Monday, September 3, 2012

One-on-one With A Melbourne Watch Collector Part 1

Previously we brought you an interview with a Sydney watch collector here, this time we have an interview with a Melbourne watch collector. Due to the obvious geographical complications, this interview was done unfortunately over email rather than the much preferred method of over a coffee and/or a whiskey... Perhaps a raincheck on the drinks? As the Sydney collector, this Melbourne collector also wishes to remain anonymous, so will simply remain as "Melbourne Watch Collector" (MWC)

TheSydneyTarts: Thank you for agreeing to the interview!

MelbourneWatchCollector: Thank you for asking me! I've been a big fan of the blog for some time now. 

TST: Well, let me again start with the obvious. How did you get started in watch collecting?

MWC: First of all, to me "a collection" implies some sort of order or logic to my purchases. I'm not sure that describes me, I think I'm more "one of those guys that owns a lot of watches".

About 25 years ago I had some sort of ana-digital watch – I'm guessing a Casio or Seiko – rectangular face, analog hands for time and a digital display at the bottom for date and maybe it had a chrono as well, but I couldn't say for sure. And in the fullness of time the battery went flat. So I said to my father, "Can I borrow a watch while I get the battery replaced?" and he lent me a nice Omega with a chrono.

What I didn't know at the time was I was wearing an early 60s Speedy. And it stayed on my wrist for probably close to 10 years (would you have bothered replacing the battery in the crappy Seiko ana-digital?) until I finally got sick of paying Omega $300+ every couple of years to service it. So, needing to replace it, and not having a clue about watches, I bought an Omega Seamaster Pro .. Yes, the blue dial & bezel model that I'd seen Pierce Brosnan wearing, so that dates the purchase to somewhere around 1998 / 99.

Omega Seamaster Professional, now known as the "Bond" watch
TST: The Seamaster is as good a place to start as any! It's becoming quite the modern classic, thanks to the James Bond connection and the amount of marketing push Omega did with it. What was the follow up to such a classic?

MWC: It took another couple of years until I made my next purchase, an Oris Worldtimer. This is where the problems really began – I realised I could own more than one watch, and you then discover you can own more than you have wrists for  …. And two quickly became a much bigger number. 

TST: Ahh yes the slippery slope that almost all watch collectors goes through and never really gets back up from. After that downward spiral, I find that a stage a lot of watch collectors seem to go through is one of buying junk. Would you say this is a stage you've gone through as well?

MWC: I've bought a lot of junk over the years - crappy Russian knock offs (not copies) of Navitimers, Chinese GMT II's and the like .. Most of which broke and weren’t worth repairing or were simply disposed of.

TST: Do you have any other regrets apart from buying junk?

MWC: The only collecting rabbit hole that I regret falling down for a little while was 24 hour dials – I had three or four at one stage, including a stunning early 60s' Navitimer Cosmonaute, but if you change watches every day they're impossible to read at a glance. They're the only watches I've ever sold.

TST: Now you could say that your dad's Omega kind of kick started your enthusiasm for watches- did the Omega thing stick?

MWC: I've got a good assortment of Omegas – the above mentioned Seamaster Pro, a 60s' gold 3 hand Seamaster, a Speedy with triple date, a gold (plated) 50s' triple date moon, a yellow Schumacher Speedy, and a 70s' Dynamic. Ignoring the cost of early pre-moon Speedys (I still borrow Dad's now and then) and some of the Flight Masters (currently high on my want list) I find Omegas good value compared to the other name Swiss brands.

TST: I believe you don't just stick to Swiss watches either?

MWC: Yes I have a good number of of 70s' Seiko chronos. My first real watch – at age 13 – was a Seiko 6139-7002, and I've added one to the box in the last year or two. I remember being so happy with my watch until a mate who was about 6 months younger got a Seiko LCD watch when he turned 13 (this would have been late '76) and all of a sudden those hands didn't look so good to me. But I'm guessing he hasn't tracked down a replacement of the watch he wore as a teenager

Seiko 6139-7002
I also have a couple of Seiko bullheads, and two or three other Seiko chronos of similar vintage. The designs appeal to me, and the fact that they're cheap (I typically pay $100 ~ $150 on eBay for them) & solid work horse watches make mean I can't see myself parting with them in a hurry. I've also got a few Seiko divers, including one I had modded – replacing the dial, hands and bezel. Again, I like them because I can't break them, and if I do, they're cheap to fix or replace.

TST: Something else that's also fairly tough and unbreakable, albeit at a price, is Rolex. However, this is a brand that polarizes people's opinions. Where do you stand on the Rolex issue?

MWC: It took me a long time to buy a Rolex, more because I didn't like the image of being a "rolex guy" (ie: a dentist) than for any other reason, but I've since fallen for them, with a Sub, a GMT II and an Explorer II all happily living in my watch box. The GMT II is my default travel watch – easy to change time zones, I can swim in it, and fine to wear either in a meeting or out for a night of drinking.

The current Rolex GMT Master II
TST: Rolex, Omega, Seiko- These are all very classic brands with classic watches. You can't go wrong with these. But did you veer off the 'safe' course and try something less well known or something more under-appreciated by the masses?

MWC:I bought a Maurice Lacroix Reviel Globe 7 or 8 years ago that saw a lot of wear – I used to call it my working watch: three time zones and an alarm, but the cost of replacing the strap ($350 - it's an odd size) has kept it in the box of late.  There are some other odds and ends: a Magrette diver (don't really like it any more), assorted low value 70s' divers, a Tissot Navigator chrono that is very hard to read (dial / hand colours are too close) and it needs a new "lobster" bracelet, a pocket watch, and a James Bond Seiko quartz something or other.

At the upper end of the collection is a Graham Oversize Chronofighter GMT Big Date (the name is almost as big as the watch) that I bought in HK maybe 4 years ago, and the spoilt princess of the watch box is a JLC Reverso GMT. The Reverso probably only spends a night a month on my wrist, but it's always wound and ready to go.

Assortment of watches, including a couple of Seiko Bullheads, Maurice Lacroix, Omega, Oris, and Reverso
Stay tuned for part 2 where the MWC talks about his foray into independent watchmaking....

No comments: