Friday, December 14, 2018

Buying a Watch While Sober

Some things you regret. Like a tattoo of your favorite superhero, having never gotten the nerve to ask that cute Cindy out on a date in junior year, failing to stop at a stop sign monitored by a cop, or eating a mouthful of wasabi on a dare.

I want to add to this list of regrets a recent one of mine: Buying a watch online while sober.

The Patek Goldolo, a sober-bought watch.
I know, I know. Who does that? Only fools like me.

Here's how things are supposed to play out. Dinner's over. The kids are tucked in bed, smiles on their faces as they dream of kittens and summer vacation. The dog is somewhere chewing one of your sneakers. Your spouse is curled up on the sofa in front of the fireplace enjoying a book she heard about from a co-worker, and which will make her both wiser and happier.

You had a glass or two of wine with your tuna noodle casserole, and have parked your semi-inebriated butt on the chair in front of your computer. As you sip (you call it sipping) another glass of wine, you plow through the seemingly infinite watch listings on eBay. Omegas, Rolexes, Bulovas, IWCs, Hubots, Seikos, even Pateks float past you. You scan watch after watch, in search of a great deal posted by someone from afar who either desperately needs cash or doesn't know the value of the watch he's selling—or both. Forget Chrono 24 and WatchUSeek, where sellers know what they're doing. On eBay, if you're relentless enough, you'll snag a Breguet for $500. Or maybe just an Omega Seamaster for $100, but that's good enough, because it's a bargain.

Some kind of internal regulator governs the maximum I’ll spend on eBay, sight unseen. For me, it’s $1,000.

The hours pass: Flip through listings, drink wine. Flip through more listings, drink more wine. Sigh. Tonight's not going to be a night of luck. It’s almost 2 a.m., and maybe you should just buy what looks like a real Rolex Pepsi for $750...or maybe not. Well, there's always tomorrow night after leftover casserole. You can’t be successful every evening.

Finally, you succumb to intoxicated sleep and dream of how wonderful it would be to quit your  job and buy a watch shop.

About a week later a recycled Amazon box arrives with a watch inside. "Oh. I bought a watch on eBay while drunk,” you say to nobody but yourself. “But it was only $350, so that's not bad. It could have been a lot worse."

Indeed, it could have been worse. That's what happened to me, you see, when I bought a watch sober. I researched. I read. I went to boutiques, and tapped into the infinite wisdom of Authorized Dealers. I touched watches and their souls touched me. Like an Ouija board, I let the ephemeral guide me, tempered by questions I posted on forums and deep conversations with friends far more knowledgeable about watches than I. I was being smart. Smarter than smart. I was wise. I knew exactly what I was doing because alcohol had last touched my tongue ten hours ago.

Finally, I settled on a Patek Philippe 5124J, the Goldolo, with small seconds. It’s a rectangular beauty with sublime vintage vibes and hints of deco. Have you seen this watch? It goes with everything, from suits to t-shirts. It’s fits perfectly with the Mercedes convertible I don’t yet have. I’ll wear it to work and impress the pants off everyone when I raise my arm at meetings to ask a question.

The Patek lightened my wallet by $25,000.

Yeah, $25,000. That's what I get for researching, cogitating, and buying a watch while sober. This Patek was an expensively wish purchase. What was I thinking? (You can’t see me as I write this article, buty my face is buried in my open palms.) How am I going to explain that item on our credit card bill?

I'm going back to watch buying while drunk. It's a lot less expensive.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Gift of Time, a Short Story About Watches

by Bill Adler

A bittersweet story about an impossible decision that must be made in the blink of an eye. 

“Should we get an automatic or manual?” Daniel asked as he stared at the watch crescent under Dr. Branson’s sleeve in a failed attempt to discern its pedigree.

Daniel knew he should be focusing on Delilah, but he was holding her hand, and that helped. Her face and subdued groans revealed that Delilah’s discomfort was still tolerable, so he didn’t need to give her his full attention. Not yet. Daniel had an urgent question he needed answered, and quickly. Besides, Delilah wasn’t going anywhere.

The small room whirred with gauges and dials. Periodically a muffled announcement from the hallway speaker tried to barrel its way into the room but was masked by a cacophony of beeps and buzzes. The noises annoyed Daniel, but seemed to have lulled Delilah into a light trance. Every now and then a new person popped into the room, but mostly it was just the five of them: Dr. Branson, Delilah, two nurses, and himself.

Daniel waited a few seconds, but Dr. Branson didn’t answer. Maybe he didn't hear me over the machines and chit-chatting nurses. He’s distracted. California doctors are always distracted, thinking about their patients, their next patients, the last patients of the day, and how far along they are to a down payment on a yacht.

Daniel shifted his eyes from Branson’s wrist to his wife. Her cheeks puffed in and out, like some fancy bird performing a mating ritual. Though Daniel felt chilled under his flannel shirt and corduroy pants in the hyper-airconditioned room, drops of sweat beaded Delilah’s forehead. She moaned, her sunrise blonde hair darkening to coal as sweat traveled along the strands. Daniel knew he should offer a few comforting words, but he needed to have his question answered first, so he stabbed Dr. Branson again with the same sentence. “Should we get an automatic or manual?”

Dr. Branson met Daniel’s eyes, but answered his question with another. “You haven’t selected one yet? You didn’t bring one to the hospital?”

A bolt of panic stiffened Daniel’s back. What does that mean? The hospital is supposed to have a supply parents can choose from. I read that! But what if they don’t? What am I going to do?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Three Vintage Watches to Snatch While You Can

This King Seiko Chronometer is one of the most beautiful King Seikos I've ever seen. If you're not familiar with King Seikos, they existed in the 1960s and 1970s concurrently with early Grand Seikos. After the Quartz Crisis mercifully ended, Seiko resurrected its mechanical Grand Seiko, but not the King Seiko, which is a shame because King Seikos -- and especially this one-- are among the most beautiful and elegant dress watches you can wear. This 44KS from Ikigai Watches has been ticking at 18,000 bph since 1964.

Ikigai Watches is one of the world's most renowned vintage Seiko shops. (I've bought two watches from them, with five-star results.) Their watches come pre-serviced. 

Grand Seiko has made a significant push in the American market by opening Seiko boutiques and transforming Grand Seiko into a separate entity. With the growing interest in Grand Seikos has come a steady rise in prices for vintage Grand and King Seikos (as well as for their cousin, the Lord Marvel). The good ones, like this 44KS, are going fast. This King Seiko is worth every penny of its $2090 price. 

Tudor has recently made watches that are so good and attractive (I'm looking at you Heritage Automatic Bronze and North Flag), that the company has not just stepped out of Rolex's shadow but into the spotlight. With that celebrity comes a renewed interest in Tudor vintage watches. And, with that renewed interest -- never mind, here's the watch you should be taking a look at:

This magnificent specimen is a 1960s Oysterdate, reference 7939. It looks like was made in 2018, with vintage vibe sprinked on. It uses a manual winding caliber 425. JackRoad in Tokyo is selling it for $1652, less if you're not a Japan resident and able to take advantage of tax free buying. If you're new to JackRoad, it's a shop in Nakano Broadway with perhaps Japan's best selection of vintage and used watches. I've bought there with very happy results.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Electricianz' Cable Z

A Better Wrist's Watch Briefs are a short articles to whet your appetite for great watches.

The Cable Z, one of Electricianz' fun quartz watches. 
There's nothing wrong with quartz. Granted, a lot of quartz watches, especially fashion watches, beat to the tune of cheap, mass produced quartz crystals, but some quartz watches have looks and features you't won't find in mechanical watches. Grand Seiko's hyper accurate quartz watches and the Sinn oil filled Hydro deep diver are two examples of what quartz can do that mechanical watches can't.

Let me draw your attention to this colorful, bold and creative quartz watch, the Cable Z, by Electricianz, a watch company you probably haven't heard about. If you're going to wear a quartz watch, there should be no ambiguity about it. Right?

The Cable Z costs about $470 and will occupy 45mm of wrist real estate. It's a big watch, but you want an exciting watch --one that Electricianz describes this way: "The Cable Z is an ode to electricity: its explosive bouquet of enmeshed and colorful cables playfully revisits the brand’s distinctive design" -- to be seen rather than hidden in a forest of wrist hair or under a sleeve.

The Cable Z's four LEDs give the watch an especially charged look at night. You can find out more about the Cable Z here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Wristwatch Proverbs

We can learn a lot from watches. We can learn engineering. From the simplest sundial, to the earliest one-hand clocks, to the unparalleled Seiko Spring Drive (which nobody seems to be able to adequately explain, as it's clearly made in the far future), watches have a lot of science and technology inside.

We can learn about art—about the minimal Bacchus design behind Nomos watches, the formidable, brutalist aesthetic like the Ochs Und Junior moonphase, and the deco origins of many Jaeger-LeCoultre Reversos.

We can learn about the history of diving from dive watches, history of space exploration from Omega, and the history of mountaineering from Rolex. We can learn about the history of war from watches, too.

And, of course, watches tell us about the importance of timekeeping, without which our modern world would be impossible.

But what about life? Can watches teach us about life, too? I put those questions to the test and came up with the answer: Yes, watches can teach us about life, philosophy, and even who we are. Here a list of watch proverbs for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

The path to a Lange is paved with many dinners of Cup of Soup noodles.

May you age as gracefully as a Rolex Pepsi.

Every time somebody says, "this is my last watch," a fairy dies.

A heart that beats like a Grand Seiko Spring Drive beats forever.

Happy is the man who presses the eBay "buy it now" button without regret.

A man who wears a vintage chronograph to sea is a brave man.

Nobody ever counterfeited a Daniel Wellington.

A good night's sleep is power reserve for your body and mind.

A wise man knows the difference between Rolex and Tudor.

May your prostate never grow to be the size of a Hublot.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Watch in a Watch

I was at a watch fair in Ginza, Tokyo last weekend. A guy showed me a photo of his watch (because, you know that's what we do at watch shows), and then this happened:

Friday, November 16, 2018

Watches and I: A Journey Into Watch Collecting

by Jeremy Xu

This is a first person account of one watch collector's journey in the world of watches. 

I’m still relatively new to watch collecting so I’m not going to try and impart technical knowledge about timepieces or offer tips about which watches are best. Rather, I’d like to share thoughts and feelings regarding my journey so far and how I got into the hobby in the first place.

The author's Omega
It would be impossible not to go back more than two decades to my early primary school days because that’s when my penchant for collecting things began. My paternal grandfather had a sizeable stamp collection and when I was seven, I followed him into the hobby. As an immunological researcher in communist China, he received and wrote letters to counterparts in many foreign countries. He used these correspondences to grow his stamp collection. I remember him speaking fondly of a Danish researcher he often traded letters with. He had no fewer than fifty stamps from the Scandinavian country. Although I stopped collecting stamps when I was ten, the experience taught me how to curate a collection. I would go to the library from time to time looking for reference books about stamps. My grandfather also had several old Chinese made manual-wind mechanical watches. I guess it was only a matter of time before I started collecting watches.

In my teens I began to play Magic the Gathering and naturally turned the game into a collection of cards. I still have most of them today. Proper care and preservation of the cards came naturally to me. It was here where value became important and proper research became vital. While I never bought any cards for speculation or investment, I also didn’t want to overpay for cards that might become worthless in the future.

Before 2018 I had never been a watch guy. When I was in grade school I hated wearing watches. I thought they were cumbersome. My father literally forced me to wear a Dickies watch everyday in sixth grade. He told me it was important to know the time. Beginning in junior high, I started using a cellphone and stopped strapping that annoying disk to my wrist. I didn’t wear another watch until I turned twenty five and started working. I spent about 150 dollars on a high quality Seiko quartz dress watch and wore it happily until I lost it. I then wore a Fossil quartz watch until I came to Japan. The first week at my new job, I promptly went to Bic Camera, a major retailer in Japan, and purchased a Seiko Solar quartz from their Dolce collection. It still performs admirably a year and a half later.

As for my transition to mechanical and automatic watches: I was hanging out with some friends in Shimo-Kitazawa this past in January.  We wandered into a Hard Off store. They sell mostly second instruments and electronics. This one happened to have a few cases of used watches. I spotted a used Oficina del Tempo in the back for a shade under 39,000 yen, about $340. I liked the styling of the case and the fact it had an exhibition caseback, a see-through glass back. It had a classical dial design, but I now know a 44mm watch is a little too big for me. I didn’t understand the intricacies of automatic movements at the time, but I thought it was just the coolest thing to see parts of the watch’s internal workings. It was my first automatic watch and the most expensive piece up to that point.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Fashion Watch Emergency?

Let's say you forgot to wear a watch. By the time you're at the office, your heart rate's accelerated to supersonic speed, your stomach is making acid like it's a chemistry lab, and you can't focus: The world looks like it's at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

How did I do that? What's the matter with me? Will I be able to last until I get home? 

A coworker graciously offers you his extra watch to wear for the day, but it's a Fossil, Daniel Wellington, or Michael Kors.

Do you accept his offer, go watchless for the day, or run to the nearest authorized dealer and buy a Rolex, Omega -- anything to return you to your normal, calm and happy condition?

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Truth About Watch Winders

Is a watch winder a good idea? Is it healthy for your watches? Or will a watch winder prematurely age your watches?

There are generally three reasons why collectors use watch winders:

Juvo watch winder: Both practical and art.
Keeping your many watches wound without a winder removes a layer of skin from your fingertips. (Though we should all be so lucky.)

You have three to four automatic watches that you rotate on a daily basis, and which you want to keep wound and ready to go. (As in the President of the United States might want to meet with you for your advice and counsel on the spur of the moment, so you need to keep your watches running with the correct time all the time.)

You have a watch with a complication that’s a pain in the neck to set on a regular basis, such as a perpetual calendar, annual calendar, or weird moonphase. It’s just easier to keep those hard-to-set watches on the correct time with a winder.

One reason not to use a winder is to keep your watch synchronized to the correct time. Most mechanical watches will likely lose considerable time over weeks (unless it’s a Seiko Spring Drive url tk), regardless of whether they’re in a winder. It just doesn’t make much sense to keep your watches ticking in their winders for the sole purpose of keeping time. A watch winder won’t keep your automatic watches set correctly; you’ll do a better job by hand.

Keeping watches in winders also increases the risk of damaging your watches or grinding down your watches’ innermost parts [link to previous article], and may send you to your watchmaker sooner than you expected. A watch that’s always running is constantly wearing out gears and other parts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Have You Ever Dreamed about Watches?

Photo by Masakazu Matsumoto
Have you ever had a dream in which a watch played a leading role?

I had one the other night. I was at a meeting of government officials. Everyone was wearing trench coats. The police arrived and arrested several people at the meeting for accepting bribes in the form of Rolexes.

One of the police officers asked, "Out of curiosity, does anyone else have a Rolex?" A hundred or so hands were raised, each of which displayed a Submariner.

Somebody who posted on a Watchuseek forum said he dreamed that his Omega Speedmaster was stolen, even though he doesn't have a Speedy. Another collector dreamed his $2,000 Stowa's crystal was scratched, a dream that was so realistic he checked his watch in the middle of the night. Still other watch enthusiasts have had anxiety dreams about delayed FedEx and DHL watch shipments.

If you dream about watches that makes your normal...for a watch enthusiast.