Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flipping Watches for Fun and (Sometimes) Profit, Part 2

Continuing from where we left off in the last post, here's the info from the purchase and sale of a Japan-only Omega Speedmaster Reduced with sunburst blue dial:

Example #2: Omega Speedmaster Reduced 3512.80
Purchase Price: $1400
Sale Price: $1649

While the net profit from this flip was about the same as the one from the Explorer I, it represents a much larger gain when viewed as a percentage of the purchase price - 17.7%, compared to 6.4% for the Explorer I.  The explanation is that the Reduced "Japan" model is not only discontinued, like the 36mm Explorer I; it was a limited edition of 1,500 that was only sold domestically in Japan.  That limited quantity, coupled with the stunning blue dial that was only available in this particular model, makes potential buyers far more willing to pay top dollar for a used example in good condition.  In this case, the watch was sold on eBay for a Buy-It-Now price, which was another event made more likely by the watch's limited supply.  If it had been a run-of-the-mill 3510 Speedy Reduced, the eventual buyer might have been more willing to risk losing my specific auction by bidding rather than buying-it-now, as he or she could safely assume that another 3510 would be posted for auction again sometime soon.  But the 3512.80 is a rare bird outside of Japan, so the buyer decided not to take any chances and pay the 10% buy-it-now premium - which resulted in a greater overall profit on my end. 

All that being said, this watch sat on the auction block for around a month and a half before the fateful buy-it-now buyer came along.  Its ability to do so was a combination of eBay's monthly free listings quota and my willingness and ability to wait until the right buyer happened upon my listing.  More motivated or impatient sellers are often discouraged by an initial lack of interest, and may aggressively discount in order to attract more people.  This is fine if you're just trying to monetize as soon as you can, but if you're looking to recover more than your initial investment, this is very rarely the way to go.  Slow and steady - if you can afford it - wins the race.

Lessons learned from this transaction:

- Even with the weak dollar/yen ratio these days, you can still manage to profit off of a watch purchased in and shipped from Japan - if it has the right pedigree / limited supply / unique attributes that would make people seek it out over similar mass-produced models.
- Used is (almost invariably) the best way to acquire a watch and flip it for more money down the road.
- Be patient.  If you're realistic in gauging the supply and demand (and, accordingly the appropriate asking price) for your watch, the right buyer will come along eventually.

Next up: a profitable flip on a watch purhased new-in-box.  How was it done?  I'll explain in the next post.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flipping Watches for Fun and (Sometimes) Profit, Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, several months ago I started paring down my watch collection to the bare essentials, because, to put it simply, you can only wear one watch at a time.  The watches culled from the herd were posted in the for sale subforum on WatchUSeek and on eBay.  I'd never considered myself a flipper - what many watch enthusiasts who often buy watches only to "flip" them by resale only a short time later - but that's basically what I've become, having sold at least a dozen watches to forum members and eBay buyers. 

The craziest part is that, when everything is tallied up, I've actually made back more money that I spent on the watches in the first place.

This is about as far from the norm as flipping can get.  Most of the time, flipping a watch will net you only a fraction of the price you've paid for it.  It's simple supply-demand economics: why would someone buy a watch - a preowned one, for that matter - from you when they can get a brand-new one straight from the source?  The most straightforward answer is "because they can get it from me for a whole lot cheaper."

But offering prospective buyers a good deal entails more than undercutting the retail price.  The supply-demand ratio of the piece - whether it's discontinued, a limited edition, or just a highly sought-after model - is the ultimate arbiter of what kind of price you can realistically expect to get.  All the watches that managed to bring home more than I spent on them had some sort of supply limitation that only amped up their demand - and enabled me to sell them at an aggressive price.

Example #1: Rolex Explorer I 114270
Purchase Price: $3570
Sale Price: $3800

Several things converged to enable this profitable flip to take place.  First, the 114270 was discontinued and replaced with the 39mm 214270 model - a model that has gained infamy for its stunted hour and minute hands.  Second, I picked up the watch preowned - a common necessity for discontinued models, unless you come across old-new stock - which meant that I paid considerable less than Rolex's bloated retail price.  Third, this particular watch had an extremely recent serial number that pegged its production in the year directly preceding the discontinuing of the model, which made it attractive to those who were interested snagging a 36mm Explorer I that was as close to new as possible.  These factors, coupled with the brand attraction that Rolex exerts on a significant portion of the watch enthusiast market, enabled me to price the Explorer competitively at $4000 - and find a buyer within 24 hours of posting.

Wait a minute, you say - if the buyer paid $4000, how come the sale price I listed is only $3800?

The cost of doing business - specifically, shipping/insurance costs, and PayPal fees - reduced the $4000 to a little over $3800.  You have to account for those costs if you want to make an actual profit on the flip.

The lessons learned from this transaction:

- People will pay well for discontinued models, if they're popular and/or rare enough.
- If you buy the watch used to begin with (and at a bargain price), it's far easier (but not necessarily easy, per se) to recoup or make a profit over your original investment.
- People love a Rolex.  I've only had one watch sell faster than this one, and it was priced to be a steal.

Next time: the resale value of a limited edition Omega only sold in Japan.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Watch Principle #1: No matter how many you own, you can only wear one at a time.

A lot has happened with regard to my personal watch collection since the last Watches-To-Wear post in July.  I've been reexamining my needs based on the axiom in the title of this post:

No matter how many watches you own, you can only wear one at a time.

There is a very narrow exception to this rule (which some might say proves it) with regard to Presidents and CEOs of watch companies, and even then only while attending an international watch convention or press event.  (Example: President of Omega Watches, Stephen Urquhart, in this 2011 interview with ABlogToRead.com's Ariel Adams.)  So for those of us who aren't tasked with running a major watch brand, one watch is the most we can expect to be able to wear at any given time without looking as odd and out of place as a businessman walking around with multiple cellphones - or worse, a Bluetooth headset in each ear.

When my collection was at its largest, I'd often find myself feeling guilty when selecting my watch for the day at how much money's worth of timekeeping steel I left sitting neglected in my watch box.  The notion of paring down the collection to a single watch - essentially becoming one of those blessed individuals for whom  one watch is all they've needed, or even conceived of needing - has always held a strong attraction to my minimalist, form-and-function-over-frivolity aesthetic.  So I decided to cull through the collection the same way that Immortals cut through one another in the Highlander franchise: repeating the mantra "There can only be one."

The Omega Speedmaster Professional 3573.50 eventually proved to be the MacLeod of this contest, besting a Rolex Explorer I 114270, Omega Seamaster 2253.80, Omega Speedmaster Reduced 3510.82, Stowa Marine Original, Xetum Tyndall, and, at the end, a Nomos Tangente Gangreserve to be the last mechanical wristwatch standing.  While the Speedy Pro's complexity as a chronograph and sporty-if-classically-so aesthetic technically disqualifies it as a dress watch, its near-ideal dial proportionality and understated color scheme make it suitably universal, especially in a day and age where most onlookers would have trouble telling whether one's shoes are oxfords (aka balmorals) or blutchers (aka derbys).  (The distinction lies in the "throat" of the shoe - closed-throat lacing for oxfords, considered more formal and classically paired with suits, and open-throat lacing for blutchers, considered more informal and classically paired with more casual trousers or even jeans.)

Despite my aspiration to become a one-and-only-watch person, I'm still too contingency-minded to not keep a handful of spare timekeepers on hand, just in case.  Quartz movement watches are well suited to the backup role, given their accuracy and ease of maintenance.  The Citizen Stiletto AR3010-65A, whose hour-hand-and-minute-hand-only minimalist dial and slim profile qualifies it as a quintessential dress watch, was my choice for primary backup quartz.  Its black-dialed counterpart, the AR3010-57E, along with a completely blacked out version, the AR3015-53E, can still be found on Amazon.com.  It remains one of the least expensive watches I know of that includes a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, rather than the more scratch-prone mineral crystals typically found on watches at its price point.

I've also retained a digital quartz watch as a backup chronograph and "beater" watch, in the form of a Casio Protrek PRX-2000T-7JF, which is a Japan-only version of the popular Pathfinder "ABC" - Altimeter, Barometer, Compass - watches.  The Casio Pathfinder PAG240-T7CR uses the same module and retains the same functionality at a fourth of the price.

The moral of story is to keep your watch collection from getting out of hand by remembering the inescapable truth that, no matter how many watches you own, you'll only be able to wear one at a time.  Therefore, the more watches you own, the less time, proportionally speaking, each of them will spend on your wrist.  When you expend considerable resources - some might say too many - on the watches in your collection, the notion that most of them will spend much of the day sitting quietly in your watch box (or worse yet, collecting dust on your counter top or languishing forgotten in a desk drawer) should give you pause.

Next time, I'll talk about how I managed to "flip" the watches that I pared from the collection - even making a slight profit on a few of them.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Watches on Sale: Timex Weekender Central Park T2N656KW with Steel Bracelet



This Timex Weekender Central Park T2N656KW with steel bracelet is an absolute steal on Amazon.com at just over $25.  I've written about the virtues of the Timex Weekender series before, but I never got a chance to discuss the steel bracelet at length.



Despite the misleading review on Amazon, the Central Park bracelet is adjustable via the usual push pin system you find in many watch bracelets.  They are a bit stiff to remove at first, but the fineness of the bracelet's links make it one of the most adjustable on the market, and its straight lugs means it'll fit any watch with a 20mm lug width.  The bracelet alone is worth the price of entry, so don't miss out on this great deal!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Watch Brand Review: Bathys Hawaii


This installment of the Watch Brand Review takes a break from the big names in the watch industry to examine a boutique brand that has been near - both figuratively and geographically - to my heart: Bathys Hawaii.  Besides bearing the distinction of being the only watch brand headquartered in Hawai`i - specifically the island of Kaua`i - Bathys's six-year history offers both as an example among small watch companies and a few important object lessons in business management, pricing, marketing, and building and maintaining relationships with the watch collecting community as a whole.

Identity

Bathys draws on its Hawaiian locality for both the tone of its watches and their intended functionality: solid, well-designed and dependable timepieces for active, outdoor lifestyles at reasonable prices.  Its dials are eminently legible and well-known for their bright luminosity. Their cases are PVD-coated, rendering them more scratch resistant than untreated stainless steel.  And along with the "Hawaii" on their dials, each watch's caseback features an engraving of the Hawaiian Islands, a nice touch that firmly reinforces their association with surfing and beach-going culture, as well as an island lifestyle.  That, along with the accessibility of the brand's owner, John Patterson, on various watch fora and social media, makes Bathys a solid contender for a take-anywhere everyday watch.

As a relatively young homegrown business, however, Bathys has inevitably made a few misteps along the way.  The largest in my opinion was its attempt to market its watches in brick-and-mortar stores like Ben Bridge.  On the face of it, the move was a logical one in order to increase availability and awareness of the brand beyond online watch enthusiasts.  The maneuver, however, came with a retailer-imposed price markup that  saw even the online prices of Bathys watches increase by over 40%.  This severely damaged the value proposition that had up until that point been one of Bathys's most salient selling points, and served to estrange the brand from some of its established consumer base.

In addition, supply has been an issue for a company that lacks the financial and logistic resources of larger brands.  Most of Bathys's watch lines have been out of stock for more than a year, and some of its special offerings - such as watches with a unique ultraviolet PVD coating or gorgeous mother-of-pearl dials - have either been discontinued outright or out-of-stock with no plans for reproduction yet on the horizon.

Yet despite these difficulties, Bathys continues to enjoy strong support among its loyalest followers in the watch enthusiast community, sentiments only bolstered by their recent return to their original prices and departure from brick-and-mortar retailers.  Once it is able to restock its online store's inventory (with another shipment of watches estimated to arrive in June 2012), Bathys will attempt to offer one of the strongest price-value ratios available.

Design

Bathys watches are designed with durability, dependability, and ease of use firmly in mind, with legible dials, PVD-coated cases, and domed sapphire crystals.  Every model uses a Swiss-made movement, and offers the 200m (roughly 100 fathoms) water resistance that allows them to brave the waves as easily as they do more terrestrial adventures.

With men's models ranging between 41mm and 48mm in diameter, Bathys watches are robust tool watches in keeping with the modern trend toward larger sizes.  After years of anticipation, Bathys now also offers a fitted bracelet for its 100F and Benthic models, in both silver and black PVD, albeit not through their web store but a separate checkout system direct from the bracelet's manufacturer.

Functionality

Bathys' offerings are straightforward and easy to use, yet its original and flagship line, the 100F, cuts a classic enough profile to not seem out of place peaking out beneath a dress shirt cuff.

Like many smaller watch brands who relied on ETA-produced mechanical movements, Swatch Group's decision to cut back on the availability of those movements forced Bathys to turn to other suppliers, like Selita.  While this change in sourcing doesn't have any significant impact on the performance of their watches, those hoping to acquire a Swiss-made watch utilizing ETA's workhorse movements may need to turn elsewhere (including Swatch brands like Tissot and Longines . . . which may have been Swatch Group's intent from the onset).

Conclusion

When I began this review, I fully intended to catalog Bathys Hawaii's triumphant return from the dual purgatory of the brick-and-mortar sales model and lackluster web store inventory.  I had been eyeing their basic 100F Quartz model as my pick, as it is the most accessible piece and a great rough and tumble watch with a reliable Ronda movement.  (One quirk of the big-date function did pop up upon further research, though: the date continues to cycle beyond 31, to 32, 33 . . . all the way to 39.  So at the end of every month, you have to advance the date to begin again at 01.  To me, that's a deal breaker.)

However, a slew of inventory delays and - most recently - a lack of responsiveness from the team at Bathys has eroded the last of the good will I had nurtured for the company.  The issues with their quartz movement, the uncertain supply issues with their automatics, and a general lack of communicativeness when it comes to restocking, inventory, and even which of their models they intend to restock - or when - just outweigh the novelty factor of having the Hawaiian Islands engraved on your caseback or buying from a "local" company  . . . who has their watches built and shipped to them from Switzerland.

The Bathys concept and business model might work for some people, but the quality is in the execution.  Sadly, in terms of dependability - both in the products it produces, and the people who run it - Bathys falls short of the mark.

My pick: Reluctantly, avoid.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Watch Primer: Servicing & Maintenance - The Hidden Cost (and Trouble) of In-House Manufactures

Image Courtesy FLICKR USER ROBERT M√úLLER VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

This installment of the Watch Primer series looks at something that many watch buyers may overlook altogether when selecting a fine mechanical watch: servicing and maintenance.

The vintage watch market abounds with stories of watches that have endured decades of wear and continue to keep accurate time to this day.  Such performance may be attributed to quality of design or manufacturing, but the hidden factor in the longevity of the most dependable vintage watches is periodic servicing, in which movements are cleaned, re-lubricated, and have worn-down components replaced.  Periodic servicing is an essential component in the long-term performance and life of a mechanical watch, as it compensates for the wear that accumulates and ensures that damage isn't exacerbated over longs stretches of time.

Most mechanical watch producers suggest servicing at 2-to-3-year intervals, approximately the same amount of time most quartz movements can go before a suggested battery change.  But in general if a watch is keeping time accurately and without performance concerns, some owners go as long as 5-10 years before bring their watches in for servicing.  A small number even advocate the don't-service-until-it's-broke approach, waiting until something tangible goes wrong with a watch before bring it in to the watchmaker.  My local watchmaker subscribes to the last approach, but personally, I find that it courts with disaster, as allowing lubricants to dry out will increase the wear on the watch's components, inevitably making the eventual service cost that much more.

The cost of servicing depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the work to be done, the number of parts that need replacement, the brand of the watch, and the complication of the movement itself.  A simple regulation - where the timing of the movement is adjusted to reduce the amount of seconds it gains or loses per day - can often be had for around $30, while a full service - which includes disassembly, relubrication, assembly, regulation, and often times case polishing and resealing - can go between $300 to well over $1000 for high-end brands and more complex movements.

Unfortunately, servicing costs are hardly something that a prospective watch buyer will take into account while admiring shiny new models in a display case.  The basic rule would be that the more expensive the watch - which is itself a function of brand, complication, and so on - the more expensive the servicing.  This is even more strongly correlated when it comes to models with in-house manufacture movements, where you might be hard-pressed to find a watchmaker outside of the brand's own servicing department who is familiar enough with the movement to service it.  The monopoly on skilled labor for those movements means that you won't be able to potentially save money on servicing by turning to independent watchmakers, and will likely require you to forgo local workmanship as you send the timepiece to the brand's main repair / servicing center, which, depending on the brand, may require international shipping.

This problem grows exponentially when you have a larger watch collection to tend, which is one reason I've been working steadily to cull down my rotation, which is down to three mechanicals, only one of which is an automatic.  I purpose chose an auto with a ETA-based movement - specifically the Omega 1120, which is based on the venerable 2893-A2 - so that I would have a wide range of serving options beyond sending it to Omega's facility in New Jersey (or, as some WUS users advocate, the main facility in Bienne).  My Speedmaster Professional is a ubiquitous enough model that most watchmakers are familiar with it, and even Omega's servicing cost (reported to be a bit over $400) is very reasonable for a chronograph movement.  But my Nomos is powered by an in-house movement, and will probably have to travel all the way back to Glashutte for its servicing.  

The need for periodic servicing of mechanical watches - along with the absence that accompanies the servicing period - is what leads many collectors to maintain at least one quartz watch in their rotation, as both a grab-and-go option for days when you don't have time to reset and wind up a mechanical watch, and also to tide you over while the mechanicals go through their servicing.  Quartz watches also offer lower maintenance option for both adjusting for lost/gained time and service intervals, as a simple battery change is usually all that is needed to keep them going strong.  And when their movements eventually reach a point where work would need to be done, it's often less expensive to replace the entire movement than to service it to the same level of detail that mechanical watches require.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Watch Brand Review: Omega

The second installment in the Brand Review series takes a look at one of my personal favorites, Omega.

Identity

Omega's recent history is a somewhat tumultuous one.  Most of the tumult can be traced back to the Quartz crisis of the late 1970s and 1980s.  While once a true manufacture, by the 1990s and 2000s most of Omega's mechanical movements had become modified versions of stock ETA movements, which lowered the brand's esteem in the eyes of many enthusiasts.  Omega has made significant progress toward returning to true manufacture in recent years with their adoption of Co-Axial technology, starting with the Omega 2500 movement (a heavily modified ETA 2892-A2) and moving on to their in-house Omega 8500 and chronograph Omega 9300 calibers.  With the burgeoning ranks of models powered by their Co-Axial movements, Omega is making a strong case for its return to the ranks of brands like Rolex, Zenith, and IWC.  The only downside to this up-scaling is that those enthusiasts who favored Omega as a solid value proposition in the realm of luxury watch brands may now find their price-value ratio to be nearly indistinguishable from other, pricier brands.

Design




With one exception that I'll come to shortly, Omega hasn't been afraid to update the look and feel of its models as tastes have evolved over the decades.  The exemplar of this trend is the Seamaster line, which has undergone radical redesigns on almost a per-decade basis, although certain design elements have endured and periodically reemerge.  This in my opinion makes Omega's vintage market far more interesting than those populated by long-standing designs like those from Rolex, which leaves collectors clamoring over the most minute variations (e.g., the "Bart Simpson" Rolex crown, "tropical" dials, etc.).  Omega's back catalog is nowhere as easy to categorize, with a myriad of case, dial, and movement variations.  The wider field also makes it easier to score a deal on the secondary market, netting a rare or long out-of-production variation for significantly less than a showroom-new model.

One other design consideration is that, in a market saturated by 40mm+ watches, Omega remains one of the few that still offers versions of their mainstay watches - the Seamaster Professional and Aqua Terra in particular - in 36mm and 38.5mm versions.

Functionality



Omega's offerings have started to slant toward more flashy and fashionable design elements, such as applied indices and exhibition case backs, in their bid to reposition themselves as a rival to Rolex in the luxury market.  Like Rolex, however, their pedigree comes from reliable tool watches meant to perform their duties in the midst of the extremes the real world can offer.  Despite their new in-house calibers and more refined trappings, Omega watches continue to weather everyday stresses with poise.

My Pick



The most storied and paradigmatic example in their catalogue is the Speedmaster Professional, aka the "Moon Watch," which was the chronograph certified for use by NASA's astronauts and which was both the watch worn by the Apollo 11 crew when they touched down on the moon, and the device which the Apollo 13 crew used to time the calculated thruster burns that brought them safely back to Earth.  Beyond its history, the Speedy Pro has a rock-solid and proven workhorse movement, and a dial design that, in my opinion, is the standard against which all other dials must be measured.  (And against which a startling number of dials on the market today would be found wanting.)  With the advent of the in-house Co-Axial movements, especially the new chronograph offered by the 9300, the original Speedmaster Professional remains the most venerable and timeless offering in Omega's current lineup.  It also represents one of the few iconic models in the wider watch collecting world that is both attainable at a sub-$5000 price point - a range filled with a dearth of otherwise horologically unremarkable watches - rendering it an excellent starting point for a serious watch collection.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Watch Brand Review: Rolex

Today's post will be the first in a new series that focuses on assessing watches at the brand level, looking at commonalities, strengths, and weaknesses of models under a single manufacturer's aegis.  It seems to me that there's no better place to start than the brand that is most widely recognized by the general populace, the name that is arguably the poster child for Swiss watches: Rolex.



Identity

Rolex has earned its position in the public consciousness through a combination of solid engineering, classic design, and a meticulous marketing strategy.  Several of its models have attained iconic status in watch collecting circles, but none moreso than its diver watch, the Submariner.  The original silver-screen Bond watch, as worn by Sean Connery in "Dr. No," it is perhaps the most widely recognizable (and most often immitated) watch of the 20th century.

The flipside of Rolex's farflung reputation is its notorious popularity as a hipster status symbol and "blingable" accessory.  Donning one invites associations with the considerable cultural zeitgeist that has formed around the brand, both good and ill.

Design

Most of Rolex's lineup falls under the category of sports watches, though within that definition they tend to remain on the conservative side of the spectrum.  With the exception of its recent releases - specifically the Sky-Dweller, Explorer II, Day-Date II, Deepsea, Yacht-Master II, and Datejust II - Rolex models have maintained diameters of 40mm or under, with many examples from the DateJust and Oyster Perpetual lines topping out at the 1960-era sweet spot of 36mm.  While its conservative sizing and styling may reflect a conscious decision by the brand, it may also indicate a resistance to fickle changes among watchmakers and consumer taste, a recalcitrance that is at least somewhat warranted, given the proven success of Rolex's lineup.  Rolex is also a true manufacture, which means that it designs and produces all of its watch movements in house.  This sort of vertical integration improves a watch brand's standing in enthusiast circles, especially in comparision to brands that employ off-the-shelf movements from dedicated suppliers like ETA and Selita.

Functionality

Before it became the unofficial Bond watch and a signet for the nouveau riche, Rolex's watches earned their reputation as solid tool watches meant to perform under real-world conditions.  The Oyster case, now standard across the wide majority of its lineup, represented an innovation in proofing a watch's movement from water penetration.  While many now acquire and wear Rolexes for their recognition and brand identity, they remain solid examples of the watchmaking craft and rank among the most robust and dependable mechanical timepieces on the market today.

Nevertheless, some design and functionality issues plague Rolex's past, and at least one (in my opinion) lingers to the present.  While it maintains a group of avid supporters, the perceived flimsiness of Rolex's older bracelets has garnered its share of criticism.  In particular, older hollow-link Jubilee and President-style bracelets noticably "stretch" over time, where the individual links flatten with tension and elongate over time.  Also, all but the newest iterations of models utilized a folded clasp that felt less solid than the molded clasps found on watches from other comparable brands.  Rolex's redesigned molded clasp (which, with the advent of the new Submariner No-Date in 2012, is now available on all current models) is a vast improvement, though some owners claim to prefer the lighter weight of the folded design.

The biggest design concern I have with Rolex's present lineup lies in the ubiquitous use of screw-down crowns.  While it remains a standard if not necessary feature for diver watches - or any watch intended to be used underwater - its presence introduces an assured point of failure that will inevitably wear out with frequent use.  Unless worn frequently enough to maintain its power reserve, each winding and resetting of the watch applies wear to the screw-down threads, and runs the risk of an unwary owner damaging the crown by crossthreading.  This seems an necessary risk for the Submariner, Yacht-Master, and Deepsea models, and an understandable one for the DateJust, Milgauss, and Oyster Perpetual models, it becomes something of a liability on the GMT Master II, Explorer II, and Sky-Dweller models, which by their nature welcome more frequent adjustments to their multi-timezone functions.  The Daytona epitomizes the dilemma, however, as it employs screw-downs for its chronograph pushers as well.  This means that both pushers must be unscrewed with each use of the chronograph, and re-tightened after every use.  In my opinion, the added complication constitutes both a nuisance and the introduction of an unnecessary point of failure.

While this design element is hardly exclusive to Rolex, it is noteworthy because every model in Rolex's catalog - even its dress watch line, the Celini - employs a screw-down crown.  Thus, if you, like me, vastly prefer a push-down crown in all but those watch types - i.e. diver watches - that require them, the ubiquity of the screw-down crown represents a potential dealbreaker when shopping for a watch.  That, coupled with the flimsy-feeling clasp and slightly short-of-the-minute-indices minute hand on the 36mm Explorer I (less noticeable than the 39mm version's egregious design flaw) led me to part with mine.

My Pick



While my penchant for blue dials might make me lean heavily toward the 36mm Oyster Pepetual No-Date with a blue Explorer I-style dial (ref 116000), my pick of the current Rolex lineup is the newly redesigned 2012 Submariner No-Date, reference number 114060.  It features the classic Submariner design with an updated clasp, Parachrome hairspring movement, and ceramic bezel insert.  And the lack of a date function ensures that the crown will only have to be unscrewed in the event of a winding or time adjustment.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Picture of James Bond's New Official Watch in SKYFALL: Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 38.5mm 231.10.39.21.03.001

The following is a picture (sourced from WatchUSeek user Muddy250) of a new 38.5mm Aqua Terra with a gray-blue dial which is believed to be the watch that will be worn by Daniel Craig in his portrayal of James Bond in the upcoming movie Skyfall:



It seems to correspond with images of Craig's wrist on the Skyfall set, in which he appears to be wearing a non-dive-bezel Omega with a blue dial:


Also matches the nice blue hue of the watch he wears in this publicity shot:



The scoop from WUS moderator/sponsor Dimer (before the post was removed due to Omega's PR embargo):

The official Bond watch is a 38.5mm AT with a blue dial. Reference number is/will be 231.10.39.21.03.001. Price is EUR 4.050,- (incl 19% VAT). This is the watch he wears in the movie. When the movie comes out you can expect a limited edition Planet Ocean 42mm. It has a textured dial (lines) and at '7' it has the 007 logo. It is very small and not very noticeable compared to any other 007 limited. It will get reference number 232.30.42.21.01.004 and will be priced at EUR 4.760,- (incl VAT). I have not had a chance to look at the caseback, I had the watch in my hands for a few seconds before it was taken away ;). Please note that the prices can change before they come out, but these are the price I have now. 


My take: it's a beautiful watch and a better suit partner than the Planet Ocean that Craig wore in Casino Royale and, presumably (as I never got around to seeing it), Quantum of Solace.  If only there were a no-date version, I'd call it Omega's Rolex Explorer I killer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Timex Weekender T2N649 Follow-Up Review: On Steel Bracelet


The combination you see above is the T2N649 Weekender - the only one with a gray dial - paired up with the steel bracelet from the white-dialed T2N656 Weekender "Central Park" variant.  Looking at the two watches, I had a hunch that the bracelet would suit the gray dial perfectly.  I think it's safe to say that things worked out nicely.


It's a shame that Timex doesn't sell the gray dialed Weekender paired up with the steel bracelet (or is it a clever ploy to get us to buy two Weekenders in order to assemble the perfect one?).


As I mentioned in my original Weekender review, it really is the perfect under-$40 watch.  This particular combination looks as comfortable under a suit cuff as it does paired with a t-shirt and jeans.  And despite what one Amazon.com reviewer claimed, the links are removable, though it does require quite a bit of force to get them to budge.  But given how short they are (see the picture above), and the fact that the clasp includes a two-step micro adjustment, it's easily the most customizable and well-fitting bracelet I've ever encountered, at any price point.  And since it has straight lug ends and a commonly found 20mm width, it'll work with a vast selection of watches well beyond the venerable Weekenders.

Well done, Timex.  Well done.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Timex Weekender T2N654 Follow-Up Review: Patent Leather Strap & RDH Deployant



Several months have gone by, and the Timex Weekender continues to be one of the greatest bang-for-buck values in my watch box.  The T2N654, with its preeminently legible off-white dial, looks great on virtually any NATO or ZULU nylon strap.  But it looks equally at home on a leather band, and paired with a polished stainless steel deployant clasp, makes for a fine dress watch.


The leather strap is Horween patent leather, in the style of Nomos Glashutte's strap offerings.  I picked it up in an extra-short length (a must for smaller wrists) from Uhrband24.com.


The deployant clasp is a double-fold model affectionately nicknamed "RDH" by WISes, after the initials of the watchmaker who sells them, Bob Davis, at MyWatchmaker.net.  The RDH deployant is the best I've come across, and Mr. Davis stands behind each one with a 2-year guarantee.  A year into using one I discovered that the fastener that secures the clasp to the strap's adjustment holes had become difficult to undo, so I sent Mr. Davis email asking for a replacement.  I received a phone call only hours later, asking to confirm my address and the specifications of the deployant, and three days later I received the brand-new deployant pictured above.  It's this level of customer service coupled with the impressive design of the RDH deployant that makes it a no-brainer for dressing up a watch on a leather strap.

In the end, either the strap or the deployant costs more than the Weekender itself.  But you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at it, making this $30 watch one of the best bargains out there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 5 Affordable Watches for 2012 (All Under $100)


The Best Watches for Less Than $100 

In a world where every cellphone has a built-in clock (and every smartphone is virtually a mobile computer unto itself), the wristwatch is, as far as pure timekeeping purposes go, obsolete.  But obsolescence does not entail extinction.  There are situations where a wristwatch serves better as a timekeeper than a phone, just as there are situations where a pocket watch enjoys advantages over wristwatch.  But more than that, wristwatches represent one of the few accessories a man can comfortably wear in nearly any context; the same cannot be said about stacked bracelets, piercings, or any ring that has no matrimonial ties.  Here's five watches that epitomize the finest attributes of the 21st century wristwatch--and won't overtax your wallet while doing it.



5. Invicta 8926

One of the most visible Rolex Submariner homages out there (so much so that its most recent interations have been tweaked just enough to keep them firmly away from replica territory), the Invicta 8926 has a cult following of its own, and a solid reputation as a bang-for-your-buck watch.  While its bracelet lacks the diver's extension that would make it a quintessential diver's watch, the 8926 offers the same water resistance (300 meters) as professional diving heavyweights like the Submariner and Omega Seamaster, an automatic movement, and a sleek, tool watch design that demonstrates how a watch meant for the deep ocean has just as easily found its way into boardrooms and night clubs.

The 8926 is less than $80 on Amazon.com. Also available in a quartz version: the 8932.




4. G-Shock DW5600E-1V

The quitessential G-Shock, the 5600 series can take all the punishment an active lifestyle can dish out and still perform with precision and reliability.  Its no-frills yet tough-as-nails design makes it perhaps the ultimate sports watch, wherever your sport of choice may take you.  Its only weakness is its rubber strap, which--if my experience is any indication--will probably be the first thing on this watch to fail after many years of hard service, and the primary attribute that will make many sartorialists frown at seeing one peak out from beneath the cuff of your suit.  But if you're as tough as the watch you wear, you can probably brush those haughty looks aside.

The DW5600E-1V is just over $40 at Amazon.com.



3. Casio A168W-1

Casio's regular line of digital watches have served reliably since the early days of the quartz revolution, and the A168W-1 strikes a fine balance of reliability, geek-chic style, and utterly affordability.  Its metal bracelet makes it a more comfortable match with your suit, and its sub-$20 price makes it the best bang-for-your-buck watch on this list.

Find the A168W-1 for under $20 at Amazon.com.




2. Seiko 5 SNK793

The Seiko 5 series represents one of the best values in automatic watches.  Technically an in-house manufacture (with Seiko producing all the parts from the movement outward), the Seiko 5 houses the venerable 7S26 caliber automatic movement, which also powers the formidable (and slightly more expensive, at around $200) Seiko "Orange Monster" dive watch.  Watches employing comparable Swiss movements would easily set you back several hundred dollars, which makes a Seiko 5 one of the best introductions into the realm of mechanical movements.

The SNK793 pictured above can be had for just over $55 on Amazon.com.


1. Timex Weekender T2N651KW

Timex is the source of the slogan "takes a licking and keeps on ticking" for a reason.  Known for sturdy, dependable yet inexpensive analog watches, Timex's origins are derived from the same source as wristwatches themselves: World War II, and the need for mass produceable and reliable timepieces.  Timex weathered the post-war drop in military orders and the subsequent quartz crisis in the 1970s that nearly tore the Swiss watch industry asunder, all the while continuing to build upon its reputation for dependability and economy.

The Weekender series of watches represents one of Timex's most recent offerings that blends reliabilty with classic styling and affordability.  The plain, military-style dial also recalls the readability and familiarity of classroom wall clocks, and the Indiglo backlighting gives it excellent visability in the dark.  The Weekender is designed to complement the ubiquitious NATO-style nylon straps that often give vintage watches with worn out bracelets a new lease on life, but it looks just as good on a leather strap or steel bracelet--and, so outfitted, competes with all but the blingiest of dress watches with subtlety and panache.

The Weekender as pictured above (T2N651KW) is available for less than $30 with NATO-style strap or under $40 with metal bracelet (T2N656KW).  Click here for the full Weekender selection on Amazon.com.