Disclaimer: Watch of the week for me, the Direnzo DRZ04 on the OEM rubber. I have to write a review on this guy at some point because this is by far the best microbrand watch experience I have ever had. It seriously punches above its weight.
This is the eighth in a semi regular digest of cool watches I happened to see this week.
As always, my general policy is that I never ask for wrist shots (because approaching strangers and distant acquaintances to talk about watches is already weird enough) so all pictures below are sourced from the internet. People are mostly cool, I try not to annoy them.
There was another excellent and diverse set of watches this week for your reading pleasure.
Before I started writing this watch travelogue, if you had asked me what sort of watches I would see the most often in the wild, I would have posited that Seiko, Citizen and Rolex would be the biggest ones I'd see. And, by and large, that's been true (Seiko and Rolex are very strong showings on a regular basis) but I have been repeatedly amazed by the numbers of other brands from Tags to Cartiers to legacy Swiss to microbrands.
I am hopeful it is a sign of a vibrant and healthy watch industry that will keep us in timepieces for the years to come.
Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Panda
Seen the day before Halloween while window shopping in Oakland. Have you ever had a moment of delayed recognition where you saw something and then, perhaps an hour later, you realized what you had seen. That was me with this panda dial.
My family and I were on our way to an independent bookstore we love and my youngest daughter was trailing behind a bit with my wife. I saw this out of the corner of my eye, on the wrist of his gentleman with his child and his wife. My brain immediately didn't recognize it, so I didn't mention anything, not the least because my kids will hurl themselves into traffic if not watched carefully.
Now I wish I had spoken up. Nivada is one of those pre quartz crisis Swiss brands that I am always a little sad that I don't know more about. I know about their Antarctic expeditions and their diver chronograph heritage (in the Chronomaster). I know they went bankrupt and were resurrected relatively recently with the intention of reissuing their historical catalogue.
I know them now as a maker of attractive and competent vintage style chronographs (and if you know me at all, you know I am perhaps second only to @ChronoGuy in my love of chronographs) based on Sellita movements. In particular, I love how offbeat this Panda looks (could not tell if it was a manual or an automatic at first glance) particularly the slightly wide eyed stance of the subdials. The winking red subdial offers some cool visual distinguishing factors and even in the original vintage 38mm sizing.
Like most off the shelf chronographs, it is a bit tall (14mm for the manual and 15mm ifor the automatic), but that's no great drawback for a diver/pilot's watch/chronograph.
It's good looking well sized and priced well. There's truly much to love here.
Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic
Seen on the wrist of an older gentleman in a shawarma restaurant worn on a distressed grey strap. Upon asking, he said it was a watch gecko purchase. This one.
I used to own the hand wind version of this watch, purchased because an online guide told me to do it. I ended up moving on it rather quickly, not because of any specific negative to the watch itself, but because:
1. I don't have any great regard for the military style of watches, particularly the Vietnam era US military issued watches.
2. Manual wind then, as now, is never going to be a feature I accept in an everyday watch. Winding my watches is a perfunctory action for me at best.
3. I find the relatively long lugs (47mm compared to a 38mm diameter) something that slips and slides on my wrist.
Still, I do appreciate the general proportions and the heritage of the KFA. I love the brushed case and the beadblasted ring around the dial. I like the giant crown designed for hand winding (even if it does poke my hand a little bit). I love the syringe hands and the seconds hand with the red tip.
To me there's something beautifully functional about the design ethic here, It is a tool watch is that deep and gutteral sense of the term. It is a watch meant to be used unsentimentally as a tool. If broken, then fixed. And if unfixable, then replaced. But never lionized, never babied.
My only real complaint is the weak lume. It's symptomatic of field watches as a class, but I often wonder if designers think fields are well lit places at night.
Regardless of its and my shortcomings, the Hamilton Khaki Field is a pretty great watch that could easily be a first and last watch for a non collector.
Longines Presence in Gold with Roman Numerals
Seen outside a bakery on the wrist of a well dressed older gentlemen. I confirmed it was the automatic version in conversation but little else.
I have a great love for the less well known watches of well known brands. The Drive de Cartier, the Zodiac Olympos, the Omega Globemaster, anything of JLC that isn't the Reverso. Perhaps it is the financial investor in me that seeks out these ""undervalued" watches, but more likely it is spurred by my desire for watchmakers to stretch outside of their areas of comfort and create timepieces that might not have an immediate market, but explore less well covered aspects of their design heritage.
It is in this spirit that I highlight this sub 39mm Longines Presence. Longines, to me, is a brand that builds its reputation on pilots and military heritage watches. The Spirit Zulu Time, the Conquest, the Heritage lines, these are what I think of immediately when I think of Longines.
What I don't think of is a thin, low WR dress watch in (probably plated) precious metal, with Roman numerals. It is an incongruity that pleases me.
I can't really explain why I like this watch. In many respects, it feels much like an Orient Bambino (a watch I also enjoy) or one of countless Seikos, Tissots, JLCs, and Breguets. Perhaps it is as simple as this. I love wrist watches because of their design, their history, and their engineering. The thin precious metal dress watch is among the oldest and most storied of the watch archetypes.
We live in more casual times these days and the dress watch is often overshadowed by bulkier and brawnier watch designs more suited to everyday living. I'm not sad about that. Technology progresses, standards evolve, and design preferences change.
Still, it's nice to remember the old standards. I am glad this Longines Presence (and other dress watches like it) exists and that people wear them. Perhaps it is time to add a precious metal dress watch to my collection. I sorely feel their absence.
Tag Heuer Carrera Caliber 1887 in Silver
My daughter might have tried to steal his son's crackers (if you're reading this, my deepest apologies. She's two and the very embodiment of DGAF).
I feel pretty good about this identification but it was just a glance. That said I have been looking at a lot of Caliber 1887s recently because of @chronotriggered 's delightful thread on watches one would destroy. I chose the Bremont of course, not because of any particular chicanery but because I found it ugly.
I actually like the Carrera 1887 a lot, particularly the sunburst blue and silver versions. They straddle that dress/sport chronograph line beautifully and I could see this being a great racing day Chrono along with something that would not look unusual in an office seeting. The silver ring around the 12 and 3 subdials might come off as a touch gaudy but I think they add necessary visual interest to a reasonably spare (spare for a chronograph anyway) dial. The only real critique I have of this reference is the fact that at 15mm, it verges into 7750 height territory. It's odd because Seiko certainly made 6S37 into a 14mm watch (my beloved credor Phoenix) and Tag slimmed down the movement a touch. I wonder where the rest of it went.
It would be remiss of me to not mention Tag's controversy over using a Seiko architecture to power this generation of Carreras. I will summarize my views thusly.
I don't find Tag's usage of a Seiko movement objectionable in the slightest (especially not a movement as legendary as the 6S37). I find it absolutely hilarious however that Tag's management are such Swiss made snobs that they tied themselves into knots trying to avoid acknowledging that Seiko developed the architecture. I can't help but imagine that the Carrera 1887s would be considered sought after classics today had Tag been more upfront about it.
Anyway, after the cracker incident, I was far too embarrassed to ask about the watch. But if you're reading this, your watch is awesome.
Girard Perragaux Gyromatic (1960s ish)
One for @Aurelian Seen on the wrist off a gentleman walking down the street. I actually crossed the street to ask him about his watch because I had literally no idea what it was.
What it was was a square GP Gyromatic from the 1960s in absolutely gorgeous condition. I had no idea that Girard Perregaux made watches in squares. I love the stubby lugs, dauphin hands, and domed (acrylic?) crystal.
I won't pretend to know much about this watch but I want you to know that I saw it and I loved it.
Rolex Yachtmaster (rhodium dial)
Seen at a nonprofit fundraising event. We talked watches briefly but little beyond pleasantries.
If I were a watch speculator type (and it should be abundantly clear right now that I am entirely too incompetent to be one), I would wager that the Yachtmaster line is one of the most undervalued Rolex watches out there.
No not the Yachtmaster 2. I think those are hideous (as with everything, my taste is questionable and my taste alone). But instead the clean and cool Yachtmaster 37s and 40s feel like the cooler cousins of the Ceramic submariners. True, they don't have the water resistance, but the raised platinum bezels have so much more personality than the ceramic submariners.
I think of the difference in the pricing of recent model submariners versus recent model Yachtmasters as a fascinating distortion in the Rolex markets. It never fails to amaze me that recent model submariner dates trade within $1-2k of the most recent model of Yachtmaster 40 despite the more precious metals (still in the attractive silvery tones rather than blingy gold) and that older models of the Yachtmasters command considerable discounts relative to Submariners of the same era.
At any rate, I think my favorite version of this watch is the rhodium dial pictured above. The silver grey dial is beautiful and the light blue second hand and text are playful in a way that Rolex typically isn't. I still don't love Mercedes hands nor do I love cyclops but sometimes it's okay to accept those things for a watch with some cool understated personality.
One big hangup of mine remains, I still don't like dive watches much. But would a yachting watch fit my life? One wonders.
Vero Windup Edition Look-alike
Seen on the wrist of a distant acquaintance. Pictured is the Vero Windup granite edition and the Vero Worn and Wound edition that are close. The watch I am picturing is similar but lacks the blacked out case, and offers a the dauphin handset of the W and W version. I literally cannot find another of this watch on the internet.
I have a soft spot for Vero. For those who don't know them, Vero is a Portland based micro brand that creates colorful and unique watches based on Sellita and Miyota calibers.
If you do know them, you probably know them by their bright Open Water Divers, bearing the names of local landmark such as Dawn Patrol, Ridge Trail, and North Coast. They're super fun and worth the time of any microbrand curious collector to take a look.
Less well known is their watch archive which has a wide array of interesting dress and field watches, particularly a set of watches issued as special editions for the windup events. These, obviously, are quite rare with production runs in the low hundreds or even dozens. Unknown to me however, is the fact that Vero actually made other limited editions, sometimes for local retailers.
The look of the watch, I can tell you, is elegant but not super remarkable. What I am completely certain of however, is that there are very few pieces like this in the world because, as far as I can tell, this watch was one of just half a dozen commissioned for a local tailor in Portland for his customers, of which my acquaintance was one. How cool is that?
In many ways, this is the very thing that every watch collector craves, a piece unique. It's a special thing worthy of celebration.
What cool watches did you see this week?