Watches in the Wild (Hometown Glory, Part 25)

Disclaimer: Direnzo DRZ04 pictured. The last time I saw snow in the SF Bay Area I was five years old!

This is the twenty fifth in a semi-regular digest of cool watches I happened to see this week.

Past posts in this series have been hashtagged to #watchesinthewild and you can click through for  part 17part 18part 19part 20part 21part 22part 23, and part 24.

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.

This is part 3 of Watches in the Wild: London Edition.

You know it's going to be a good one when I begin with a rant.

***Beginneth Rant*** I once openly complained about not seeing any Breitlings while searching for watches in the wild and opined that it could have been a regional variation in watch purchasing.  

Since then, I've seen many more Breitlings (though very few in Northern California) and so  I have decided that my theory is correct and that broadly Bay Area folks don't like Breitling at all.  This is what I like to call small sample size theatre and I have lots of fun extrapolating absurdity out of the very minimum number of observations.

It is in this spirit that I'm going to declare that London has a thing for traditional watch faces on smart watches.

It was the field watch face on the blacked out case on the flight from SFO to Heathrow that started it.  Then I saw what was clearly a bi-compax Speedmaster face on an apple watch pro in Harrods.  And then a Daytona face on a Pixel watch.

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And then while walking through Borough Market, I saw what I thought was a rose gold Ming watch.  This is curious because I was unaware that Ming had made a rose gold watch.  And upon closer examination, I realized it was a smartwatch with the very signature ming dial on the face of it.  (I can't for the life of me find a picture of it, so I wonder if it was a custom)

I find this an odd trend, to be frank, largely because I think dial and case are synergistic.  A Ming dial on an oyster cased smartwatch doesn't make any sense stylistically (the stark dress watch modernist ming face on the classic Rolex case is a bad match), to say nothing of a Speedmaster face with circular subdials on a rectangular watch or a Daytona face on a watch that doesn't have Chronograph pushers. 

It just hurts my soul a bit.  ***Endeth Rant***

In addition to seeing friends, we spent some time in our old haunts: Borough Market (for sausage rolls, cheese toasties, and raclette in the morning), Spitalfields (where did the vintage market go and why is there a Peleton studio?), and Shoreditch (though I am probably a bit more of a West Hampstead kinda guy these days).  

As I have grown older, the FOMO I used to feel while traveling has begun to recede.  I still enjoy the novelty of experience, a new restaurant or play or exhibit at a museum.  But there is a new recognition of the futility in trying to experience everything and the realization that joy decreases when you are constantly rushing to a new thing.  

As with life, so too with watches.  Spotting watches in the wild has actually been a wonderful salve to the cycle of constant purchase.  I get to see a lot of cool things in the metal and just realize that most things I want aren't going to be for me.  It helps me just go with the flow.

I hope you enjoy!

Damasko DS30

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Seen at Fortnum and Mason while picking up an unreasonable amount of tea and biscuits.

I originally thought this was a Sinn 556i but eventually realized that I was looking at a sector dial with double markers at 12, which jogged my memory for Damasko.

I often look at Damasko watches and think "nice design, wish it were a bit smaller."  And to be fair, most Damasko watches are above 40mm, quite thick, quite toolish and not really my thing.

But when I first encountered a DS30 on the wrist of my friend last year, I was very pleasantly surprised at the way it wore.  I'm still a bit iffy on the slightly martial undertones of the cross hair dial and the flieger hands but on wrist, it felt like a dress watch, a modern 39mm x 48mm but an almost delicate sub 10mm height. 

I don't really love the long lug to lug relative to the dial diameter but otherwise the proportions are beautiful and it wears well.  

Watches like the DS30 make me question the artificial distinctions we make between types of watches.  The style and bead blasted finish is flieger/field but the case/proportions are modern dress.  And if I'm honest, I'd happily wear this into office most days.

Perhaps this is a GADA watch of a different sort, one that trades on its unobtrusiveness and comfort rather than it's finish.  I can dig it.

King Seiko SPB285

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Seen on the London Tube.  Much to the chagrin of my wife, I offered my compliments and he completely ignored me.  His loss.

The revived King Seiko line has always struck me as an odd missed opportunity for Seiko.  The original King Seiko was a worthy internal rival to Grand Seiko, an accomplished movement maker in its own right with an angular and distinctive aesthetic that feels ageless in the modern age.

I actually think that King Seiko would be best positioned as the dress counterpart to the Prospex LX line, centered around the exceptional 8L series of movements.  I figure it would fill it the big hole in Seiko's collection, currently covered by the very overstretched Presage lineup which sells pieces as inexpensively as $400 and as expensively as $4500 (which just means everything ends up selling at a discount to retail unless it's a particularly desirable piece and then you can't find it).  I think a revived King Seiko would be a worthy competitor to Oris and Longines in the $2-4k price range.

Instead, they stuffed a 6R into it, priced however Seiko prices things and everything ended up on the grey market at $1400 to $2000 (for the limited edition).  This can't be an optimal outcome.

It's a shame too because the actual watch looks fantastic.  The hard angles are reminiscent of the Seiko Presage Sharp Edges except taken up a notch.  The bracelet is good looking and well suited to a dress style.  I think the brown sunburst is probably my least favorite of the colorways ( @AllTheWatches ,red baby!) but they're all pretty attractive.

I even love the size!  37mm x 12mm looks good on anyone's wrist.  

I'm certain this is a very good watch....but the missed opportunity to carve King Seiko into its own fantastic thing makes me a little sad.

Tudor Hydronaut (Gen 1)

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Seen on the Tube.  I offered my compliments, was acknowledged, but didn't get the chance for an extended conversation as my stop was next.

When you have a massive mega hit like the BB58, there is the incredible temptation to simply churn out a million different versions with different colors, different complications, but the familiar aesthetic and layout.  And to be fair, this has been an indisputable success.  The desire for Rolex homages is fundamentally unlimited.

But I miss the old, weirder pre BB58 Tudor a little bit. It was a Tudor that made Rolex homages, true, but also made odd things like the Heritage Chrono, all manner of colorful Tiger Chronographs, and this Tudor hydronaut.

The Hydronaut was Tudor's exclusive line of dive watches through much of the late 90s/early 2000s and emblematic of a Tudor that was reaching for an aesthetic entirely separate from that of Rolex.

The reference I saw was pretty staid as these things go but there are hydronauts out with bright blue or yellow or MOP dials or roulette wheel rotating bezels.  They're beautiful and bizarre and just loads of fun.

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The Tudor design pendulum has swung  back to vintage Rolex. This is not necessarily a bad thing but one of the casualties was the hydronaut (discontinued after just a decade or so). But I think we should pour one out for what was clearly a pretty great watch.  In particular, I do love how tooly the hydronaut looks and it is a very capable and comfortable diver (40mm x sub 11mm height).

The market has spoken and so the hydronaut is gone but I dearly miss this wild and wooly side of Tudor.

AP RO 33mm ish in steel (no idea what reference)

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Seen in the lobby of my hotel on the wrist of a fashionable woman, on a rubber strap.  

I have been somewhat open with my disdain of the Royal Oak.  I understand that it is a Genta classic but I just don't really understand the magic versus say a Zenith Defy Skyline and a Tesla Model 3.  It's not a great sign that the first thing I think about when I recall the last time I put on a Royal Oak was how big it wore for a 41mm watch.  This is symptomatic of integrated bracelet watches but the Royal Oak's bracelet flares out which makes it wear like a watch that is 3-4 cm bigger than it actually is.  On my 18.5cm wrist, it feels oversized.

It is for this reason that I have often wondered why the 37mm and smaller sizes for the royal Oak are not significantly more popular than they are.  And it was with this in mind that I was overjoyed to see this perfectly appropriately sized Royal Oak.

Did I speak with the owner? No.

One, I was preoccupied with a glass of very old Japanese whiskey. Hakushu 25 year, a unicorn among whiskies.

Two (and fare more importantly), while I may be socially unaware, I know better than to cross a room to talk to another woman about a watch when I am with my wife.  

Probably a Fake Panerai Luminor Tuttonero GMT

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Seen on a waiter's wrist.  No conversation, though he did make a very good suggestion on pairing a citrus salad with a beautiful grilled pork chop.

This example was quite worn, with the PVD beginning to wear off at the links.  I don't think this reflects particularly poorly on the owner or the watch itself.  PVD coating simply doesn't wear super well over time, so the sleek look of a blacked out watch just doesn't endure.

That said, the Tuttonero, if I recall correctly, has a ceramic, not PVD, bracelet and case, which would imply a lack of authenticity on this watches's part.  Ceramic typically does not wear away to steel underneath.

My watch dealer friend tells me that Panerais are among the most faked watches he sees and it generally comes down to the movement being a poor clone.

In this case, no judgement from me here (aside from my hoping he was an informed consumer and didn't pay authentic pricing).  I'm honestly more surprised that I managed to catch it just by looking!

Speedmaster Ultraman (almost certainly the reissue)

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Seen in a pub owned by Guy Ritchie (Lore of the Land.  Great fare, kinda mediocre pints) on the wrist of one of the chefs in the open air kitchen.  

Most Speedmaster references (at least the moonwatch and moonwatch descendant ones) look very samey to me.  Lyre lugs, white stick hands, three subdials on a black face.  It's more of a type of watch (Type B fliegers) than it is a specific watch in itself.

And I admit, I would have never recognized the Ultraman except for having seen Daniel Dae Kim's talking watches fairly recently.  It's a good one, you should take a look if you haven't already.

https://youtu.be/S3ov84rggkY

But there it was, with the bright orange seconds hand, orange tachymeter text and on the stock black and orange NATO.  Surprisingly obvious when you are looking at it.

Though I have no emotional connections to the Ultraman series, I actually like this Speedmaster reference a lot more than the more standard Moonwatches.  It injects some needed personality into the formula. 

Universal Geneve Polerouter Tuxedo dial in steel

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Also seen at Lore of the Land on the wrist of a customer who was very evidently on a first date. I blurted out the watch to my wife, who gave me a death stare and insisted I not screw it up for him.  She's right of course, I totally would have ended his first date with an awkward conversation about how much I liked his 50s era watch.

A Genta-holic friend once said to me that he was looking at a Polerouter because he couldn't afford a Nautilus or a Royal Oak.  This attitude is completely bewildering to me.  

First, the design ethic of the watches is completely different.  The RO and the Nautilus are loud sports watches.  The Polerouter is a pretty subdued aviation inspired dress watch.  I don't think they fundamentally appeal to the same person (at least not the same person in the same circumstance).

Second, the Polerouter isn't some safety school of a watch.  It was the very first great design that Genta ever created and the foundation for an entire industry of people slavishly attempting to imitate him.  Show some damned respect.

Needless to say, I often look at @Deeperblue's gold reference of this watch with a certain amount of envy.  I love the hands.  I love the black and white dial.  I love the slightly twisted lugs.

And while I know, fundamentally, that I probably don't have the patience to deal with a temperamental vintage watch like the Polerouter, there's a part of me that wants to wear it anyway. 

It is as sleek and as cool a watch as they come.

What cool watches did you see this week?

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Some great sightings, I would lose my collective sh!t if I saw an UltraMan. One does not just happen to come by one of those on a whim.

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AllTheWatches

Some great sightings, I would lose my collective sh!t if I saw an UltraMan. One does not just happen to come by one of those on a whim.

That's how I was about the Polerouter!

I'm not a Speedy Guy so I have this distant understanding that they are uncommon but never knew they were grailworthy. I will say, it was proudly worn.

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Edge168n

That's how I was about the Polerouter!

I'm not a Speedy Guy so I have this distant understanding that they are uncommon but never knew they were grailworthy. I will say, it was proudly worn.

I am not sure they are quite to the level of 40th anniversary Snoopy, but they are certainly sought after. I am also a bit of a pop culture nerd, so one of them or the GS Godzilla are simply cool to me!

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AllTheWatches

I am not sure they are quite to the level of 40th anniversary Snoopy, but they are certainly sought after. I am also a bit of a pop culture nerd, so one of them or the GS Godzilla are simply cool to me!

I remember the Hodinkee article from way back when they announced it and the totally 2012 run was sold out immediately and I remember thinking it was silly that people wanted a nearly identical Speedmaster just that much.

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Silly JC! You know better than that now. :-)

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AllTheWatches

Silly JC! You know better than that now. :-)

Loooooollll. I was so naive.

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My only watch spot this week was one of these:

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I think this is possiblity the only watch in the world I can identify with a glance.

I was thinking I should probably wear my Polerouter to the London meetup later this month. I generally like to go with random choices for meetups (I wore my vintage Seiko Arnie for the last London one 🥳) but people may appreciate seeing the Polerouter, maybe even my watch idol @WatchYourIntruder

(Thank you again for the lovely article ❤)

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Deeperblue

My only watch spot this week was one of these:

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I think this is possiblity the only watch in the world I can identify with a glance.

I was thinking I should probably wear my Polerouter to the London meetup later this month. I generally like to go with random choices for meetups (I wore my vintage Seiko Arnie for the last London one 🥳) but people may appreciate seeing the Polerouter, maybe even my watch idol @WatchYourIntruder

(Thank you again for the lovely article ❤)

I mean, I'd never say no to a Casio Royale. It's probably the best value for money watch that there ever has been. I love the old NORAD display look. Of course, being the crazy collector that I am, I'd almost certainly mod the crap out of it!

Have you seen the new SKXMOD bronze cases for them?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aua-ynoMI00

The package is like 5x the price of the watch but looks really good. Nothing says you're a watch collector more than spending more to mod the watch than you did buying it.

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Deeperblue

My only watch spot this week was one of these:

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I think this is possiblity the only watch in the world I can identify with a glance.

I was thinking I should probably wear my Polerouter to the London meetup later this month. I generally like to go with random choices for meetups (I wore my vintage Seiko Arnie for the last London one 🥳) but people may appreciate seeing the Polerouter, maybe even my watch idol @WatchYourIntruder

(Thank you again for the lovely article ❤)

I definitely want to see it live. I was disappointed when you didn’t bring it last time but even more excited if you flex it end of March👌

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WatchYourIntruder

I definitely want to see it live. I was disappointed when you didn’t bring it last time but even more excited if you flex it end of March👌

Oh don't tell me you were disappointed! That makes me feel so bad! Especially after you bought your beautiful Omega for me to drool over!

Right, I shall definitely bring it to London to see you 🍻 😊

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I recently had to start flying up to the Bay Area each week, to go into the office. It's a nightmare. It's the end of the cushy "Big Tech-spend-all-your-time-getting-massages-and-complaining-about-what-sushi-again-for-lunch-that-you're-getting-for-free" lifestyle. Like, I've actually had to work! WTF is going on???

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But, the one silver lining to the cloud is that the watch spotting in the office has been amazing!

#1 - Rolex Sea Dweller Two-Tone

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This one dude in our org wears this watch! He said he put his name down for it back in 2019, and it came in recently. That's some waitlist patience! Unfortunately, I was in a meeting with him about his moving to another organization, and how he can't take all his people with him. So, his span of control is going down the drain, and his roles & responsibilities are shrinking considerably.

Him: I don't know how I'm supposed to be successful! I thought I would be bringing 22 people with me. Instead, this proposal would give me only 4!

Me: Man... I still can't get over how cool your watch is...

Awkward conversation. But, at least I was able to compliment him on his watch!

#2 - Rolex GMT Master II Root Beer

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My boss's executive assistant came out of the elevator with a dude, who had this on his wrist. She introduced me to him, but I didn't catch his name or what he does or anything really about him. All I saw was the watch on his wrist and then told him how awesome it was, and he took it off for me to try on.

#3 - Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days

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A junior exec in our org had this on his wrist. Saw it from across the room. Iconic! Couldn't miss it! He and I don't really know each other well enough to have a fun, geek out about watches with each other. In fact, it's even more awkward, because I know that he's not really performing well, and his time with the company may be a bit limited. And, well, under those circumstances, it would be doubly weird to try and have a geek session about watches. But, he's definitely a watch dork with that on his wrist. He emailed me after the meeting to say, "Hey, I couldn't help but notice the watch on your wrist. What was it?" Too funny. It was this!

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I wonder if he's horrified by my bad taste.

#4 - Rolex Submariner

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Finally, in the cafeteria, was introduced to a young product manager, who said, "Hey, is that the Grand Seiko White Birch?" when he saw my wrist! I said, "OMG, are you a watch dork?" He said that he was indeed. I asked him what he had on his wrist, and it was the Sub. Our female colleague rolled her eyes at us, and we had to explain that while she could wear cool clothes and stylish jewelry, watches were the only socially-acceptable thing we had.

Turns out that his father-in-law gave him the Sub on his wedding day! This guy is a hardcore dork about watches. And he's GS-curious. So, I've started bringing in a different GS every day to the office to let him try on every one of the GS in my collection!

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I’ll take a punt in this one too if I may;

The first watch i distinctively remember was a fake Omega MoonWatch pluto. The red was so off it was Orange. And white wordings on the strap was black. It was particularly a bad fake, but the dude that wore it had manners and a way of speaking only a gentleman could have. I would think this was a gift.

The next one is a bit, meh. Came across a couple who wore Panerai Dues with their unmistakably sunburst dials… and with unmistakable arrogance only Panerai wearers have. I’m not sure where this arrogance comes from but it can only come from poor upbringing of flex-lifestyle. For context; husband did a scoff look when I caught him eyeing my FXD, which he then proceeded to turn to his wife, hoping she was doing the same... SHE WAS, except to my wife’s Tudor BB S&G. I am immune to this as most panerai wearers I have the displeasure to come across are douchebags 🤮

Came across a Tissot gentleman in blue and its quite the looker. It looks like a good alternative to a Rolex OP however, the logo size is way too big. If it was as restrained as the PRX series i’d reckon we would see more of this on people’s wrist

And finally, i agree wholeheartedly on the Tudor Hydronaut series. I love the yellow dial and its relatively affordable compared to other vintage Tudors

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HotWatchChick69

I recently had to start flying up to the Bay Area each week, to go into the office. It's a nightmare. It's the end of the cushy "Big Tech-spend-all-your-time-getting-massages-and-complaining-about-what-sushi-again-for-lunch-that-you're-getting-for-free" lifestyle. Like, I've actually had to work! WTF is going on???

Image

But, the one silver lining to the cloud is that the watch spotting in the office has been amazing!

#1 - Rolex Sea Dweller Two-Tone

Image

This one dude in our org wears this watch! He said he put his name down for it back in 2019, and it came in recently. That's some waitlist patience! Unfortunately, I was in a meeting with him about his moving to another organization, and how he can't take all his people with him. So, his span of control is going down the drain, and his roles & responsibilities are shrinking considerably.

Him: I don't know how I'm supposed to be successful! I thought I would be bringing 22 people with me. Instead, this proposal would give me only 4!

Me: Man... I still can't get over how cool your watch is...

Awkward conversation. But, at least I was able to compliment him on his watch!

#2 - Rolex GMT Master II Root Beer

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My boss's executive assistant came out of the elevator with a dude, who had this on his wrist. She introduced me to him, but I didn't catch his name or what he does or anything really about him. All I saw was the watch on his wrist and then told him how awesome it was, and he took it off for me to try on.

#3 - Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days

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A junior exec in our org had this on his wrist. Saw it from across the room. Iconic! Couldn't miss it! He and I don't really know each other well enough to have a fun, geek out about watches with each other. In fact, it's even more awkward, because I know that he's not really performing well, and his time with the company may be a bit limited. And, well, under those circumstances, it would be doubly weird to try and have a geek session about watches. But, he's definitely a watch dork with that on his wrist. He emailed me after the meeting to say, "Hey, I couldn't help but notice the watch on your wrist. What was it?" Too funny. It was this!

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I wonder if he's horrified by my bad taste.

#4 - Rolex Submariner

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Finally, in the cafeteria, was introduced to a young product manager, who said, "Hey, is that the Grand Seiko White Birch?" when he saw my wrist! I said, "OMG, are you a watch dork?" He said that he was indeed. I asked him what he had on his wrist, and it was the Sub. Our female colleague rolled her eyes at us, and we had to explain that while she could wear cool clothes and stylish jewelry, watches were the only socially-acceptable thing we had.

Turns out that his father-in-law gave him the Sub on his wedding day! This guy is a hardcore dork about watches. And he's GS-curious. So, I've started bringing in a different GS every day to the office to let him try on every one of the GS in my collection!

A series of very cool spots and pretty uncommon stuff at that (well except the sub I suppose). And I love the fact that you got some stories out of it too (and perhaps even an ongoing connection?). It's all part of my evil plan to get people to actually talk to other people who share their hobby in real life!

#justgooutsideandtouchgrass

I also find it completely hilarious that he singled out your oversized, overly complicated GS as the one to latch onto.

If I saw one in the wild, I'm pretty sure I'd think it was a Casio Edifice.

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@M.addd WC is doing the losing the comments thing again but managed to see it via your profile.

I've not really had the same experience with Panerai owners but I'd laugh at anyone who held their Due over me as some superiority thing. Like, it's a good step for Panerai to broaden their customer base and all but it's pretty poorly spec'd for a sporty watch and not particularly in demand (otherwise we wouldn't be able to buy at a 40% discount on the grey market).

People find the weirdest stuff to be snobbish about.

I think the Gentleman is a fantastic watch that's in line for a nice refresh. Some Tissot design magic and it could be brilliant.

As for the Hydronaut, it just makes me sad. It's super clear that people just want Tudor to be a Rolex homage brand but it overlooks all this cool stuff in their catalogue.

I mean, look at this!

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It's so much fun!