A moment of sanity

Articles

I spent some time yesterday looking at the Oris Carl Brashear limited edition and just for a moment thought that the asking price of £3,600 was reasonable.

It was one of those moments when reason had left the building, when the adult in me regressed to childhood and when nothing made sense. Feelings that are no doubt familiar to those of you who own more than two watches. If you own three or more you are a watch collector and you are lost.

Initially I had been looking at the green and bronze Oris Pointer Date (36mm) as a potential anniversary present for my wife, but when I showed her it she declared that she would kill me if I spent £1,400 on it. She absolutely loved the watch in every possible way, but felt that it was far too expensive and that we had better things to spend money on. She is the same one who wears a Fitbit on her left wrist and who has no desire for luxury in its place.

As it happened I was checking out both watches during a special Oris event at a Goldsmiths jewellers. The Oris rep was very polite, knowledgable and had just the right balance to make a potential buyer warm to the idea of such a purchase. And then it all went wrong.

When you are bombarded by phrases like “It’s only £90 per month plus a £450 deposit to buy both” and “You can never have too many Oris watches” I personally start to step back and question the motives at play here. It was not persuasive in any way, but rather was desperate sounding and unnecessary. £5,000 on two watches that you would need to support by finance over four years is crazy and would be a foolish thing to undertake. They did not care though because it was all about the sale(s).

About the sale to the point that one of the Goldsmiths reps told me that there were only eight of the watches left in the country. This then became fifteen two minutes later when the Oris rep tried the same tactic. Also, I was advised that it was an investment as they would both go up in value. Nonsense, I love Oris watches, but they do not increase in value as a general rule, and some depreciate very quickly indeed.

My wife then exclaimed that I could buy a Tudor Black Bay for £1,000 less than the Oris which really did make me think. No matter how much I appreciate Oris, few are worth £1,000 more than the Black Bay, in my humble opinion.

All of this made me reconsider how I feel about watches and the industry in general, and I didn’t like my new found pessimism. We all know that if you walk into a jewellers a large part of the stock on offer is made up of branding, nice boxes and fashion in terms of the pricing. We all know that this is an industry built on intangibles that you cannot see or feel, and that this is why the likes of Rolex, Omega and TAG do well. For me, Oris is slightly outside of those three and really does offer good value in the wider watch market for products that could potentially work on your wrist for decades without issue. However, after spending close to 30 minutes talking to the Oris rep at the event yesterday and witnessing the hard sale that followed I felt differently.

The intangibles are what keep the watch market ticking, but they need to stay in the background for it to work as it should. When pushed the natural reaction is to push back and I didn’t spend a penny.

The Spring Bar

Articles

If you feel like ordering at least a hundred, Otto Frei will sell them to you (at the time of this writing) for the low, low price of exactly 94 cents a pop (“assembled by hand in a small village in Switzerland” no less, so bad cess to you, you non-small-Swiss-village-non-hand-assembling spring bar makers, may you and your shoddy wares be hurled into an outer darkness, where there is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth). They seem far too flimsy to have any of us trust a $200 Seiko diver to them, let alone, say, a $50,000 vintage Rolex (or whatever) and yet, they seem to be almost boringly reliable – mostly, anyway, and this despite the fact that they can’t be cleaned or serviced, and are basically disposable… More at Hodinkee.

You have got to be a decent writer to make this subject interesting, and Jack has somehow managed to do so.

Nobody notices your watch, nobody cares

Articles

I didn’t own the watch (it was a rental from the good folks at Eleven James, who let me try their service), but that didn’t change things. I was conscious of it nearly all of the time. Walking down the street, riding the subway, shopping in stores, I was aware of the (surprisingly light) lug of metal and clockwork on my wrist. The guilt was immediate and unavoidable.

This stemmed from my foolish fear that people would notice it, and therefore treat me differently. This fear ended up being completely unfounded, as only one friend noticed it before I told them about it… More at B.I.

Good article if a little short.

A couple of weeks ago I wore a Rolex Sea Dweller for three days and not one person said anything. After that I wore a £10 watch from Amazon (brighter colours, Chinese no name brand and a bit bigger) and three people mentioned what a nice watch it was.

Buy a watch for yourself, wear it because you enjoy looking at it. Trust me, nobody else gives a damn what is on your wrist.

Why is Rolex so popular? Why?

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I was talking to an authorised dealer for Rolex the other day and mentioned the fact that the Submariner and certain other models are seemingly being constrained in terms of the volume on sale.

He disputed this and advised that the company is simply making as many as it can to keep up with demand, but did admit that to even buy a Submariner from his store you would have needed to have already spent money on Rolex in the past. Apparently this is the only way to prioritise the sheer number of customers who want a new Submariner.

The discussion continued with me politely calling BS on what he was telling me, but still the rehearsed words came to me. The fact that you have to spend money on Rolex watches to buy the Rolex watch you want is crazy, but this is not an isolated case. It is common knowledge that this happens and if you visit any authorised Rolex dealer you will see many Datejust watches and very very few Submariners. The waiting list according to the AD I spoke to was months which goes to show that limiting supply can increase demand and it would appear that Rolex can use any argument for this happening.

Scarcity creates more publicity and flicks the switch in many men’s brains that means they want to own it, purely because it is scarce. This article sums it up and it would appear that Rolex understands this and is doing the ‘right business thing’ by stirring demand in the most capitalist of ways.

Aside from this, and on a personal level, I just don’t get it. The designs have barely changed over the decades, which is of course a good thing, but to me the forms suggest old, mature, stable and any other word I can find to suggest that they are dull and overly traditional.

The Sea Dweller is the perfect example. It’s huge. It’s heavy. The dial is busy and small within a case that is big and numerated in too large a way. The specifications regarding how deep it can go are ludicrous and aim at the need for some men to have a watch that will live long after they have died at the bottom of the ocean. I can’t deny the quality of the movements or the finishing, but remember that this is a mass-market brand producing 100,000’s of watches per year, and still they command prices that would suggest the number is in the 1,000’s.

I can’t help but admire how Rolex does this and the way the company has created the brand that those who reach a financial point in their lives look to first. A Rolex is a sign of success and stability on a wrist and few other watches can do this. It is the brand that people who know nothing about watches admire when they see one, or at least the 1 out of 100 who does not think it is a fake, and it is so embedded in our minds that the designs are perceived to be timeless and perfect, even though they obviously are not in so many ways.

Personally, I much prefer the Tudor range for the pricing, designs and modern sense the watches offer, even if ironically the majority are styled on vintage watches. I also prefer to wear a watch that most would not know such as an Oris or a Bremont, but Rolex will continue to flourish and give steam to the train that is the watch industry and I shall continue to never own one. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Rolex or the watches per se, but I am uneasy about the constraining of the most popular models for presumably no other reason that to drive demand upwards.

Watches feed a guy’s sense of security/superiority

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To parse another thing that guys do: they see a watch all over social media, read about it in all the magazines … it quickly becomes the It-Watch, which they also start obsessively wanting. “Everyone who is anyone has X, so I have to have it too.” (Unsaid: in order to be “one of that elite group”). Classic example, the Patek 5711 – with a Tiffany stamp being the ultimate prize.

This is a really good article and it’s to argue with any part of it.

Schools are removing analogue clocks from exam halls

Articles

Schools are removing analogue clocks from examination halls because teenagers are unable to tell the time, a head teachers’ union has said.

Teachers are now installing digital devices after pupils sitting their GCSE and A-level exams complained that they were struggling to read the correct time on an analogue clock.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said youngsters have become accustomed to using digital devices.

“The current generation aren’t as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations,” he told The Telegraph.

So, in effect many teenagers will look at a traditional watch and effectively see a foreign language. My son, who is 17, has a few friends who can only read digital clocks. Scary stuff.

Oris Divers Sixty-Five first thoughts (reference 01 733 7720 4055-07 8 21 18)

Articles, Watch Reviews

If there is one watch that has floated around in my subconscious for some time, it is the Divers Sixty-Five from Oris.

It ticks all of the boxes for what I want in a modern watch-

Decent lume (not too bright, but enough to see me through the night)
Trusted movement (Oris Cal. 733 based on the Sellita SW 200-1)
1960’s diving style ideally
Thin enough to not look like a desk diver’s penis extension
Consistency – it has to all work together for a reason and not just to stand out
That special something – I have no words to explain what that is, no one does

Photo 29-04-2018, 14 31 00.jpg

Despite the fact that this watch has always been there somewhere in my mind, I had no intention of buying one because it wasn’t figuring for some reason. The lack of a stand-out look or feature means that it will be overlook by most and even by people like me for whom it does tick those boxes. It’s nice, but it is not noticeable which ironically proved to be the biggest advantage of all.

All of this happened because my wife and I took our son out to purchase a watch for my son’s 18th birthday and the fact that he is heading off to university soon. He love watches (wonder where he got that from?) and his Seiko SRP has a few problems so we decided to buy him ‘the’ watch that he will wear for some time.

We were going to simply buy him a watch, but after asking for advice on what to buy James Stacey (The Grey Nato) advised to take him with us and to make it part of the experience. I should have known this because the purchasing experience is strangely important when buying a special watch and is something that will stay with you while you wear it. Sometimes buying online is not worth it even if you save a lot of money.

Anyway, we spent some time looking around and he seemed to focus in on the Oris Artelier Complication (reference 01 781 7729 4051-07 5 21 66FC) which was a surprise. He tried it on and absolutely loved it which seemed to shock me and the sales assistant. For some who is 18 years old this does not appear to be the kind of watch they would go for, but he has his tastes and is heading to university to study law so maybe he is trying to fit the part early. As he continued to just stare at the watch on his wrist my wife and I realised that we were about to spend a lot more than expected on his birthday present.

tomwatch

I haggled and haggled with the sales assistant until we agreed on a price and then made the mistake of trying on the Sixty-Five after my son had discarded it within seconds – he really did not like it which was a surprise as he loves his Seiko SRP. It then hit me.

You know when they say a watch has to speak to you, this happened with the Sixty-Five instantly. It just felt so right on my wrist and I was surprised at how thin the case is and the way it remains substantial despite what some would see as a smaller form factor. I really cannot explain what struck me about this watch, but something did and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I did not, however, buy it.

And then I bought it two days later in another store after lots more haggling. It was like an itch I just had to scratch and one that left me with uncertainty because I have some reservations about the Sixty-Five.

The term ‘desk diver’ usually refers to those of us who like dive watches, but who do not dive. In this case the term could accurately describe the watch itself. The compromises are quite substantial and in an honest way because to me there is no doubt that Oris is not selling this as a tool watch.

It’s 100m water resistant which is less than expected in a modern dive watch.
There are no crown guards, but the crown is a screw-in setup.
The lume is good enough, but maybe not enough for real diving?
There is no way to adjust the size of the strap without tools.
It feels just a little fragile and more suited to air conditioning than air tanks.

Photo 29-04-2018, 14 30 05

My first day with the Sixty-Five has made me realise than any regrets are theoretical because it is a stunning looking timepiece that stands out to me, but likely not to others who see me wearing it. I am never fussed by what others think and if I was I would wear a Rolex and tell everyone about it. The reality is that most people do not care about watches and what others are wearing, which is one reason to wear an Oris which few are aware of, and in this case I suspect that the Sixty-Five could be a long term wear which adorns my wrist most days. I am a desk diver who likes 1960’s dive watch styling and the Oris brand. This would seem to cover all that I need, but time will tell.