Saturday, 28 May 2022

Busy Start to 2022 | Part 2 - February & March; New Job / New Old Spies / Newer Job!

One of the watches I wore in January was this recent arrival. A late 1965 Seiko Seikomatic Weekdater. I was after a dress watch with both day and date function. This one was in very clean condition, with no blemishes on the dial and no naked-eye-visible corrosion on the hands and markers. Just the usual scuff marks and light scratches on the case that are evidence of daily wear and tear. 

I spoke to a watchmaker who collects vintage Citizen watches of the 1960s. He said that an old watchmaker once told him that these old Seiko and Citizen watches were deliberately built to stand up to a lot of wear and tear. 

Reason being that they were relatively inexpensive back in the day and therefore, when it came time to get them serviced, it would be difficult for the customer to justify spending, say, $20 or $30 to service a wristwatch that cost them $80 or $100 to originally purchase. The way around this was to build a watch that could go a decade or two before it required maintenance. 

Properly looked after, these things would run a long time before servicing was needed, and while I see a lot of old Seiko watches that have been trashed over their lifetimes, I also see a few pieces like this one, which appears to have been taken care of by its previous owner(s). 

Okay, where was I up to? Ahh, yes...

After the initial training period over the first couple of weeks, I settled into the routine of my job and its workload. As stated, everyone was great to work with. I made a few little changes here and there, such as the layout and wording of emails that are sent to customers. 

I answered customer enquiries and concerns regarding the whys and wherefores of their repairs. This is the part of the repair process where a customer will either accept or decline a repair quotation. I felt it was my job to explain the reasons behind a repair, in order to help a customer make an informed decision. 

One gentleman, an ex-engineer, was disappointed by the fact that his quartz watch needed a new movement. He was given the watch by his employers as a retirement gift in 1993. In NINETEEN-NINETY-THREE. 

"They told me it was the best watch of its kind and that it would last forever", he opined. 

I reminded him that it had served him faithfully for almost thirty years. 

I reminded him that it was probably not a good idea to have had the previous battery change done by somebody who was not accredited by the brand, as it seemed that the incorrect battery had been fitted and the movement had drawn insufficient power from it and this may have done some damage to the movement.

I reminded him, gently, that his engineering firm should not have made blanket statements like "it would last forever", because they were an engineering firm, not a wristwatch manufacturer. 

I informed him that, being a tiny machine that runs 24/7, it requires maintenance from time to time, and that the movement inside the watch has reached its end-of-life and now needs replacing. 

In the end, all of this was enough to convince him to get the watch fixed. Hopefully, it will outlive him. And possibly me too.


I re-read Fleming's Live And Let Die. I had my brother's old paperback copy for reading on the train, and a Folio Society hardback copy on the bedside table at home.                                               There were a few flat spots in the book, or maybe they were just passages that I wasn't thrilled by, mainly to do with...I can't remember. Maybe old gold coins and pirates.                                               At some stage, I'll tackle the next one, Moonraker. Figured I'd slowly go through them all again, interspersed with other reading.                              The Omega Railmaster got a decent run here and there. 

So anyway, the job was going okay. About a month or so into it, I got an email from a company that had seen my resume online and they were interested in discussing it further. This was an appliance company, totally different to what I was doing. They were offering noticeably more money and it was a supervisory position. 

Now, normally, I wouldn't look twice at a job like this, but my wife's contract at her job is to end in June and it looks like it won't be renewed this time around. The company she works for doesn't have the funding and it is relying more heavily on young volunteers doing industry placement. She's had her contract extended twice in the past. At the moment, she's studying online for a Masters Degree in Counseling, working at this job three days a week, and volunteering as a counselor elsewhere one day a week. So basically, her plate is pretty full and the paying aspect of it may be coming to an end if she doesn't find something else soon. 

Therefore, it made sense to me to consider this appliance supervisor's gig. It would be a change of scenery, for one thing, whether that was a good thing or not. I did the math, considered it carefully, and regretfully handed in my resignation at the watch company. It really sucked saying goodbye to this job. The HR manager did say to me that if the grass wasn't greener on the other side, I should consider coming back, as there are always opportunities coming up at this company.                                        

That was a wonderful thing to hear. And it is something that I will seriously consider if things don't work out. 

So, while I was winding up my time at this job, I contacted my referees to let them know (again) that they might get a call from a company asking to know a little more about me. Things got a little strange here because one referee asked me how committed I was to starting work at an appliance company, of all things. Reason he asked was because his company was looking for a new Service Centre Manager and would I be interested in this role?     

Man, oh, man. All of a sudden, I'm in some kind of demand. Felt weird. I asked him for a snapshot of the role and he filled me in. I told him I'd give it some serious thought. I called him back a few days later and we hashed it out a little more. He sent me the Position Description via email.  Yep, I could do this job. Easily.                                                                                                                                          So, I accepted the job. I was due to commence the appliance supervisor's job in around two weeks (I got a bit of a run-around with this job, but that's a whole other convoluted story). Anyway, I contacted the appliance company and regretfully informed them that I had been offered a position in the industry that I was coming from and had decided to accept it, so therefore, I would not be going forward with joining their company. I apologised to them, but they seemed cool enough about it. I'm sure these things happen often enough. 

Leading up to all of the above was the slight mental anguish that I put myself through for a couple of weeks prior to accepting the offer from my old employer. My wife thought it wasn't such a wise idea. Never go back, is her motto when it comes to workplaces. I reminded her that back in the day, I worked the retail side of the company and this time around, I'd be behind the scenes, so to speak. 

You do you. You're an adult, she replied. Well, we'll see about that, in due course. 

Twenty/twenty-two seems to be the year of espionage fiction for me. If I'm at a thrift store and I see a good-condition hardback copy of a book that I have in paperback, I tend to buy it. Some other books might get replaced by a version with a nicer cover art. Like this early le Carré. The plain covered copy is from the 1970s and it shows. A lot of fiction tended to favour a cover with bold font and maybe just a splash of colour. Which is fine, of course. After all, you don't buy a candy bar for the wrapper. 
However, given the choice between the one on the right and the one on the left, I'd go for the atmospheric one on the left. And so I did. The white-covered one ended up in a bag for the thrift store. Also in the frame is the '82 Submariner 5513, which I wore here an there through February.  
Of course, sometimes, I find that I have multiple copies of the same title. This occurs with almost all of my Fleming Bond novels, and I've also found that I have three copies of two Len Deighton titles. 
The classic early 1960s first edition artwork by Raymond Hawkey, which the publishers Hodder & Stoughton considered 'disgusting'. 
As the book is concerned with a slightly shady working-class military man who is seconded to a small branch of British Intelligence, it presents us a virtual polar opposite to Fleming's Bond. The unnamed hero of this book is smart-alecky, smokes French cigarettes and knows his way around a kitchen. 
The book was made into an atmospheric film in 1965 starring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer. It might be okay to have an unnamed hero in the book, but the movie needed somebody with a name. This film was produced by Harry Saltzman, one half of EON Productions, the company that produces the Bond films. Caine made two more Palmer films in the '60s and he has stated that he wished he had made a few more. Although he starred in two more Palmer movies in the 1980s, these were forgettable, straight-to-video releases that weren't based on any of Deighton's novels. 
In the '80s, I picked up this copy. The layout owes much - if not all - to Hawkey's classic cover from 20 years earlier. This is the copy that I first read in 1987. 
Like a lot of paperback thrillers published in the '80s, it has a bold upper-case block font with the author's name above the title. They began to resemble movie posters. Again, we have a seedy picture that conveys boredom and frustration. To me, anyway. Did the cup of tea go cold? Was it too weak? Has the cup been washed recently or is he just refilling it, leading to the cup-ring stains on the desk/table? Could our protagonist not find an ashtray? Or was he too lazy to go get it? And on and on. The constant motifs are the revolver, a beautiful Smith & Wesson hammerless .38, and the Gauloise cigarette. 
Len Deighton's works have been reprinted in the last year or so and the cover art has been atmospheric. Although, I have a bug with this new version of The Ipcress File. 
The grip of the revolver is ridged. Now, I'm no expert on firearms, but this type of butt is a relatively modern - as in, post 1980 - addition to pistol design. So, for me, the allusion to mid-Sixties Cold War espionage breaks down a little because of the inclusion of this particular pistol. Of course, throwing in a pair of '60s Michael Caine-style glasses and a Leica M1 rangefinder camera draws a clear line to both the era in which the book was written and filmed. 
Anyway, this new reprint was the copy that I would read, because the font was a tad larger than that of my older copies. Feeling a little creative, I felt that this book needed its own bookmark. A quick hunt across the internet yielded some photos and a quick rummage through my 'props box' supplied the rest. 
Arranged the items on the photocopier and hit the  "START" button. 
I was a bit bummed by the streaks running down the photos of Michael Caine, but looking at them now, it adds to the lack-of-proper-budget aspect of the Intelligence branch that Harry Palmer works for. I do like the way the coffee ring turned out. I spent some time ruling the thick lines onto the 3x5 index card and then typing in the text, so I was gonna be pretty pissed off if the coffee ring didn't turn out the way I wanted. That Gauloises packet has been empty since '89, by the way. 
Seen in the frame is the Submariner, which got some wear throughout Feb/March.

Anyway, a few weeks passed and I started my new gig in the last week of March. And it has been busy ever since. The watchmaker and the office manager both said to me that the amount of repairs coming through have been unprecedented. Anyway, that is something that can't be controlled, so all I can do is concern myself with the aspects of the job that I can keep a lid on.  At the time of writing (late May), I'm still riding the learning curve on a daily basis as new situations arise. All good so far.
For me right now, it's just a matter of getting a feel for the job. Is it something that will be interesting and challenging (up to a point) over the long term? Is this the job that I'll retire from? 
Only time will tell is the clichéd response. 
Right now, I just wanna get the hang of the ebbs and flows of the job on a daily and weekly basis, to better determine where I can make changes that'll make it run more efficiently. In my view, of course. 
Well, the Workshop Manager told me to set things up to suit myself, so I just might end up doing that. 
I may make changes here and there that make no discernible difference. If that happens, then I revert back to how things were and see if there may be another way to do things as time marches on.
The changes seem to have more to do with streamlining certain processes rather than making large alterations to how things are done. 
Then again, I just might change things up here and there. 
As you can see, I'm still amidst the whole thought process surrounding these changes. 

Anyway, some other watches worn through February and March;

The 34mm circa 1970 Tudor Ranger, seen here on a Geckota Oyster bracelet.
I've been passively hunting for a Tudor rotor to fit an ETA Calibre 2784, which is the movement inside this watch. 
At some point in this watch's life, it was serviced by a watchmaker who could not access Tudor parts. As such, the rotor in the movement, which had 'TUDOR - PRINCE OYSTERDATE' engraved on it, was replaced with an ETA 2784 rotor, which is blank. It's the correct part for this watch, it just isn't branded. And this affects its value to some reasonable extent. 
If I can find a rotor, great. If not, it's no big deal. Either way, this watch does indeed need a service.
The Seiko SKX009K has been worn a lot since I got it last September. Produced from the mid '90s until around 2019, in my view it deserves cult status along the same lines as classic Swiss-made dive watches. 
Its overall aesthetic can't be mistaken for a Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer or any other long-produced dive watch made by a big Swiss manufacturer. 
Sure, the timekeeping can be a little fluid, but this watch actually runs quite accurately. The water-resistance is more than adequate, the Hardlex crystal is hard-wearing, and the dial and hands are still readable at 4:00am. 
It's a lot of watch for what it cost.
The Tudor Black Bay 58 is another regular. Still not a 100% perfect fit on my wrist, but this has become the most minor of quibbles for me since I got it back in late December 2020.
Seen in the frame is my 1980s pair of tortoise-shell RayBan Wayfarers, back from when Bausch & Lomb made the lenses. I had prescription sunglass lenses fitted to these frames, so that I could keep them in the car for driving in Summer. They are the Transition lenses which darken in sunlight. Problem is, I don't drive a convertible, so the lenses can only go dark if I hold them in the sun for about ten seconds.  They're bi-focals too, which makes them handy. 
Malfy Gin has been available here in Australia for some time. Only problem was that it was infused with lemon. I don't go for flavoured gins, so I've held off on buying it. Then finally, I stumbled upon this plain version, with the light blue accented label. It's a nice gin. Normally, my tastes in this spirit run towards English gins and nothing else. Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, Tanqueray, Gin Lane 1751.
In recent years, though, I've dipped a toe (or tongue would be more accurate) in Gins from other countries;
- Roku (Japan). My wife bought me a bottle a few Christmases ago because she liked the shape of the bottle (octagonal) and the texture of the label. Very crisp. You have to hand it to the Japanese. Whenever they try their hand at something that some other country is renowned for, they bat it out of the park. Grand Seiko is their answer to Rolex. Yamazaki is Suntory's answer to Single Malt Whisky.

- Aviator (USA). Cool bottle, and it's owned (or was) by actor Ryan Reynolds. I like the idea of American-made Gin. Gives it a Prohibition-era vibe. Some say this gin is a little hit-and-miss, but I haven't found any issues with it. Although it makes for a workmanlike Gin & Tonic, I made a Dry Martini with it and it was sharp. 

- Citadelle (France). Again, it works nicer as a Martini than it does as a mixer. Actually, that may not be true. That statement, which I also said about Aviation Gin, might have more to do with my palate getting accustomed to the taste of tonic water, and I have found that I tend to buy different brands of tonic and some of them have added ingredients. This in itself changes the taste of a G&T. 

There's a brand called MGC, which stands for Melbourne Gin Company. Over the last five years or so, I've seen a bunch of new gins hit the market and some of them are made here in Australia. I've been tempted to try them, but I find their pricing insulting. I ain't paying 80 bucks for a gin made in my home town. 

Also in that photo are three different copies of Len Deighton's Funeral In Berlin. I'll have to get rid of one.
And finally, one more watch worn earlier this year. The Hamilton Khaki Field Auto. This one gets mainly worn for gardening and handyman duties, but every now and then, it ends up on my wrist for a normal day's work. I daresay it probably requires a service, as some fine brass metal filings can be seen through the sapphire crystal case-back. I haven't done a timekeeping check on this watch, but I'd be fairly certain that it's probably out of factory specifications. 
Okay, so that's the second and third month of the year covered. I think I'll leave it there and maybe get started on April and May. 
Then this blog will be up to speed. 
I hope you've all been well this year so far, and thank-you for reading!

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Busy Start to 2022 | Part 1 - January; Seriously, Boss? / Happy Birthday, Son!

I began this post at the beginning of the year, but things soon got very hectic. Subsequently, in an effort to put it all down, I thought I'd get it underway, but rather than one very long post, I'll see if I can break it up into a few parts. 
I handed in my resignation on December 30th. I'd had enough. I'd spent nearly six years working for a guy who behaved like a ramped-up version of David Brent (UK) or Michael Scott (US) from The Office, but without the laughs. Worst boss I've ever had. Can't say any more about it. 
So, I quit on the second-last day of 2021. Same day, one of my co-workers said he had a sore throat. He'd spent Christmas visiting his family interstate and claimed that he had the air-con on in his car for the entire five-hour drive back to Melbourne. Reckoned that he must've caught a chill. 
I gave four-week's notice - as per my contract - and was told that I could finish up on January 24th. Cool. I could tie up a few more loose ends, even though I was virtually up to date with everything. 
Next day, I was told that I could finish at end-of-day, since the office would be closing for the year and would re-open in the first week of January 2022. Okay, no problem. I could use a rest before I began my next job. 

Happy New Year!
                             Finally popped open that bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne that I bought in 2015. 
On Sunday January 2nd, I felt a raspiness in my throat. I figured I was coming down with a Summer cold, most likely brought on by the stressful and busy few weeks in the lead-up to Christmas and my resignation just before New Year's Eve. I must have gotten a little run-down. 
My son has had a persistent cough for over a month. He caught a cold from his sister. He usually takes a couple of puffs of Symbicort for his asthma each morning, but has run out of the inhaler and, like any young adult, has been a little bit lax with refilling his prescription. 
To play it safe, he and I decide to go get Covid tested next day. The testing station is banked-up with cars. I'm waived over to another lane with a few other cars. I sit behind the wheel for a few minutes and then I get out of my car, put on my mask, and approach the car in front of mine. I ask the driver if he knows why we were directed into this lane. He tells me that the testing station is full for today and he was told to try coming back tomorrow. Dammit!
My son and I head home and we try again the next day at around midday. A sign at the entrance states;
Covid Testing Closed due to High Demand.
We try again the day after that. Same thing. I hear one of the traffic wardens tell another driver to "Come back tomorrow at around six am."
By now, I've had a very sore throat, a runny nose, aching back, slight fever, and a cough for the past couple of days. Feels like a 'flu, but is most likely the Omicron variant of Covid-19. We are all double-vaxxed in my household, and my wife and I have also had the booster shots. 
As an asthmatic who smoked for 35 years, my main concern is if I develop a shortness of breath. This has not happened so far, but it's the one main symptom that I am closely monitoring for.
January 7th
                      My son and I get up at 6:30am and get to the testing station just before seven.
We get tested a few minutes before ten am and then head home. We're told that we should receive our results within the next 72 hours. 
Meanwhile, my wife and daughter go and get tested on Sunday the 9th. 
My son gets an SMS message on his phone a couple of days later. Result is Positive. My wife and daughter get their results next day. Positive. I'm yet to hear back, but obviously, if they've all tested positive, chances are virtually 100% that I'll test positive also. 
January 13th and I still haven't heard back. I'm pissed off with my co-worker for not going to get tested when he had a sore throat. I'm very pissed off with my boss for not sending the co-worker home to get tested. Very sloppy outcome. No duty of care on my employer's part, no logic or consideration on my co-worker's part. 
Like my wife has sometimes said; You wouldn't want to be on a lifeboat with these kinds of people.

Current guidelines for Covid testing - once you've gotten tested, you are to isolate for seven days. If you receive a negative result during that time, you're in the clear. If you receive a positive result in that time, you must continue to isolate until the seven days are up. By this stage, you are no longer contagious and can go out in public again. 
I get a text message on January 16th, stating that I had tested positive for Covid. Of course, by now, I no longer have symptoms. If that was Covid, then it was like a moderate bout of the 'flu. The sore throat was the worst part of it. 
Glad it's over, though. 
Get vaxxed, people.

I wore the Seiko SKX009K while I sat behind the wheel at the testing station for three hours. Just as well I brought a book;


I may have mentioned this before, but I have strong memories of my Dad wearing this watch. He used to work night-shift as a machinist at a textile mill. At around ten pm most nights, I'd glimpse him winding this watch while he waited for the coffee to boil. 
After downing the cup of coffee, he would walk two streets away to the bus stop to catch the 10:50pm bus to Brunswick (Melbourne, not New Jersey). He would arrive at the stop near the Brunswick Town Hall and then walk a few streets to where Peerless Mills was located and begin his shift at 11:30pm.
He wore this watch on an expanding bracelet, but by the time I took ownership of it, the bracelet had snapped and I figured it would look nice on a leather strap. 

January 18th
                     My son and I head into the city to go visit the TAG Heuer boutique. He turned 21 on Christmas Day and my wife and I figured it would be nice to get him a watch of his own, even though he'll inherit my collection one day.
Sort of*. 
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Rewind to a couple of weeks earlier. I fish three or four watches from my collection. They are all basic time-and-date watches in different case diameters. I sticky-tape a ten cent coin onto the dials of each watch. My test is not about how the watch looks, but how it sits on the wrist. 
We sit down with our boy and I go through the basic idea of a classic Gent's Watch. Something in stainless-steel, that just tells time and date. A watch that won't date. A watch that works well whether you're 21 or 91. 
But first, let's look at sizing. He already has a Seiko dive watch that I got him when he turned sixteen. It's 42mm in diameter and is built to take a beating. However, a day-to-day watch should perhaps be a little more understated. A little more all-purpose. 
Firstly, the 34mm Tudor Ranger goes onto his wrist. 
Then, the 36mm Omega Railmaster.
Finally, the 38mm Seiko SARB033. 
All three of these are basic pieces.
He leans towards the size of the Seiko. That's cool. I've done my research and have looked into two brands that both offer something in 39mm. Sure, one millimetre larger than his preference, but I doubt he'll notice. 
I explain to him that I'm aiming for a watch that will do virtually everything. So, my criteria would be the following; 
- Time and date
- Mechanical (for longevity and heirloom aspect)
- Water-resistant, minimum 100 metres (I don't care what anybody says, that's the minimum for peace-of-mind days at the beach, jumping into a hotel pool, or snorkeling)
- Luminous dial markers and hands (for readability in the dark)
- Metal bracelet (you can always put a leather strap to it later if you want)

As I said, two brands came to mind; TAG Heuer and Tudor. And within those two brands, two different models;
One of them is a Tudor Style, in 34mm 38mm and 41mm;
It ticks a lot of the boxes. 38mm is the right size, 100m water-resistance, nice black dial, date window, steel bracelet. 

However, it lacks one crucial element, in my humble opinion. The hands have no lume in them. There's no glow-in-the-dark stuff in them. You're sitting in a cinema watching a boring movie, you won't be able to check the time to see how much longer you'll have to sit there. You wake up in the middle of the night and glance over at your watch on the nightstand and all you're gonna see is more darkness. 


Not so much if this watch was part of a collection, whether it be two other watches or 20. But as a watch to wear on any and all occasions,
So, that left us with TAG Heuer. 
But first, a digression.
Now, before I get into it, I just want to say that I have a lot of respect for the TAG Heuer brand. Back in my watch selling days, my store would get a lot of customers coming in for TAGs. Some of them would purchase the watch and would never be seen again, living happily ever after. 
Others would come back one, two, three or five years later, ready to purchase their next watch, be it another TAG Heuer or some other brand. 
Basically, TAG Heuer was the gateway brand for a lot of people. It got them interested in a well-made and dependable Swiss-made wristwatch and they would come back for more, regardless of brand. 
Aside from that, I bought myself a quartz TAG Heuer 1000 Series dive watch (left) back in 1987 and it served me very well.
I should have kept that watch, but I stupidly sold it back in the early days of my watch collecting life. Yes, yes, it was two-tone and strongly borrowed from Rolex design, and it was battery-powered. 
But it was the Eighties, after all. 

The brand used to be known as Heuer and it made some very respectable chronographs in the '60s and '70s before falling on hard times in the late l970s, along with a lot of other Swiss watch brands, thanks to the influx of inexpensive quartz-operated watches that had been coming out of Asia for almost a decade. 
Just as Heuer was going under, along came a company called Techniques d'Avant Garde. This company supplied equipment and resources to the motorsport industry, such as Formula One. A search through the internet can bring up many photos of F1 drivers from the 1970s wearing Heuer wristwatches. The brand, predominantly through the efforts of Jack Heuer, great-grandson of the brand's founder, saw its watches on the wrists of Formula One greats like Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni. If you ever want to read about this, visit a website called Calibre 11. It's perhaps the best site about Heuer. 
Here's a link;

Man, another long post! Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, the Tudor didn't fit the bill, so we looked at TAG Heuer. Specifically, the Carrera Automatic. Heuer created a chronograph in the mid 1960s and named it the Carrera, after the legendary - and short-lived - Carrera Panamericana road race;

The Carrera Panamericana was a border-to-border sedan (stock and touring and sports car) rally racing event on open roads in Mexico similar to the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio in Italy. Running for five consecutive years from 1950 to 1954, it was widely held by contemporaries to be the most dangerous race of any type in the world.[1] It has since been resurrected along some of the original course as a classic speed rally.
                                                                   - wikipedia entry

A mid-Sixties Carrera Chronograph (Reference 2447SN), pic courtesy of the phenomenal Calibre 11 website. 

This watch is one of the most famous chronographs ever made, and in my humble opinion, it belongs in the same iconic realm as the Omega Speedmaster Professional, Rolex Cosmonaut, Zenith El Primero A386, and Universal Geneve Compax chronographs of the same era. 

TAG Heuer brought out a re-edition in the late 1990s, remaining pretty faithful to the original design. Shortly after that, the brand introduced a line of watches under the Carrera banner and these have been in production ever since. 

Within this range, there is a nice time-and-date model. Measuring 39mm in diameter, it is water-resistant to 100m and features a discreet date window down at the six o'clock edge of the dial. All stainless-steel case and bracelet, available in black, blue or silver dial, with steel hands and markers. And, one more model with a black dial and gilt hands and markers. 

I ran through the pros and cons of each colour. This was based on what I've learned over the years, but also on my own preferences and opinions. Now, I didn't want to sway his decision in any way. I just wanted him to make as informed a decision as he could. 

Silver dial - Perhaps the dressiest of the bunch. Although, from my experience, the hands can tend to 'blend in' a little against the dial when viewed in low light. 

Black dial - A sportier look overall. Best contrast between dial and hands. The main drawback, if you can call it that, is that just about every brand has a black-dialed dress watch as part of its line-up. 

Blue dial - A very nice shade of Cobalt blue. If blue is your favourite colour, then go for it. If you're gonna worry that a blue dialed watch won't go with certain outfits, then steer clear of this one. More importantly, worry less about the colour of your watch dial and whether or not it'll match your clothes.

Black dial with gilt markers and hands - If I had to choose, this would be the one. Still sporty, with its black dial, but the rose-gold plated hands and markers give the whole watch a nice lift. And in some lighting, the black dial appears to take on a pleasant 'coffee-bean-brown' shade. This is something that I pointed out to my son about this watch. I told him the choice was his. If liked the blue, go for it. If he liked the black, go for it. Etc, etc. 

He chose the black and gold. I had been saving my money over the last few years, in order to pay for a couple of titanium crowns to be  fitted by my dentist and, once I had enough for this procedure, I just kept on saving. 

I called a fellow I know who deals with TAG and managed to get a few bucks off the rrp of the watch. 
My wife and I were thinking that it would be an idea to get the case-back engraved, but the watch has a see-through case-back, with very little space left over to add any engraving. Still, I just may look into getting it done. 
I have to say that it does look good on his wrist, and I think he likes it, based on the fact that he doesn't normally wear a watch around the house and yet here he was, a week later, with the watch on his wrist while he tackled zombies on the Playstation 4. 
He's worn it to work a few times since he got it and the watch now has some scuffs and marks on it. 
It is now truly his.  

*...even though he'll inherit my collection one day. Sort of. 
I think I've said this here before; Giving my watch collection to my kids would be more a curse than a blessing. My daughter has said she has dibs on the Rolex Submariner, but I told her that that watch would be sold upon my demise - if I still have it when I kick the bucket - and the proceeds would be shared between her and her brother. 
I'd let them choose two or three watches each. The rest would/should be sold and the proceeds split between them.  I'd also reiterate to them that these watches require care and feeding. 
Anyway, hopefully, it's not something I'll have to deal with for quite some time yet. 

I hope you've all been well, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

My Most-Worn Wristwatches of 2021

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022 - 1:57pm AEDT

                                                                         Okay, so 2021 is over, and it's time for my annual write-up on the wristwatches that spent the most time on my wrist throughout the year. Turns out that I wore a watch 368 times last year. Which means every day of the year plus a few swaps throughout the day on a few occasions. 

Rather than just another collection of photos of the Top Eight Watches of the year, I've also included some other items in each photo. Turns out I have a few other collections. 
My way of thinking is that if I have three or four of a particular thing, it's a collection. Socks  and underwear don't count.

Anyway, let's get started. In the Number One spot was a watch that I knew would gain the top spot, but I was staggered by how often I wore it last year.

No. 1 - Tudor Black Bay 58

I wore this watch on 115 days in 2021. A landslide. It's not a perfect fit on my wrist. The clasp bridge section is quite long and its curvature doesn't follow the curve of my 6.5 inch wrist, but this is a minor quibble. What this watch does right, it does very right. I'm tempted to put it on a leather strap over Summer, to give it a little more wear and tear, but for now, I'll leave it on its bracelet.                                  For me, this watch represents what the Rolex Submariner dive watch used to be, up until around 2010 when they made some major changes to the case design.

One of my Instagram followers, @libations_and_explorations, summed it up nicely;

In my opinion, the Tudor Black Bay is the real Rolex Submariner of today. It is high quality, expensive, useable, but not insultingly overpriced either.

I agree. Don't let the word 'expensive' throw you off. In this instance, it's expensive because it's extremely well made, and you get what you pay for. 

Also in the frame;  

Camera - early '80s Olympus OM2n - I had one of these back in the early '80s and I stupidly sold it to fund the cost of repairing a Polaroid SX-70 Land camera. About five or six years ago, I got on eBay and bought this model. Then about a year later, I bought a spare because the price was dirt cheap.

Sunglasses - We were in Paris back in September 2016 and I wanted to buy something to commemorate the trip. These are Persol 649S (for small) Havana brown frames. 

Pen - a Parker Sonnet ballpoint. Got one off eBay and it began to fall apart about three months later. Took it to a pen store and they sent it off to Parker for repair under warranty. Turns out it was a fake! I was given the option to purchase a new one at a heavily discounted price, as a Goodwill gesture on their part. Suited me fine. Of course, they kept the fake. That was cool too.

Typewriter - my Olivetti Lettera 32 that I bought back in 1981. Hammered out a lot of book reports and assignments on this thing.

 No. 2 - ORIS Divers Sixty-Five

Worn 58 times last year, this one is a favourite. Slim case, perfect 40mm diameter, easy to read. And it's what watch collectors call a 'strap monster', which means that it tends to look good on just about any strap you put on it. This model, with the four sci-fi styled numerals on the dial, was discontinued a couple of years ago, which I think was a mistake. Sure, it's not everybody's cup of tea, but it's such a distinctive look. 

Link to my review from about three years ago;

Also in the frame; 

Camera - 1970s Yashica GSN Electro 35. I loved the retro look of this large rangefinder camera. I think I've only run one or two rolls of film through this thing and the results were nice. 

Sunglasses - The classic RayBan Clubmaster frames. These frames have quite a few screws holding them together, so it's wise to keep them in their case when they're not being worn. 

Pen - A Caran d'Ache 849 ballpoint. A gift from ORIS. A nice sturdy ballpoint pen with a one-piece barrel. You have to unscrew the push-button at the top in order to replace the refills. 

Typewriter - My son sent me a photo of this Blue Bird typewriter one afternoon after spotting it at a Thrift Store; "Forty-five dollars. Do you want it?'' 
''Sure!", I replied. 
It types nicely, although some of the keys are beginning to lift. Has a similar look to my Olympias.

 No. 3 - Seiko SKX009K

I got this one in late September and it clocked up 27 days on my wrist. This is one of Seiko's most well-known designs, having been in production from around 1996 until a couple of years ago. The black-dialed version is the SKX007, but I opted for the deep blue dialed model instead, with the blue and red bezel. I figured my collection had enough black dive watches in it. 
This is the 009K, which means that it was assembled at Seiko's plant in Malaysia rather than Japan. If you want the Japanese version, look for a 009J. These are still reasonably easy to get. The surest tell-tale difference is that the Japanese-assembled models will have ''21 Jewels'' printed on the dial. 
Mine came with a rubber strap, which I promptly removed and replaced with the metal bracelet that I got about ten years ago for another Seiko watch which I have since sold. 
This is one of those watches that I used to see back in the '90s on the wrists of middle-aged surfer dude types that would frequent a cafe/bistro that I used to work at.
Seiko models in this price range ($100 to $600AUD) are known for their 'leisurely' timekeeping, but I have to say that this one seems to be keeping pretty good time throughout the day. Another reason why I opted for one of these was because it features a day and date window. I dunno about you, but I get those days after a public holiday or long weekend  where I go in to work on a Tuesday and it feels like a Monday. Throws my whole week out of whack. By Friday, I don't know what day it is. 

Also in the frame;

Camera - Another Olympus OM2n, but this is the all-black bodied version, which is what I had back in the early '80s. 
Sunglasses - a pair of Persol 2679-S frames that I got about fifteen years ago. Beautifully made. Their design is not currently in fashion, but no big deal. Everything comes around again, and these are a classic narrow frame that look like they could have been made in 1962, 1992 or 2012. 
Pen - a Shaeffer ballpoint that I think I got as a swap with my boss at work. Can't remember what I gave him. 
Typewriter - Olympia SM9 from late 1966. This thing seems to have been barely used by its previous owner, or they really looked after it. Writes like a dream.

 No. 4 - Omega Planet Ocean 1st Generation

This one is a favourite, and it was worn over 21 separate days of 2021. As I have so many leather straps scattered around, I figured I may as well get some wear out of them. Ideally, though, I should probably wear leather straps through the Winter months when A) there's less chance of them getting wet, and B) less risk of them wearing out through exposure to perspiration. 
The Planet Ocean series has seen a few iterations since it was first released in 2005, but I think Omega got it right the first time. This 42mm version was sported by Daniel Craig in his second Bond outing Quantum of Solace in 2008. I got mine in 2006, as a gift from Omega for selling the highest number of their watches during a three-month sales period. Nice to know that, for once, Bond copied me!

Also in the frame;

Camera - a Nikon FE, produced during the brand's Golden Age, when they released one fantastic camera after another, throughout the 1970s. This one needs to be serviced, as the film advance lever doesn't lock when you wind on to the next frame. Aside from that, it works like a charm.

Sunglasses - Tom Ford 'Snowdon' frames. My wife got these for me about eight years ago off eBay for $20 bucks! Then, Daniel Craig wore the same frames in SPECTRE in 2015. Once again, OO7 took a leaf out of my book. These frames have a very '1960s' look to them. 

Pen - a Lamy Studio ballpoint. This has a twist action to expose the point of the refill, which is not my favourite type of pen. I prefer a push-button, as it can be used one-handed. Back in my two decades of working in restaurants, I got used to having a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other, which made for a smoother and quicker method for taking orders at table. 
Having said that, this is a nice pen to use, with a lovely weight to it. 

Typewriter - a circa 1956 Smith-Corona Silent Super. This brand made some great typewriters in the '40s and '50s, and this is one of their classics. Nice snappy action to the keys and type-slugs as they hit the page.

 No. 5 - Omega Seamaster 300 WatchCo Edition

Right behind the Planet Ocean was this watch, which I wore over 20 different days last year. Omega put its own spin on the dive watch back in the late 1950s and this iteration, which dates back to 1964 represents, for me anyway, the pinnacle of their dive watch design aesthetic. I've often said on watch forums that Omega should have kept this watch in uninterrupted production, with just some minor changes over the years, to allow for improvements in technologies and materials, etc. 
There's a reason why the Rolex Submariner dive watch has attained such a classic status over the years. Rolex are known to be slow in making changes and this resulted in a dive watch that stayed on the market virtually unchanged for decades, thus becoming an iconic wristwatch that is found in almost any Top Ten List of the best watches ever made. 
In my view, Omega could have achieved a similar result if they kept this watch going through the decades. 

Also in the frame;

Camera - the Nikon FM2, another classic of theirs. This one may need servicing also, but it seems to work okay, although I think the internal light metering seems a tad sensitive. 

Sunglasses - Randolph Engineering Aviator frames that I bought about fifteen years ago. These are a spare pair that I keep in my work bag.

Pen - Mont Blanc MeisterStuck 146 ballpoint. This is a reconditioned pen that I got a couple of years ago. As with any ballpoint pen, they are only as good as the refill inside them, in my humble opinion, and this pen does write very nicely. 

Typewriter - the late 1950s Tower Chieftain III, which is a Smith-Corona Skyriter rebranded for Sears Department Stores back in the day. A nice machine to use, and very compact too.

No. 6 - Tudor Ranger

This one was worn 19 times last year. It came out of nowhere late in 2020. It was offered to me at a good price and I found it difficult to say no. The previous owner told me that he had it serviced once during the time that he owned it. I had it checked out after I got it and the original rotor was replaced with a generic ETA rotor. No biggie. 
This watch was based on the Rolex Explorer model. Tudor watches were made by Rolex and they used ETA movements in them instead of in-house Rolex movements. As such, they were lower-priced and aimed at a wider customer demographic. The cases, winding crowns and bracelets were made by Rolex, but the movements were outsourced. This watch measures 34mm in diameter, which is as small as I tend to go with watches. This one has certainly led a life, as can be seen by the condition of the dial and hands. It's had some water-entry at some stage and I'm sure that it's due for another service. Something that I'll get around to at some point. 

Also in the frame;

Camera - Nikon EM from late '70s/early '80s. I had one a few years ago, then sold it. This one was about $40 bucks on eBay. Body only. The lens was another $70. 

Pen - Fisher AG-7 Space Pen. I love the look and feel of this pen. It's very solidly built. I just wish the refills provided a smoother writing experience. Although, maybe that's the compromise for having a pen that writes at any angle. 

Sunglasses - Five bucks from a Thrift Store. There's something very "1970s helicopter pilot" about these frames. 

Typewriter - Circa 1958 Groma Kolibri. The smallest one I have. Just slightly taller than a box of matches. Writes nicely, if a little loud.

No. 7 (equal place) - Rolex Submariner 5513

A Bond watch. I wore it through 17 days last year. The Tudor Black Bay took some of the limelight away from this watch and I did give some serious consideration to selling this one. I spoke to the watchmaker I work with. He said hold on to it. I spoke to a watch dealer that I know. He said hold on to it. Even my wife said hold on to it. She added that I had wanted this watch for so long that it would be a shame to get rid of it. Then I put it on one morning and decided that I was foolish to even think of getting rid of it. I'll look at getting it serviced sometime in 2022, as I think it may be due for some attention. 

Also in the frame; 

Camera - a circa 1968 Nikon F Photomic. This thing weighs a tonne. I really should load it up with some film and give it a bash. 

Sunglasses - Moscot Lemtosh, in tortoiseshell. I got these in Bangkok in 2014. Great lenses, and they have a nice ''Sean Connery in From Russia With Love" vibe. 

Pen - a Parker 75 ballpoint in gold-plate. Nice pen to write with, but the clip is so flimsy. If you have it clipped inside a shirt pocket and you bend down to pick something up off the floor, the pen will slip out of your pocket. 

Typewriter - a circa 1947 Royal Quiet De Luxe. Sometimes, if you type too fast, it will join two words together, which can be annoying. It's an idiosyncrasy of this model. Well, it is a 70+ year-old machine. This is the model made prior to the Henry Dreyfuss revamped design of 1948.
Bond author Ian Fleming purchased a gold-plated version of the Dreyfus model to write his first book, Casino Royale.

No. 7 (equal place) - Seiko SARB033

In equal 7th place, with 17 days on the wrist is this clean and clear dress piece. This one works nicely on its bracelet and it looks equally smart on a plain black leather strap. This would make a good all-purpose wristwatch. 100m water-resistance, a nice and neutral 38mm diameter, which would suit a wide variety of wrist sizes, this is a watch that punches well above its weight. This watch was discontinued a few years ago and has become quite sought-after since. 
Also in the frame; 
Camera - Olympus Pen F digital. This is a micro 4/3rds camera . I did a bit of research prior to buying it. In the end, the range of functions and its retro design won me over. It's been a great camera. 
Pen - a Lamy Logo ballpoint. Nice design, if a little flimsy. The clip came off once and an internal spring fell out. Took me a few minutes to put it all back together. A good pen, though. 
Typewriter -  a circa 1951 Olympia SM2. Writes like a dream. I think Olympia are my favourites. They are such rock-solid typewriters. 

No. 8 (equal place) - Omega Railmaster 36.2mm
I wore this one 15 days last year. It's a favourite. My one issue with it is the clasp. It's a design that dates back to the early 1990s and I'm not a fan of it. I've been thinking about maybe swapping it out with an Omega clasp from another model, but this will require some fine measuring and some possible filing down of components to ensure that they fit. Might be a bigger job than I can handle. At the moment, the watch is on a Forstner flat-link bracelet, which suits it nicely, but it's a lightweight bracelet compared to the Omega original. 
And, if you want to read the review I wrote of this watch eight years ago;

Also in the frame;

Sunglasses - RayBan Wayfarers in tortoiseshell. I bought them in 1986, at the height of the Wayfarer craze, thanks to Tom Cruise popularising them in Risky Business in 1983. He wore the black frames, and everyone I knew was buying them. I opted for tortoiseshell. I have another pair of them somewhere, as well as a pair with prescription lenses in my car. 

Pen - Aurora 98 ballpoint pen. This was sent to me by relatives in Italy back in the mid-Seventies and it stayed in its box for almost forty years before I started using it. 

Typewriter - a circa 1953 Olivetti Studio. I love the entire look of this machine, but man, is it loud! This one will probably go at some point.

No. 8 (equal place) - Omega Speedmaster Professional 
As with the Railmaster, this watch was also worn on fifteen days in 2021. A classic 1960s chronograph design, which has been virtually unchanged for over 60 years, this watch deserves its place in wristwatch history, irrespective of the fact that it was also the Moonwatch, wore by the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. 
These days, it has its detractors, who lament the lack of sapphire crystal, the 50m water-resistance, and the fact that it houses a hand-wound movement, but for me, this is all part of its charm. 

Also in the frame; 

Camera - a plain and simple Olympus Trip 35 rangefinder. In production from 1967 till 1984, probably a few of these were used by spectators during the Apollo 11 astronaut's ticker-tape parade upon their return from their historic moon landing. Simple to use, just point and shoot, and it produces a very atmospheric photo. 

Sunglasses - the other pilot's-style frame, similar to the Randolph Engineering model, these ones are made by American Optical. Slightly larger than the Randolph's, and the main difference is that these have plastic lenses rather than glass. 

Typewriter - a 1960s Olivetti Lettera 22, which I bought recently. Not sure why, to be honest, as I'm in the mind-set of trying to thin out my typewriters rather than adding to them.

And that's it. The ten watches that got the most wear throughout the year. This is a good exercise, no matter what collection you might have, because it provides a broad view of what gets used the most, which may in turn help one to determine one's preferences. 

I've come to realise that I like the all-round dependability and practicality of a dive watch. Aside from dive watches, I tend to like the simplicity of a Field or Expedition watch. Basically, a black dial with a few numerals on it, with bold hands to contrast against it. 

I have to say that my vintage pieces barely got a look-in this year. Some of them require servicing, so that might explain it to an extent. I think, though, I was still in a long honeymoon phase with the Tudor Black Bay. 

Anyway, that's how it all stands. I've been wearing the Seiko SKX009 since New Year's Eve. As it has a day and date function, it's been handy. You know how the days blur a little in the first week or two of January? Or maybe that's just me. 

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!