Wednesday 9 January 2019

My Most-Worn Wristwatches of 2018 + What Came In & What's Going Out

Okay, first of all, Happy New Year! I hope 2019 has started off nicely for you. Now that we're in the year of Blade Runner, I'm keeping an eye out for replicants. It's as good a plan as any!

First post of 2019 sees me looking back once again at the watches I wore throughout the previous year. Two thousand and eighteen saw me posting less than previous years. In fact, I only wrote 19 posts, as work got very busy, and after entire days in front of a computer screen, I found myself less inclined to get back in front of one once I got home. 
As such, these results will be skewed, but they should still provide an overview of the watches that I wore the most throughout this year. Also, due to fewer posts throughout the year, this will probably be a shorter list, but I'd like to respond to a reader's comment from the last few weeks regarding the heirloom aspect of my watches. This is something that I've thought about often over the last year or so and I would imagine that any of you who have a collection of stuff have perhaps had similar thoughts with regard to leaving these items to your kids.

I'll list these watches in reverse order this time. Also, I'll mention the watches that came into my collection this year and the ones that will go out. 

Anyway, here I go.

In fifth spot, worn throughout three weeks of the year was the Omega Speedmaster Professional. For some reason, my more water-resistant watches spent more time on my wrist than this one. Although, whenever I did wear this classic, I was instantly reminded of why I like it so much. As I've said a million times before, it's such a classic example of mid-Sixties chronograph design. And if you wade past all of the NASA/ moon landing associations embedded in the history of this watch, you'll soon learn that it was originally created in 1957 for use as a racing chronograph, hence the reason why it was named the Speedmaster. The design you see here dates back to around 1965, where Omega replaced the earlier arrow-head hands for a simpler picket-fence style, which was common among watches of the era. 

Coming in fourth was another Omega, the Seamaster 300. As you may know, this was a WatchCo-built model and it was a Grail piece for me. Around 2005, I spent a lot of time on eBay looking at Vietnam-era fakes and heavily water-damaged versions of this watch. In the end, I called a contact that I knew and placed an order for one of these. Basically, WatchCo would take a correct movement from a heavily trashed Omega watch and they would place it into a Seamaster 300 case. 
Your purists will argue that this makes it a 'Frankenwatch', something that has been cobbled together from parts to create a watch that was never built in Omega's factory back in the 1960s. 
True, to an extent, but baloney just the same! Sure, this didn't come out of the brand's Geneva headquarters, but it is made up of period-correct Genuine Omega parts.
If I had bought one of those water-damaged ones off eBay and then sent it to Omega for restoration, they would have fully serviced the movement and then replaced dial, bezel and hands with all-new parts. Effectively, the watch would be pretty much like a WatchCo build. The ONLY main difference is that the serial number engraved on the movement of the WatchCo would correspond to the original 'donor' watch, whatever it would have been. Most likely a mid 1960s Geneve model or Seamaster dress watch. It would not be the serial number for a Seamaster 300, as what would be found on the movement of a factory-built Seamaster 300.
This caused collectors to worry about five or six years ago. Urban myths began to circulate in collector circles about Omega Service Centres confiscating these watches and destroying them, or at the very least (compared to that), refusing to perform any repair work on them. 

Anyway, some time passed and some folks on watch forums reported that, due to a slight difference in case numbers between the old, original models and these new WatchCo-built ones, Omega would now service the new watches when they came in. They added an extra zero to the new case numbers, in order to differentiate them from the vintage models. This was designed to prevent someone from trying to pass off a WatchCo modern build as a restored vintage piece. 
Either way, I'm not worried. When the time comes to get it serviced, I'll just take it to Omega and see what happens. 

My 3rd most-worn watch was yet another Omega. This 36.2mm Railmaster is a favourite. Understated, supremely legible, and enough water resistance to go from a bucket of water to an ocean. If I have one gripe about this watch, it would have to be the clasp. While it works just fine, I've always thought it was a flimsy arrangement, made up of a sliding section made from a very thin sliver of steel. I have been tempted to try fitting a sturdier clasp from a mid-sized Seamaster model of the same era, but this would be a pricey gamble, since I can't be certain that it would fit the bracelet of this watch. 
An easy solution would be to just put this watch on a leather strap, but this changes the entire look of the watch. Still, not the worst thing, as it does tend to look quite nice on the right kind of strap.

In the Number 2 spot was the 40mm Oris Diver SixtyFive with the blue and black dial.
Not much more I can say about this watch, as I wrote a review on it a few months ago;

Just in case you missed it. ;-)
I'm wearing it now as I write this post. It's become my go-to watch in a lot of ways. My wife and I are planning a trip away sometime in March and this just may be the watch that I take with me. 

And now the home stretch. I wound up wearing two particular watches over twelve weeks of 2018.
In equal Number 1 spot was a watch that I got back in February, one that I thought I had missed out on getting in late 2017 when it was first released - The Oris Movember Edition Diver Sixty-Five.

This watch came out of nowhere. News of its release was announced in October 2017, and it would hit the market the following month, as a special edition in conjunction with the Movember Foundation and its efforts to raise awareness of physical and mental health issues which affect men all over the world. Based on the 42mm Diver Sixty-Five models, this one was a 40mm model and it's overall design and look just positively screamed 'vintage dive watch'. I wore this one through 12 weeks of the year, alternating it between a minimal stitch leather strap and a black NATO strap. Recently, I picked up the metal bracelet, just in time for the Summer months.
While it shares the same case diameter, movement, and bracelet as the other Diver SixtyFive of mine, the dial layout is so vastly different that it becomes a completely different watch to that one.  I wore it a lot on various straps throughout the year and it was suited to each and every one of them. Once I put the bracelet on it, the whole watch's look changed yet again.

Finally, the other watch that got 12 weeks of wear throughout the year; The 1982 Rolex Submariner 5513. I've written exhaustively about this watch, so I'll try to keep it short.
I had a minor mishap with this one earlier in the year when I knocked it against a door frame and dislodged the bezel of the watch.
Luckily, as the After-Sales Coordinator of a wristwatch brand, I work with a watchmaker and I have to say that I'd been reluctant to let him near this watch. Not because I doubt his abilities. He's in his sixties and has worked on a myriad number of watch brands including Rolex, and the work that he does on a daily basis is stellar.
Nope. The reason I didn't want him to work on it was because...well, let me ask you, do you have any friends who are plumbers or electricians, etc?
I do and I would never ask them to do any work for me because, if they do a sub-par job, it would put a strain on the relationship.
With the watchmaker, my worry was that if he didn't do the work to my satisfaction, I would still have to work with him, and there would be some bad blood between us. Maybe I was being paranoid, but I thought I'd err on the side of caution.
When I first decided to have the Submariner serviced, he told me not to waste my money by taking it to somebody else. I told him that the beauty of dealing with strangers is that you are paying them for their efforts and if they do a bad job, you can blast them and demand a proper repair or a refund, if you don't end up taking them to Consumer Affairs first.

Anyway, after I'd knocked the bezel off the watch, he told me to bring it in and he'd take a look at it.
So I did. I have to say that he has some tricks up his sleeve that I never knew about. 
He changed the crystal, and refitted the bezel, making sure that it was more securely fastened.
In the end, I was very happy with his work.

Frank (Schrijfmachine), one of my regular readers, responded to something that I wrote in my last post regarding the heirloom aspect (or not) of this particular watch.
Here's what I wrote about this Rolex in that post;

I switched over to the Rolex Submariner the next day. This watch is one that I tend to wear a little sparingly, depending on what I'm doing for the day.
Reason being, owning one of these is like having a vintage car. Parts can be expensive and tricky to find. This is actually a richer man's wristwatch, made for someone who can easily afford to get it fixed if something goes wrong.

My daughter wants it when I shuffle off this mortal coil, but I've told her 'no'. My son won't get it either. She decided to plead her case; 

"Oh, but you wanted it for the longest time, and it means the most to you."
"No, it actually doesn't"
I countered. "Despite the fact that I chased it for so long, I'm not going to burden you or your brother with this watch. Parts are expensive, servicing it is expensive, and if you damage it, you'll kick yourself. If you really want one, save your money and get one. That way, you'll know what it takes to get ahold of one of these. And this one doesn't mean the most to me. I have other watches that I wore during significant times of my life. My Railmaster has more resonance with me, even the Sinn Chronograph, that I wore on the trip, and the watch that I wore when you and your brother were born. Those ones mean more to me. The Rolex will get sold when I'm gone. That way, the money that it gets will be of more use to you and him. And, the Rolex comes with a lot of baggage because it's become the watch that guys will buy to show the world that they've made it. They buy it for all the wrong reasons, which is why I wanted vintage rather than new, which would have cost me less. Besides, you'd be better off with something like the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight. Looks a lot like the Rolex, but it can take more abuse, 'cos it's a modern watch." 

The part about you telling your daughter the Rolex will not be her in the future (and why) is spot on. Very refreshing to read. I am used to reading guys on the watch forums saying they plan to buy a Rolex from the year their son/daughter is born, in order to give it to them when they reach 18, or 40, or...

I read these plans so often I almost started thinking this is actually a good idea. But than I read your text and I agree with you. It might be nice to buy it with the thought to give it away sometime, but it might not be so nice to get something expensive from your father, having to take care of it (and be sad when it breaks down). Thanks a lot, great lines.

Happy 2019! Frank (Schrijfmachine)

I wanted to add further reasons as to why I wouldn't leave this watch to my kids. Basically, with a wristwatch, you're not just giving them the watch. You're also giving them the box, the spare links, and all of the paperwork that's associated with it because, should they decide one day that they do want to sell it, they'll get more for it if they have all this stuff to go with it. Collectors want as much 'provenance' with the watch as they can get, and I have it in spades with my watches. 
Hell, this blog alone has tonnes of info about how and where I've worn my watches.
And all those boxes and papers require storage and looking after. You have to put the box and papers somewhere where they won't get damaged. Someplace where they can sit for years and years if necessary. And you have to remember to take it all with you when you move.
Basically, it's all just one more thing to take care of as they go through their lives. And like I said, if the watch gets damaged or when it requires routine servicing, it won't be cheap and I don't want to burden them with it. 
And let's say I did give the Rolex to my daughter one day. She wears it for a few years and one day, it gets knocked hard against a brick wall and needs a new crystal, bezel, dial and hands, as well as a service to the movement.  That will be an expensive repair. Will she have the money in the bank to get it fixed? Will she feel an obligation to have it fixed, since it was my watch? Will she feel that she may in some way be betraying me or my memory if she decides not to get it fixed? 

If you're a collector, be it watches, cameras, typewriters or anything else of a mechanical nature, you need to look after these things. And if you want to hand them down to your kids, you don't want it to become a curse. You want to be sure that your kids are into these things almost as much as you are. That way, these items may stand a better chance of being looked after once you're gone.

Besides, there's no shortage of watches for my kids when the time comes. My plan is to leave them three or four watches each, and even then, that sounds like too many. I will, of course, once again run them through the cost involved in maintaining a mechanical Swiss watch.

And yes, Frank, back in my watch selling days, I dealt with many customers who wanted to buy a watch when their first kid was born and then put it away for twenty years until they were ready to be given it. 
Whether a watch is running or not, it will still need to be serviced after five years or so. 

The better plan would be to buy yourself a nice watch, wear it, live your life, travel with it on your wrist and then give it to your kid when the time is right. The watch will have a beautiful history by then. 
Of course, you'll still need a watch for yourself, so you may be smart to buy a couple of watches as the years roll by. Actually, get three. Make sure one of them is a dive watch or something water resistant. That way, your child will have something for the beach and something for the nine-to-five. 
Personally, I think a pre-owned Rolex DateJust (34mm, 36mm or 39mm) or Omega AquaTerra (38mm) would be a good choice. Both of these watches would work nicely on a son's or daughter's wrist once they have come of age.


So anyway, I plan on clearing out some of my things this year. I have a few too many watches, typewriters, fountain pens and cameras and I've reached a point where I know what I like and what I prefer to use on a regular basis. The watches will be a little tricky, I'm sure, because some of them have a great sentimental value to me. 
We'll see how strong and/or logical I am. 

To start with, I gave the Tissot Visodate to my son earlier this week. He already has a Seiko dive watch that I bought for his sixteenth birthday a couple of years ago, so that takes care of the sporty watch category for the time being. 
However, he turned 18 on Christmas Day and I wanted to give him something a little more mature. 
I had contemplated selling this watch, but the review I wrote on it back in 2010 has clocked up over 550,000 page-views on a watch forum (521,440 views) and this blog (29,916 views), so I'm a little reluctant to get rid if it solely for this reason. 
To be sure, it's a great watch. It came along at just the right time, back in 2010 when Mad Men was in full swing and the mid-Century aesthetic of this watch went a long way towards generating interest and sales of this piece. At 40mm in diameter, I did always feel that it was just a tad too large for my wrist for this style of watch, but I didn't let it bother me too much. In recent years, though, my tastes have shifted back towards wearing watches that are better suited to my 6.5 inch wrist, so I decided not to wear it and then decided to hand it down. If it were just two or three millimetres smaller, I'd be all over it. 

Next on the chopping block is the Dan Henry Compressor 1970.

This one caught my eye one day and I snapped it up because I liked the look of it and I don't have a Compressor-style dive watch. Basically, it has an extra crown on the 2:00 o'clock edge of the case and this is used to turn the internal bezel for dive times. 
This 40mm model was produced in a limited run of 1,970 pieces and it nicely captures the look of this type of watch that was produced in the mid '60s to the early '70s. 
The luminous compound on the dial and hands isn't very strong, but this is a minor gripe for me, since I have other watches if I want to read the time in the dark. 
Under the hood beats a Seiko NH35 automatic calibre which is quite accurate. It is a nice watch, but I bought it on a whim and rarely wore it. I think I've worn it three times since I got it in September 2107.
So it's gonna go soon. No point holding on to it it it doesn't get worn. There are no passengers, only crew, as my wife says to the kids when they're given a (short) list of chores to do around the house.
Which they avoid like crazy.

This next watch is one that I haven't worn much in recent years. It's the 44mm Hamilton Khaki Officer's Mechanical.

As you can see in this pic, it positively dwarfs my 6.5 inch wrist. I bought it back in 2009, when the big watch craze was well and truly in full swing.
Two reasons why I opted for this particular model; firstly, I got suckered by the big watch craze and decided I wanted something big and cartoony. Something that also looked (in my mind) like a WWII SOE agent's piece of kit.
Secondly, this watch houses the venerable Unitas 6498 hand-wound calibre, a mechanical movement that was first introduced in pocket watches of the 1950s. It winds as smooth as butter.
Alas, it's just too damn big for my wrist. If it were two millimetres smaller, I'd keep it, but this 44mm case diameter is just too big, so this watch will have to go.
However, since Hamilton was a military supplier to the GIs of the Second World War, I still feel I should have one in my collection. Therefore, I may just snap up a smaller-sized model at some point. The beauty of this brand is that it is inexpensive when compared to similar watches of other brands, and Hamilton now falls under the Swatch Group umbrella, so you have the peace of mind of knowing that it'll be around for a long time.

One more watch that I will be shifting is the Omega Seamaster AquaTerra Co-Axial;

Judging by the photo above, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is a nice clear watch for reading the time. However, I've found that in a lot of lighting conditions, the hands can tend to disappear against the glossy black dial. Of course, I don't have any photos of the watch where this occurs because when taking photos, I try to ensure that the dial is legible. Otherwise, it kind'a defeats the purpose of what a wristwatch is meant to do;

This picture here may give you an indication of how the hands can 'blend in' with the dial.
I got this watch in 2006 when I had a younger man's eyes. These days, I don't want to squint too much in order to read the time. It's a great watch, without a doubt. The glossy black dial looks like it's made from Oklahoma crude. It looks like a fresh paint-job on a 1970s Maserati.
I just can't read the time on it as easily as I used to.
Given that this watch has the same case and diameter as the Railmaster, which has gotten a lot more wear in recent years, this one will go.
Remember, if it ain't being used, it's just taking up space.

There's another watch that I'm looking to move along, but I'll get to it a little later, once I've covered...


I had a couple of unplanned purchases during the year. Both of them were watches that I missed out on buying years ago, so when the opportunities to take another shot at them presented themselves, I didn't think twice.

The first one was a watch that I saw back in the late 1990s. It's the Oris Big Crown Small Seconds;

The Big Crown model was first released by Oris back in 1938 and the brand has had some version of this watch in regular production ever since. 
It was named the Big Crown because, you guessed it, the winding crown was slightly oversized, to make it easier to wind the watch and set the time while wearing gloves. 
This was, after all, a watch specifically designed for pilots. 
I first saw this watch at the jewellery section of the Daimaru department store and a few years later, I saw it again in a 1996 Oris catalogue that I'd picked up someplace. 
It was such a pleasant looking watch, with its snake's-head shaped hour hand, syringe-shaped minute hand, crescent-shaped date pointer, and multi-layered dial with applied numerals. Everything about it screamed '1930s', and this was at a time when I was fully immersed in my mania for Old Hollywood glamour and Art Deco design, and my interest in wristwatches was well underway, but it was hampered by poverty. 

Look at that dial, will ya? Four different textures going on - a plain, flat section where the date numerals are printed on the outer edge, a mottled, fresh cement-style pattern underneath the beautiful hour numerals (check out number '4'!), a Deco sunburst pattern in the central section of the dial, followed by a sub-seconds dial with concentric circles. There's a lot going on, but the time is clear to see. This is the kind of attention to detail that was prevalent even throughout the smaller watchmaking houses of Switzerland.

I actually bought two of these. The first one was 33mm in diameter and I thought I could carry it off. Although, once it arrived, I tried it on and it just felt too small on my wrist, even though this size was probably a lot closer to the original models of the Thirties.
Anyway, my daughter saw it a she liked 'the aesthetic' of it, so I'll get it serviced (it arrived without the genuine Big Crown, which I knew when I bought it, and this would explain the low price that I paid for it) and then hand it over to her. 
The model in these photos was the larger 36mm model, which I managed to find about two months later. This is a nicer size for my wrist.

Another watch caught me at a weak moment in 2018. Again, it was an Oris watch, and again, it was a model that I missed out on the first time it was on the market. This here is the Oris Artelier Hand-Wound;

Housing the well-regarded Peseux 7001 hand-wound calibre, this is a very thin wristwatch. Diameter-wise, it's 40mm, which would normally be too large for this type of watch, as far as I'm concerned, but whereas I got rid of the Tissot Visodate for being the same diameter as this watch, I find that I get a nicer fit out of this Oris. As a watch collector, I'm a mass of contradictions. 
This one is a two-tone model, featuring a steel case with a gold-plated bezel. The dial is silver, with a sub-seconds dial at the six o'clock end and three applied gold-plated numerals at the remaining cardinal points. No date, which makes this a nice watch to wear out of an evening, even though the hands have no luminous compound in them, but instead have a wide slit cut through their length. 
You know that watch I mentioned earlier? At the beginning of this section? The one I plan to sell? It's this one;

A Lanco hand-wound, dating back to somewhere between 1955 and 1963. Yes, it's a nice watch, but it bears a similar enough appearance to this newly-arrived Oris, so I think this one will go. It currently requires a new mainspring. Once I get that done, I'll move it along. 
I have to say that I do love the look of this watch. It's 38mm in diameter, considered a jumbo size for its era and the dial is sublime, with barely a blemish on it. Somebody looked after this watch. Damn, now that I look at it, I can feel my resolve weaken. 
Well, I'll get rid of the others first and then see how I feel about this one. 
The fact that I have to get it fixed first means that it gets a reprieve for a while. 

And that's where things stand. I have a Seiko that I use as a beater, for handyman duties and other activities where a watch runs the risk of getting damaged. I've been thinking of getting rid of that one, but I'm not sure. It seems to serve a purpose. For now.

I've reached the stage of collecting where I really want to keep things that will actually get used. Oh, wait, I said that already. I must really mean it. 
Another thing, if I get something new, I should get rid of two that I already have. In the interests of keeping these collections manageable.

I'll soon be going through my typewriters and fountain pens to see if there are any (I'm sure there will be) that don't get much use and should therefore go. 
I'd like my collections to be a little leaner.
If that's possible.

Thanks for reading!