If the name Verne Ho doesn’t ring a bell, it’s probably because he’s better known as Watch Studies, his handle on Instagram and a rising brand amongst the growing community of watch enthusiasts and collectors. But Verne’s account doesn’t exist just to provide another hot take or review on the latest hyped up timepiece. Instead, he creates photography tutorials geared specifically at people who love watches, all in the spirit of helping everyone share better – if not just prettier – photos of their collections. Oh, and he does it for free every single week.
His original calling was in design, where he was the founder and Creative Director for one of the leading design studios in Toronto followed by a 7 year tenure as a Director of User Experience at Shopify. At the end of 2020, Verne left his post to take some time off to spend with his budding family and pursue personal projects. A few weeks later, Watch Studies was born.
An avid collector himself (with an especially contagious love for Cartier), Verne has worked with household names like Hodinkee, Worn & Wound, and Fratello and is seen regularly collaborating with brands like Nomos, Timex, and Omega, to name a few.
Watch Studies also happens to be our Creative Partner so we felt right at home kicking off this series with him. As an extra treat, every photo in this article was taken by the man himself.
Follow along as we peek behind the scenes on what a typical day for Verne looks like, and see what really makes him tick.
Parent duty kicks off bright and early as Verne and his wife attend to their two waking kids. It’s spring in Toronto, so there’s just enough sun leaking through the blinds to ready the senses for the orchestrated chaos that is the morning routine.
Ken: How do you set yourself up for success first thing in the morning?
Verne: Honestly, mornings in this stage of life are about practical choices. There are no style points awarded for getting the kids out of bed, dressed, fed, and off to school! So it’s just about doing the things that optimize for the smoothest, calmest, happiest starts to the day.
One of Verne’s most practical morning decisions is strapping on the IWC Pilot 36 on our Olive Green Rubber Cut-to-Size Strap (seen below resting in our Grey / Dark Green Valet Tray) to arm himself for all the happy messes that come with being a dad to two young kids.
With kids in tow, it’s off to the kitchen for the main event: breakfast and prepping for school. But first, coffee! If he’s lucky, he might even be able to take a sip before hitting the road.
After a mini tour around the city for drop-offs, Verne finds himself back at home in his upstairs office, cozied up on a lounge chair with his iPad and room temperature coffee.
Ken: How do you transition into work mode?
Verne: The rhythm of the morning is all go go go, so I usually need a moment to just sit and wrap my head around the day. I find my mind is also the freshest in the morning, so I like doing a bit of reading and writing before any serious heavy creative lifting. It’s sort of a calming way to ease into the day’s tasks.
Ken: And Instagram?
Verne: Oh yes, of course. The first thing I usually take care of when I get home in the morning is post and check in on what’s going on in the community.
Ken: You post every day, right?
Verne: Yeah, Monday to Friday, typically between 9 and 10 AM. I like posting on a consistent schedule so that my audience knows when to expect fresh content. But it also means there's one less thing I need to think about every day.
At this point into the morning, there’s a tangible shift in speed as Verne downshifts into focus mode. Appropriately, this half of the AM also brings a quick watch change, trading the practicality of the Pilot 36 for the refined Cartier Basculante on our Taupe Epsom Slim Strap.
Next, we follow Verne into a small guest bedroom-turned-photography studio. Lenses, watch cases, books, and a small collection of vintage cameras pack a set of shelves that line one of the walls. Further in, Verne has two adjustable height tables perpendicular to each other (one is dedicated for computer work while the other is for photography work). Two sets of softboxes flank the latter, which still looks semi-staged from a previous shoot.
On this particular day, Verne has a few different shoots on his docket, so he wastes no time and gets to work.
Ken: Do you have a specific creative process that you follow for your shoots?
Verne: Since my shoots are mostly a one man operation, I can afford to keep the process fairly fluid. That said, I always like to start with some sort of north star that gives me some direction. It can be as simple as knowing the general style or feeling that I want to create, or even just understanding how many photos I need to get out of the shoot. But more often than not, I have a story in mind that I want to convey through the photos I need to shoot.
Verne rummages through one of his Strap Folios in search of the perfect strap pairing for the Nomos Glashutte Club Sport Neomatik Petrol he’s about to shoot. Eventually he decides on the Black Crazy Horse Side-Stitch Strap. Black really does go with everything!
Ken: How does being a watch collector affect the way you take photos?
Verne: I think my love of watches has a lot to do with the feeling I get when I have one on the wrist. And so, when I’m taking photos of different pieces, I do my very best to capture the essence of that feeling and deliver it back to the viewer. Sure, the watches are invariably the main subject of the photos, but to create a truly compelling photograph, I think it needs to express something about the environment and context that surrounds the watch and inevitably what it feels like to be the person who owns that watch.
In a blink of an eye, Verne transitions to shooting a different set of watches. The beautiful rose gold and lacquer Santos Dumont (paired with our Matte Grey Storm Alligator Strap) steals the spotlight this time, while the rest of his humble Cartier collection idles nearby in our 4 piece Zip Box.
Soon after, the Tanks are out to play. Here, the Cartier Tank Must with its Light Grey Nubuck Slim Strap accompanies the Basculante seen earlier in the morning.
Ken: Do you have a favourite tool or piece of gear that is essential to the work you do?
Verne: Cameras aside, I think the one game-changing tool I use is my iPad Pro. I do all my editing and probably 90% of my work on an iPad and it’s completely changed the way I manage my photography workflow. Running a fully cloud and touch-based photography setup is so liberating and powerful!
It’s noon before we know it and lunch marks the end of a productive morning. Verne surfaces for some air and heads down to the kitchen for a bite, leaving a creative mess behind.
Ken: Do you ever hit a wall creatively and feel uninspired?
Verne: Definitely. I think it’s part of the ebb and flow of the creative journey. When that happens, I take it as a signal that it’s time to switch gears or just walk away for a little bit.
Ken: What do you do instead in those situations?
Verne: I find that the best remedy is to do something completely unrelated but that still stimulates the mind. Sometimes I’ll pick up a guitar and just toy around for a bit. I also find that working out or doing a sport really helps me break out of any creative slumps. There’s something about physical conditioning that feels really fulfilling and it usually helps me return to a creative task with a fresh perspective.
On that note, Verne gets a few more bites in before changing and heading off to a nearby gym for a training session with his wife.
After a quick sweat, Verne is back in his office, this time at the adjacent table in front of his computer for some more writing and admin work. Taking off his Apple Watch, Verne reaches for his Pilot 36 again, but opts to swap the Rubber CTS Strap for a sleek and cozy black and khaki Elastic Loop.
Ken: How do you decide on your strap pairings?
Verne: A lot of it comes down to my mood and that feeling I was describing earlier. I literally just got back from the gym and am still in a very active mood, so the Elastic Loop feels right because it just has that sporty vibe to it. No joke, I’ve actually worn it to the gym a few times!
Ken: Do you approach styling watches for photoshoots the same way?
Verne: Essentially. I feel like every strap has a subtle narrative attached to it, which gets amplified even more when you pair it with the right watches, accessories, and props. And part of staging a scene properly is ensuring that everything complements each other and contributes to some overarching narrative. If something doesn't, it's probably a distraction and needs to be cut.
Just as 4 PM approaches, Verne starts to wrap up his work day and prepare to pick up his kids from school. There’s just enough time to squeeze in a few more quick questions.
Ken: What excites you about running Watch Studies every single day?
Verne: I love making things that help people make more things. The urge to help people chase their creative ambitions has been a running theme through my entire career and Watch Studies is the current manifestation of that.
Ken: I figured you were going to say something about spending every day with watches!
Verne: No doubt it's definitely that too! It's a privilege to be able to turn my personal passions – watch collecting and photography – into my job, but I think it's an endeavor worth chasing. There's some truth to the whole 'do something you love and never work a day in your life' saying.
Ken: How do you know that the thing you love is the right thing to work on?
Verne: That's a good question! The short answer is that you don't. Not until you try it anyway. For me, I just try to make sure that anything I'm working on is at the intersection of things I love, things I'm good at, and things that create value for others. I believe I need those 3 components to truly feel fulfilled. If one of those things fall out of place, then I usually need to recalibrate what I'm doing.
Ken: I guess you're working on the right thing then.
Verne: It certainly feels that way!
This felt like a good place to finish as Verne puts his computer to sleep and tidies up the surface of his desk a bit. The rest of the office remains in mild disarray, but he doesn't give it a second thought as he heads downstairs. After all, he'll be back tomorrow to do this all over again anyway.
To learn more about Verne and take advantage of his free weekly watch photography tutorials, be sure to follow @watchstudies on Instagram.