Watch Snob on Narrowing Down Choices
The Watch Snob Explains How to Choose From All the Options
The Fantastic Four
I was ecstatic when you took up and answered my question regarding a speck on my Rolex dial in the past. After, I procured a vintage Omega Constellation quick date ’61 and a Omega “first watch in space” (smaller wrist, same movement). Now four years passed, same budget, and still avidly following the progression of the horological scene, I’m starting to see that horological principles being the same: design progression matters.
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What is your recommendation on a general everyday watch that needs to be in every social circle:
- Tudor Blackbay 58
- Bulgari Octo Solotempo
- Traditional JLC Reverso
- Panerai Due 38
Of these four watches, the one I would most strongly recommend, based on your previous choices, is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. It may be the single most unappreciated, truly iconic watch still available today. Quite honestly, I think that if the company can be steered in a logical direction by its new CEO, there is every chance of the Reverso, in years to come, becoming the overt icon it deserves to be rather than something of a cult object.
It has a wonderful history, a truly unique design (not often imitated, largely because of the expense associated with making the case), and you will not see its like on too many other wrists. The Bulgari Solotempo is a much more interesting choice for a daily wear watch that is versatile enough to fit any circumstance, than either the Tudor or the Panerai, both of which are rather narrower in their appeal.
Listen to the Voices
I may be going crazy. I’m currently battling voices in my head on which dress watch I should consider. I’m currently in the market for something around $10k that is versatile with a suit. One voice is telling me “go with the standard crowd pleaser” and select the classic Rolex Datejust 116234 with a white gold bezel. One voice is telling me “go with the history” and pick the Rose Gold Zenith El Primero 38mm. Another voice yells “go with the non-traditional traditional” and buy a JLC Reverso Duoface. And finally one is telling me “it’s ze German engineering” with the Glashutte Original Panomaticlunar.
Please help me choose so I can make the voices stop!
Whatever you do, you ought to follow a certain process. I find it helpful to look at it this way: First, you look at what appeals to your reason. Certainly all the watches you mention have one thing or another to recommend them. I think your frontrunners here are the JLC and the Rolex, although a case could be made for the watch from Glashutte or the El Primero. Personally, of those two, I would tend to rank the Zenith higher on the strength of, in my view, more appealing case and dial design, as well as of course the iconic El Primero chronograph movement.
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However, we go wrong when we buy watches out of reason alone. Many, many years ago, as a relatively broke and quite young Snob who’d already acquired the very expensive and lifelong love of watches I still have today, I happened to come into a possession of a certain steel watch from a genuinely legendary firm which there was every reason to admire, and every reason to covet – interesting, beautifully finished movement, absolutely iconic case, a very interesting history as a design and to boot, a reasonable promise of future collectability.
But do you know, the oddest thing happened. Once I began to wear it, despite all the good “reasons” for owning it, I found that it left me absolutely cold. I felt nothing for it; it was a purely personal reaction, but I had thought too much about reasons for liking it, and had never thought, strange though it may sound, to ask whether I actually loved it or not.
Since then, I have never bought a watch that did not cause in me an emotional reaction. So tally up the reasons as you like, but then, forget about them all, and ask yourself which watch really makes you fall in love. That way you can’t go wrong.
The Final Countdown
I write you not so much for advice on a particular choice of watch, but rather a peculiar spot I find myself in. Let me begin.
I have a small assortment of watches that I enjoy very much. This includes a Submariner and Speedmaster in stainless steel. (The Submariner is the most expensive watch I own, to put this into perspective.) Several weeks ago, my wife (whom I have been in blissful matrimony with for 16 years) and I were watching the movie “Dr. Strange” and there are a couple of scenes that prominently show a JLC, and a rather complicated one at that. Upon seeing the watch, my wife asked if that is what I would like for Christmas! I immediately said “YES,” Not realizing what she actually said, we Googled the watch and I believe it had a price of around $25,000. She then agreed to give me a $20,000 budget for a watch, only if it is the final watch purchase of my life.
This budget puts me within reach of a three hand PP or ALS, or perhaps a very nice JLC. After considering the long-term cost of ownership, service, and repair specifically, I started to have second thoughts about the brand I was to look for. Already owning Rolex and Omega, and having them both serviced in the past, I decided to stay with these familiar brands.
The Rolex I was most interested in was a Datejust, stainless steel with a jubilee bracelet and fluted bezel. I was particularly drawn to the blue or dark rhodium dials. I thought the jubilee bracelet made the watch look a bit more dress than sporty. With no gold or diamonds on the dial, these options don’t scream “look at me I have a Rolex” as the flashier models do. The Omega that caught my attention is the Tresor model. A gold dress watch on a leather strap. This watch does have a date aperture, but with its location at 6 it does not upset the balance of the dial and I find it attractive.
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We visited a local Omega AD to see the Tresor in person, and I discovered that they were also a Seiko AD as well. For the first time in my life I saw the Presage line of watches, and especially the latest with a sunburst guilloche finished dial and blue enamel coating (SPB073). This was a beautiful watch. The movement of the watch looks a bit industrial, but it does have what I believe Seiko calls “Tokyo Stripes.” Since a person does not remove their watch and turn it over six or seven times a day to look at the movement, but does look at the dial this often to see the time, the decoration of the movement was not that important to me. What is important is an accurate and robust movement which I believe this is. The watch had a MSRP of $1,600, but we managed to purchase for $1,280. My wife also purchased a piece of jewelry for about the same price as well, this may have helped with the negotiating.
So, as to the peculiar spot I find myself in, I still have my $20,000 budget for a watch, except now minus the $1,280. The thing is, I cannot stomach the idea of spending this much money after experiencing what Seiko offers in value and quality. Does the path of my search for the final watch purchase of my life actually end at a Presage? Are all Swiss watches over hyped products made by over bloated old companies? How can they be worth the asking price? As a very old and wise man once said “you must choose, but choose wisely.”
When I was but a young Snob, a man whom I held in high esteem once said to me, “There are two questions a man ought to always ask about his watch. The first is, ‘Is it worth it?’ The second is, ‘Is my watch a good watch?’ The answer to the first question is always no. The answer to the second question is always, ‘It depends.’”
I mention this funny, and also dead serious, anecdote because it is apropos. Your circumstances have led you to where until recently, few in search of a fine watch would go: to Seiko, where very high value can be found across almost their entire product range, from the humblest automatic diver all the way up to the most illustrious Grand Seiko. It does indeed call into question the entire enterprise of European luxury watchmaking, where year-over-year price increases for well over 15 years, have led us to a situation where value as it’s represented by Seiko is harder and harder to find.
Now, the reality is that you still get things from a really high end European luxury watch — not all of them, but there are some very notable examples — that you cannot get from Seiko. A watch with the aerospace heritage of a Speedmaster, the motorsports heritage of an Autavia, the brutalist-instrument-of-war-turned-Italian-design-icon fascination of Panerai, or the irresistible attraction to fiddle produced by a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, cannot be found at Seiko and moreover, will never be found at Seiko; it is its own entity. To be a Seiko Presage or Grand Seiko watch is to have an identity as well, that no Swiss brand will ever have, as well as an astonishingly better general value proposition than almost any other Swiss brand, but it will not, so to speak, give the same satisfaction as a really good Swiss watch — it will give a different and depending on who you are, perhaps even greater satisfaction, but it will certainly be different.
How much those differences matter to you is something best evaluated over time. A final watch purchase is an exciting thing to contemplate but also a major decision, and whatever it is you end up choosing to own, it is not a decision to be taken in haste. You have a new experience to evaluate in your Presage. Give it time to sink in. There is no rush; any watch really worth thinking of for this particular purchase, will be waiting for you six to 18 months from now, when you have taken the measure of the Presage and determined what it does, and does not, do for you in terms of satisfaction.
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This post was syndicated from askmen.com