Friday, August 16, 2019

The Grand Seiko Snowflake, A Photo Essay


“With luck, it might even snow for us.” 
-Haruki Murakami, After Dark



Meadows and forests inspire poets as places of tranquility and meditation, but snowfields are just as evocative and refreshing.

The Grand Seiko Snowflake’s dial is the Karmann Ghia of watch dials, a look that will endure for as long as the universe. But unlike the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, or other everlasting image such as the Coke bottle, Hasselblad 500C Camera, the V-J kiss in Times Square, the Snowflake’s dial is without complexity or adornment. It is what it is: A field of drifting snow over which time moves. It's as if Mother Nature herself played a part in designing this dial.

The dial tantalizes you, invites you step into its embrace.

Please enjoy this photo essay about the Grand Seiko Snowflake. The photos are from the Grand Seiko Owners Club, which you can join for free at www.gsoc.watch.


Photo by Mark Lim

Photo by Tim Gleason

Photo by Stefan Molin

Photo by Tony Abbate


Photo by Tim Gleason


Photo by Tim Gleason

Photo by Howard Kim


Photo by Stefan Molin



Photo by David Taylor


Photo by Ryan Taylor


Photo by Ollie Gould

Photo by TahWee See


Photo by Noah Brigdan



Friday, August 9, 2019

We Watch Cards is delighted to announce the publication of our newest batch of watch condolence cards.

Is your watch buddy suffering from a watch-related malady? While a card can’t cure the underlying problem, showing you care can go a long way toward putting a smile back on his or her face.

We have cards in stock for various occasions including:



A lost auction

Spouse intercepts the box with the watch before you get home

Bought a watch at an auction and immediately afterwards one in better condition appears for sale

Watch magnetized

The authorized dealer service center polishes your watch without your asking

You have a more expensive version of that Rolex than your boss, and he notices

You put a scratch on your watch that can only been seen with a loupe

The scratch on your watch is a deep as the Grand Canyon

You forget the screw in the crown and get caught in a downpour

You set the date at 11 am!

Watch stolen

Your quartz watch battery runs out while you're on a ten-day camping trip

You get stopped by customs and can't prove you bought the watch in your home country

Your spouse spent your watch money on a family vacation

You got scammed on eBay

Your Rolex arrived after waiting for two years, but now you're into Grand Seiko

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Snowflake


a short story by Bill Adler

“Daddy’s back!” Isabel bent her knees to dash to the door, but Angeline pinched the back of her dress, holding her in place, making Isabel’s pink and white striped dress look like a tent.

“Don’t run, sweetie. You’ll broil. That’s not good for you.”

Photo by Mark Lim
“Okay, mommy.” Isabel walked with an exaggerated slow motion movement, lifting her feet high and moving her arms like a windmill. She panted as she got close to the apartment’s front door through which her father’s beet red face peeked. From the living room, Angeline could see rivets of water rolling down Isabel’s neck. The back of her dress looked like a sponge, her long, black hair a sticky mat of sweat that clung to her skin.

Angeline had tried to cut Isabel’s hair multiple times, but each time Isabel protested, “I like my hair! I like my hair!” Even though short hair would be far more comfortable, Angeline let Isabel have her way. There were few pleasures a little girl could enjoy, with fewer to come.

In a single, fluid motion, like a performer at Cirque du Soleil, Samuel rested his carry-on bag on the marble floor and scooped Isabel up. “How’s my little girl? I missed you.”

Isabel clasped her hands around Samuel’s back and wrapped her legs around his waist. “I’m hot, daddy. It’s been terribly hot. You’re hot, too, but I want you to hold me. K?”

“I missed you sweet pea. I’m glad I’m home.”

Angeline wiped her forehead with a cotton cloth as she enjoyed the reunion of father and daughter. “I’m sorry Samuel.” Angeline remained seated on the sofa, leaning forward so her back didn’t touch the leather couch. She picked up a white paper fan adorned with cranes and fanned her face. “I’m sorry babe. They just cycled off the power. No electric fans for another” — she glanced at her watch — “six hours.”

“I know. I walked up.” Clutching Isabel with one arm, Samuel wiped his forehead with the back of his other hand. Samuel could probably have released Isabel and she wouldn’t have fallen; his shirt and Isabel’s dress were glued together with an amalgam of salty sweat and cotton fibers. He reached into his pocket and withdrew his paper fan, pale blue with a white Merlion in the middle, snapped it open, and fanned his and Isabel’s heads. He chuckled, “It seemed like such a good idea at the time to get an apartment on the thirty seventh floor.”

“Ooo, a breeze,” Isabel said. “You’re the best fanner, daddy.” Isabel turned her head. “And mommy, too. You’re both the best fanners in the world!”

Isabel raised her arms, a signal she wanted to be released. She sat on the floor. Samuel sat beside her and continued to fan Isabel. “I’m hot mommy. Can I have an ice water?”

“There’s no ice, sweetie. Mommy’s sorry.” Angeline was glad Isabel couldn’t see where her sweat ended and tears began. “I can bring you a regular water. I’ll get you a glass to drink and drizzle water on your head and then wave my fan real hard to cool you.”

“K.” Isabel stretched her legs out on the floor, spread them, and spread her arms. She turned her head toward Samuel. “Do you have to go back to Japan? I don’t want you to go. I missed you.”

“No, sweet pea. I don’t have to go to Japan again. In fact, I caught the very last flight back to Singapore. After today there are no more flights.”

“No Disneyworld?”

“No anywhere. It’s become too hot for planes to fly.”

“Will I go back to school?”
“Maybe, sweetie. Maybe you can,” Samuel said. He pushed the wettest parts of Isabel’s hair away from her face and fanned her faster.

Angeline slid to the edge of the couch. In a low voice she asked, “Did you get it?”

Samuel lowered his voice, too. “Yes.” He held out his wrist.

Angeline stood slowly and walked to the front hall, a trail of sweat dropping behind her. She sat next to Samuel and Isabel and put her fingertips on the watch’s crystal. Even though the watch existed in the same awful place as the three of them, it felt cool. “A Snowflake?”

“It is.”

Photo by Tim Gleason
“How did you find it? How did you manage —”

Samuel put his finger on Angeline’s cracked lips. “It doesn’t matter how. We have one, that’s all that matters.”

“A Grand Seiko Snowflake.” Angeline cocked her head to the side so she could get a better view of the watch’s snowfield dial. Never in her life had she wanted to run barefoot through the snow, but in this moment she daydreamed the soles of her feet were being tickled by cold, feathery flakes. Snow appeared to drift across the watch’s dial as if blown by a north wind. Angeline imagined how delicious crisp air tasted.

Samuel nodded.

“Did you find a priest? Did you have the watch blessed at a temple?” Angeline shook her head. “I still don't understand how this will work.”

“No priest, no shrine, or incense or prayers or anything like that added. The man who sold me the Grand Seiko Snowflake told me, ‘You are the magic’.”

“I still don’t understand.”

Samuel took Isabel and Angeline’s hands. He stood up, lifting them. Samuel guided his wife and daughter to the balcony. His flesh burned as he pushed open the metal door.

“Ow,” Isabel said. The fiery sun scorched her face.

Samuel cast his eyes on the ground, thirty-seven floors below. He nodded to Angeline.

“Do we —”

“We are the magic,” Samuel repeated. “Just look at the watch when we do it.” Samuel kneeled down, put his hand under Isabel’s chin, and lifted her head so her eyes met his. “Sweet pea. We’re going to do this one thing. We’re going to go to a place where it’s never hot. A place where we can be cool and happy.” Samuel kissed Isabel’s forehead. “All you need to do is look at daddy’s watch and keep looking at it. Okay?”

Isabel touched Samuel’s watch. “It feels like snow.”

“It does. Can you keep looking at it, no matter what?”

“It’s a pretty watch, daddy. I can.”

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. Samuel lifted Isabel to the balcony railing. Angeline climbed onto the railing to Samuel’s left, while he held Isabel’s right hand. He stuck his left arm out, wrist twisted backwards so the Snowflake’s dial faced them. “Everyone look at daddy’s watch. Remember, keep looking, eyes on the snowfield on the dial.” Samuel took a deep breath. The air seared his lungs. “One, two, three!”

They jumped.

A hand reached down and firmly grasped Samuel’s hand. Samuel blinked, then blinked again. Samuel started to stand on his own, but the man attached to the hand that was pulling him up said, “Slow, slow. It’s best you don’t move too fast at first. You’ve got some acclimating to do.” Samuel looked to his left and right. A girl about twelve years old was helping Isabel to her feet, while a woman a little older than Angeline was helping her stand. Snow filled all the space around them. Tall mountains loomed in the distance, also covered in snow. “You made it, partner. Welcome.”

Photo by Stefan Molin
A crunching sound surrounded Samuel as his body displaced the snow. He grabbed a fistful of snow, opened his hand, and let the flakes fall between his fingers. “Where are we?”

“Can’t exactly say for sure. Where are you from?”

“Singapore.”

“Well, you’re not in Singapore anymore. You’re not anywhere on Earth as best we can figure.”

Samuel pointed to the man’s watch. “A Grand Seiko Snowflake?”

The man nodded. “That’s the ticket.”

“Daddy, is this snow?” Isabel plopped down onto the soft ground. She rolled over several times and then said, “Look at me! Look at me!” Isabel laid back, spread her legs and arms, floated over the snow like a manta ray gliding through the ocean, and made a snow angel.


Thanks to Samuel Chan for inspiring the idea for this story.

Thanks to the Grand Seiko Owners Club for the fantastic Snowflake photos. 

And thanks to Ashley Jenkins for her comments on an a draft of The Snowflake. 

If you’re not familiar with the Grand Seiko Snowflake, start here




Thursday, July 25, 2019

More Questions Than Answers

a short story about watches by Bill Adler


Peter Mack considered himself blessed until today. He probably wasn't the luckiest person in the world, but he knew he was an above-average, fortunate guy. He had advanced slowly but reliably at the auto insurance company where he worked, his marriage leaned toward smiles rather than frowns, his circle of friends, though small, was stalwart, and other than minor colds, he'd never been sick.

He didn’t lead the electrifying life of a Jedi Knight, but who needed that?

Seiko World War II Era Military Watch
Today his luck ended when his watch was stolen. Peter had been holding his briefcase in his left hand, and a D'agostino's bag with a half dozen eggs, spring onions, yellow and red baby tomatoes, a green pepper, and Boursin cheese with which to make omelets — tonight's dinner — in his right. A giant fist that felt like it belonged to a hurricane shoved Peter forward. He dropped his bag and briefcase, stumbled, tripped over his briefcase and fell onto the rough New York City pavement. His face skidded, painting the sidewalk red with shredding skin. His glasses snapped into two useless pieces. The only thing that kept him from breaking a rib was his heavy, down coat.

A knee pressed deep into his kidney. “Give it up, man.” The force compressed his lungs. Peter had wondered what it felt like to drown, and now he knew. “I’m taking your watch, man. Just relax and don’t be stupid.” The accent sounded vaguely Boston or Bronx or southern. At the moment, Peter’s brain partially clicked off, and he wasn’t sure of much, other than the five hundred pound knee on his back and his face on the frigid cement.

As Peter lay on the sidewalk like a butterfly in an entomologist's collection, wiry fingers unfastened his watch with great haste. Peter always took his time putting his watch on, savoring how the watch band’s leather landscape, uneven, worn, and rough from decades of wear, felt velvety to his fingertips. He used as much time as he had available in the morning to put on and set his watch. Second only to his wife, this watch was the most beautiful creation in the world.

He never wound his watch when he was wearing it because that might bend the stem. He had a leather valet — one in the bedroom so his watch slept right beside him — and one in the kitchen so he had a safe, dry place for his watch when he washed the dishes. He polished his watch daily with the softest cloth he could fine.

Peter’s dad, Harry, had given him this Seiko when he was small. The Seiko had been his most cherished possession.

~~~~~


Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

The A to Z Watch Collection

Guest column by Robert Blockoff

This is Robert Blockoff’s story.   Some collectors specialize in a particular brand, such as Rolex, Grand Seiko, or H. Moser & Cie. Others have a fondness for dive watches, pilot’s watches, mechanical alarm watches, perpetual calendars, moonphases, or some other complication. Still other collectors go after every watch they can find from a particular country.

Robert’s collection includes a watch from every letter beginning with A and ending with Z. He just recently completed the alphabet. 

Robert is an American watch collector who also collects other objects including fishing rods, reels, creels, old wooden fishing lures and books about fishing that date as far back as the 1600s to the present. He also collects guns, knives, and baseball cards from the 1950s to the late 1970s.

A version of this article first appeared on the forum, WatchUSeek. [insert URL]

It was three or four years ago that I started to catalog all my watches. First it started out as just a random list, but then I decided I needed to start alphabetizing my watches. Alphabetizing my collection meant it was easier to identify and locate certain brands and watches.

As I was alphabetizing, I realized I didn't own watch brands that started with the letters, "Y" or "Z"! Can you imagine? Now, I know there are watch collectors who say this is a ridiculous collection, a silly goal! Some will say, "I'm a one watch guy.” Others can’t imagine owning more than five or, at most, a dozen watches.

Part of Robert Blockoff's A to Z Watch Collectioin

I didn't start out with having one watch from A to Z as my goal when I began collecting watches some forty-five years earlier. In the 1970s you could pick up some nice watches for one hundred to a couple of hundred bucks, and I did! I had the watch collecting bug and I had it bad.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Should You Buy That Watch?

Are you trying to decide whether to buy a new watch?
This handy flowchart will help...we hope.


Is there even the slimmest of possibilities that the watch you desire
might no longer be available sometime in the next five years?


        Yes


Is your next credit card statement due in
twenty days or more?


        Yes


Will the watch make you happy?


         Yes


Are you running out of watches to photograph and post online?


        Yes


Can you ship or slip that watch home without your significant other noticing?


        Yes


Do you have an important event coming up such as a school reunion,
receiving an award, or going to the supermarket to buy mayonnaise? 


        Yes


Do you spend evenings looking at pictures of that watch online?


        Yes


Can you recite that watch’s specs by heart?


        Yes


Has it been at least a month since you’ve bought a watch?


        Yes


Do you have space for another watch box?


        Yes


Do you promise to wear that watch every day for the next month?


        Yes


Does the dial color match one of your pairs of socks?


 
        Yes


Will your owning that watch help bring about world peace?


        Yes 


Can you afford that watch?


         No


Buy it!



Friday, June 28, 2019

Time Flocks

a short story by Bill Adler

“Look, look!” Billy jumped up and down like a Mexican jumping bean and pointed to the blue sky above Central Park’s tree canopy.

"Dija see, dija see, daddy?" His head swiveled as he tracked the flock across the sky. Billy slapped his palm over his mouth, removed it and said, "Ooo, so pretty!  I think they were Golden Pakax, daddy. Rare ones, right?"

Billy jumped up and down again, and cooed, "Ooo, I wish I had my camera." He looked at his father with wistful eyes. "Your camera."  Billy spun around in a tight 360 degree circle. "I cuda took a picture for Bobby." Bobby was Billy's older brother by five years. Billy was six. "Did Bobby have Pakax, daddy?"

Billy's father rubbed his chin and said, "No son. Your brother had a Timex. A Patek is —was—  too expensive for a kid. For most adults, too."

A Pakex?
"A Pakex?"

"Yes, a Patek. The full name is Patek Philippe."

"There's a Philip in my social studies class."

"That's good, Billy."

Billy took his father's hand as they walked toward the Central Park merry-go-round. Billy couldn't yet see the carousel because it was shrouded by trees, but he could hear the beckoning jingle.

Billy jumped high again, so high that their arms were nearly parallel to the ground. "There go more." He opened his eyes wide and looked up at his father. "It's a flock?" Flock came out as "flk."

"Yes."

"What are those in the flk? Are those Rolex?" Billy felt proud that he could pronounce "Rolex.” Just yesterday, his homeroom teacher had spent the entire twenty minutes teaching all the kids how to pronounce and spell "Rolex."

“No. They're dull-looking and aren't flying in a coordinated group. Their flight pattern is jerky. And there are too many of them."

Billy felt a cool shadow pass over his face as the flock blocked out the sun.

"I think they're Daniel Wellingtons."

"Daniels are like pigeons, right?"

"That's right."

"Only they don't poop on your head." Billy giggled.

Friday, June 21, 2019

What Do the Swiss Think About Japanese Watches?

Guest column by Arnaud Aimonetti

Arnaud Aimonetti is a watch collector and co-owner of the vintage watch shop, Ikigai Watches, which specializes in Seiko and family. 


I work in Switzerland and live in the suburbs of Geneva, and I can tell you that most Swiss disdain non-Swiss watches, especially Japanese watches, even though they don't know anything about them. In Switzerland’s watch community, some people are better informed than others and consider a watch’s quality, rather than focusing on just the name on the dial. Those watch enthusiasts tend to appreciate Seiko and Grand Seiko a little bit more.

Two Swiss watches, an Omega and Rolex, on the Tokyo subway.
Photo taken June 2019. 
The Swiss remember that Seiko, as well as Citizen and Casio, cost thousands of people their jobs in the 1970s and 1980s, during the Quartz Crisis. The Quartz Crisis, inspired by an infusion of inexpensive, super-accurate Seiko watches, was also called the “Quartz Revolution,” depending on your perspective. For Switzerland, it was a crisis. In 1970 Switzerland had 1,600 watchmaking companies; by 1983, only 600 remained. Japanese watchmakers are considered the devil himself! Most people —even people working in the Swiss watchmaking industry today—  won't even try to hear what you have to say about Japanese watches. They cover their ears when you extol the wonders of Japan’s time pieces.

But what’s interesting is that a Swiss historian specializing in the history of watchmaking wrote a book called Catching Up With and Overtaking Switzerland about the economic history of watchmaking. He explains how the crisis in the Swiss watchmaking industry in the 1970s and 1980s was not caused by quartz, but by Japanese watches being equally as good as Swiss ones, but cheaper. Quartz wasn't the cause of the Swiss watch industry's troubles, which began in the late 1960s. The problem for the Swiss was the whole organisation of the industry: This crisis was a structural crisis. Because the Japanese industry was verticalized, they were able to make everything in-house to reduce costs. But in Switzerland, the industry has always been very horizontalized, with a lot of subcontractors. Not a single Swiss brand made in-house watches, as some parts (and sometimes all the parts) were bought to various specialized subcontractors and only assembled by said brand.

The goal that Kintaro Hattori set for Seiko was to make watches that would surpass Swiss watches in quality but keep the low prices by using the American industrial model: make watches in large quantities and entirely in-house.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Movements of Time: Grand Seiko Watch Movements


by Jason Chien

Jason Chien is a humble fan of Grand Seiko and their watches, a huge fan of Japan, Japanese culture, its food and its people. He says that Spring Drive is a God-like watch movement.

Grand Seiko is known for its three movements: quartz, mechanical, and its unique Spring Drive. (Spring Drive movements are also used in some non-Grand Seiko watches).

The rare Grand Seiko "Red Flake"
All movements, as well as everything in their watches, are developed and constructed in-house. Every gear, pin, oil, case, and you name it, are all made internally from start to finish. All Grand Seiko watches are zaratsu polished to mirror finishes that catch and reflect light. Zaratsu is a magic unlike no other watches in the world.

Each of these three movements are also shining examples of Grand Seiko's technology, dedication and focus to details and accuracy.

Grand Seiko's quartz movement is not your typical, run-of-the-mill quartz movement you find in other brands. Grand Seiko grows, ages and tests its quartz crystals in their own factory in Shiojiri (where they also make Spring Drive movements). Most of Grand Seiko’s quartz watches are accurate to within ten seconds per year, and their enhanced ones are accurate to five seconds per year (these have a * above the six o'clock marker).

Grand Seiko’s mechanical movements (including their 36,000 beats per hour hi-beat movement) are the workhorse of the Grand Seiko brand. They are accurate to +5 or -3 seconds a day and adjusted for temperature and to six positions (while other brands test only five positions). In addition to their stellar engineering, many of the recent beautiful, intricate dials come from the mechanical line. Hi-beat mechanical watches have greater shock resistance than ordinary Seikos; the second hand ticks ten times per second, compared to eight times per second for their regular automatics. Because nothing’s free in physics: Normal automatics have a power reserve of seventy-two hours compared to a hi-beats’ fifty-five hours.