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Thoughts

For some reason I love watching documentary videos on YouTube. Below you will find a few tips on watch-related ones that I found to be worthy of a recommendation. I will try and keep this list updated from time to time.

  • History of Art in Three Colours: Gold

BBC documentary on the influence of gold in art & life.

  • Guilty Pleasures – Luxury in the Middle Ages

BBC documentary on the evolution of the concept of ‘luxury’.

  •  Mechanical Marvels – Clockwork Dreams

BBC documentary on automatons.

  • Lost at Sea – the Search for Longitude

PBS Nova documentary on the search for accuracy in ships clocks, including the work of Harisson.

  • Begin Japanology – Watches & Clocks

Documentary on the history of Japanese clock and watchmaking from its earliest days to the introduction of quartz and finally the resurrection of mechanical watches.

  • The 2000 Year-Old Computer – Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism

BBC documentary on the Antikythera mechanism.

  • Precision – the Measure of Things – Time and Distance

BBC documentary on the history of measuring both time and distances.

This post I’ll be fine-tuning in the future – consider it a draft. But being at this for a while, it’s something that I’ve noticed and feel should be posted – if only on my personal blog. Behold: the stages in Rolex appreciation. Where do you stand?

Stage 1

At this stage, our subject -let’s call him Freddy- doesn’t know anything about watches. He’s a n00b, a newbie, not introduced into the Wonderful World of Watches at all. Freddy does know of Rolex though – they are the most expensive watches out there. They’re simply the best.

Stage 2

Freddy has begun to develop an interest in watches. Rolex is still number 1, but he has come to know a few other brands. Rolex does have a few competitors – there’s Omega, perhaps he has read about JLC, IWC and Panerai. There are other good watches out there. Contrary to his former beliefs, there are even watches priced higher than Rolex! WOW – who would’ve thought!

Stage 3

Freddy considers himself somewhat of a horologist. A cognoscenti. Freddy feels he knows watches. Reading blogs, browsing the forums. And he feels a Rolex isn’t all that impressive. They produce almost a million watches a year – how is that for exclusivity? They don’t do perpetuals. No repeaters. No tourbillons. Every other schmuck with a bit of money wears one. They’re obnoxious. Freddy thinks that Rolex is too pedestrian and timepieces by other brands display his wealth of knowledge on horology, his membership of the in-crowd, to a much bigger extend.

Stage 4

Whilst reading more and more, and getting immersed in the subject to the point of no return, Freddy begins to question his stage 3 beliefs. Yes, there are many other watches out there. Many are much more complicated. Much more expensive and impressive. Many will attract more attention at the WIS GTG’s he’s begun to attend. But at the same time, he’s noticing that a few of these others seem to break down on him. Depreciate in value beyond the reasonable. Freddy starts to question the stories told by the manufacturers marketing departments. Is Rolex really all that bad?

Stage 5

Freddy set aside his prejudices and went out and bought himself a Rolex. After all, what’s all the fuss about? After a while, his other watches are slowly getting less wrist time. Why? His Rolex runs like a champ. He doesn’t fear damaging it when knocking it about in daily life. Hey, it’s a pretty good watch. Good value too compared to many of the other brands too. Many of them boast their manufacture status, but is any of them really as in-house as his Rolex?

Stage 6

The Rolex appreciation starts to develop further. Are complications all that important? When reading up, he starts to appreciate the no-nonsense mentality of Rolex – bulletproof watches, built to last. And while not complicated per se, they do seem to have played a pivotal role in making wristwatches suitable for daily life, with their automatic winding, superb sealing of the crown and useful -though small- complications. Freddy finds out that they have been worn by many professionals in need of an über-dependable watch – amongst others the divers of COMEX, Sir Edmund Hillary, the Royal Navy.

Stage 7

Freddy starts to discover the intricacies of vintage Rolex. What starts with the Red Submariner and Double Red SeaDweller seemingly knows no end when he dives into big crowns, early chronographs,, rivet bracelets and Paul Newman, Sigma Stella, Serpico Y Laino and Arab-special order dials. Rolex is king. Is there any other brand out there that really matters Freddy? It seems to him that a life of collecting could easily be spent with just this one brand. The crown is there for a reason.

Stage 8

Wow. These rare Rolexes do command deep pockets. Freddy spent all his money on 5514, 6538, 6239, perhaps even a rare 6238 black dial, a Qaboos 1665 or FAP Newman. He side-stepped and bought himself an all-white-gold 1601 and a blue stella 1803.  But the same money could’ve bought him a few perpetual calendar chronographs by Patek. Is it really worth it? Freddy feels lost.

I love my classics. Rolex, Patek, and Speedmasters in particular. A beautiful 6605, 1802, 5504 or 2998? Sign me up any day. But often I feel that many (would-be?) collectors take this little thing of ours way to serious. There is little room for laughter in their investment- and prestige-focussed minds. Why so serious? It is still a hobby right? Any collection should feature  should feature a watch that’s bought just for fun – if only to take the edge off. Below a few stellar candidates. Moderation is key though – there’s a thin line between fun and plain wrong.

Alain Silberstein

Any model will do. My weapon of choice is the Krono Bauhaus.

Gerald Genta

Disney-themed preferred. Gerald Genta is one of the all-time greats when it comes to watch design, so the name doesn’t hurt. Since the days of Ingersoll Disney watches have been a think. Jump hour is a cool complication. And they’re just plain fun.

Corum

Bubble. The weirder the better.The skeleton is interesting from a horological point of view, while the ones featuring lucifer, jokers and skulls are great conversation-starters.

SevenFriday / Dietrich

Cheap thrills, to be had new. A new niche in the making – focus on design while manufactured in Asia without hiding it.

Magellan

The one with the globe. What is it, the 1521 or something like that? Exceedingly weird and unusual.

Omega

There can be only one: the Seamaster Chrono-Quartz ‘Albatros’. So ugly it’s intriguing. The Snoopy Speedy might be considered, although this one has a bit too much of real collectors potential and pedigree to be considered in this list. Non-cognoscenti might see it as fitting though. Moontime customs would be better candidates.

Hublot

Skull Bang. Decent in size and height and ROCK ‘n ROLL! Don’t overdo it – no diamonds, no tourbillons please.

Panerai

Cazzomir. Find one – I challenge you!

Every now and then I’ll be sharing some thoughts and ramblings on watch collecting and trading. Most likely these will be completely random – there is no big story or agenda. No pictures either.

Modern watches and the search for in-house (so-called manufacture) movements

In the last decade -or even two- there has been an increasingly high focus on in-house movements – something that is highly praised and seen as a big plus. I don’t necessarily share these sentiments to say the least. Why?

I DON’T LIKE THE BIG COSTS AND EVEN BIGGER WAITS OF REPAIRS! I don’t want to send in my watches to the manufacturer. I love the fact that I can bring in my watches to my local and trusted watchmaker, who is able to service them for a decent price in a reasonable amount of time. Period. And;

Although the majority of my collection nowadays consists of modern watches -a perk of the job-, my main focus and area of expertise for the last decade has always been vintage watches. In times-not-that-long-ago, this whole manufacture thing never was this big a deal. In fact, I doubt there is any vintage watch completely made in-house. Établissage was the way to go – even for the most respected of brands, and there was nothing wrong with it. A case by a well-respected case manufacturer, a dial by a top-quality dial maker and an ébauche whether or not finished or altered to individual specs – these are the parts that make up some of the highest-valued timepieces of recent auctions.

Strap and bracelet trends

I have always been game when it comes to changing straps. It is a fun way to bring a bit of your own personality to a watch. The market for straps has been booming in the last years, which to me surely is a good thing. Remember when it was hard to find a NATO strap of decent quality, or with an usual pattern like camo? Not any more. Back in the day I had to go to old-fashioned jewellers or department stores to get perlon-type straps, as those were the only one still stocking them. How time flies. And the fun we had – I vividly remember my old 1675 Concorde with a NATO strap with solid gold rings -custom made- and a dear friend rocking his 3970P on NATO. But back to trends;

We’ve seen the NATO straps. These will hold. Cheap and fun. I wouldn’t hesitate to put them on a Datograph or the aforementioned 3970P – those of you who shiver at the thought should grow a sense of humour and google sprezzatura.

As far as leather is concerned, we’ve seen the big, bad, Panerai-type straps. Note: seven layers of leather or thick padding are over. These are done with. Key nowadays are thinness, comfort, elegance and nonchalance. No tapering is no-go; the taper should preferably even be vintage style with a 4mm drop. Exotic hides will be back in focus, notably teju lizard and ostrich.

A quick mention of SuiGeneric – pay attention to them. The straps by these guys bring a irresistible bit of fun. Polarisation guaranteed, as are conversations. Don’t like them? Why so serious?

Perlon: perhaps overplayed by the hipster Instagram crowd? They are still fun and cheap though. I haven’t quite made up my mind on these. Things used to be way more fun when something like this would be like a discovery – now trends and overexposure are everywhere. Sigh.

Now for bracelets. Straight-ends, no flush-fit, are the way to go for vintage watches. This is serious guys. JB Champion, Gay Freres et cetera – snag’em and rock’em. In the words of Drake – thank me later.

The annual calendar trend

It is rumoured by some that the annual calendar complication is the new black. I am however not so sure. I have yet to see one that will prove to be a big hit. The complication is admirable and cost-friendly, but somehow it lacks the X-factor – have you ever see anyone listing one in their list of grails? There is enough to be said for them, but to most they will continue to feel like a near-hit.

The Omega Speedmaster

Hardly a secret to most I’d say, but the Speedmaster’s status is rising. Knowledge is key in collecting – one simply can not appreciate subtle differences and rarity without knowing of it. Great work on this subject was done by the late Chuck Maddox and in the past we’ve seen books like The Omega Saga, Omega Sports Watches and The Master of Omega. Then there was OmegaMania and now all has culminated in the superb Moonwatch Only. With prices of Rolex rising to unobtainable levels, the Speedmaster will prove to be a superb alternative to many collectors, with prices rising accordingly. Railmasters, Seamasters and Flightmasters will be slipstreaming, although short production runs and fewer distinguishable versions make them somewhat less appealing – with a handful of examples you will have covered near all bases with very little to be desired.

The quest for perfect quality

Sure. Unpolished cases and perfect dials are what to look for. These are the ones making headlines on Hodinkee, Instagram, VRF or wherever. But most of us have a budget that is limited. There are ends to our pockets. The focus on perfect examples is unrealistic at best. One should always strive to get the best example obtainable within ones budget, but don’t be fooled by the watches highlighted on your favourite blog or social media outlet – these are in the spotlight for a reason. They are the best of the best. Set realistic goals.

Vintage watch collecting in general

I’ve said it in the above – the prices for (sports) Rolex are getting out of hand. This is not a bad thing per se, but to most of us this has been the main area of focus for years, if not decades. The wealthy crowd is pushing us long-term collectors out of the market. But hey, what can we do? Look for alternatives. The Speedmaster, as mentioned, is one of them. But we’ll see other brands and models gaining attention of an audience wider than their long-time cognoscenti – including among many others Longines, Movado, Eberhard, Enicar and Zenith. Watches by lesser-known names, but featuring cases by recognized case makers and high-quality movements will be in focus as well. Keep an open mind and look for quality!