Dr. Jack Carlson is the founder and Creative Director of Rowing Blazers, a menswear line, based in New York City. It is also the title of his latest book. The book itself delves into the connection between rowing and the iconic team jackets. Dr. Carlson knows a thing or two about blazers and their history in the sport.
As a competitive rower himself, he is a three-time member of the United States national rowing team, and won a bronze medal for his country during the 2015 World Championships. He holds his PhD from Oxford in archaeology so it is no surprise that his watch story digs into the past, and how it means something to him, even though he had no personal connection to the watch prior to owning it. Here is Dr. Jack Carlson’s watch story as told in A Man and His Watch:
My PhD is in Roman and Chinese archaeology—stuff that’s a lot older than my trench watch from 1914. But I love the idea of artifact, the idea of understanding history through objects.
I grew up about five minutes from the Waltham watch factory in Waltham, Massachusetts. Every time I’d walk around town, or get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, I’d notice that everything was named after the watch industry—Watch City Brewing or something like that—or had watches as logos. It was a reminder of this great American manufacturing and craftsmanship heritage, right where I lived. And a lot of these watches, historically, were being made for American soldiers in World War I.
This one has a shrapnel guard, which tells its own kind of story about the utility of the watch, and about its history. In a way, the idea is morbidly humorous—you’ll get blown up, but the crystal won’t get cracked—but it’s also very serious. There’s a sense of gravity to it.
There’s a term we use in archaeology, “material biography,” which refers to the life story of an object. So just as we can talk about what happened to the person who wore this watch, we can also imagine what happened to the watch itself—where was it manufactured, where has it been in its life, what has it seen?
I didn’t inherit this watch; I don’t have a personal connection with it in that way. But when I’m excavating in Italy and find a coin or a piece of pottery, I don’t necessarily have a personal connection with that object, either. Part of the joy for me is imagining the stories behind these artifacts.
Check out other watch stories, like Matt Hranek, a style editor for Condé Nast.