Monday, May 27, 2013

Watch Radar: Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton H42555151

Being among the entry-level brands under the aegis of the mighty Swatch Group conglomerate, Hamilton offers one of the strongest value propositions for those interested in Swiss-made mechanical movements - specifically those made by Swatch's subsidiary ETA - in the sub-$1000 price point.  Last year's Hamilton Intra-Matic - featuring an ETA 2892-2 at a street price of just over $500 - is a prime example of the solid finishing and economy of scale that Hamilton can offer budget-minded mechanical watch fans.

The one design that caught my eye - supposedly revealed at BaselWorld 2013, but sneak-peaked by the good folks at Hodinkee in February - is the Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton, reference H42555151.  It represents a rare opportunity to acquire a skeleton movement - an even rarer (though admittedly somewhat contra-purposed) automatic one at that - with the finishing available from a large watch brand at a suggested retail of approximately $1200.  Applying the usual Hamilton street discount, it's likely to become a Swiss-made skeleton model at or below $1000.

Image courtesy
Image courtesy

As can be seen in these close-up images, the dial appears very attractively designed and well-finished for a mass-production model, with many flourishes - like the Hamilton "H" patterning on the movement plate - that can only be achieved economically by a large-scale manufacturer.  The watch is sensibly sized for dress and casual use at 40mm, and satisfies my personal criteria of being time only - avoiding the annoyance of having to reset date or day windows, or the more arcane knowledge required to set moon phase complications (knowledge that I still do not possess).

While Hamilton calls the movement a Caliber H-20-S, automatic skeleton; its size relative to the case and rotor design lead me to believe it's a skeletonized form of the ubiquitous ETA 2824, albeit a variant that will be exclusive to Hamilton.  (Another perk of being in the Swatch Group is access to exclusive ETA variations, which other Swatch brands like Longines have also enjoyed.)

For my watch box, the new Viewmatic Skeleton is possibly poised to knock the Intra-Matic from its place as my go-to automatic.  My work responsibilities that make the Intra-Matic's date window a convenient evil will conclude at the end of June, and while I've grown to like the Intra-Matic's hour-and-minute-only hand setup, part of the soul of a mechanical movement does lie in the telltale sweep of its second hand.  Only the comparatively larger size - 36mm to 38mm is really the ideal for my 6" wrist - and potential movement downgrade from a 2892 to 2824 give me pause in considering the switch.  I may have to see the watch in person to make the final call.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Watch Primer #13: Building A Watch Collection

As with any hobby that primarily consists of acquiring manufactured goods (and obsessing over said goods), the sky really can be the limit where watch collecting is concerned.  Where money is no object, one can amass a collection spanning styles, manufacturers, eras, and complications, or price tags rivaling luxury cars and even single-family homes.  Few of us can afford to dedicate such resources to a pass time; but the question is, even if we could, would we want to?

For me (and the purposes of the Watch Primer series), the answer to this question stems from the intrinsic characteristics of the watch itself.  The most elemental is this:

You can only wear one watch at a time.

(I've seen videos of the CEO of Omega, Stephen Urquhart, running around Baselworld with a Planet Ocean strapped to each wrist, but given his position in the industry and the context, I think he provides a fitting exception to prove the rule.)

From this first principle comes a corollary that has direct bearing on the size and disposition of your ideal watch collection:

The amount of wrist time each watch enjoys is inversely proportional to the number of watches in your collection.

This might not matter for those watch enthusiasts who, at least in part, collect watches for the same reason that some people collect coins or stamps - that is, for the collection itself.  For those who make it a point to collect every subtle iteration of a particular model, or the rarest examples across a wide range of brands, actually wearing each and every one of the watches in their collection is merely a secondary perk (or, if they're more focused on maintaining the value and condition of the pieces, an anathema).  But it is my contention that the act and practice of collecting always remains a distant second to the actual use and enjoyment of the watches you own.

Back when my collection threatened to overwhelm my 10-slot watch box, I often found that at least half of my watches remained in the stable for months on end.  A couple saw alternating but occasionally infrequent use, while one watch - usually an automatic - enjoyed go-to watch status.  Among those watches perennially confined to the stable was the Speedy Pro - the eventual winner of my "only watch" category - and every time I reach into the box for another model, I would feel a slight pang of guilt at leaving it behind.  Even now, with my collection pared down to four, two of them - the quartz "backup" and "beater" contingent, comprised of a Grand Seiko and a Casio ProTrek - see very infrequent use.  If I weren't so attached to the notion of having a quartz "backup" dress watch and a "backup" chronograph, I could probably stand to pare down those two as well.

The most important thing is to acquire watches that you would be comfortable putting on day in, day out, for the indefinite future.  This determination is to a large degree dependent on context; if your work days see you often donning a suit, then a dress or dressy sports watch would be appropriate.  If your work is more active and less formal, a more casual and rugged watch may be better suited.  The other half depends on your own aesthetic sense - your propensity or disinclination for certain colors, features, or design elements.  Sometimes, the context and aesthetics force a compromise:  my current work-day watch, a Hamilton Intra-Matic 38mm, deviates from my minimalist aesthetic preference with a date window, which, for the purposes of the court documents I regularly deal with, has proven to be a necessity.