I did not enter the world of watches to find an “only” watch. In my reading of forum posts I did run across the occasional fellow who would speak with great reverence about the watch that he had found. And while I could see a certain advantage to feeling so at home with a particular timepiece, the idea also seemed limiting. So many gentlemen seemed to derive such pleasure from owning—or having owned—a great variety of watches.
And I was having great fun looking! A newcomer to this world may be dazzled by any number of famous timepieces. Yet, there were two watches in particular that were easily dismissed (by this relative ignoramus), both icons: the Rolex Submariner, and the Omega Speedmaster. Where the Submariner was concerned, I had a typically uneducated view of the brand. Thus, I allowed the snobbishness attached to owning a Rolex (but, I stress, only by those who have no idea of what they are actually wearing) to work in the reverse. “Rolex?” No thank you!” End of story.
The Speedmaster was an entirely different kettle of fish. Still a pricey timepiece (for someone in my financial orbit), yet the hype, in this case, focused on a single event that was, quite literally, out of this world. If the Submariner had the edge by coming first (1953) and ultimately reaching great depths, the Speedmaster (introduced in 1957, but not so widely celebrated until after the lunar landing of 1969) could claim the moon! The Speedmaster. (Sigh…) How many times did I read—as a newcomer to this world of watches—that “no collection could be thought of as complete without one?”
Call it an immaturity that dogs my old age, call it the vain notion of individuality, call it what you will, but nearly as soon as I read those words something in me crossed the Speedmaster off my list. “No. Nonononono. No Speedy for this fellow. Surely there must be far more interesting timepieces out there that I might find just right for me.” And so I began, never to darken the counters of Rolex or Omega.
I bought a nice watch that got great press and that I suspected was too large for me but bought it anyway. It is too large for me!
I began to read the press generated by Baselworld. I joined Hodinkee’s mailing list. And slowly but surely a watch box began to fill. A Hamilton regulator, an NOS Favre Leuba—which is pretty, but at 34mm looks a bit feminine on my 7.25”/18.4cm wrist;
two Citizen Grand Touring watches with superbly accurate Miyota 9015 movements; a Campanola, for all its tricks (the most comfortable fit of any watch I have ever had on my wrist);
a nifty Nivrel chronograph “La Grande Date,” really, quite a lovely 38mm piece with satin brushed case;
a Seiko Alpinist; a Ball chronometer; the wonderfully svelte Montblanc Heritage Chronometrie Ultra Slim, and so on. My pockets were not deep enough for me to start with Grand Seiko, Girard Perregaux, and the like. And little by little I became more aware of the depth and breadth of this world. It’s tremendous! There is something out there for everyone. Ah, but to find that something….
For I was left wanting by each and every watch I purchased. In fairness to myself, I live amid thousands of acres of corn,
and serious watch dealerships are at least a two hour drive—a more extensive selection more like four to six. (Nearly half-way across Germany or France!) I might have disciplined myself to wait, but (alas!) could not. Finally I had to call a halt to watches that were just OK. Oh—I did make one fast friend. For the Alpinist fit not only my wrist, but my more relaxed retirement lifestyle, as well. It looks quite at home on my John Deere lawn tractor.
I have a 95-year-old uncle in CA who is still a robust man—does all the driving; is up early to feed the dogs and make an espresso for his wife. A lucky fellow. And in 2017 I made a visit. But now, after two years of reading, pulled farther into this horologic vortex, I included a stop at Topper Jewelers, where under one roof I had access to no less than fifteen brands. And I came prepared, having written ahead to make sure that several watches I had a keen interest in would be available to try on: specifically, the G.O. PanoMaticLunar, the Zenith Chronograph Classic, and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. One by one they were eliminated.
All had looked killer on the Internet. All had looked perfect on other men’s wrists. Just not on mine. The Fifty Fathoms…
wha… who was this guy it seemed to turn me into? And so plain! (Well, no wonder. It’s supposed to be a tool, you idiot! To tell the time. No fuss, no muss. Got it?) And the Zenith… What a beautiful, classy timepiece.
Those leaf hands are to die for. Yet, I couldn’t see them! I’m afraid my failing eyesight and those slender hands cancelled one another out. Unless I held the watch under my nose I couldn’t read it. What a disappointment! Finally, the G.O…
Flat out gorgeous! And the size nestled right into my wrist. Easily read. And that PanoDate! Yes! But… where would I wear such a stylish thing? It was too much money to invest in a few occasions a year. And there was something a bit delicate about it. Suited to an uptown office building for sure. But to my morning routine of making coffee and brushing the cat; emptying the dehumidifier, watering the garden, etc., etc.? Not so much.
Then came the look-at-everything-you’ve-ever-wondered-about phase: always thought I’d be invincible wearing the Ball DeepQuest, and that Grand Seiko with the eggshell dial, SBGR061… pretty attractive. Looked like it might have been my father’s watch, and at 39.5 a sweet fit. But the afternoon ended with no decision made. In the morning I’d leave for Iowa. I comforted my disappointment with this fabulous burger available across the street,
and decided it was a little overindulgent to feel sorry for myself since I was about to spend the evening listening to AndrásSchiff play Schubert for two solid hours at Davies Symphony Hall.
The morning dawned fair and sunny. But at the airport I ran into trouble. Flight cancelled. No way to get you home comfortably until the following day. Well, “Phooey!” (or something a little stronger), I exclaimed. But then I remembered, “Hey… a second day at Topper’s!” Things were looking up.
So back for a review of a number of the things that had come close; the G.O., the G.S., and the Ball Marvelight (which had been a surprise).
But alas, there was something missing— that (dare I say?) je ne sais quoi (may one apply that expression to objets inanimés dear Nicolas?) which is the whole point of this story. For what is that elusive quality? Well, whatever… I hadn’t found it yet.
So, OK, for jollies I allowed myself to look at the Omega display (at this point not entirely with disdain, I’d come to admit that Rolex and Omega make some pretty nice watches). It was impressive, taking up the entire back of the store—a large and complete sampling. Well then, I had to try on the PloProf. I mean, how can one resist such an obvious tool?
That over (it was a bit silly), what next? Oh, dear. There are the Speedmasters. “I really shouldn’t, but what the hell.” So I strapped one on.
Those of you who read through my thoughts on last week’s WristScan entries will be familiar with the story of my friend’s philosophy professor. I won’t bother to retell it here, but will only say that the moment I strapped on the Speedmaster could only be summed as one in which the truth was seen, and all I could do was shut up and point.
For there, on my wrist was not just a watch. It was like a timepiece that had been there since birth and had grown with me through adolescence, young manhood, through marriages, the deaths of parents and good friends… It took on an organic quality. There was my watch.
I was dumbstruck. Did I even want this, after all? (“Oh, no! Not a Speedmaster! Shouldn’t something much cooler fill the bill?") Friends, you can at this point imagine that I am rarely at a loss for words, but to have that “I do not know what,” that “certain something” so clearly present was nearly overwhelming. Did I buy the watch? Of course not! All of you know know how many Speedmasters there are out there! It took another three months to come to terms with this staggering degree of choice and to decide that I really didn’t need to have a “Moon watch,” per se. As a relative newcomer to this watch world the ability to turn the piece over and admire that 1863 was important, and there was nothing to be ashamed about in that.
Besides, if I’m feeling snobbish I can always gloat over my all metal reference, and “tisk, tisk” about the delrin brake in the 1861. (Though it may indeed last longer!)
I’ll conclude with a few pics of the watch. (You’ll notice how well it goes with unaccompanied Bach, my favorite Italian aperitif, and—being used to great heights—is unperturbed by a violinist’s view of a Strauss tone poem!) But also with a question: How many of you, dear colleagues, have experienced a moment like this? A watch you’ve never really considered, but tried on as an exercise, only to find that… it’s perfect! AP mod MichaelC said in his recent post A Beautiful Rolex Passed Through Town Yesterday, “Guys, I know very little of this storied brand. But I can tell you this watch case felt perfect on my wrist. I have been awaiting a white dial Daytona to be my first Rolex for several years now, this watch made me wonder if it is the way to go for a single Rolex owner. I loved it, very classic.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d say Michael has found that “I do not know what!”