Saturday 25 June 2011

Omega Seamaster Professional 300m, 1999

I'm a watch collector. I'm also a James Bond fan. These two interests were bound to intersect at some point in my life. But first, I should provide a little backstory. Grab a drink, folks. This could take a while.
If you've ever read a couple of Ian Fleming's Bond novels of the 1950s, you may have noticed that he equipped 007 with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch. He didn't give much more information than that, and this topic has been oft-discussed on various wristwatch forums. I made mention of this briefly on one of my fan fiction posts elsewhere here.

Anyway, let's flashback to sometime in the '70s. I was eight years old and my Dad took my brother and I to a James Bond double-bill at some cinema off Sydney Road in Brunswick one summer afternoon. The double-bill was "Live And Let Die" (1973) and "The Man With The Golden Gun" (1974), both directed by Guy Hamilton and both starring Roger Moore as Bond.

(Okay, "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack has just kicked in on my iPod headphones. The best Bond theme music never used. Have a listen to the instrumental section after Shara Nelson's brilliant voice.)

So the first film gets to the scene where Bond and Solitaire (Jane Seymour) are tied up over a pool of sharks and Mr Big has just cut a few slits into Bond's forearm.

Image screencap taken from "Live And Let Die" (1973). Property of EON Productions/ Danjac ('cos I really, really don't need to get sued right now.)

Bond's arm is bleeding steadily, the maneaters circle below, their dorsal fins pierce the water's surface. And then Bond twists the bezel of his watch and the entire watch case begins spinning like a buzz saw and cuts the ropes around his wrists.
And I thought "WOW!!!"

A few months (or was it a year?) later and I'm sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's surgery. I pick up a copy of Reader's Digest and flick through it and land on this page;

Picture courtesy of Rolex. Taken from Jake's outstanding

"Jeeper's, it's the watch from that James Bond film!"*, I thought to myself.
Years later, as I got more interested in wristwatches, I realised that Bond's Rolex in the movies was the Submariner diver's model, not the GMT Master as shown in this classic ad.
Rolex had brilliant marketing throughout the '70s and '80s with magazine ads like this one that appeared in publications like TIME and National Geographic.

Moving forward through the Eighties and Nineties and, as much as I wanted to get myself a Rolex Submariner...

...their soaring prices always kept them out of my reach.

And then we got to the mid-Nineties and Pierce Brosnan was cast as Bond for "Goldeneye" (Dir: Martin Campbell, 1995). Depending on which version of the story you believe, his watch was chosen by Barbara Broccoli, the Producer of the Bond films, because she thought it looked elegant, or Lindy Hemming, the film's costume designer, who decided that Bond in the '90s needed a more Eurocentric and modern-designed wristwatch.

Either way, he was equipped with the recently released Omega Seamaster Professional 300m. It was the quartz (battery-powered) version, model number 2541.80.00.
This watch was already doing respectable business since it was released in 1993, but after the release of "Goldeneye" (Bond's second re-boot, btw, but that's probably another post), sales of this model went through the roof.  Omega quickly brought out an automatic version.

SLIGHT DIGRESSION;  For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of wristwatches, there are basically three types of wristwatch movements, or ebauches in use.
Hand-wound movements require just that, the wearer needs to manually wind the watch to keep it running.

(Picture courtesy of

The above is a Unitas 6497 calibre, first designed in the 1950s for use in pocket watches, but since adopted for larger-sized wristwatches.

Then, pretty much perfected in the late 1950s, was the automatic or self-winding movement such as this;

Picture courtesy of

This is the rock-solid ETA 2824-2 and it's used by a great many watch companies. That half-disc sitting along the bottom of the movement is the rotor. In a nutshell, it's connected to the mainspring of the watch and this is what powers the movement. As the wearer moves his arm, the rotor turns, thus tightening the mainspring. The watch starts ticking and the ticking of the watch loosens the mainspring. And the beauty of it all is that this dance goes on all day and all night long, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For years on end. Properly looked after and regularly serviced, a mechanical wristwatch will last you 50-60 years or more. Probably more than that. I see enough pocket watches that were made in the late 1800s, so a wristwatch that's made from better alloys using advances in micro-engineering should last as long.

And then there is the quartz movement. By the mid to late 1970s, Japan's production of cheap, battery-powered watch movements threatened to kill the Swiss watch industry. A great many Swiss brands switched over to producing these accurate, mass-produced movements and it appeared that the art of the mechanical Swiss-made watch was coming to an end.
It was Swatch who came to the rescue. Producing an even cheaper battery-operated watch movement in Switzerland, this company helped this almost 200-year old industry slowly claw its way back from the brink of extinction. And while I can appreciate the precision of a battery-operated watch, I prefer mechanical because of the intricate and tight tolerances that go into their production.

Back to what this post was originally about...eventually. Still with me? You're doin' great, by the way.

So I saved my money for over a year and bought myself an Omega Seamaster Professional 300m, just like the one Pierce Brosnan wore during his tenure as James Bond.
Yes, I'm a marketing guy's dream. Up to a point, anyway.

And now, the typecast portion of this post, which I started writing on Typewriter Day.

The dial is such a pleasant shade of inky blue, which you didn't see on many dive watches back in the mid-Nineties. The skeleton hands were an idea that has been much copied by other brands since.

That's the helium escape valve. You'll really only ever have to use it if you're working in a diving bell or spending a few days in a decompression chamber.

The case shoulders protect the winding crown nicely. The bracelet is a very intricate design and it does tend to give this watch a dressier appearance overall. The hour markers and hands are coated with a substance called SuperLuminova, which glows in the dark. This is a pre-requisite for any diver's watch. The bezel (that ring on the outside of the case with the 10, 20, 30, 40, etc numbers on it) is unidirectional and only turns anti-clockwise. Let's say you are about to go scuba diving and you have 40 minutes of air in your tanks. You would rotate the bezel and line up the triangle on it with the minute hand on the watch. When the minute hand ticks around to the 40 minute mark on the bezel, you had better be back on the surface. These days, a dive watch such as this is really only used as a back-up in case your dive computer malfunctions, is broken against coral or the battery dies while you're under. Back in the '50s and '60s, when scuba diving became a popular recreational activity, this type of watch was the main method for timing a dive.

The bracelet is sturdy and the clasp stays closed when it's supposed to.

It was a long trip, but this one has a history. These Seamasters were, and still are, a very popular seller and they deserve their place as a modern classic in Omega's range.

Thanks for reading, all!

* I didn't really say "Jeepers" when I saw that Rolex ad in the Reader's Digest, but I wanted to paint a Norman Rockwellesque picture of a time when I was but an innocent 8 year-old kid...with a jones for a Rolex wristwatch.

Friday 24 June 2011

Typewriter Day 2011- Better Late Than Never?

June 24th, 2011. 7:48am
I had to type fast. I had a train to catch.

And this is the machine I was typing on. Very smooth considering it's 65 years old.

Maybe I'll have better luck with it next year.

Cheers, all!

Sunday 19 June 2011

The Typewriter Collection No.4: Groma Kolibri, circa 1957

This model has no colour option for the ink ribbon. There is no setting for black, red or stencil. I do need to get a better ribbon for this machine. This one's looking a tad faint.

Beautiful design courtesy of Germany. The 1958 Voigtlander goes with it nicely, and the circa 1963 Tudor hand-wound doesn't look out of place, either.

The space-bar looks like some paint has worn off and the ribbon cover shows some light scratches where the carriage-return lever has scraped against it at some point.
I have to say that there's not a lot of height clearance between the lever and the ribbon cover, so if you ever get your hands on one of these, make sure the ribbon cover sits flush against the case.

I've mentioned here before just how low the profile of this Kolibri is. There's a better picture on my other post, but if you place your iPhone side-ways next to the Kolibri, the iPhone sits higher.

A nice typewriter. Very nicely made, light and portable, with a coolness factor that's through the roof.

Thanks, all!

Tuesday 14 June 2011

The Typewriter Collection No.3: Olivetti Lettera 32 (1982)

The case is still in great condition.

Which, of course, given enough time, would result in this;

The Olivetti Lettera 32 is a great machine. Light to carry and easy to use, sturdy as all get-out, it's the one I would recommend to anybody wanting to get into using typewriters.
No batteries required.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday 11 June 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen...The Cat.

It had been a long time since I had a pet. I said to my wife that we would maybe get a cat when we moved to another house. And not just any cat. Mild snob that I am, I wanted something a little more exotic. I wanted a Platinum Burmese.

So, about two years ago, I saw a cat skulking around in the field across the road from my house. I tried to call it over, thinking that all cats respond to the international "here, puss, puss, puss!" call that we humans use. They don't, btw.
This cat looked over at me, hissed once, and kept right on walking. Fine, be like that.

A few weeks later, my kids come running into the house one Sunday morning to tell me that there's a nice brown cat sitting in the neighbour's yard. "Can we pat it?", they asked me.

I went out there with them to take a look. It was sitting neatly in the neighbour's front yard, alright. The same cat I'd seen in the field a few weeks earlier. I edged close to it. It hissed at me. 'Yeah, that's the same cat", I thought to myself. My daughter ran back to our house to get the camera. Here's a pic of this cat hissing at me...again.

'That's gotta be a Burmese. I wonder who it belongs to', I was thinking to myself. It was wearing a frayed collar, but no tags. I crouched down a little nearer and it got up and came towards me and brushed past my knee. I patted it. So did my kids. After a few minutes, I said to the kids; "Okay, let's go. We can't stand in Jerry's front yard patting some cat all day."
We crossed the road to get back to our house, my six year-old daughter asking 83 questions, one of them being; "I wonder who's cat it is?"
I turned around to see this animal saunter across the road behind us, its tail swaying leisurely from one side to the other like a wisp of dark brown smoke.
'Uh-oh', I thought.

A few minutes later, my wife and I were looking at this cat as it stood on our front porch like it had been a part of our family for years and we wondered whether we should feed it something, since it looked a little thin and mangy. We opened up a can of tuna and gave it some. And then some more. The cat didn't seem to mind.

Okay, the next thing to be determined was whether this cat was micro-chipped or not, so that we could find its owner. So we took it to a nearby animal hospital. The vet checked it out. It was a Burmese female ( I gave my wife a light tap on the arm to say "See, I told you it was a Burmese"), about a year old, and it had been spayed because it had the little tattoo marking located in one ear. He waved a micro-chip reader over the cat and was unable to find a micro-chip. "That's odd. No chip, which is strange. This is an expensive animal,
so I'm surprised that it hasn't been chipped."
He surmised that it may have been dumped. We asked him what we should do next and he suggested that we contact our local council.

We called our council and also put up leaflets and did a letter-drop as well. The council said they'd report it on their website and if nobody claimed the cat within eight days, we had the option to take the cat to a shelter or keep it.
A week went by and we heard nothing. A few days later, we called the council. They told us that they'd picked up 3 or 4 cats from our area, but nobody had come forth to claim this cat. "What happens now?", I asked.
"Well, you can take it to a shelter or it's yours to keep if you want."

It seemed a shame to take it to a shelter and getting a cat so soon was not really part of my game-plan, but this was a very friendly and personable animal so I decided that, since karma had allowed me to cash in a few chips by sending me this cat, I was going to keep it.
"Why don't you try wishing for a million dollars, next time", my wife said to me.
Okay, so it wasn't a Platinum Burmese, it was a Brown (or Sable) Burmese. Beggars can't be choosers.

Next, she needed a name. Originally, it was Latte, because of its two-tone shades of brown, but I felt that was a little pretentious. So it was up to the kids to come up with a name. And this is what they gave me;

Cointerpin (????)
Goodjiibubble (????again)
Geez, guys, just ONE name will do.

So we settled on Wispy because her tail sways like a wisp of smoke, although the kids still call her Bubby and I've come to call her Dussy or Madame or Furbag. Doesn't really matter. She doesn't come over when you call her anyway.
I sometimes call her Naomi Campbell because only someone this good looking could get away with the things she does.
Here's the pin-up shot.

Mind, you, we'd all look this good if we slept up to 18 hours a day.
(It wasn't easy nailing her to the wall to take this picture, btw. Joking.)

We got her micro-chipped and she was given a clean bill of health. That was two years ago and although she does a lot of eating and sleeping, she's become a treasured member of the family.

Thanks for she cares.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Mystery typewriter in this picture, but more importantly, Happy B'Day to my lady wife!

Here's a picture taken from a GANT menswear catalogue from about five years ago. I liked this catalogue because it told a story of two guys travelling through Marrakech looking well-dressed and lugging a typewriter around, along with a Leica M Series camera.
I'm a sucker for aspirational advertising.
Anyway, being no expert, I can't tell what type of err...typewriter this 'writer' is typing on. Phew!
Here's the pic.

Picture courtesy of GANT.

So, can anybody place it? Yes? No? Here's a close-up.

Picture courtesy of GANT.

And here's the only other photo of it...with a Birthday greeting plastered over the model's face.

Picture courtesy of GANT.

I'm no expert, but could it be an Alpina?

P.S.- Happy Birthday, honey!

Saturday 4 June 2011

The Typewriter Collection No.2: Remington Remette, circa 1938

Here it is in glorious WideScreen. A real work-horse.

The font is still in pretty good condition and the spackle paint-job is crisp.

The type-bars are reasonably clean and none of them stick. Mind you, I did take this machine to my guy Tom who gave it the spa treatment.

This is a bare bones, Depression-era typewriter and it's definitely lacking all the bells (literally) and whistles that you would normally find on a portable. No TAB key on this one, either. No matter.

Not exactly designed for writing long documents (IMHO), it is nonetheless a nice typewriter to use. It does work like an old farm tractor, though.
This machine is solid to use, but the lack of basic conveniences (like a bell) means that I'll probably use it more for jotting down notes. It would make a nice entrance-hall typewriter for guests to tell you what they really think of you before they leave.

I must say that the relative rarity of this machine was another reason for purchasing.
And given how light this is to hold, it's a great machine for when inspiration strikes and you just need to get it down on paper faster than your handwriting will allow. Assuming you don't already have a typewriter sitting on a desk waiting.

I like the fact that this machine is smaller than my others, except the stick-thin, Supermodelesque Groma Kolibri, because it helps give my small collection a little variety. And I also like to think that the Remette is a classic model of the Remington brand.

Yessiree, Bob, it's a nice little typer.

Thanks for reading!