A place to show and talk about watches

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Rebuy Syndrome

Not long ago, I found myself contemplating the idea of buying a clean example of an early 1970’s Omega Constellation. To be completely honest, I was not planning on buying another vintage Omega; in fact, I was in the process of reducing the size of my collection. Yet, there was something special about this piece.

You see, my very first Swiss mechanical wristwatch was a 1973 Omega Constellation. The watch featured a modest 35mm stainless steel case and a blue dial. I was so happy with this watch that I was willing to ignore some of its faults, such as unconventional lugs, a quite clattery modified bracelet, and a defective pinion that caused the second hand to fall off. After a while, my taste and knowledge of mechanical watches started to develop and I decided to sell it to invest in superior timepieces.
So here I was, a more experienced and educated enthusiast with a basic but fairly (horologically) significant collection considering buying another 40-year-old Omega, because it reminded me of my first serious watch. 

Early 70’s, stainless steel case and bracelet with a blue dial, but with a C-shaped case and conventional lugs! Without realizing it, I had reignited the emotional connection that I had with my first watch while at the same time falling victim of the Rebuy Syndrome. (Again. Well, sort of).

The first time I suffered from the Rebuy Syndrome happened when I purchased an early 1990’s Seamaster Professional 200m Automatic, a.k.a. the pre-Bond. I had previously owned the same watch, but in the 36mm or mid-size version. A nice watch overall; however, I thought that it was a little small even for my diminutive 6 3/4” (17cm) wrist. Perhaps because it was very comfortable to wear or because I really appreciated its honest vintage design, I started to miss it soon after it was gone. At any rate, it took some time, but I was able to locate the full-size version and I bought it.

I have been very close to falling for the Rebuy Syndrome again. From time to time, I seriously consider the idea of buying an Omega Seamaster Professional 300m in 41mm, after owning and selling the mid-size version of the same watch.

There have been other occasions, such as the time when I sold an Omega Speedmaster Reduced only to buy a Speedmaster Professional 1957 re-issue. However, I don’t consider this a rebuy; while the product family is the same, the models are significantly different.

A typical source of anxiety for new watch enthusiasts is trying to grow or change the shape of their collections too quickly. Perhaps, frequent and hurried buying-and-selling doesn’t allow the collector to really enjoy and get to know each piece in the collection, or determine if the watch can be considered a keeper or not. It has not happened to me, but I have heard many stories about enthusiast selling a watch only to buy the exact same reference months later.



Selling a watch only to buy it again after realizing our mistake can be a costly, time consuming, and frustrating experience.

I have not yet regretted any rebuy, perhaps because in each occasion I did not purchase the exact same reference, but a variation of the same model that worked better for me at the end.


As far as my most recent rebuy, well, I hope to keep this piece for a long time. It is a reminder of simpler times when I only expected one or two things from my watches; it reminds me that monetary value, history, heritage, prestige, or public perception are not vital for the enjoyment of a quality timepiece.

On a separated note, during the writing of this blog post, I realized that I have only experienced the Rebuy Syndrome with Omega watches. I do not know exactly why that is, but we can all agree that the range of models in the Omega catalog over the years is incredibly diverse. I probably have owned more watches from Omega than from any other brand and I am sure that brand loyalty does not apply here. Maybe a topic of conversation for another time. In the meantime, I hope that this new realization does not create any more anxieties!

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Matter of Taste

You often hear this advice: buy what you like, but for the new collector this is often easier said than done.

It may sound strange, but as new enthusiasts, we might not always know exactly what we like. While we might have an idea in terms of size, dial color, or general style, our narrow experience limits our ability to objectively and completely evaluate our options.

Consequently, many new collectors end up basing their purchasing decisions on the multitude of watch and brand opinions, criticisms, and compliments that flood social media, magazines, and newspapers.

Knowing exactly what we like or want from a timepiece seems like a never-ending proposition. After all, taste is not developed over night. However, this is normal and not necessarily a bad thing. New and seasoned collectors can agree that one’s taste evolves over time as we are exposed to new knowledge.

In a January 2015 interview for TheWATCHES.tv, Mr. Jean-Claude Biver (a person who knows a thing or two about horology) pointed out that “Taste evolves through buying. It is comparable to fine food. It develops following the same schema… you focus your taste with time. It changes too…”

Early in my journey, I really wanted a classic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso because at the time, I was looking for a watch with classic design and horological significance to solidify my collection. The Reverso consistently receives praise for its history, heritage, and quality of manufacturing. I had never seen one in person; thus based on what I had read and heard, I purchased one. I did wear the watch on a few occasions, including formal dinners and a job interview; yet, even after changing back and forth from bracelet to a number of leather bands, it did not feel right; it wasn’t for me. I sold that piece, but a nagging feeling persisted. Perhaps I had missed something? How could all the critics and commentators be wrong?


Months after I sold the watch, I found a December 2009 interview with Gerald Genta, possibly the most influential watch designer of all time, where he provided his views on the Reverso design. “The Reverso is also a phenomenon.” he said. “In my opinion, it is not as important, because I do not find this watch to be very ‘virile’. It looks pretty on a woman’s wrist, but I don’t think it’s very masculine to wear a watch with a swivel case. I don’t really see the use.”

Regardless of your own opinion about the Reverso or Genta’s comments, personally it wasn’t until I read this interview that felt justified for selling the watch within just a few months of buying it. Before the Reverso, I didn’t have enough experience to understand how case dimensions and shape, and overall design combined with my wrist size can determine how a watch will look and feel while wearing it.

Do I regret buying the Reverso; was it a mistake? In the words of Mr. Biver himself, “… even if we make a mistake, the day we realize that is good news because it shows we have changed. It is positive and I don’t regret my first purchases because they fit with my knowledge and tastes at the time… It is a beautiful evolution that improves the collection.”

Take your time and enjoy every new experience. Remember that beauty is based on a subjective feeling; taste is both personal and beyond reasoning, and therefore arguing over matters of taste never reaches any universal consensus. So, who cares what you read, see, or hear in the “specialized” media? Enjoy every step of the process and see every “mistake” as a reflection of your expanding knowledge.

Now, this does not mean that we won’t experience some kind of setback from time to time. If you don’t believe me, just ask my friend Brad.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Falling In and Out of Love



It was a typical Tuesday morning at work. Around 10:30 that morning, I decided to take a break and buy a cup of coffee somewhere in downtown. Working in the cold and unforgiving world of binary code had already taken a toll.

 After purchasing my coffee, I started my walk back to the office. The downtown area, while small, offers a variety of small privately owned shops and restaurants. Do you need a new vacuum bag, or have a pair of shoes to repair, or perhaps want to check the latest vinyl releases while you wait for your Vietnamese food order to be ready? No problem, everything can be done within the same street block.

I happened to be walking by one of these shops when I saw her for the first time. The appeal was immediate. I could not contain myself from staring at this embodiment of beauty. The symmetry of her face, the curves of her body, and her casual but still sophisticated demeanor was captivating. The only thing I was not sure of due to the distance between us was how old she was; I could only hope she was of a suitable age.

Oh yes, inside a discrete wooden display cabinet, I saw what looked like a 1950’s or 1960’s Omega Seamaster. The watch featured a silver dial, dauphin hands, 3-9-12 numerals, stainless steel case, and a seconds subdial at 6.

I asked the store attendant to provide more information; however, he said that it was better for me to come back in a couple of days, the actual seller would be on site and able to answer my specific questions. For a couple days, I kept thinking about this watch.



Two days later, I was ready to go. I had previously looked at similar watches online for reference and emailed the seller to confirm that he would be at the store. I met Jim on Thursday afternoon, and he kindly answered my questions, opened the case, and handed me the watch for closer examination. As soon as I flipped the watch over to inspect the back cover, I sensed the unmistakable and satisfying action of a bumper movement. The typical Omega case with its curved lugs looked like it had never been polished, the crown and crystal look original, and with the exception of the hour hand, the whole dial was in pristine condition considering it was a vintage piece. Without much negotiation, I purchased the watch and thanked Jim for his time and patience.
    
For the next few days, I confirmed that this watch used a caliber 342 bumper movement and that it was manufactured around 1950. The watch looked good on my wrist, and without doubt, deserved to be part of my regular rotation.


We can, without much risk of being wrong, presume that the primary reason we find enjoyment in spending significant amounts of time and money on material things such as wristwatches is the emotional (that is correct, like in feelings) fulfillment that these objects bring to our lives. We voluntarily migrate from independence to interdependence in the pursuit of emotional reward.

I believe that falling in love (or transitioning from independence to interdependence) with a watch as experienced by most new collectors may be divided in three stages:

  1. Attraction: You spot a watch that captures your imagination. You find the dial, materials, style, movement, or complications attractive. You stimulate your natural desire for information
  2. Acceptance: You purchase the watch. You share with others your experience finding and obtaining your watch, and the factors that make this particular piece special. You continue to enjoy the entertainment and immediate pleasure of getting to know your new watch.
  3. Fulfillment: You recognize that the watch belongs in your collection, and it becomes important part of your rotation. And for all practical purposes, it meets your needs.

This dynamic relationship with your new watch may from time to time slightly shift toward independence or dependence. However, dependence is a less desirable state. In this state is where you cannot imagine ever separating from it. You are sure that in the terrible event where you might need to sell every piece in your collection but one, this watch is the keeper.

Sadly, after some time you may well start falling out of love. All of the sudden, your watch doesn’t meet all your needs, resulting in either:

  1.  Resignation: You must keep the watch, because you would lose a lot of money otherwise. You keep it around, because things could change and you may like it again, or you are afraid people may realize that you are a compulsive buyer.
  2.  Separation: You give the watch away, or sell it even if that means taking a loss. You take responsibility for a poor decision, or blame the blogger, YouTube commentator, or magazine writer who made you believe that you two were meant to be together.
Why do we fall out of love? Perhaps because for the most part, our evaluation of an object (or person) is significantly influenced by its beauty, or by what we read or hear others say about it. And it is not until we really get to experience the watch that we find out if it is really what we want; how it makes us feel.

It is impossible to test drive every watch that we might find interesting, but perhaps we can reduce the risk of making a bad decision by getting to know ourselves better, identifying what we really want from a watch, and then looking for those pieces that match our criteria. Now, how do we find out how a watch will make us feel in the long run? Well, that is the hard part I’m afraid.

I apologize for perhaps reminding you of a costly and uncomfortable breakup. Conversely, if I reminded you of a happy first time encounter that resulted in a long term relationship, you are welcome.
 
Right, what happened to the 1950 Omega Seamaster? I wish our story had a happy ending; however, this is not a Jude Deveraux historical romance novel. Sadly, our relationship ended in separation. But, I am sure she is helping somebody else feel fulfilled.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Hunt


The Hunt: Fulfilling the Void in Your Soul Watch Box

Like many other watch aficionados, I find myself in constant search of watch Nirvana. I have multiple times compulsively browsed eBay.com, Chrono24.com, and watchrecon.com for the next best deal, or that special timepiece that will finally satisfy the capricious demands of my always displeased watch box (which while physically full, for some reason, feels inadequate). Some call this practice The Hunt.

Spending innumerous hours tracking, targeting, and eventually trapping that special timepiece for the right price is just one more source of anxiety for the novice watch collector. As much as I would like to deny that The Hunt had perhaps affected my productivity at work and home, I can’t.


The behavior that I describe above is not different than other types of online obsessions: dating, gambling, and Pokémon Go are good examples. Obsessing over finding a partner, predicting next match’s winner, or catching Ditto (a.k.a. Metamon, this Pokémon species has the form of an amorphous blob with a simplistic face) may very well meet the definition of addiction. However, in the upside, some would argue that without being a little obsessed, we might lack the motivation to accomplish great things. So without turning this piece into a comprehensive study on addiction/obsession management, the key (as explained by A. Lickerman, M.D. author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self) is to make obsession work for us rather than work us over.


I believe this behavior mainly affects new watch aficionados because they are eager to start their collections and check all the boxes.

“OK, I need at least two watches. I need a dress watch and a sports watch… But I should get a gold dress watch for special occasions; yellow or rose gold? Good question. Maybe I should also get an understated dress watch, so nobody in the office will think that I am trying to be pretentious.”

“I need a diver’s watch, but I never go swimming. Well it doesn’t matter; everybody needs a diver, right? James Bond wears one with a tuxedo, so it’s cool.”

“Man! I really want a GMT; tracking more than two time zones is so useful. Remember three years ago when we were in Europe?”

“Gotta go vintage, that’s where it is at. Thank you, Lord, for my lady-sized wrists!”

“No seriously, what do you mean with I should look at German watches?”

“You know what I really need? A beater watch. I’m not going to wear my nice watches when mowing the lawn, am I?”

And on, and on, and on…

With experience you learn that building a well-balanced timepiece assemblage takes time. As cliché as it may sound, Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is especially true when you take into consideration your evolving tastes due to lifestyle changes, or your increasing knowledge of horology.

I recommend Jeffrey McMahon’s YouTube video, What I learned from My Invicta Days. In this video, McMahon talks about his “watch obsessive drowning in the bowels of TV shopping networks hawking Invicta watches.” For me, this video describes very well what could happen when a new and/or uninformed watch collector tries to build a collection too fast. I was lucky that my friend Terry introduced me early on to a world of watch styles, designs, origins, and time periods, so that by the time I was ready to embark on my own watch-collecting journey, I was able to avoid many common slip-ups such as McMahon’s Invicta Days. I am not here to say that Invictas must be avoided, but they are just not for me and I would not recommend them to those who want to get started in the hobby.

The Hunt is part of the game; it brings excitement to the hobby and it feeds our curiosity. But it can also expose us to the bad and the ugly of online shopping: corrupt buyers, dishonest sellers, unreliable package couriers, selling fees, buying fees, and buyer’s and seller’s remorse.

The reality is that the watch that you think will finally cure your watch collecting anxieties, and fill that void in your soul most likely won’t.

Go ahead: have fun, but take your time. Or like I once told my friend Patrice, “I need to stop knocking doors searching for the one; I need to let it present itself.” However, it doesn’t hurt to take a look once in a while!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rolex... Addressing the Elephant in the Room


Recently during one of our weekly Show and Tell meetings at our local brewery, my friend Terry and I were discussing if any serious watch collection could be complete without a Rolex timepiece. Multiple times before, we have talked about the inflated prices for Rolex watches and the possible reasons for this phenomenon. The amount of money Rolex spends in marketing, as well as brand recognition and perception are common topics of conversation.

As a fairly new mechanical watch aficionado, it is difficult to remove oneself from the stereotypical image of the Rolex owner. The car salesman, the pawnshop owner, the pimp (probably a fake), the new-money wannabe, or the person who thinks that wearing a Rolex means that he/she has made it in life are —fairly or not —  the images that come to mind.  It’s difficult to ignore the number of blingy Instagram photos, and vulgar displays of unfounded arrogance and elitism wildly available for consumption in YouTube.



Some time ago, Terry told me a story of a guy who didn’t even know the Rolex model he was wearing. Terry had asked him, “Hey, that looks like a nice watch you are wearing, a Submariner?” The man replied, “It is a Rolex” with the look of somebody who had just been asked if a bicycle in fact rolls on two wheels.

Any well-informed mechanical watch enthusiast would agree that there are a number of watch brands that have the same or higher level of history and heritage, product engineering, craftsmanship, and attention to detail than Rolex. However, Rolex continues to drive significantly higher prices for its products than brands with similar offerings. Case in point: the overly popular and cult status victor Rolex Daytona Ref. 16520 was in fact based on Zenith’s El Primero 400 caliber. (We can extensively talk about the modifications that Rolex made to caliber 400 before making it available for the Daytona, but that would demand a separate post.) And while the Rolex Daytona Ref. 16520 can bring around $11,000 in the secondhand market, a Zenith watch with El Primero movement in similar condition and age will hardly bring half of that amount.

 In 2013, Benjamin Clymer (Founder of Hodinkee) during an interview with John Goldberger (Collector, and Author) found very interesting that Rolex Ref.4113 (one example recently bringing in over a million dollars at Christie's) costs significantly more than 3 other references sharing the same Valjoux 55VBR movement. One of those being an extremely rare (50 pieces made) NOS Universal Geneve designed for nocturnal navigation by the Italian Airforce. Benjamin Clymer asked “why is the Rolex worth X while these are worth Y?” John Goldberger simply answered with a smirk: “because Rolex on the dial”, only to add after a very brief pause: “it is also better designed than the others, the cases are thinner and lighter, they made 12 examples, and it is Rolex.”
 
For a long time, the negative connotations associated to Rolex kept me from connecting with the brand, or a particular model in the catalog. However, as I learned more about horological history as it relates to watches, it became increasingly difficult to ignore the contributions that the company has made to the industry. Consequently, still fairly reluctant, I bought my first Rolex. While I had already seen, touched, and tried a proper Rolex before this purchase: an 18K president that my friend Terry has owned for years, this simple pre-owned three-hand Rolex 6694 with a manual wind movement, acrylic crystal, and oyster bracelet was going to be my personal gateway to the Rolex world.


Did I fall in love with the 6694? No, I did not. It was a nice watch in pristine condition, and I believe that it represented the original values associated with the brand: quality, practical simplicity, and classic design. However, I didn’t hesitate to sell it in order to buy a vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox with K825 caliber right after one became available. On the other hand, my brief fling with Rolex motivated me to learn more about Rolex the company; it did force me to get pass the murkiness  that surrounds the brand.

Rolex significant innovations include: first waterproof wristwatch, first wristwatch with an automatically changing date on the dial, first wristwatch waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, first wristwatch to show two time zones at once, first wristwatch with an automatically changing day and date on the dial, first watchmaker to earn chronometer certification for a wristwatch, first watchmaker to patent the helium escape valve, and first brand to use 904L stainless steel.

Today, Rolex is the largest single luxury watch brand; it manufactures products of exceptional quality with timeless designs using world-class industrial practices that allow the company to produce about 2,000 watches per day. To top things off, Rolex is among Forbes’ 75 most powerful global brands, thanks to its world class marketing strategy.

Rolex, in my opinion, is a victim of its own success. If we look beyond stereotypes and misconceptions, analyze what the brand represents in terms of contributions to watchmaking, and judge its products as we would judge products from its competitors, we can find legitimate reasons why we should consider Rolex to be part of our collection.

Do I have a Rolex today? Yes I do: an Explorer I Ref. 14270. Will I keep it for a long time? That, I’m afraid, I cannot answer with certainty. After all, you never know when that one special Jaeger-LeCoultre may cross your path.