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Li Wang

Opinion

Opinion: Don’t jump on the bandwagon

I watching Hodinkee’s video recap of SIHH 2019, I was struck by a comment Jack Forster made about his dislike for the bandwagon criticism of certain watch models that were announced at the trade show. His argument was that we should respect the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into watchmaking and watch design even if the result is perceived as a “miss.”

I have been around the watch industry for several years now, as a hobbyist and working as watch writer, and I have, time and time again, witnessed an opinion that cements itself as “fact” when watch enthusiasts (mostly online) declare that a certain watch or design element is wrong. These declarations make it seem as if one is a lesser watch collector if he or she disagrees with the popularized sentiment.

As always, I defer to the notion that knowing one’s personal style is the best style. While collective consensus will happen in any hobby, I agree that the negative takes hurt us as community. We become elitists and stop the industry from growing and make it not as fun for newbies to get into watches. At some point, we all didn’t know much about watches, so let’s just take a moment and appreciate what sparked our initial interest in watches.

One example of the negative effect of group think is the idea that Tag Heuer watches are inferior to other brands that compete in that category. There’s a perception that this brand is too big for its own good, it spends too much money on sponsors and at one point used a Seiko movement it tried to pass off as its own. At the end of the day, many people’s “first nice watch” is a Tag Heuer, oftentimes purchased at a department store.

My first nicer automatic watch was a Tag Heuer Calibre 5. At 39mm with a ETA-clone, date complication, black dial and just enough lume, this Tag served me very well. It was my only watch, pretty scratched up from wearing it every day, and it really did go as well with jeans and a T-shirt or for a job interview. It was a watch that was appropriate for my career level at the time. It was also a gift from my in-laws. I cherished wearing that watch and thought it was cool that I should wear it every day to keep it running.

Objectively, the Calibre 5 is what we watch collectors would deem a perfect everyday wearer. Yes, it does not have the cache of Heuer-only marking. It’s a totally a basic watch that’s pretty common and understated. But this Tag Heuer is no less of a watch than, say, an ETA Tudor Black Bay, which has been embraced by a lot of watch guys as an affordable alternative to a Rolex Submariner.

Be original

My daily wear is 14060M Submariner, which may be the most unoriginal choice possible. A black Sub is cliche for dudes who don’t know what to get when they are getting their first Rolex. That said, I arrived upon this choice because it fits my personal style. I feel most in my own skin when wearing classics: Air Force 1s, L.L. Bean duck boots, Ralph Lauren polos. I’m happy that when I wear this watch, it feels like an extension of my personality. I could’ve easily caved to the groupthink concept that a black Submariner is too much of a mainstream choice for a real watch guy, but every time I snap close the clasp I get that giddy feeling we all strive for.

Don’t be a snob

I urge you to not look down on anyone’s watch choice. Celebrate that they are wearing a watch. I used to think that Apple Watch owners were truly missing out. But I’ve never tried an Apple Watch and surely the functionality must be pretty cool. Be open-minded. Express why you way love an automatic watch.

Set and wind your wife’s watch every time despite your temptation to want them to learn how to do it themselves.

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2019 watch resolutions

It’s already January 7 and honestly it’s been a whirlwind of a break for us over at Everest and Monta. It’s given us time to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we want to go. One thing that continues to be a hallmark of the brands is attention to fit and finish. It’s a relatively loose term used in the watch community, but it translates to how a watch or watch component is completed, how it sits and interacts with other parts and literally how the finish looks.

We put a lot of thought into Monta watches, of course, but people who see our watches most often remark about the combination of brushed and polished surfaces on our watches. Which leads us to 2019 Watch Resolution no. 1:

  1. Accept only the best fit and finish on your watches and watch accessories: Cost per wear is a term that rationalizes paying more upfront but getting more out a product out of lifetime. So when people pay more for, say, a pair of jeans in the beginning the hope is that buyer gets a pair of jeans that not only last longer, but are better made and more comfortable, look better and return more to the ownership experience on a day-to-day basis. That’s what we want in our watches too. Does the bracelet snap reassuring into lockdown mode? Does the bezel turn with a firm yet smooth feel? Are the surfaces of the hands beautifully executed? Does the band or bracelet fit against the case nicely? Everyone will have their own set of criteria, but we urge you to prioritize yours and make your 2019 watch purchases accordingly.
  2. But what you love, not what you like: At the end of the day, watches for collectors aren’t about practicality. It’s about a feeling and more of an emotional connection to an object. When you look at or try on a watch you are considering for your next purchase, make sure the sum of its parts speaks to you. If you are choosing between two models use your gut to make the decision. Which one are you naturally drawn to without thinking about it too much? Don’t just but a dress watch or chronograph because you think you need one to complete your collection. That said, do buy into a category if you can’t stop thinking about a certain model. Buy the watches you love and enjoy wearing, even it that means three black dial dive watches if you happen to love that style. We can’t tell you what that means for you as a individual collector, but the point is be real with yourself and don’t fall into a trap of acquiring a watch that ends up sitting in your drawer for most of its life.
  3. Don’t be so precious about material objects: One you let go of the idea of keeping up the condition of your watches, you will enjoy them more. It’s just a watch at the end of the day and any scratches or dings really do add character and make that particular watch yours. Don’t be abusive and take care of your things, but don’t overthink it. One simple way to protect your watches without obsessing over it is to simple take off your watch when you get home. Get an Everest watch roll to store them of course, but many “accidents” happen at home such as when you reach into the sink so by simple taking off your watch once you come home goes a long way. If you always have to wear a watch, get an inexpensive at-home beater watch. Quartz would make sense here as you don’t have to worry about maintaining its charge. Or just wear your watches all the time!

The point of our three resolutions is to pledge to enjoy watches more this year. Don’t overthink watch collecting. Wear them. Wear good watches that feel good on the wrist. Take your watches on journeys. Make memories with them!

Hodinkee Rolex Seiko

Hodinkee’s 10th anniversary and how I got into watches

“It’s excessive in some way, but there is a certain excessiveness to ambition as well,” says John Mayer at the conclusion of the very first episode of Hodinkee’s “Talking Watches” video series. Hodinkee has become the benchmark for watch content and the website is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. I re-watched the John Mayer episode this morning, as it was a staff choice favorite Hodinkee story. I’m really glad I spent time to re-watch it.

In the video the singer and guitarist takes the viewer through his own journey of discovering his love of watches. It started with an Explorer II he explains. Although Mayer can afford pretty much whatever watch he wants, he tells everyone watch collecting is not as materialistic as an outsider may perceive it to be. It’s about the details and being obsessive about those details and building memories with certain watches.

For me I started getting into watches because I was into men’s fashion. My mom has a great design eye and I inherited her sense of personal style. I read on GQ (if I recall correctly) about a company called DaLuca Straps that made Horween leather straps and somehow as I went down the Google rabbit hole I saw one of these straps (a green one) paired with a Timex Weekender watch. The idea of customization is what got me digging deeper into watches.

Then I discovered you could modify the watches themselves and that the Honda Civic of watches was the Seiko SKX007, a $200 automatic with lots of aftermarket products available. So I didn’t know how to modify a watch, so again, back to Google and I discovered the online community WatchUSeek.com and discovered a guy in Hong Kong named Harold Ng (aka Yobokies), who sold modified Seikos. I promptly ordered my own Seiko Monster pimped out with an orange sword hand a Bell&Ross-style aviator dial. It’s probably still the most complimented watch I have ever owned.

Long story short, this led my into Seiko dive watches. I had a Marinemaster 300, several Tunas, and several others. But throughout this time I was always struck by the classic Rolex design language when people posted photos of the WRUW (What Are Your Wearing) threads on WatchUSeek.com’s forums. By the way, I spent way too much time on WatchUSeek but learned a lot about watches and people’s obsessiveness about the minutiae.

I finally saved up for my first Rolex. I had sold my entire collection to fund the purchase. I owned a first-generation Tudor Pelagos (which I loved) but the Rolex bug has gotten me bad. I picked up a ceramic no-date Submariner for my hometown dealer Govberg and fell in love. I felt different inhabiting my own space. I only ever got one compliment on my Submariner but wearing one made me feel like a million bucks, and I learned quickly that’s what it’s all about.

Since then I’ve added a Panerai 112 and replaced the ceramic sub for a 14060M and in the careful, calculated process of trying to fill out two other slots in the collection. I do still wear and cherish my Casio G-Shock GW-5000 1JF, but I’m trying now to build my own stories with watches that I am passionate about.

I get what Mayer is saying. We have one life and some of us get excessive about objects. That’s more than fine. Excessiveness is quite often tied to ambition.

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Give someone a watch this holiday season

One of the joys of watch collecting is seeing someone else enjoy wearing a watch. While there are many, many options for quartz watches that make affordable gifts, gifting a mechanical watch to the right person can allow them to discover the pleasures of owning an intricate machine that requires no electricity to power. That said, if you know the person you are considering buying a mechanical watch for would much prefer not having to set or wind a watch, by all means, choose a quartz model for them.

But if you do know someone who would appreciate a mechanical timepiece, here are our recommendations at a price that is low risk:

Timex Marlin: This is a svelte 34mm handwinder that is ideal for a gentleman whose style is subtle. You can’t beat the vintage watch proportions and understated look. Available for $199 at Timex.com

 

Seiko SKX007: The classic affordable diver is still the standard bearer for real dive watch with history at around the $200 mark. Get it with the rattly but oh-so-comfortable jubilee bracelet. Available for $220 at LongIslandWatch.com

Hamilton Khaki Field King Auto: Hamilton produces some of the nicest sub-$1,000 ETA-powered watches in the industry. The day-date version of their steady Khaki King field watch line is sort of the deluxe model. It’s great for the old-fashioned dad type who believes in value and the value of hard work. $745 at HamiltonWatch.com

Unimatic U1-EN BGW-09: We like the simple design of this Seiko NH35A-powered dive watch. It’s limited to 300 pieces and is perfect for your friend or family member who enjoys Italian design. $610 at MrPorter.com

Seiko

The Seiko Urushi Presage SARX029: A standout value dress watch

Many of us don’t have many occasions to wear a suit, let alone a dedicated dress watch. But even in our casual society, we do need a great suit and, if you believe in rules of style, a dress watch that isn’t a smaller sport watch. While I won’t get into the strict definition of dress watch, let’s just leave it at it’s nice to have a more formal looking watch for those occasions that may be more serious or business. I saw a red-bezeled Black Bay at a funeral not too long ago, and while no one else probably noticed, that watch did seem out of place during an occasion where not drawing attention to oneself is a good idea.

Nowadays when it’s acceptable to wear sneakers and jeans to the office, it’s tough to justify adding a true dress watch to your collection. Fortunately, there are some “dressier” watches that are relatively affordable and interesting enough to add to a rotation. One standout, in particular due to its enamel dial, is the Seiko Presage SARX029 priced at under $1,000.

Photo by Seiya Japan

At 40.5 mm wide and 12 mm thick, it’s on the big side for a watch in the dress category. That’s also a strength in that you can wear it jeans and T-shirt easily too. The details—the deep black lacquered dial, the gold hands and date window  frame, and gold stitch accented crocodile strap—give this conservative design a touch of spice that makes ownership more enjoyable. Most of us revel in the finer points of what’s on our wrists.

The movement is a pedestrian 6R15 spec’d on less-expensive watches, but it’s more than capable and is inexpensive to service or replace. The value here is the craftsmanship of the Urushi dial and its overall harmony with the other elements such the svelte Roman numerals and nicely shaped case.

fashion watches

What we can learn from millennials… and fashion watches

I stumbled upon an article in Hodinkee about Movado’s acquisition of two upstart fashion brands founded by and targeting millennials. It was astounding to read about the volume of sales by MVMT (pronounced movement), a mostly quartz analog brand founded by two guys in L.A. The female-focused brand Olivia Burton is its counterpart.

I had heard of this brand and also know of the success of Daniel Wellington, another minimalist dressy quartz brand, and didn’t understand why there was such widespread appeal for these seemingly basic watch designs. The secret is in marketing, more specifically the ability for these brands to actually connect with their prospects on social media.

MVMT does a particularly good job painting the romance around their watches, which is a big part of the appeals of all watches. How many of us feel more confident with a watch that evokes car racing or a dive expedition?

The Olivia Burton IG page follows the same principle of consistent messaging that paints a lifestyle and esthetic for their customers:

The fact that Movado has the foresight to bring in two brands that know how to draw in younger customers is a sign of the future of the industry. While I have met many watch enthusiasts in their 20s, I realize that for long term the industry needs to adapt to a marketplace that  has a tendency to either not wear watches at all or wear an iWatch.

As Hodinkee reports, the Movado brand is the best-selling watch in the $500 to $2,000 segment of the U.S. watch market. There’s a lot of competition is that category and it’s really smart for the brand to further cement its place there by adding MVMT and Olivia Burton to its company.

Efraim Grinberg, CEO of Movado Inc. Group, told Hodinkee that he wants strongly believes in the appeal of analog wristwatches. “Our mission is to continue to have young people interested in the design and beauty of traditional analog watches,” he said.

While it’s easy to be dismissive about young people favoring inexpensive quartz fashion watches, don’t be. It’s keeping the watch industry alive and like Grinberg alludes to, the key is celebrating the design and beauty of traditional watches. So this holiday season, try gifting a young person in your life with a traditional watch. Start planting the seed for the love we all know so well.