Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Time Traveler's Watch

The double tourbillon Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1
looks like it was inspired by the future
Watchmakers create incredible watches for divers, pilots, astronauts, and race car drivers seemingly out of a jumble of random parts, waving wands to make masterpieces. Watches built to withstand the crushing pressure of the deep sea, the vacuum of outer space, the intense cold of the world's tallest mountains, and the debilitating G-forces of extreme sports.

But what about time travel? What's the best watch to have strapped to your wrist when breaking the time barrier? Sure, an Omega Speedmaster will probably be adequate, but adequate doesn't cut it. Time travelers need their own watches with the perfect balance of design, reliability and features. What will a time traveler's watch look like? Here's one possible advertisement that answers that question.

The Seiko Time 1

Whether you're embarking on your first trip to the past or whether you're a seasoned time traveler with centuries under your belt, Seiko's Time 1 is the watch you should be wearing. Stylish, sporty, comfortable, and above all, practical, the Time 1 is your faithful companion for everything from a short trip down memory lane to when you were toddler, to a journey to witness the first ever sunrise at the just-completed Stonehenge.

Among Time 1's exclusive features are:

Highly readable year, month, date, day, hour, minute, seconds. Year indicator is red for BC, green for AD.

The Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia
Astronomical Grand Complication 3600
might as well
be from the year 3600.
Quick set year

Perpetual calendar from 3,547 BC (the time travel limit) to the present

Accurate to +/- 1 one second a month

Auto self-destruct if watch is removed without first being set to present date (to prevent the timeline from being corrupted by technology from the future)

Fully mechanical watch (even the self-destruct feature is powered by the spring)

Polished, lightweight lithium case that's stronger than titanium 3

Flexible strap so you can quickly flip your watch upside down, disguising it as plain jewelry

One press of the auto pusher at the two o'clock position starts the 2 hour and 12 minute countdown timer to alert you to when the wormhole will reopen so you're not stranded in the past. The watch will vibrate when the countdown mark is reached.

Lunar and solar eclipse complication so you're forewarned about mass hysteria events

Nihonium-painted hands give powerful lumes for night-time readability

Scratch resistant diamond crystal

Easily removable 18k gold milanese band in case you need to barter it for local currency

Moonphase so you know when there will be light at night

And, of course, the Seiko Time 1 makes a great watch for just hanging out in 2047, too. It's water resistant to 5,000 meters and negative air pressure resistant through the lunar atmosphere and beyond. Look for it at your favorite Seiko retailer under the model SJTT073.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

An Irreverent Glossary of Watch Terms

Collecting watches isn’t as easy as collecting simple things like baseball cards or Pez dispensers. If you want the maximum fulfillment from collecting watches you need to be able to explain to somebody you’ve just met at a party how a mechanical watch works, the difference between automatic and manual wind watches, and why a $1,000 watch is considered inexpensive. You have to be able to sketch a the inside of a watch with a drawing that would impress John Harrison* himself.

Watches are complicated machines, often with hundreds of parts with fancy-sounding French and German names that spell checkers can’t even guess at. Many watches are an amalgam of parts invented a century ago and components so advanced they seem to have been created by aliens from the future. Then there are the seemingly endless number of watch complications (a complication is a trick a watch can perform) such as moonphase, chronograph, and fourndaynte.

What do all those words mean? What do all those parts and complications do? With this glossary, you’ll learn the meaning of some of the more interesting watch words and be on your way toward enjoying watch collecting even more.

Hacking: Sound you make to disguise the answer to your spouse's question, "How much was that watch?"

Chronograph: The complication you wish you had used before you got that parking ticket.

Bezel: The first part of a new watch to be scratched.

Authorized Dealer: The only person who ever notices your new watch.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Oh No! My Watch is Worth $500,000

You're on your way to a doubly dangerous destination, or maybe you’re headed for the middle of monsoon season. As you're waiting for your connecting flight—you finally have internet again after being encased in a radio-free cigar container for twenty hours—you're reading some watch websites.

What?! Wait! That can't be! But it is. That watch you've taken on this rough and tumble trip because you didn't care if it was ruined or stolen, is one of two of its kind in the world and is worth $500,000. The pictures and reference numbers match up exactly. Surely it’s a mistake. But it’s not. The roll of the dice was in your favor, and your watch hovers in the stratosphere.

What do you do? Do you cancel your trip and fly home to safety with your watch? After all, wandering the streets of Johannesburg with a watch that might be stolen at gunpoint or smashed against a boulder while you’re trekking through the Swiss alps would ruin your entire vacation, not to mention your life.

Or do you soldier on and let fate decide whether your watch survives?

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.