Two watches, no more

Articles, Vintage Watches

I am lucky. I own a watch that I absolutely love.

The design is fantastic, it has a splash of colour that makes it stand out, it is very accurate and it is just the right size for my wrist.

At one point I owned 31 watches, but this one has taken over and I am left with just two after selling all of the rest in deference to my beloved Bulova Snorkel 666.

It isn’t just a material or aesthetic thing with this watch because my father bought it the week I was born, in 1970, to celebrate my birth and he wore it until he died 18 months ago. I remember the splash of orange from my childhood, from times playing in the garden, playing football in the park or simply eating around the dinner table. The watch, and the splash of orange, was always there and it is embedded in my mind forever. And as you can imagine, it means an awful lot to me.

I am lucky because I no longer search for the perfect watch, a longing that I am sure many of you can empathise with, and I no longer spend money on timepieces that did the same thing as my other timepieces did, but in very slightly different ways. It is not a conscious thing, when I tried to wear a different watch to work or when taking my children out somewhere I just couldn’t do it. I always wanted to wear the 666 and I still do day after day.

The problem, however, is that it is a vintage watch and so the lume has just about disappeared and it can never be made truly waterproof. I could have the hands re-lumed, but the patina is just so perfect that I would be crazy to do so. Watch companies are adding fake patina to many new models in 2018, but it makes much more sense to enjoy true patina which helps to define and age a watch to perfection.

The waterproofing is also not possible because of the way these watches were made and the lack of replacement gaskets that would help to stop damage. And anyway, I wouldn’t want to add new parts if I could avoid it. It’s my father’s watch and it is now mine so it will stay is it was and age as it should.

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To supplement the 666 I wear a Citizen Excalibur when asleep and when doing activities that a vintage watch may suffer from being subjected to. It costs just over £100, has a brilliant all-night lume and is deadly accurate. It also survives by light alone so is left on a windowsill during the day and swapped over in the evening. I still suffer a small pang when removing the 666 each day and really do not like taking it off, but the hum quite annoying if I wear it in bed and happen to lean on my arm at some point.

The Excalibur also ticks a box in that it is not a watch that will ever replace the 666. I like it a lot and it is a truly brilliant watch for the money, but is replaceable and somewhat of a tool rather than anything else. There is some personality there although not enough to engender any true affection.

And so I have two watches and need no more. For collectors that may seem an odd thing, but to me it is the perfect place to be.

The Seiko SRP775: instant vintage

Articles, Vintage Watches

I bought an SRP775 when it was first released and ended up flipping it for a PADI version which was then flipped for something else and so the familiar tale of loving watches continued until I ended up back with an SRP775.

In an industry where looking back appears to be the new forward, the SRP775 sits somewhere in the middle of modern watches that exude an age of smartphones and not having the time to fiddle with a tool that merely tells the time and those that try everything to paint patina and a sense of age on their dials and general forms.

The SRP775 is of course a throwback to an older watch and does little to hide the fact, but it somehow does not feel retro. It does not look out of place when paired with modern clothes and the busy lifestyles that we find ourselves living now.

It highlights how the original Seiko 6309 from 1976 was timeless in terms of design. The cushion case, large hour markers and perfectly proportioned bezel work to produce a soft look and feel in what is actually a heavy and fairly bombproof timepiece that can withstand whatever you throw at it, within reason of course.

Also, the 6309 was large for a watch of that time and so Seiko has had to do little to recreate it for a market more than four decades later, and design-wise little has changed. Obviously the movement is improved and so will many other aspects such as the crystal, but whether you are wearing a 6309 or an SRP775 the experience is remarkably similar.

There are few watches on the market today, especially at this price, that combine vintage with modern features in such a subtle way and this is why it is so popular within the watch community. It is also a bloody good watch.

The Citizen 51-2273

Articles, Vintage Watches

As always, though, the dial and hands are what ultimately sell the watch and with the Citizen 51-2273 diver, I’m a huge fan. Many vintage Citizen divers aped Rolex with the use of Mercedes hands. There’s nothing wrong with that and those watches contained just enough other touches to make them unique, but with this watch, we get some of my favorite hands. I’ve heard them referred to as “spade” shaped, but to me they just look different. They’re lume filled, including a sweep hand with a square pip, and work well with the applied indices that are filled with loads of the glowing stuff… More at Fratello Watches.

I was unaware of this watch up until now. Not overstated, but it feels like it inspired many other models from competing brands and it still looks so like a ‘Citizen’.

My grail watch: a Bulova Accutron Snorkel 666 feet

Vintage Watches

A grail watch is considered to be the one that an individual desires for many years and I have almost got mine now. There is a reason why it is ‘almost’ my grail watch, but it is not quite because I cannot get the model I really want.

When I was a child, my father used to wear a Bulova Accutron Snorkel 666 feet which I was always fascinated by. He treasured it a lot and I remember watching him staring at it for much longer than he needed to when he was checking the time. It was there when we played in the garden and when he helped me with my homework. It was there when he played football in the park with me and when we did everything else together, including letting me put it to my ear to listen to the familiar electronic buzz of the movement. This watch is such a distinct reminder of my father that it became my grail watch a long time ago, but there is a problem.

For a father to pass down a watch to his son that is a big thing, but unfortunately my mother cannot find the watch. My father is in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s and many possessions have sadly gone missing, along with his oh so brilliant mind, and so we continue to search for the one thing I would like to be handed down to me. It is the perfect memory of my father and one which I dearly hope to retrieve when he passes, which is expected to happen soon. Maybe I am grasping anything to remember him by, a small trinket to keep him alive, but the reality is that his personality died long ago and so we are left with the shell of a man who we watch decline month after month.

If I could find that particular watch, and I mean the actual watched he wore during my childhood, it would mean so much more than a keepsake or a memory. It, to me, is him because it was there during my formative years and I want that exact watch on my wrist, and I want my son to feel the same way about it when I pass it on to him. Only a watch can do that for me purely because he was not a man who wore jewellery and so it is the only object that would mean so much.

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Until that time I will have to live with a shell of the watch I really want, but it is a fantastic piece of technology which marries the best of old and new in a form which is delightful to look at from any angle. The Bulova Accutron II Snorkel is a clever recreation of the original and as you can see below, it most certainly follows the lines and form of the 666 feet well.

The internal rotating bezel remains, as does the instinctively 1960’s design, but inside is the latest Accutron movement from Bulova which is accurate to +/- 10 seconds per year. There is no day indicator, but in every other respect it is the original, if you don’t look too closely, just with a slightly modernised face.

I could buy an original for £350 in very poor condition, roughly the same price as the one above, but it has to be the one my father wore to make me wear it every day and to cope with lesser accuracy. Sadly the latest Accutron is a shell of the original, just like my father is of himself today, but if you want style, functionality and something that is a little different, this is the watch to buy at the moment…

…and then my mother called to say that she had found the watch in the loft. It had somehow come out of a box of ‘stuff’ and was nestling in the corner in the dark, alone and in poor condition. I really did not care because all I wanted was the watch and to see it again.

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It arrived and I spent an age just staring at it, playing with the crowns that both struggled to even move and looking at it from every angle. You can look at this watch from any angle and always see something new, something clever and an original aesthetic which is rare in modern watches no matter how expensive they are. A look inside proved to be disheartening because it looked dire, rusty, nothing moved and so I imagined it would just sit on a shelf as a keepsake from the man who is still somehow hanging in there.

I searched for someone to repair it and found Paul from Electric Watches (Welcome to Electric Watches! – Electric Watches). I emailed him and duly sent the watch to be looked at. Paul was quick to respond and had all of the parts it needed to come back to life, and the quote was much better than I expected.

Two day’s ago I received the Snorkel back and it is humming nicely, it is deadly accurate and it is in near perfect condition. All that is missing is an original strap, which is not easy to find, and that’s it. The watch retains a sense of age in places which is an advantage and really does feel like the one I used to admire so much.

This is it for me. I can think of no other watch I want to wear every day. I wanted this watch when I was 5 year’s old and I still love it today at the age of 45. My father bought this watch to celebrate my birth just after I was born and he always wore it, and I shall do the same. It brings home to me that a watch for many people is often much more than a beautiful device used to tell the time. It can be everything.

Fast forward-

My father died in September 2017 from Alzheimer’s. Every time I sat with him I wore the Bulova in the hope that he would recognise it. The reality is that near the end he recognised nothing, but it was important to have it with me when I was with him, the three of us together again just like when I was a child.

Authentic, Older Than Me And Technically Brilliant

Vintage Watches

Technology today is quite wonderful and it always has been. We are getting used to letting computers do things for us and are starting to trust the internet and the companies that dominate it with our data. It is all around us and feels more like mere software every day.

It used to be that the TV remote control was a thing of wonder and that stereo systems containing record players, radios and cassette players were must have items, but ‘objects’ no longer seem to hold such a reverence today. This is not a bad thing because it is arguable that the demise of physical music and movies save money, the environment and makes every easier, but there are examples of objects married with technology that still grab my attention today.

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I recently bought an Avia Swissonic electronic watch which is dated as produced in 1968 for an extremely good price as it is a type of object that has fascinated me for some time. This particular one is in pristine condition and looks as good inside as it does out. It offers a genuine sense of late 1960’s fashion thanks to the gracefully sculptured case and glass which protrudes like few watches would dare do today. The strap is also striking in appearance, looking like something an astronaut would attach to the outside of his space suit in times of need. There is something so unique and special about late 1960’s and early 1970’s watches that draws me in, but there is something even more special about the Avia Swissonic.

It is one of a breed of watches that took the mechanical tradition and turned it on its head by being able to keep time more accurately than ever before, and this model loses approximately 1 second a day. That is incredible for a watch that is close to half a century old. And that is what attracts me to the Accutron watches and variants of this age. They are the only pieces of technology I can think of that are authentic from before I was born and which can satisfy my needs today. I can think of no other mechanical or technical object that can do that- only these particular watches offer the best of both worlds to me.