Monday, August 3, 2015

Watch Principle #2: The Watch Box Rule, or a Home for Every Model

The second principle builds on the first:  the moment you decide to purchase another watch beyond your first, you'll need a place to put your spare watch(es) when you're not wearing them.  (For the only-watch crowd, I imagine the TV cliche of placing your watch on a nightstand holds mostly true to reality.)  As the thirteen Watch Primer post discusses, the respective wrist times of the watches you own shrinks in direct proportion to the total number of watches; if you have more than two, then your watches will spend the vast majority of their lives being stored, rather than on your wrist.  While it's possible to store your watches in the boxes or packaging they came in, this practice quickly becomes bulky, sprawling, and eventually impracticable - unless you've an abundance of shelf space and don't mind rummaging through several boxes each morning to pick out your watch for the day.  For most others, a watch box makes sense as a designated repository for all the watches that aren't adorning your wrist.

The idea behind acquiring a watch box is a familiar one: putting everything in its place, and, in turn, maintaining a place for every thing.  For the watch enthusiast looking to expand his or her collection sensibly, it also presents an opportunity to impose what I've come to recognize as a vital rule in my own path to WISdom:  the Watch Box Rule.

The rule is a simple one:  You can't have more watches than you have spaces in your watch box.  If you do, you have two options:  sell off timepieces until you're back in the black, or acquire a bigger watch box.  Yet there is actually more to the rule than may be perceived at first glance.  The pare-down option forces you to take stock of your current collection and to assay every timepiece within it against the others.  The wheat will quickly separate from the chaff.  The buy-a-new-box option, on the other hand, imposes an additional up-front cost to expanding your collection, and also serves as a physical embodiment and quantification of your watch collection: it will grow bigger as your collection does, gaining more slots and becoming more and more unwieldy and challenging to store as your watches grow in number.  And, by forcing yourself to store all of your watches in one place, it serves as an immediate representation of exactly how extensive your watch collection has become.

Even if the prospect of legions of watches assembled in rows and waiting for you to don them sets your heart aflutter, seeing said legions in the metal forces you to consider exactly how much of an investment - of time, effort, space, and attention - the amassing of your collection has cost you.  The largest watch box I've owned had ten slots, and there was a time (OK, many times) when I owned more watches than it could accommodate.  Staring at those ten slots and their occupants, as well as the watches left homeless by overzealous acquisitions, realizing how infrequently I actually wore some of those watches, made me realize that, for my purposes, my collection had grown over-encumbered.  That made me sit down and assess each and every watch, considering how attached I was to it, how often I wore it, and what features it brought to my watch box that weren't duplicated by its neighbors.  Doing so allowed me to pare things down enough to accommodate my current 5-watch watch box.

I won't lie; there have been times - many of them, in fact - where I've been tempted to purchase a sixth watch.  It isn't hard to find six-slot watch boxes on Amazon or elsewhere.  But so far I've managed to keep to the Watch Box Rule.  And keeping to it has forced me to constantly reassess my watch collecting goals, with an focus on longer and longer terms.  It's made me realize that, of the five occupants of my watch box today, only one has a tenured position:  the Rolex Oyster Perpetual  116000.  Simply put, it's as close to my Platonic ideal of an everyday watch as I'm likely to get.  The Speedy Pro is virtually assured of a lifelong spot - tenure-tracked, if we continue the analogy - but the right new chronograph release in the distant future could remove it from its position.   (A smaller diameter, blue dial, and perhaps a column wheel movement would be the requisite factors there.)  The rest of my box's slots are, in truth, still up for eventual grabs.

Deciding on the size of your watch box and sticking to the Watch Box Rule can help you determine your goals and priorities for your watch collection, and keep you from making those spur-of-the-moment purchases that could keep you from attaining those goals.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Watch Review: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm 116000 Blue Arabic Dial

Several years ago, I added the first Rolex to my collection in the form of the then-newly discontinued 36mm Explorer I 114270 after what I thought was an exhaustive search of Rolex's contemporary offerings.  I'd intended the acquisition to be the sole representative of the laudable crown in my watch box, and it likely would have been, had I not been tempted to view its successor, the 39mm Explorer I 214270, at my local authorized dealer.  It wasn't that the 214270 impressed me (with its stunted hands, how could it?); it was that I laid eyes on the 116000 with its blue, Explorer-style 9-6-3 dial and updated oysterclasp bracelet, and immediately fell in love.

The result was I sold the Explorer I I'd fully intended to keep (at a slight profit, thanks to its discontinuance and having acquired it used), and bided my time and money until I could afford to purchase the 116000 new.  The time came a little sooner than I'd expected due to the introduction of the 39mm Oyster Perpetual models at Baselworld 2015 and rumored (and likely probable) discontinuance of the Arabic dial 36mm models, but I was able to negotiate enough of a deal to walk away with the Rolex I'd lusted after for nearly four years.

It had taken four years in part because I'd tried so desperately to talk myself out of the purchase.  I knew that I'd be unlikely to sell a nameless Oyster Perpetual for more than I bought it for, especially not if I bought it new, and I was loathe to sink the thousands I'd recovered and couple of hundred I'd gained from the Explorer back into another watch, much less another Rolex.  But the pull of the 116000 was so strong that I nearly purchased a gently used example from one of the preowned watch vendors at Nakano Broadway during my last trip to Japan.  In the end, it may have been for the best, as the retail experience at my local authorized dealer was top notch, and there is an ineffably exquisite quality to purchasing and subsequently wearing a watch that can claim you as its sole owner.  (Far less ineffable were the previous owner's wrist hairs that emerged from between the bracelet links of my secondhand Explorer I, when I gave it a thorough ultrasonic cleaning.)  I was afraid that, after spending over $5k on a watch - more than I've ever spent on a consumer product - I'd become bored of it in a month or two, as I have with many previous watch acquisitions (and which my long history as a watch flipper can attest to).

Going into the fourth month since picking up the 116000, I can happily report that wasn't the case.  Many WIS understand the difference between a watch that immediately speaks to you and one that does not; the latter may become an acquired favorite, after a time, but the former will always appeal to you on some primordial level, making you smile each time you glance at it, no matter how many times you already have.  Several times while wearing it, I have been times I've been tempted to winnow my five-watch rule down to an only-watch rule, with the 116000 as the sole survivor.  Only my love for the Speedy Pro - in my book the poster child for acquired favorites; it wasn't love the first time it graced my wrist (it struck me as too large, as it continues to do when paired with a bracelet), but the longer I've had it, the more and more I've grown to appreciate its immaculately designed dial, bulbous crystal, and myriad other design decisions that make it the Platonic ideal of a chronograph.  Well, that and my obsession with having a backup for nearly everything.  But if I were compelled to live an only-watch lifestyle, I have to admit that, for all of the Speedy's benefits, both technical and in heritage, I'd probably end up siding with the 116000.  It just suits me best.

Because it's not one of the more-vaunted sports models, you may be able to negotiate a slight discount on an Oyster Perpetual, even at an Authorized Dealer, as I did.  Granted, all I achieved was getting it tax free (nearly 5% off what would have been the total price), but that amounts to several hundred dollars in savings on a purchase like this.  Seeing as I had been willing to pay full price if necessary, I counted it as a welcome surplus of exchange.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Watch Review: Nomos Glashutte Tangente Gangreserve

In writing last month's Kent Wang Bauhaus v3 watch review, I realized that I never reviewed one of the most paradigmatic Bauhaus-influenced designs out there - and one of the only ones I'm aware of that is available with an in-house movement.  I'm speaking generally of Nomos Glashutte's entire Tangente line, but this review will draw on my experience of the Gangreserve (Power Reserve) model that I acquired several years ago.

In addition to offering one of the best value propositions out there as far as true manufactures go, Nomos Glashutte also represents a bastion of sensibly sized watches for those with diminutive wrists and/or old-fashioned sensibilities.  At 35mm in diameter, the Tangente is the ideal size for a dress watch, and its 18mm lug width means that there are plenty of after-market options beyond the admittedly excellent shell cordovan strap that it comes with.  Its austere indices and numbering are, in my opinion, a quintessential expression of the Bauhaus aesthetic, and its blued hands - true blued hands, achieved through chemical processes that occur during heat treatment - match that aesthetic perfectly.

In retrospect, the power reserve indicator that I specifically purchased the Gangreserve for may actually be the weakest link in that particular Tangente's chain.  While useful in keeping the watch wound, it does break up the otherwise seamlessly sleek aesthetic that the basic Tangente model achieves so effortlessly.  In addition, it increases the cost of servicing substantially over the basic Alpha movement.  If I were to redo my purchase, I would likely go with the basic Tangente model - albeit with the same exhibition case back that I enjoyed in the Gangreserve version.

Whether or not the Tangente is for you likely falls to how you answer the following three questions:

First, are you OK with - or perhaps even prefer - a manual wind movement?  There can a certain pleasure associated with the daily ritual of winding a watch by hand, and if that tableau appeals to you, then the Tangente may be right up your alley.

(And if not, the new Tangente Automatik with the automatic  DUW 3001 movement may be the perfect alternative.  Just look at how the DUW 3001 fills up the 35mm case back!)

Second, do you like the way that dress or vintage sized watches look on your wrist?  Nomos's Tangente intentionally bucks the modern trend toward bigger and more substantial wristwatches, which can either be a welcome respite or an unwanted anachronism, depending on what range of watch sizes you find look best on your wrist.

Finally, perhaps the most important question is this: how much does the Bauhaus aesthetic appeal to you?  Is it attractive enough for you to see yourself wearing a watch in that style as your daily wearer, or in lieu of more traditional dress watch styles?  If you're a Bauhaus aficionado, then a Nomos Tangente may very well be your ideal watch.  If you'd prefer more classic, modern, or outlandish designs, then the Tangente probably won't be a viable option as a daily wearer or dress watch stand-in; whether it should still have a place in your watch box depends on the size of your collection and the financial resources you're willing to devote to it.  For me, while I'm a fan of the aesthetic, I'm more partial to more classic designs, such as the Patek Philippe Calatrava for dress watches, or the Rolex Oyster Perpetual when it comes to all-rounder watches that straddle the sporty/dress continuum.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Watch Review: Kent Wang Bauhaus v3

There is something about the Bauhaus aesthetic that is uniquely suited to watch design.  The minimalist, form-is-function philosophy can be especially appealing to those in pursuit - though some might say in vain - of a single watch for every occasion.  For those who want such a watch to not only be as universal as possible, but also affordable and powered by a dependable automatic movement, it's hard to think of a better candidate than Kent Wang's Bauhaus Watch V3.

This third iteration of Kent Wang's minimalist watch gets a lot of things right.  At 40mm in diameter (down from the beefier 42mm original), it's poised right at the sweet spot between today's larger watches and the more restrained proportions you'd find in vintage or dedicated dress models.  It features a polished steel case with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal, display case back, and a versatile leather strap that surprised me by managing to fit my 6" wrist on its innermost adjustment hole.  (Most regular-length straps on the market today, or offered standard on men's watches, tend to go only so far as a 6.25" wrist or so.)  As the v3's strap length was, to my understanding, lengthened to accommodate larger wrists up to 8", its ability to accommodate a 2" range in wrist sizes is extremely impressive.  In addition, the Bauhaus's lug width of 20mm means that it is compatible with a wide range of after-market strap options, from NATOs in nylon to unlined straps in shell cordovan.

Of course, it's the dial where this watch earns its Bauhaus moniker.  A simple matte surface with printed (or, in the case of the black version, applied metal) indices form a clean, uncluttered, and utter utilitarian template for telling time.  Eminently readable (especially when contrasted with the white model's blued hands), its only potential flaw - the sameness of the indices could cause one to misread the time if viewed at an off angle - is negated by the date window at 3 o'clock.  The date window's presence is the only real design concession that falls short of the Bauhaus ideal, but it serves enough of a function in utility and improved readability that I think its inclusion adds more to the watch than it detracts.

At under $400 retail (or around $300 if you can catch it during a Massdrop group buy), the Bauhaus V3 offers a tremendous amount of value for its price.  Its Japanese Miyota 9015 movement (upgraded from the Chinese Seagull the original and v2 used) is a solid competitor to the once-ubiquitous ETA 2824-2, and is the workhorse movement that many watch brands turned to after ETA shuttered its supply lines to third parties.  It matches the 2824-2 in virtually every metric except for its winding rotor mechanism, which is uni-directional rather than bi-directional.  While hardly a deal breaker in itself, that fact does mean that it will wind itself a a slightly reduced rate versus a comparable movement with a bi-directional rotor.  It had no difficulty sustaining itself while I used it as my workday wearer, despite my mostly sedentary responsibilities, and if you plan to wear it every day, as I did, it should have no trouble keeping itself wound from day to day.

If you're looking for an extremely versatile yet affordable automatic - perhaps as your introduction to automatic watches in general - Kent Wang's Bauhaus v3 watch is an excellent choice.