About a year or more ago, I was mooching around the various new and second hand dealers in the Bond Street area and – for the first time – I tried on a Patek Nautilus 5711… a watch that I’d admired from afar but never actually handled or worn myself. There was no doubt that the finish was exquisite, but for some reason I couldn’t quite to get to grips with the case shape (or, rather, the hinged non-crown side). It did teach me one thing, if nothing else, though; sometimes, the only way you can appreciate the wonderful craftsmanship that goes into many of the higher-end watches is to actually pick them up, wear them and scrutinise them properly. I’m not saying that you’ll then be able to see where the “value” is because we all know that luxury products don’t work that way, but what I am saying is that photos alone will never do them justice.
I mulled and mulled over the Nautilus, but deep down I knew it wasn’t calling to me like it needed to. Around the time that I realised I wouldn’t buy one, my head was turned by it’s cousin from the other side of the tracks – the Aquanaut. Much more of a sports watch, in my opinion, and none of that strange hingey nonsense found on the Nautilus. It’s also a whole lot cheaper, especially on the fantastic rubber strap, even if residuals are horribly firm if you’re on the buying as opposed to the selling end.
The following months saw me try on both the 5167 and the 5164 (for those not into the numbers, the former is the basic three-hander and the latter is the dual time zone “Travel Time”). Both are absolutely gorgeous watches, but whilst I loved the 5164 what I didn’t love so much was the additional bulk it came with. Actually, I didn’t like the price differential either and – after considerable thought – I decided that the “simple” 5167 (on rubber) was the watch for me. In fact, I proceeded to work very hard indeed to track one down, politely declining the BNIB example that Boodles at the Royal Exchange had redirected for me and pretty much agreeing a deal with the manager of a branch of Watches of Switzerland for the next one they got in. (He had accompanied me and a friend on a trip to Blancpain last year, and he’s a lovely bloke; not only that, he offered me a deal that was better than anyone else’s and that made the thought of buying new somewhat more palatable!)
The next step was to wait – and this is where it all went somewhat pear-shaped, if I’m honest. Whilst I waited, I also thought, and looked, and considered. In fact I tried on as well, and one of the watches that made intimate contact with my wrist was an AP RO – not the “classic” 15300 Jumbo but the current 15400; just a tad wider at 41mm but very noticeably slimmer. In fact, the more I thought about the AP, the more I was steering myself in it’s direction at the expense of the Aquanaut. I liked the fact that it was genuinely a horological icon (I know, it’s silly really, but for me it’s an element of that intangible added value that forms part of my decision-making); I liked that on the wonderful bracelet it was comparable price-wise to the Aquanaut on rubber; and – if I’m honest – I liked the fact that it just seemed a little more… I don’t know. Maybe a little more refined.
Just a quick word about the history of the Royal Oak before I go on, because since its release at the Basel fair in 1972 this watch has achieved a status that nobody would have assumed possible. Famously designed by the one and only Gérald Genta, it received a slightly mixed reception at first, with many finding what was then considered a slightly quirky, iconoclastic design a little too different for comfort. It has to be said that cost was also an issue, with the RO in stainless steel being listed for more than some of AP’s already-established models in precious metal. Quite a bold step when you think about it; it needed to be, though, because the Royal Oak was AP’s answer to the quartz crisis and they certainly needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat… things weren’t looking very clever for them at the time, anyway.
Also bold was the choice of Genta as designer. Born in Geneva some 40 years earlier, he had already forged an enviable reputation by the time AP approached him. It was a well-earned reputation too, as Genta had been responsible for some classic watches that included models for Universal Genève (Polerouter Microtor, White Shadow, Golden Shadow), Omega (Constellation) and Patek Philippe (Golden Ellipse). Incidentally, a few more fairly decent watches would follow these, including the Seamaster, the Ingenieur, the Nautilus and the Pasha de Cartier… it really is quite incredible, isn’t it? Here’s a photo of the fella himself, in case you were wondering what he looked like…
Word has it that, on the eve of the 1971 Basel fair (precisely one year before the RO’s official launch), AP’s managing director at the time, Georges Golay, called Genta at 4pm explaining that the market was expecting news of an “unprecedented steel watch” for which he needed a design by the following morning. Genta had just one night ahead of him to design a watch that would ordinarily take several weeks and call for hundreds of sketches. By early morning, the drawing perfectly conveyed his first idea: that of a diving-suit helmet featuring all the details of the watch that was to become the Royal Oak, a design that would in fact never be fundamentally altered. He later called it his “masterpiece” and the photo below is of the sketch he presented to Golay that morning:
Gérald Genta passed away at the end of summer 2011 having founded a brand under his own name and having never stopped designing watches. In fact, for a few years in the mid-1990s he also held the honour of being the designer of the world’s most complicated watch, with his incredible Grande Sonnerie Retro which – even back then – was priced at around $2million! He’s remembered, and will no doubt always be remembered, for some of the greatest designs in 20th century watchmaking, and for the avant-garde nature of his vision.
So, with that amazing and unique background not only researched but also very much appreciated, I proceeded to ponder the RO further, because deciding on the model – not to mention the dial colour – wasn’t very easy. Essentially, there are three in the range, each with their own merits:
• The 15300 – 39mm case, and the classic choice (albeit superseded now). Blue, black or silver dial.
• The (current) 15400 – 41mm case but a slimmer profile then the 15300 and so just as wearable when all’s said and done. Black or silver dial, with a rarer LE Boutique Edition in blue.
• The 15202 – an homage to the original RO, with an ultra-slim 39mm case. Too expensive, sadly, so dial colours are immaterial! Shame, though…
I had pretty much decided on the dial colour (blue) but not the model. I was leaning towards the smaller 15300 but then three things happened, each leading to the position I’m in today. Firstly, I finally managed to try on a blue-dialled 15300 (they’re quite hard to pin down in that colour, actually) and whilst I loved the watch I was a little disappointed by the actual hue of the dial; it wasn’t as vivid as the newer 15400 dials and was a little disappointing as a result. (I also started to wonder about the thickness of the case, perhaps because I was in a slightly more critical frame of mind than I’d been in previously.) Secondly, I tried on the Boutique Edition 15400 and realised that the slimmer profile more than compensated for the slightly larger case; not only that, but the blue dial was just sublime. And finally – just when I thought that the decision was becoming impossible – I learnt that the very chap from WOS who was trying to source me an Aquanaut was actually selling his own Boutique Edition 15400. Not only was it almost new (well, this particular one was sold in mid-2013 and was very lightly and carefully worn) but the watch had also just received a full service at AP and was winging it’s way back to its owner at the time. It didn’t need servicing, of course, but some people are just fussier than others :)
Now, AP only made a limited number of this model/dial combination for AP boutiques, and I liked the fact that it was a little scarcer than the more easily spotted models. That aside, though, it housed the same (gorgeous) in-house cal. 3120 movement as the 15300 and the other 15400 variants. I suppose the only other thing worthy of note is that the 15400 saw the end of the AP logo at 12; I like the cleaner dial, and I also like the fact that, if anything, it’s truer to the original. In other words, I found that my decision was made, and within about 48 hours of me hearing about the watch’s availability in the first place I’d agreed a deal with our friend at WOS and paid for it. Not that many hours later, the doorbell signalled it’s arrival and it was pretty immediately adjusted and on my wrist.
I hinted earlier that it’s hard to do justice to some watches, because they need to be handled and worn in order to be properly appreciated. I could ramble on about the simply fantastic casework, with wonderfully brushed finishes contrasting against adjacent highly polished facets. I could talk at length about the octagonal bezel with its perfectly aligned faux screw-heads that give it an appearance that quite a few have tried to copy without success. I could even talk about the integrated bracelet, which is of supreme quality and is one of the most comfortable that I’ve ever worn. Finally, I could try to explain the sheer depth and “blueness” of the tapisserie dial; it’s not just blue but it’s a whole range of blues – not in the way that Rolex achieve that with their sunburst finish but in a totally different way. It’s even subtler, if anything.
All of this could only fail to convey the reality of the Royal Oak, though, because descriptions and photos don’t even get close, in my opinion. All in all, it’s a bloody beautiful watch – perhaps not the one that I thought I was going to buy a year ago, but the one that I probably knew I’d buy the moment I first tried it on. I suppose all that’s left is the photos… not sure that I can do a good enough job, to be honest, but I obviously couldn’t stop myself from trying!
I know we tend to desk dive in these parts (okay, not all of us), but there is a commonly-held view that a collection of divers is – by definition – a bit “samey”. Even I’ve thought that in the past, and in fact made a supreme effort to build a collection without any at one time. I succeeded. too.
Anyway, a comment on a TZ member’s thread about his incoming Deep Blue made me think about this for a moment, and I realised that the four divers I have are all very different from each other; different enough to each warrant a place in the watch box on their own merit (and the one that’s presently listed for sale will pretty soon be back in there, and I’ll be happy to keep it). Anyway, this is what I mean…
Before the burgundy Zulu made an appearance…
You know, I’m wondering why I’ve been mithering over Pateks and APs of late…
This has got to have been the longest wait yet. In fact, I reckon it must have been the best part of two years ago that I first pestered someone on TZ-UK to sell me his rather special CWC Royal Navy Diver. Obviously, he said no – but I kept persevering, every so often reminding him that I was still here until, finally, the PM arrived.
I’ve been on a perennial hunt for a beater – the “right” beater – and now I’ve found it. Well, thanks to Mario, of course :)
Assolutamente means, apparently “absolutely”. No idea why a strap should be absolutely anything, save that this one is absolutely lovely. I’ve been looking for the right brown strap (and “look”) for my 337 for ages, in fact, and the ironic thing is that I nearly returned this to the seller when it arrived; I’m glad I didn’t and can’t see any of my other PAM straps getting a look-in now.
Seriously, I’m meant to be saving up for an AP (no, a PP. Errr, an AP…) and I was more than happy with my lot for now. You know what this hobby is like, though, and I’m pretty sure that it’s been about three months since I bought anything. Well, apart from the Tuna, obviously ;)
Anyway, I LOVE Glashutte Original watches – they’re my favourite manufacturer by some margin, in fact, and although I already owned their glorious PC my head was turned recently when trying on the PanoInverse over a WIS lunch in the City. I managed to fight off that urge, but when the PanomaticLunar that a friend bought new only last year was listed for sale on TZ-UK it was just too much! It’s my 5th GO, and possibly vies with my PC in terms of overall loveliness.
I’m not sure if this will now mean that something has to make way for the AP/PP, but hopefully I won’t have to make any painful decisions (I just need a mooted contract extension, so keep your fingers crossed for me). For now, I won’t worry about it, anyway, and I’ll just think myself lucky instead.
I’ve been eyeing up the Wotancraft straps for a couple of years now, but couldn’t quite bring myself to buy one. Well, that’s been put right now, with a little help from a friend…
I really, really like it.
Errr, on the 5513 :)
Oh, hang on…
The U1 is a bit like the Tuna in some ways… a beast of a watch and one that’s not immediately, not obviously, beautiful (okay, the Tuna’s a fugly thing, but you know what I mean). I think, though, that it can be surprisingly aesthetic and – like the Tuna – it’s a very versatile watch. It looks good in so many different guises, and it offers so much variety because of that.
I thought I had it just how I wanted it but a Sinn rubber (with the chunky but wonderfully-engineered clasp) arrived today and… well, I love it. Wouldn’t you?
But talk about being spoilt for choice! Every strap I mount has the same impact, looking like it was just meant for the watch.
Yes, even the bracelet!
I wish I’d bought one years ago.
Good book, which has some wonderful watches in it. This isn’t one of them ;)
Yes, it’s my birthday today, so it seemed like a good reason to post about my current collection, as it won’t be changing now for some time, if at all.
The moonphase collection
Yes, it’s a rather pointless complication – I realise that. However, for some reason I love them, and these two are so different in terms of style and approach that I think they offer variety whilst being conceptually similar. The Glashutte Original is of course a Perpetual Calendar so in terms of horological craftsmanship alone it’s worthy of admiration; aside from that, it’s Teutonic magnificence is there for all to see… wonderfully finished movement, meticulous design of dial and overall build quality that’s up there with the very best of them. The JLC MUT Moon (this is the 39mm model) is altogether different in both look and feel, and somehow seems to marry the traditional and the modern in one gorgeous package. Oh, and the movement is a mere 4.9mm thick – amazing really, considering it provides a moonphase complication within a watch that’s so light you barely know you’re wearing it.
I do love both of these watches, and wear them a fair bit (albeit less than any of the others, I have to say).
The vintage collection
I’ve been on something of a journey with regard to vintage Rolex, and am lucky enough to have owned some wonderful watches that have included a McQueen Explorer, a red Submariner and a couple of Great Whites. I’ve also enjoyed sixties vintage 5513s and 1675s but all of these were moved on before I settled on the two I’ll now keep; a 1981 5513 and a 1983 16750. Both of these watches are supreme examples, with wonderfully fat cases and beautifully-aged dials and hands; they’re also (deliberately) both of an age where they’re still pretty robust and don’t have to be babied too much. In retrospect, this seems to have been important in my decision-making process and the consequence is that I just enjoy wearing them (a lot) and don’t have to worry about their delicacy. I also much prefer the 16750, with its quick-set date, to the earlier 1675… it shares all the vintage charms of its older brother without the disadvantage of the date change mechanism (or lack of).
The other vintage piece is an old Tuna 7549-7010 from 1978. I absolutely love Tunas but there’s a real difference between old and new, and I realised having sold one of these before that I really do enjoy owning and wearing them. The replacement I picked up recently is a wonderful example, too.
The “smart/casual” collection
Now, these two took a great deal of thought, as they could easily have morphed into a PP Aquanaut; in fact, the decision was all but made and the Aquanaut I ordered came into stock at Boodles about a week ago. In the event, though, two things happened. Firstly, I realised that the PAM 337 – a 42mm model with all the characteristics of the classic Panerai – really is a fantastic watch; it can be dressed up or down, is very slim in addition to it’s other sensible dimensions, and is an absolute pleasure to wear. Secondly, I was offered a NIB Daytona at the precise moment that a long-drawn out deal for another one finally failed to materialise. I couldn’t quite justify (effectively) trading these two for the Aquanaut, but I’ll be honest and say that it’s still a possibility for the future.
I’ll take some time (by which I mean months) before determining once and for all whether or not I go down that route, though, as a wrong decision could be quite costly and I find both of these watches fit the same bill as the PP… consummately smart, beautifully casual and wonderfully adaptable.
And the beater!
Well, it’s not really a beater, to be honest. What it is, though, is a brute of a watch that – for the money – is near unbeatable in its class. The U1 is a bit marmite in that the hands tend to polarise opinion, but the build quality is unarguable as is the distinctive style that sets it apart from other divers. I find it a tad heavy on it’s bracelet, but on a Zulu (and I have five different colours for it) it comes into it’s own. Is there a more perfect weekend/holiday watch?
So, there you have it then… eight watches rather than the six I really wanted to settle on, but for now and the immediate future I’m perfectly content.
Well, I did say a while back that once I’d managed to pick up an Aquanaut I’d be done with messing about with my collection and would take something of a back seat in terms of watch forums generally, and buying & selling specifically. In fact, I set my sights on a 6-watch collection, with the Aquanaut replacing my lovely PAM337 as the final piece in my little jigsaw. Funny, isn’t it, how things never seem to go to plan?
So, not long after selling my white gold Daytona (one watch that I really did wish I’d hung on to) I provisionally agreed to buy a SS version from a member of TZ-UK who’s based just outside the EU VAT zone. We discussed various options regarding transit and delivery, and agreed to wait for a suitable visit by either he himself or a member of his family, at which point we’d complete the deal. Anyway, to cut a long story short the whole thing was forgotten after my horrible start to the year; until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I fired off an email only to find he was actually in the UK (Daytona-less) at the time. It was becoming quite clear that the watch gods were not smiling on us, and I somewhat reluctantly agreed to accept that – on this occasion – it wasn’t going to happen.
Now, here’s the funny thing… almost immediately we agreed to call it a day, I was handed an opportunity to buy another white dialled SS Daytona, completely unworn and still fully stickered even though it was bought in 2012. This one was in London, and I was faced with a very clear choice – keep the 337, add the Daytona and call it a day; or pass on the Daytona, sell the 337 and go for the PP. Either way, it was going to be my final buying and/or selling activity for the foreseeable future, and after a great deal of thought I made a decision. I think it was the right one, but really, who knows? What I do know is that they’re only watches, so I won’t be losing any sleep over it.
Just a word about why I like the Daytona so much, by the way. Yes, it has heritage aplenty, and yes, it has a truly wonderful movement… probably one of the best chronograph movements ever made, in fact. It’s also a fantastically adaptable watch that can be dressed up or down, and worn with a DJ or a pair of jeans. All of that aside, though, I sometimes fancy a bit of bling, and want my watch to feel like jewellery as well as a timepiece.
There – I’ve said it :)
I’ve spent a small fortune on aged, faded inserts to try to give my vintage watches the appearance that I like. The other day, though, I popped onto the VRF just before turning in for the night and the first post in the market was a listing for a NOS 1675/0 medium font insert. It looked perfect, and bearing in mind it was period correct for my watch I thought I’d give it a whirl for a slightly different look. (Fortunately, GMT inserts don’t command the ridiculous prices of those for the old Subs, and this one was a very fair €130 delivered from Germany).
It’s certainly different, and to my mind it’s bloody gorgeous.
Of all the watches I’ve sold (and there have been quite a few) I can honestly say that there are only a few that I’ve missed. One of them – strangely, perhaps – was the ’78 vintage 7549-7010… a very wearable Tuna as well as being a rather lovely one. Anyway, despite my intentions to whittle down the number in my collection I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to replace it, and this is another from the same year in very, very nice condition. It had a new battery last year and recently got treated to a NOS Hardlex crystal, new seals and a nice fresh pressure test (all courtesy of TZ-UK’s one and only Duncan/Cannop).
Duncan reckoned it was one of the best he’d seen. He knows what he’s talking about…
The only question now is whether I need both this and my much-loved U1. I have a buyer for the latter, in fact, but I don’t want to let it go. I’ll wear them both for now, and decide another time.