Book Review: ‘Hashtags And Watches’ By Kristian Haagen
“It is a very childish book . . . you have been warned!” my friend Kristian Haagen said to me when I inquired about his most recently released self-published tome, Hashtags and Watches.
Haagen, a Danish watch enthusiast who is also a collector, writer, author, lecturer, estimator at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, and daydreamer, is one of the more colorful figures among the writers who follow the world of watches.
Which means that he rarely does anything the way that anyone else would.
This book is a perfect example. Not only is it the first book he has published in English (his other five books are written in his native Danish), but it is a true twenty-first-century publication thanks to the subject matter: Haagen has utilized two years’ worth of Instagram photos and captions to make up the content of this old-school, hardback book.
Wait, did I say old school? Not so fast.
For me, a traditional book filled with beautiful watch photography is generally best served by expensive, heavy stock, glossy paper. But Haagen exhibits a typically Scandinavian view on this.
“I like the matte paper,” he says. “I have made five large-format books on glossy paper, and as a Scandinavian I wanted to tone it down a bit. I think the book has a ‘tastier’ appeal with matte paper. And, yes, it is a very tough material to work with, but I am extremely pleased with the outcome. I had the book printed here in Denmark as I wanted to be hands-on with everything; I even designed the book’s layout myself.”
As Alexander Rosenbœck, better known as @dailywatch (with an Instagram following of 1.7 million people, mind you), pointed out in his foreword to Hashtags and Watches, this book is more like a mashup of print and digital than a straight take-it-as-you-see it standard book.
That’s it? Just Instagram shots?
Haagen’s Instagram account @kristianhaagen is lively. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the truly beautiful photographs he posts of timeless timepieces have managed to amass a full 67,000 followers. You won’t find anything, unhip, uncool, or plastic here – with the exception perhaps of the odd Casio.
Nor will you find selfies, self-aggrandizing fluff, or anything other than a wrist and/or a timepiece – well, maybe with the exception of the odd scenery shot from his travels with watch brands.
All in all, watches remain Haagen’s subject, good old-fashioned watches.
“Another goal for this book was to demonstrate that I wanted to move as far away from the high-gloss world of horological bling as possible: the popping corks of Cristal bottles and loud chromed-up supercars that are found as backgrounds to watches now on Instagram. The all-black cloth cover and matte paper of the book’s appearance reflect that,” Haagen, who never uses the filters that Instagram offers, continues.
Now, you may not love every watch you see in this book (or on Haagen’s Instagram account), but that is just part of the bargain when you follow him: you’ll see odd things, watches you don’t encounter in everyday life, and some that you may not wish to.
But then again, you may find something new that you never knew existed.
And very often you’ll laugh out loud at his clever captions, or at the very least chuckle. An example: “I presume it is not so bad being called a ‘two-timer’ when your real name is Saxonia Dual Time, eh?”
I asked Haagen what his favorite image in the book was. And he answered with a photo that seems to have caused quite an uproar among traditionalists unused to seeing watches in daily-life situations when he posted it.
“I really like the shot of my Patek Philippe Reference 5980 Nautilus in a pile of sawdust. That was a very unusual setting for that watch,” he deadpans.
There are very few writers who are entrepreneurial enough to take on self-publishing a book. But, of course, Haagen is not your everyday writer.
“I have done everything myself,” he explains. “I self-financed the book, and I promoted it via my own social media channels. After all, the book is my Instagram account . . . in print.”
The title Hashtags and Watches thus came about relatively naturally: “My own pictures, my own captions,” he grins.
“Publishing houses are too expensive, slow to pay, and really not good at marketing. So, again, I am doing everything myself with no sponsors, as I have done with all of my books. This also means I can do what I want.” And you just might like it when he does.
You can order your own copy by sending Kristian an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Kristian Haagen
Book style: hardcover, matte paper
Year of publication: 2015
Number of pages: 176
Price: €55 / $60 plus shipping