Beyond being generally inscrutable, a Captain’s taste and decision-making process is especially well-hidden behind the depersonalization of a uniform. It’s often only when seeing a captain disembark for the airport that crew will receive a rare window into who this person is, allowing glimpses of indicative garments such as a linen suit (open to profitable drug deals), shiny new dock shoes (definitely not open to drug deals, regardless of margins), or an extremely loud Hawaiian shirt (will be smashed by boarding time). But apart from these rare glimpses there lies a daily clue to what makes this person tick in plain sight. Their watch.
Editor’s Note: The following will only apply to a vessel’A Master who has chosen and paid for their watch themselves. If their timepiece was gifted to them or they found it in their drawer and just started wearing it, this may not apply.
Most Commonly Sighted Model: Oyster Perpetual Submariner
What It Says In A Word Or Two: Company Man
What It Says in A Paragraph: This skipper is established (or at least has been at some point). He appreciates quality (and advertising), and believes that this timepiece allows him to play the part and look the part and know what time it is to the uncorrected microsecond. Win-win-win. If you’re having trouble breaking the ice with this master try a discussion about the Forex markets or taxation. He values established and verified quality, so most likely works on a vessel made in Germany or Holland, drives a German car, and if you are below the rank of officer forgot your name before you told him. A stakeholder in the established status quo, onboard he isn’t just drinking the kool-aid; he made it.
Value In A Liferaft: +/- (Variable). This entirely depends on the behaviour of his investment portfolio prior to the incident that landed you in a survival situation. If the markets were trending upwards, or he was sitting on a stock and was just about to unload when the vessel sank, you’re in great hands. He’ll move heaven and earth to reach safety and access to his E-Trade account in time for market close. But if he recently lost his shirt in a large correction, sinking the vessel may have taken away the last of his lifeforce. Don’t let him volunteer for sea-anchor duty.
Most Commonly Sighted Model: The one as big as your head
What it says in a word or two: Unsubtle
What it says in a paragraph: This captain was a huge Public Enemy fan. Now that he has the money he has chosen to pay homage to Flavour Flav and his clock necklace by putting a timepiece of similar dimensions on his wrist. And that’s about the nicest thing we can say about that. By wearing an overpriced watch that was purposefully designed to look rugged, and has been strategically branded to appeal to the market of people who think you can buy toughness, this captain is saying a lot of things. One of them is not, ‘solid decision maker’.
Value in a liferaft: – 100. This is not the person you want to be stepping into anything bright orange with. In related news; he is the most likely person with which you will do this. If you find yourself awaiting rescue with a master wearing 4 kilos of Italian marketing ingenuity on his wrist, stay calm and do whatever he says. Not just because he’s in charge, but also because there’s an actual Beretta handgun built into these things.
Most Commonly Sighted Model: Core (All-Black Military Ed.)
What it says in a word or two: Redundantly capable
What it says in a paragraph: This watch is all business, and so is your captain. These masters value reliable information (overload) and can tell you where South is from directly under the polar ice cap whilst holding his breath and wrestling a russian polar bear with a black belt in Muay Thai (the polar bear not your captain, he’s just hard). The good news: If you’re ever in trouble and he’s on your side, he knows more chokeholds than you know words. The bad news: If you’re ever in trouble and he’s on the other side? Same.
Value in a liferaft: That’s classified
Most Commonly Sighted Model: F-91W (Known as a ‘Casio’)
What it says in a word or two: No frills
What it says in a paragraph: This captain values function over form, to the point of obsession. This watch tells him the time for $19.99, same as your Rolex, and for a car or two cheaper. Often a former engineer – though minus the ‘former’ in his own mind – he works logically through problems and gets frustrated with anyone who complicates things with unquantifiable values like feelings. He insists on holding onto aging machinery long after their working life, leading to frequent mid-voyage breakdowns. But he’s also the one to patch whatever is broken back together with parts salvaged from the crew mess dishwasher, often before you knew there was a problem.
Value in a liferaft: +10. This guy is as even-keeled as you get. His facial expression in a liferaft is the same as on his day off: professionally bored. He’s getting you to safety with or without your emotions because that is the logical end to his advanced training in getting shit done. The only thing he’ll need to ask you for is the time, because his watch got wet.
Next month we look at laptops, and what a personal choice in these says about your Chief Engineer, or you, if you’re a Chief Engineer.