Monday, February 13, 2006


Well, this blog has been very pathetic to date. I spend most of my blogging time, scant as it is, on my other blog.

So this post marks a change to the blog as a whole: it's now my watch blog. :-)

I've always been fascinated by watches. My grandfather, a very successful sheet-metal engineer, was a watch freak. My father says he would rarely walk into a jewelry store without coming out with a new watch, usually trading in the old one for some (probably imagined, given the kind of watches he bought) imperfection. Didn't inherit any of his watches, I was too young when he died. He did give my father a marvelous Omega when he got his PhD, but my father is left-handed and it was always irritating for him to more or less have to wear the watch on the "wrong" side, and it usually languished in his desk drawer, while my father wore inexpensive watches. I always remember the feel of the Omega, with its feel of incredible quality and seriousness: this wasn't merely a instrument to measure time, but went beyond that to have its own qualities.

I started collecting only a few years ago. Before then I would occasionally acquire a new watch when I broke one, or when the wear and tear and scratches made it too scuzzy to wear. I recently found one of these ancient beasts, a Casio from the mid-1970s, with a broken plastic band and no way to replace it. I think the first watch that I consciously made an effort to buy that was more than just an instrument to tell time with was when I was studying in Germany. My girlfriend of the time (and now my wife for the last 16 years and counting) and I went to Basel with some friends (Christoph and Bärbel, if I remember correctly) and I had more money than I thought I had due to a better exchange rate, and decided to get a nice watch instead of a simple watch.

I bought a Breil quartz watch. It was down to that or a Tissot mechanical, which one I can't remember. Breil had just gone through one of its rebirthings as a watch company and had abandoned its mechanical background (not much of one, admittedly), and came out with a very retro line of watches. The one I bought had a wonderful calf-skin band of light beige leather that set off the gold plating of the watch beautifully, and the back was smooth and polished. It had a seconds dial at the 6, which was - and is - very unusual for a quartz watch and I thought it was the cat's meow. Cost me something like CHF 200 back when, and I think I wore it for the next 4 or 5 years.

As a result, of course, the watch is a now a disaster: while the gold plating has held up, the crown was rubbed down seriously and the glass is unsightly due to scratching. Haven't worn in it years now.

But getting back to why I collect watches: it started when I was working in Basel. I worked there for 6 years and when I realized I needed to move on, I bought a new watch as a souvenir. Swiss watches, of course, range in price from the practical to the ridiculous, and given that I didn't have *that* much money to spend, I bought a Fortis 34 mm Aviator, blasted stainless steel, with an ETA 2824-2 hacking caliber inside, for around CHF 480 from a small jeweller near the Theater. I wore that watch every day for around 6 years as well, going through about 5 bands during that time period. It got scratched and needed to be repaired, but I never got around to bringing it in. I admired other watches, but always from afar, never thinking of buying a watch for a couple of thousand because I had a wife and kids to take care of first.

Then one day my wife and I decided that we were going to go the States with my daughters. I decided that I didn't want to take the Fortis with me, but rather wanted to get what I would now call a beater watch, one that can take a beating and which wouldn't upset me if it was destroyed or stolen whilst on vacation. I looked at Casios and whatever kind of electronic watches, and came across Poljot and realized that for my budget - 100 DM - I could get a mechanical watch that while not as elegant or refined as the Fortis, certainly looked good.

But why a mechanical watch? Stay tuned and I'll tell y'all...

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