Monday, May 05, 2008

I Dig Watches

Ever since I was a kid I have always liked wristwatches. I purchased my first wristwatch from my piggy bank funds when I was 4. My mom still has the watch in her jewelry box. I am not sure if it still runs, but Timex has always been known to make inexpensive yet robust watches.

People think that I am a watch snob. This is simply not the case. I like watches of all shapes sizes and functions, I just happen to like automatic handmade watches.

About 24 years ago I plunked down $1100 for a Rolex Submariner and have pretty much not taken it of since that time.

After burning through several watches through Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training at the Infantry School, Jump School and the first couple of months at my permanent duty station at Ft Bragg with the 82nd Airborne division I decided to make the investment of a tougher, more professional timepiece. I wanted a watch that could withstand the rigors of being out in the field without looking like it was run through a rock tumbler. I just wanted to buy one last watch that I would never have to worry about again.

The last straw came when I was walking up the stairs fully loaded wearing two duffel bags of clothes and equipment that I was moving into my new room. Several soldiers came running up the stairs after having been released from formation, eager to begin their weekend of alcohol poisoning shoving me against the wall as they made their way past. The extra weight of all my gear amplified the impact to my left wrist shearing the crystal and hands off the newly purchased plastic jungle issue Timex.

That weekend I went to the Fayetteville mall to kill time and just happened to walk in to Leeds Jewelers. “Looking for a watch?” the salesman asked. “I want a watch that’s waterproof, shock resistant and impervious to scratches.” I responded thinking that there was no such product on the market. He then plopped down a green leather box with the distinctive gold crown foil stamped on it. “That’s exactly what I thought that you were going to say,” I replied. After some haggling I cut him a check for $200 and a contract to pay the reminder of the $800 in monthly installments. I walked out with a new stainless steel Submariner Date. It was the first year that the watch was fitted with the sapphire crystal. After visiting 22 countries and more that two dozen jumps out of airplanes, it still looks good and still holds time. I guess it was worth it.

I really dig diver’s watches. For all of the reasons listed above a diver’s watch is just something that you can always have with you and no matter what you put yourself through or where you find yourself a diver’s watch is pretty much going to survive the endeavor.

Very early on in our relationship I gave Jill a diver’s watch for Christmas. Earlier that year she had taken a trip to Mexico and ended up staying a day extra so that she could complete the diver’s certification course at the resort that she was staying at. She wore the Chronosport diver’s watch for 8 years until she wore the numbers off the bezel and scratched the crystal until it was opaque. She still has that watch in a drawer somewhere.

Rolex is an expensive proposition and these days not necessarily the right one. There are so many companies that fill the gap between Seiko and Rolex that are highly durable and reliable and that won’t set you back the current list price of $5000 for a Rolex.

Seeing as the Submariner was one of the first diver’s watches (but not the first, that claim can go to BlancPain and their Fifty Fathoms, which was just re released last year) many watches that followed fell into that almost identical format. Every time I show my daughter a watch I get the response, “but daddy, that looks like the watch you already have.” This prompted me to be on the lookout for diver’s watches looked different than the form factor of the Submariner. If you happen to win the lottery here are a few that I would suggest.

The design and colors harkens back to the heyday of the ‘70s but the bottom line is, have you ever tried to read a watch underwater? Anything under 30 ft is difficult so while on land the orange looks a bit much, but they are highly functional.

Panerai would have to be the grand daddy of all dive watches. Formed in 1936 the company supplied timepieces and compasses to the Italian torpedo suicide squads know as Decima Flottglia. In the ‘90s Stallone saw them in Italy and has become their ambassador. Bloody expensive watch, but man oh man is it worth it. Wearing one of these makes you larger than life. Jason Statham would tell you, but then he’d have to kick you in the head

The next two are unheard of watches for the most part but what I feel are going to be worth more that what you paid for them when you bought them. Both are German timepieces. The Swiss having made their name in watch making the Germans have been a very over looked source for timepieces. After all they are known for their precision in so many industries, why not watches?

Simple and clean lined, yet rugged and elegant at the same time.

A Very different look depending on the line (they make several different diver’s models) that can range from modernistic to avionic.

Back down to earth with a very dependable, rugged and not a bad looking watch, the classic Seiko diver’s watch. It can be had for less tht $200 and there are several companies out there that can do modifications to the face and hands.

Ed Flores is a freelance writer who lives in Chandler, AZ and currently owns three watches, a Rolex Submariner, a Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic and a first generation Timex Ironman INDIGLO. His wife Jill at the moment sports a lady Invicta diver’s and daughter Aimee has a Timex Ironman INDIGLO.


Dominic said...

I dig watches, too.

I'm a fan of Seiko automatic watches - classic styling, very hardy and reasonably priced.

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