Monday 11 January 2021

My Most-Worn Watches of 2020

It's been a busy couple of months since my last post, so I felt I'd better get back here and put something up. So, while I work on drafts of other posts, now's as good a time as any to tally up the watches that spent the most time on my wrist throughout the historic year that just ended.

The results surprised me. Watches that I thought I didn't wear very much were actually worn more often than I recalled. I had a few newcomers arrive in the collection, with one major arrival that was quite a surprise. I wasn't looking for it when it showed up, but it's such a rare piece that I thought I'd be a fool to knock it back. I'm also gearing up to get rid of a few that rarely get worn. The watch box is finally getting a bit of a shake-up.

Anyway, here are the ten most-worn pieces for 2020.

(1) Rolex Submariner 5513/0, 40mm (1982 model)

Spending 47 different days on my wrist throughout the year, the Sub 5513 is the winner by one. I was surprised to learn that this was my most-worn watch of 2020, considering that I do still tend to baby it a little. Whenever I was about to wash dishes, I'd take the watch off and put it on the window-sill. If I was about to do something requiring tools, the watch would come off, to be replaced by the Hamilton Khaki Automatic. 
Regardless of all that, it reached the top spot in this list. From memory, I think it got the most wear throughout the winter months, when it was covered by shirt and jacket sleeves. 
Then, at the end of October, we got the news of the death of Sean Connery and I removed the bracelet from the watch and fitted a brown leather strap to it.
This was done to mimic the strap worn by Connery in Dr No. Bond's Rolex in that film was a Submariner Reference No. 6538, on loan to the production by one of the crew, who was ex-Royal Navy. 
As part of my week of mourning the death of the first cinematic James Bond, I had this watch on the strap and it looked fantastic. Hard to tell from the movie if his strap was black or brown. No matter. I had a brown leather strap with a crocodile pattern embossed on it. The Rolex three-link Oyster bracelet is as classic as the watch itself. It's been much-copied over the last four or five decades. As such, it is as much a part of the Submariner's DNA as the dial and hands and, whenever I remove the bracelet and put the watch on a strap, it doesn't tend to last very long, as I find myself reverting the watch back to its bracelet. 
I've had this watch now for just about six years, after wanting one since around 1974. Its allure is strong, but I'm not entirely certain if I'll keep it forever. 
I'll explain my reasons for this way of thinking later.  

(2) Oris Divers SixtyFive- 40mm, Blue & Black dial (2017 model)  

Another surprise. I hadn't noticed that this watch got so much wear throughout the year. It was worn one day less than the Submariner. I'm currently wearing it as I write this (Jan 3rd, 2021) and it's a watch that I never get sick of. Oris released the black-dialed version of this watch in 2015 at the annual BaselWorld Watch and Jewellery Fair in Switzerland and it was a hit. It was a bold move on their part. The return to a 40mm diameter was not yet widespread among watch brands (who were still producing dive watches in 42mm to 44mm sizing) and the 1960s-styled numeral font was a make-or-break choice, despite the fact that it was used on Oris' original model from the mid-Sixties. 
This was the kind of watch that I could just put on the wrist without worrying about bumps and knocks, water, legibility, or anything else. 
The majority of dive watches in my collection have black dials. When I first saw this watch in 2016, I was immediately drawn to the mixture of blue and black used on the dial. The numerals didn't thrill me, but once I remembered that they were part of the 1960s original design, I warmed to them pretty quickly. This watch looked like nothing else I had. The more I wore it, the more I liked it. Similar to the Submariner, I remove the bracelet from time to time, but it always finds its way back to the bracelet, even though it does look good on a NATO strap. 
Oh, I re-read Casino Royale, for the first time since the early 1980s. Have to say that it still holds up.

(3) Oris Divers SixtyFive- 40mm, Movember 2018 Special Edition)  

Worn throughout 40 days of 2020 was the Oris Movember Edition Divers SixtyFive. Exact same dimensions as the above-listed D-65, this one got a lot of wear during the year. A no-nonsense, easy-to-read dial made this a grab-and-go watch. Alas, I'll have to see how much wear it gets over the coming year, as I've very recently snagged a watch that is very similar in look to this one, and I feel that I'd like to avoid any doubling-up if at all possible. I already have two Omega dive watches that look similar to each other and I don't want to fill the collection with look-alikes if I can help it.

(4) Hamilton Khaki Officers Automatic, 40mm (2018 model) 

Thirty days of last year saw me wearing this watch. Whenever I had some tasks to do where there was risk of damaging my watch, this is the one I would wear.Needless to say, though, this watch is still in excellent condition. I must have been more careful with it than I thought. There's barely a mark on it. If you ever want to get yourself one automatic watch, you could do far, far worse than a Hamilton such as this. Legible dial, 100 metres of water resistance, and an 80-hour power reserve, which means you can take it off your wrist on Friday night and it'll still be running Monday morning.
(5) Omega Railmaster Co-Axial, 36mm (2009 model) 
There were days where all I wanted to know was the time. That's where this watch would fit the bill. There's a perfect simplicity and symmetry to the dial of any watch that just has four numerals at the cardinal points of the dial and no date window to break up the overall aesthetic. The hands and markers are luminous, offering clear readability at four am or in a darkened theatre (not that anybody got to the movies much in 2020, dammit!) and the 150 metre water-resistance means that you need not have to take the watch off for days at the beach or fifteen minutes at the kitchen sink. 

This type of watch design is still popular. At the pricier end of the spectrum, Rolex still makes the Explorer model, and Omega have an updated Railmaster in their current range which doesn't really thrill me, as I don't see any resemblance between the new model and my watch.  If I were going for something like my watch, micro-brand Nodus has just released their Sector Sport models which seem to represent a good value at just over $400 USD. 
I can't fault this watch at all, although I wish the clasp on the bracelet were a different design. I've always felt that this older clasp, a throwback to Omega models of the mid-Nineties, was just a tad flimsy in its construction. Easy to bend out of shape if one's not careful with it, as I saw with one or two customers who brought there Omega watches in for repair, back when I used to sell watches. However, there are sites that sell bracelets that just might fit this watch. I'll have to conduct a little more research before I make a move. 
(6) Seiko SARB033, 37mm (2019 model)

This Seiko got its fair share of time on the wrist. Recently discontinued, this is a well-made daily wearer with some design cues that can be found in the higher-priced Grand Seiko range. It's a beautifully executed watch which doesn't reveal much at first glance, but the more you look at it, the more you begin to see. The lugs have an extra step to them, the hour markers show a little more intricacy to their design, and the raised 'SEIKO' logo on the dial is the kind of thing that you find on more expensive Swiss watches.

This watch was worn over 26 days of the year and I can distinctly recall wearing it during those interminable daily Zoom meetings during our recent state-wide lock-down, of which some were an absolute waste of time. I found myself glancing at this watch frequently, and getting distracted by it. It's a slightly deceptive watch, in that it has a deep charcoal-coloured dial which can look black in low lighting, but takes on a metallic dark grey hue in bright sunlight. 
Well, looks like I've just chosen tomorrow's watch!

(7a) Sinn 103 St Sa Chronograph, 41mm (2009 model)

Twenty-twenty being the year that it was, there were countless occasions where I just didn't know what day it was. During the first lock-down of the pandemic, my work week was busted down to three days. The second lock-down had me working from home four days a week, but I still checked my e-mails on the days when I wasn't meant to. As such, there were times when a Monday would feel like a Wednesday or a Friday would feel like a Sunday, and on and on. 

To the rescue came the Sinn 103 St Sa, clocking in at 25 days throughout the year. The day/date function was a Godsend, even though the days were printed in German on the day wheel. That's how I ordered it back in 2009. 
Monday - Montag
Tuesday - Dienstag
Wednesday - Mittwoch
Thursday -  Donnerstag
Friday - Freitag
Saturday - Samstag 
Sunday - Sonntag

I figured why not get a daily language lesson whenever I glance at my wristwatch? In truth, I wanted the watch to have a 1970s/'80s GSG-9 anti-terrorist vibe. Real or imagined.
Either way, it came in very handy on those days when I didn't know what day it was. As this watch is now over ten years old, I think I should get 'round to having it serviced sometime this year. 

(7b) Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean, 42mm (2008 model)

In equal place with the Sinn 103, the Omega Planet Ocean was worn on 25 days of 2020. 

Like the Sinn, this watch has a reassuring heft to it when it's on the wrist. Like the Seiko SARB033, this is a set-and-forget watch where I don't have to worry about babying it. And, it was worn by Daniel Craig in his second Bond outing, Quantum of Solace (Dir: Marc Forster, 2008).
Not only that, but the serial numbers difference between Craig's watch and mine is just over 24,240. That may sound like a lot, but it could be that our watches were built in the same year. Maybe. Maybe not. 

This watch now jostles for position with a few others that I wear regularly. It's one downside is the 42mm diameter of the case. If it were forty mil, it would be a near-perfect watch. It could end up being sold one day, but for now and the foreseeable future, it's staying right here. 
It is a Bond watch, after all.

(8) Omega Speedmaster Professional, 42mm (2007 model)

Not really much else to say about this one. Its reputation is assured, though many argue that it's an outdated watch in so many ways; 
- Hesalite crystal which can scratch fairly easily and wouldn't take much to break. 
- Fifty-metre water-resistance, which makes it just a little beyond splash-proof, although a lot of folks do wear this watch in water without fear. 
- Hand-wound movement, which many modern watch collectors consider a little too old-fashioned these days. 
I don't consider these as flaws by any means. Hesalite can be polished with a ten-dollar tube of PolyWatch, and replacing a cracked Hesalite crystal is a damn sight cheaper than replacing a cracked sapphire crystal. 
Fifty metres of water resistance is sufficient for day-to-day activities where the watch may get splashed with water. If I wanna swim with my watch on, I'll wear something with 100 metres water-resistance. 
Hand-wound movement suits me just fine. A little bit of interaction with the watch and, more importantly, a pause in the day where you can tell everybody to back off for 20 or 30 seconds while you wind your watch. 
The beauty of this watch - for me, anyway - is that it's virtually unchanged since its design from the mid 1960s. The old advertisement in the photo is from 1969 and you can see the similarities.  
A classic chronograph design. This watch is going nowhere. 

(9) Omega Seamaster 300, 42mm (Movement dates to circa 1967, 2009 purchase) 
Twenty-three times on my wrist in 2020, this one shows the original DNA that went towards the Planet Ocean model released in 2005. 

This one was being serviced for most of 2019. It required a click-spring for the seconds hand and it took me some time to find one on eBay. Originally serviced in 2018 by a watchmaker who did good work, but couldn't access parts for the movement, this watch lay dormant for quite some time, so when I finally got it back, it got some TLC and time on the wrist. 
To give it a point of difference from my other dive watches, I put it back onto the mesh bracelet, to Burt Reynolds it up a little. Granted, he never wore this watch, but it looks like the kind of watch he should have worn in Deliverance (Dir: John Boorman, 1972).  
 (10) Citizen Eco-Drive Nighthawk, 42mm (circa 2012, 2020 purchase) 

A surprise purchase, I saw this at a local pawnbrokers and the price was right - just under $200, but I bargained them down a little. A few scuffs and scratches here and there, but that's okay. This would make a good watch for travel. Despite how busy the dial looks, it's a supremely legible watch, given that the hour markers are quite prominent and the sword-shaped hands stand out boldly against the slate grey dial. There's a scale along the left side of the dial that can be set for a second time-zone. The red airplane-shaped pointer reads off the red numerals for daytime and the white pointer opposite rolls around in due course to show the time for evening. Once you use it a few times, it gets easy. 
The inner rotating bezel is a slide rule, used by pilots to calculate fuel over distance, etc. Basically, I'll never use it. Two hundred metre water-resistance means it'll handle a dip in a hotel pool in some far away exotic land, whenever that day comes around again. The dial of the watch is a solar panel, which stores energy in the watch's battery. This thing will run non-stop for six months if left in a drawer. If it stops, you just leave it under light for a few hours and it powers up again. Battery changes are done every ten years or so, and some sources state that after 20 years, the battery retains 80% of its original power. Now that's pretty cool. I got quite some wear out of this watch. It totaled up thirteen days, which isn't bad considering that I tend to steer clear of quartz watches. Even though I think every collection should have one, since they can come in handy.
And that sums up the ten watches that I wore most throughout this dog's breakfast of a year. I had a few incomings too. One was a complete and utter surprise, but when it was offered to me, I knew I'd be a fool to say no. It was one of those watches that I've read about over the years. It has the dubious reputation of being one of the most-faked watches on the market. 
Tudor Ranger 9050/0, circa 1970 
If somebody ever offers you a watch like this one, run like hell. 
The Ranger was Tudor's version of the classic Rolex Explorer 1016 model. Tudor used almost all parts manufactured by Rolex- their parent company - and the brand was marketed as the less expensive alternative for the working man. Dials, hands, cases and crowns were all made by Rolex. The main difference was the movement inside the watch. Whereas Rolex used in-house calibres, Tudor movements were outsourced from ETA, one of the largest watch movement manufacturers in Switzerland. Very similar to the 1016, with the exception of the hands, these Ranger models don't come up very often, and when they do, they ain't exactly cheap.
Now, this one here may well be a genuine Tudor wristwatch of some kind, but it's not a Ranger or, if it is, it's been poorly refinished. 
There has never been a Ranger made with the name "RANGER" in red. Also, the minute hand flares out from the middle towards the outer length. This is another giveaway that there's something fishy going on.
For the sake of comparison, here's the Rolex Explorer 1016. Picture courtesy of HQ Milton;
Any Bond fan worth his salt will know that Ian Fleming wore an Explorer, or a model very much like it, and as far as I'm concerned, it's the watch that he put onto Bond's wrist in his second book, Live And Let Die (Jonathan Cape, 1954). 
Fleming wrote of OO7's Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch having "large phosphorous numerals and an expanding bracelet". Back then, this was the only Rolex model with large numbers on the dial. 
I've gotten into heated discussions from time to time with other collectors on wristwatch forums who claim that Bond wore a Submariner dive watch in the books, but my argument has always been that, Fleming being such a stickler for detail, he would have mentioned a Submariner's rotating bezel for diving purposes, etc. So, as far as I'm concerned, literary Bond wore an Explorer or a precursor of that model.

Anyway, I met an older gent who was looking to get his watch fixed. He said he had an old Tudor watch that he didn't wear anymore. I asked him what model it was. He said it was a Ranger that he bought in 1980, when his mother-in-law worked at a jewellery store that stocked the brand. 
He went on to tell me that the dial had gone yellow and that the watch had gotten caught in the door of his Land Rover a couple of decades ago when he had the watch in the pocket of a jacket draped across the passenger seat and his friend kept trying to close the passenger door with no success. Reason being that the jacket had somehow gotten caught between the car seat and the passenger side's door frame. His friend couldn't get the door closed because the jacket was half hanging out of the car. With the watch in its pocket. Getting repeatedly slammed by the car door!
The gent had worked as a paramedic, crane driver and radio operator during the time that he had this watch. He told me it had been serviced once since he bought it. 
A week or so later, I called him and asked if he could send me a few photos of the watch. He and I had both done our homework and he knew what these were selling for. However, we were getting along nicely, so I offered him a price based on sight-unseen, on the proviso that if the watch was in okay condition, I would pay the price I'd offered. Since he said that the dial had gone yellow, I had to assume that it had sustained water-damage at some point. If the condition of the dial and hands were bad, this would be a deal-breaker for me. 
I asked him if he still had the original bracelet, but he said it fell apart years ago, most likely from being caught in the door of a Land Rover, no doubt. 
He sent a few photos via SMS. Yes, the numerals and hands had suffered water-entry damage. The dial was still black, but the luminous Tritium compound on the dial and hands had turned a dirty cream colour. Okay, not as bad as I thought, and at least it shows that the dial has not been tampered with. The case had a few scratches on it and the case-back showed two small light dents. This watch had been worn as it should and showed all the signs of an honest life. 
The dial itself showed a tool-mark at certain angles. Barely visible, but it was a sign of a clumsy watchmaker. My only real concern was the hour hand. It is shaped like an arrow head and there's a lot of lume in it. On this watch, the lume showed a crack through the middle of it. Not a major disaster if my watchmaker can stabilise the lume on this hand the way he did with my Submariner a few years ago. 
Basically, you apply some varnish on the underside of the hand. This acts as an adhesive and holds the lume in place, reducing the risk of it breaking off. 
Here's the watch. He put a cheap, no-name bracelet on it. 

Okay, time to get down to brass tacks. I factored in what it would cost me to service this watch sometime down the track. I called him a day after he sent the photos and offered him fifty bucks less than my original offer. I didn't want to insult him by going too low, but I didn't want to be stuck with a watch that would become a major headache for me either. 
He was happy with my price. As I mentioned, he didn't wear this watch anymore ever since he bought himself a new watch twelve years ago. This Tudor has been in a drawer since then. Definitely will require a service. 
Worst-case scenario; the lume breaks off the hands at some point in future. I can either A) search, and search, and search for a set of replacement hands - which won't match the colour of the dial numerals and markers, or B) consider having the dial and hands re-lumed by an outfit in Singapore that does stellar work. This second option will probably shave something off the value of the watch. 
However, the eternal question - do you buy a watch for any potential investment/increased value purposes, or do you buy a watch to wear, enjoy, take through your life's adventures, etc?
Back in my watch selling days, I'd get customers coming in looking for a watch or brand that was 'a good investment'. 
My answer was always the same; buy it for investment and you'll constantly fret about it getting scuffed, let alone scratched. You won't enjoy the watch because you'll be too worried about it all the time. 
Anyway, if the lume falls off, I would more than likely have it re-lumed. Why would you do that, teeritz, when you know it'll damage any potential re-sale value? 
Why? Because I'm sure that in a world with 7 billion people in it, there has to be at least ONE other person out there who doesn't care about re-sale because they're gonna buy a watch to wear it, and they may also like the watch to look as perfect as possible.  If I get rid of it, I'll be transparent about it and list all defects and work that was carried out on it. 
Either way, I wired him the money, while he sent me the watch. It all operated on trust. Soon as I got it, I removed the no-name bracelet and put a leather strap on it. I may get a bracelet for it, but I don't plan on going for genuine Tudor. I'm aiming for a different look. More about that when I get around to snagging a bracelet.
The case measures 34mm in diameter which, even for my 6.5 inch wrist, is about as small as I'd go. The various scuffs and scratches on the case can easily be buffed out if I choose. The crown feels a little tough to wind, but I'd say the oils in the movement are near dried out. The watch keeps pretty good time regardless, but I'll look at having it serviced in a few months. 
I currently have a couple of watches being serviced. Once they're done, off they go to eBay. Wherever possible, I'm trying to stick to a one-in, one-out game plan.  Better still would be a one-in, two or three out. 
We'll see. 
 Tudor Black Bay 58
As you may know, I've had my name on a waiting list at a store for a Black Bay 58 since August 2019. That store has yet to call me to say that one has arrived. So, About six months ago, I thought I'd cast my net out wider and go see some other Tudor stockists to see if I could get on their waiting lists. 
Yes, I would be the first to say that it's a little ridiculous to put your name down for a wristwatch, but some watches are in such high demand that there's no other way to have a chance at securing one. 
The main culprit is Rolex. Stockists have display stands in their windows with one or two dress models on show. The sought-after sports models, such as the Submariner, GMT Master, or Daytona Chronograph are nowhere to be seen. In steel, that is. If you want one in white gold, you could probably get one pretty easily...if you have the tens of thousands of dollars for it, that is. Apparently, the wait-list for a stainless-steel Daytona is around five years. And there are plenty of people out there who are happy to wait. 
No store could tell me how long it would take to get a Black Bay 58. Some stores received one or two models every month or so, and these were reserved for customers who were ahead of me. No matter. I was in no real hurry. I just wanted to make sure that I could get one at some point. In the meantime, I kept slowly saving my bickies (Australian slang for 'biscuits' = bucks). 
Anyway, the sales rep that I work with has a brother who is the Area Manager for a jewellery chain that stocks Tudor watches, among other brands. This brother knew that I was in the market for a BB58 and I was happy to have my interest in the watch registered at one of his stores. I'd rather give my business to somebody I know, if at all possible. 
Two days before Christmas, the rep shows me a photo on his iPhone;
Just arrived yesterday. Yours if you 
want it, but he can only hold it for 
a day. Only thing is that it's on a 
leather strap and you want it on a 
Shut up and take my money!
I called his brother and placed a deposit for the watch later that day. The day after Boxing Day, I went in and picked it up.  
Yes, it was on a brown suede leather strap with a folding steel clasp. Looked great, but I wanted a steel bracelet. No matter. It was as good as sold. I'd order the steel bracelet for it in a month or two. Meantime, I'd see about selling the strap and clasp, to help fund the cost of the bracelet. 
I got the watch home and spent a slow ten minutes removing the strap and fitting a black NATO strap to the watch;
The suede strap does look nice, but suede, as you may know, looks good when it's new, but is tricky to keep clean and free from scratches and scuffs. I put this strap back in its box. It has a slight curve to it, mainly from the watch being clamped to the pillow inside the box. 
The NATO strap didn't last very long. I wore the watch around the house for a couple of hours before removing this strap and fitting the watch to a plain black leather one.
I don't plan on wearing it much until I get the bracelet. Experience has taught me that no matter how careful you are, a watch will still scuff up without you even noticing. I'd like the wear and tear on the case and bracelet to match and the only way to do that it to have the watch on bracelet. 
When my wife saw photos of the watch online, she thought it looked 'underwhelming'. When she saw the watch in person, she liked the overall 'warm' look of the dial and hands. It's a black and gilt dial, with cream-coloured lume on the hour markers and hand-set. The markers and hands are rose gold-plated. It's a rich and classic combination. 
This watch harks back to a mix of the original Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner models of the 1950s and '60s. These watches were based on their Big Brother Rolex Submariner and used almost all parts made by Rolex, with the exception of the movements under the bonnet. As such, they were lower-priced. 
The BB58 is 39mm in diameter, again this is a nod to older models of the past, and this size sits nicely on my 6.5 inch school-girly wrist. 
It will be an interesting year ahead. I will keep note of how often this watch gets worn, because I'm curious to see if it will knock some favourites off the top spot or punch a hole in the rotation of my other pieces. 
Some watches I have are sentimental favourites. My Father's Wyler Incaflex measures 33mm in diameter and I find it too small for my wrist.  I used to wonder how my Dad managed to put up with it for all those years - since his wrists were larger than mine - but then I figured that he was of a generation where a wristwatch was considered a tool for telling the time, not a fashion statement or an item to be collected. 
Despite the fact that I never wear this watch, it isn't going anywhere. 
I have the Omega Seamaster 300M,  the watch that I wore when my children were born. I do still wear it from time to time, even though it's worn a lot less than when I first got it in November 1999. 
However, I have been down that road where I've gotten rid of watches that weren't worn much once my collection began to grow and I have regretted those decisions in later years. I no longer have the quartz-powered TAG Heuer 1000 Series dive watch that I had on my wrist on my wedding day. Purchased on lay-by (lay-away) in 1987 for around $750.oo, I sold it to a watch dealer in 1999 for $180.oo. Should have kept that one. 
My first boss gave me an early 1970s Seiko Automatic, sometime in the early 1980s. This watch never worked properly. I gave it to a watchmaker free, when really what I should have done was had it serviced. 
I had a couple of Tudor Prince models that I should have kept. The list goes on and on. The perils of collecting, I suppose.  
These days, I spend quite a bit of time deciding on what comes in and what goes out. As such, I have two watches on the chopping block, with two more soon to join them, once they come back from being serviced. Also, there are two more watches that will go at some point, either in 2021 or 2022.
I figure it's time to whittle the collection down to a stable of watches that see more time on the wrist. Otherwise, if they're not being enjoyed, they're just taking up space. 

Anyway, that's the rundown of the watches that saw the most action this year. Five out of the ten were dive pieces. I have a soft-spot for dive watches. Their legibility, water-resistance, and robustness tend to cover much of what I like in a wristwatch. And a rotating bezel comes in mighty handy at times.

I hope you've all been well, and that your end-of-year celebrations (if you celebrate) were a happy and relaxed affair. 
Here's hoping for a better year ahead, for all of us. 
Stay safe in the meantime. 
Thanks for reading!