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!