made me nervous. In the past, airport security made a habit of confiscating or trashing something that belonged to me that did not meet their criteria. Or my wife had to pull out every lens she had for her camera (she’s a professional photographer) and lay them flat on a tray in order to go through the X-Ray machine.
So my concern was that I would have to open the watch roll and lay out each watch separately in a bin to go through the X-Ray. Just like my wife has to do with her camera equipment each time she flies. And you know these times where there is a back-up to go through the human X-Ray machine and your things are waiting for you on the other side and you can’t really see them? Well, I had no choice but to keep hoping security wouldn’t say anything about the watches and they didn’t. I think this is due to the fact that I put them in a watch roll instead of a case.
Through my adventures and being at the Wind Up Watch Fair, I was able to observe how brands transport their watches from either New York (for those who live locally) or halfway across the world (many exhibitors came from Europe.) While some brands had six or a dozen watches, some brands had many more. I saw brands putting their watches in pelican-style cases, cardboard boxes with foam inserts, giant leather rolls that can hold several dozen watches, or simply in individual pouches put inside a bag. There are many ways to go about it, obviously.
I went for a watch roll because it is small, discreet, and that it provides sufficient protection for my watches. Perhaps if I had more expensive watches I would use a pelican-style case, although I feel I would be drawing unnecessary attention to myself. Traveling is in itself a stressful experience and we shouldn’t be too stressed carrying our watches we put so much time and energy hunting for. I would like to know about your experiences traveling with watches. Please leave a comment below!
Featured image: www.hodinkee.com