Saturday, May 19, 2018

Two Under the Radar Collectables: Bulova Spaceview and Borel Cocktail Watch

You could add a new watch to your collection daily and not even scratch the surface of the watch universe. You could probably even specialize in moonphase or GMT and still have more watches than would make an octopus happy.

Which makes trying to decide what to add to your collection a sometimes impossible decision.

One way to make sense of the splendor of choice is to pursue watches that aren’t being made anymore, fragments of history and engineering that travel into a more distant past with every passing year. And while there are also nearly countless vintage watches you could buy, a few stand out,making you stand up and proclaim, “They’re not making those anymore.”

The Borel Cocktail watch and the Bulova Spaceview are two affordable, visually striking watches that belong in every collection.

Borel Cocktail watch: kaleidoscope and cool.
Borel Cocktail watches pop up regularly on eBay, Chrono24, and other sites for between $100 and $800. They come in men’s and women’s sizes, so among other things, this vintage watch makes a great couples’ watch. While most watches can be described with a picture and a handful of words, you have to see a video of the Borel Cocktail watch to appreciate it’s singular and innovative beauty. The watch’s rotating, kaleidoscopic dial looks like something that might have been used to hypnotize the villain in a 1960’s James Bond movie. Once you start looking, you won’t want to (or perhaps be unable to) pull your eyes away from this watch. These hand-wound watches, designed by Ernest Borel and manufactured between about 1958 and 1980 are mostly 17 jewels, and have clear casebacks. You’ll find many designs and styles—each is great fun.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

When Is a Quartz Watch Not a Quartz Watch?

I bought a new watch. That’s hardly news for a watch collector, right? But the watch I bought was a quartz watch. Say what? Yes, quartz. I know, I know. In doing so I run the risk of permanent exclusion from the brotherhood of watch collectors, who (like me) pursue the most intricate, advanced, and accurate mechanical movement, one with deep, rich ties to history and which represents the pinnacle of engineering.

While I had my reasons for buying a quartz watch, what’s most interesting is the unexpected insights this quartz watch revealed about watches and time.

Rather than pop in to Melbourne’s fabled Watches of Switzerland shop and ogle Rolex, IWC, Omega and other star brands (well, I did that, too), I wanted to visit the still new and upcoming Melbourne Watch Company, a Kickstarter scion from down under. (More about Melbourne Watch Company Watches in a future article.) I hadn’t planned on buying a new watch (perhaps that’s a lie I told myself), but after finally finding their second floor office, workshop and display center, I realized that an Australian-made watch would be a better souvenir than a stuffed koala or vegemite. Melbourne Watches makes both mechanical and quartz watches; I bought a quartz because they had the Collins moonphase, in both a man’s and woman’s size, 38 mm and 34 mm, and my girlfriend and I wanted a couples’ set. His and hers watches play a sweet song, and are also better than his and hers stuffed koalas.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

If Boyfriends Were Like Watches

I’m excited! I have a new man.

Let me tell you about Brian. I’ll begin with his sapphire eyes, curved as if you’re looking at the
earth from orbit. Beneath that sapphire crystal is the most exquisite brown. I know a lot of women prefer blue eyes, but trust me, brown looks magnificent, especially with hints of copper like Brian’s.

His ethereal eyes are more luminous than any man I’ve known. After we switched the lights out, sending our hotel room into pitch darkness, his eyes continued to glow for over an hour. We’ve seen each other in the dark (blush).

We went dancing for the first time last night. I’ve never seen movement like his; it must have taken years to perfect. Throughout the evening I was hoping he wouldn’t fall and break because I can’t imagine how much it would cost to fix him. I asked him about that—I’d hate for him to end up in the hospital right after we met—and he said, “Don’t worry. These movements are just a slight modification from a movement that the men in my family have been using for generations. It’s solid, robust and reliable.” That’s what I like to hear! I’ll take reliable over new and risky any day.

When we danced close, I felt his heartbeat, rhythmic and strong, marking the passing of the seconds.

Brian wore a cute, textured moon pendant that revealed the way the eons have textured the moon’s mountains and craters. At first I thought the moon detracted from his overall appearance, but the more I watched the moon’s phases change as he swayed, the more I realized the pendant belonged. We talked about it afterwards and he told me that the moon pendant was a hand-me-down from his German great-grandfather , who hunted at night and needed to know when there would be enough moonlight to locate his prey.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Alarm Watch, the One and Only Useful Complication

I’m hard pressed to think of any useful watch complication, except one.

It’s not a chronograph. When was the last time you actually had to time something? Unless you were on Apollo 13, probably never.

Moonphase? Get real. Nobody needs that.

A rare, vintage Girard-Perregaux alarm watch. Only 350 of
this reference 9490 were made between 1972 and 1976.
Day/night indicator? That might be helpful...if you live in a cave. Otherwise, it’s obvious whether it’s day or night.

GMT watch? I’ll grant you this can be useful if you frequently scoot between time zones, but adding or subtracting seven, eight or however many time zones you need, is often faster than correctly setting the GMT function.

Even day and date complications are less than useful. You’re more likely to set the date wrong on your watch (or set it out of sync) than you are to need it.

One watch complication, however, is as valuable as a water in a desert: An alarm. While seemingly half the world’s population relies on their phone’s alarm to wake them, there’s the ever-present risk that a software glitch will render your alarm mute. Or your phone’s battery will die before the sun comes up. Or you’ll accidentally set your phone to complete silence. In other words, phone alarms are fragile creatures.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

It's Okay to Wear a Watch That's "Too Big"

The two most frequent questions on watch forums are “Should I buy a Rolex or Omega?” and “What size watch should I wear?”

Let those lugs hang out. Nobody will think less of you and
you won't be ejected from your favorite restaurant.
Watch collectors obsess over these two questions above all else, even more than, “I can only afford a new watch or a vacation with my family — which should I do?” But here’s the truth about watch size: It doesn’t matter, unless you want it to. 

If you're worried about what other people might think of lugs overhang your wrist like spaghetti lingering outside your lips, if you think that that watch circle on your wrist eclipses your entire arm, consider this: Nobody is noticing. I promise 

Every now and then there’s a newspaper horror story about a man wearing a tie that sweeps at his knees, sporting pants legs with room for double-thighs, or wearing a dangerously unbuttoned shirt. But when have you ever seen any article condemning any man for wearing a watch that’s too big? No politician, sports star, or businessman has ever been singled out by a reporter for wearing a watch the size of a planet’s moon. For that matter, when was the last time you can remember an article that read something like this, “The Nobel Prize recipient, wearing his Patek Nautilus 5711 said…”?

Most people don’t notice your watch at all, let alone its size. 

Is you watch too big? In your own mind, perhaps. Nobody else cares.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sinn 556 Mother of Pearl

When my Sinn 556 mother of pearl watch first arrived, I was glum because the dial was as black as midnight before a storm on a moonless night. There was no hint of mother of pearlness, no shine, no glow.

I thought I'd been shipped the wrong watch, and with that thought came another: How am I going to return this watch all the way to Germany?

After my heart returned to its correct spot in my chest I noticed that the mother of pearl's kaleidoscopic rainbow only appears when the light is reflected just so. When you tilt your wrist to reflect the light, letting your eyes catch the vivid colors, you see a watch dial stands in a category of its own.

The Sinn 556 comes in several flavors, including a white mother of pearl, which to my eye is too flashy. The black mother of pearl is handsome, masculine and subtle. The mother of pearl version is the Sinn 556 I MOP S. The 556 comes in a variety of flavors, including versions with numbers instead of indices and date complications.

The Sinn 556, a 38.5mm watch, costing about $1,000 US, uses an automatic ETA 2824-2 movement and a screw-down crown. It's water resistant to 200 meters, has a stainless steel case, a sapphire crystal, and is 11 mm thick. The Sinn 556 is a 25 jewel watch with a clear caseback.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Nixie Tube Watches: Retro, Cool, and Fun

It's hard to describe the sensation that accompanies wearing a Nixie tube watch. I often feel like I've strapped on a time machine and I'm one step away from 1961.

Nixie tubes are cathode display tubes filled with an inert gas, usually neon. Nixie tubes were invented in the 1950's and were popular props in movies from the 1950's, 60's and 70's that tried to portray that era's vision of the future. The watch is filled with retro technology.

While Nixie tube clocks are fairly common (you can find them on Etsy, eBay and Amazon), Nixie tube watches are rare, in part because it's hard to squeeze relatively large tubes into a small wristwatch space.

The watch pictured here is a NIWA Nixie tube watch, a Kickstarter project. It costs about $500, but you need to contact the designers via their Kickstarter or Facebook page for availability.

You set the watch by using a magnetic wand. The two tube display first shows hours (12 or 24 -- your pick), then minutes, and finally seconds. The watch comes with a USB charger and has a battery backup. The time is displayed when you tilt your wrist to a 45% angle, a setting that can be changed, too. The NIWA watch is 55mm in diameter, which looks especially large on my 6 1/4 inch wrist. The watch needs to be charged about every four days, depending on how often you look at it (which is likely to be very often.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Watch Malpractice

On the one hand, who would do that to a Rolex, or any watch -- not screw in the crown? An unscrewed crown invites every molecule of humidity, every drop of water to invade the watch. It's the watch equivalent of a diet that consists of Big Macs and Cokes, certain to lead to an early death.

The photo above is from the 1976 movie, All The President's Men, a political thriller about Watergate and the downfall of President Richard Nixon, in which Robert Redford portrayed Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. (Redford's co-star, Dustin Hoffman, played Carl Bernstein.)

Perhaps the pulled out crown was a symbol of how busy Woodward and Bernstein were, that because of frenetic pace of the Watergate investigation Woodward didn't even have time to screw in his Submariner's crown. Perhaps. It's more likely this was just a case of watch malpractice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Watch Enablers: For Collectors Who Need a Little Coaxing to Buy

Watch Enablers is a group of watch enthusiasts whose mission is to support, encourage, and coax other members into spending our hard earned money on new watches.

Sometimes all you need is a few words of encouragement --or a kick in the seat of the pants-- to buy the watch you really want.

Can't decide between an Oris and Doxa? Looking for moral support because once you purchase that Patek you have to have to tell your spouse you can no longer afford a vacation? Have you always sported dress watches, but feel a pull to buy something different like the Jaeger-LeCoultre's Jumping Seconds Hand? Need advice about buying a Grand Seiko directly from Japan? Then Watch Enablers is for you.

The group is limited to 24 members (one for each hour of the day). We're keeping this group small so we get to know each other. There are many wonderful and large watch forums around, but Watch Enablers is cozy, friendly corner of the internet. Watch Enablers is for collectors in all price ranges.

There's pleasure in buying a new watch, of course, but it's also fun to inspire somebody else to buy a watch.

Join or find out more about Watch Enablers at

Monday, November 7, 2016

Rolex Unveils World's First Watch Vending Machine

Located inside the lobby of the Grand Hyatt adjacent to New York's Grand Central Terminal is the world's first wristwatch vending machine.

Opened last week by Rolex, this first of it's kind technology dispenses six different flavors of Rolex: Lady-Datejust 26 and Datejust 31 (black face with roman numerals) for women; Oyster Perpetual, Air-King, Milgauss, Submariner and Yacht-Master for men. 

Housed in a 2.5 centimeter thick titanium armored dispensing machine with non-reflective bullet proof glass, the vending machine holds ten of each model of Rolex, a total of sixty watches. Customers can pay with their American Express, Mastercard or Visa cards. The Rolex-Matic vending machine also accepts American Gold Eagle coins for payment. 

Rolex's market research has identified several groups of individuals who are inclined to buy a Rolex from such a machine, including:
  • Business travelers who forgot to take their watch and have a meeting for which they need to look impressive.
  • Rolex owners who just had their Rolex stolen (or who left it behind at airport security) and need an immediate replacement.
  • Travelers who have been wearing their Omega, Breitling or Patek for several days and want a change of pace.
  • Consumers who want a Rolex without all the hassle that goes with buying one in a store.
Each watch is dispensed with easy-to-use tools for band sizing. 

A little watch humor from A Better Wrist.