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!