Disclaimer: I spent a ton of time with many watches this week, so you get today's wrist shot. Cartier Roadster Chronograph XL, my first luxury watch and the only watch I could truthfully say I'd never sell.
This is the fourteenth 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 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 , part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, and part 13.
This is a Hawaii only edition I have for you today and it's a diverse doozy. I suspect the combination of vacation plus short sleeves makes my job super easy.
I promised last week that this would be the last edition of travel watches. I lied. There's one more week, a pre Christmas catchall extravaganza of all the Rolexes. Omegas, Casios, and Breitlings I saw. Today, you get the interesting others, with a good dash of vintage, modern, luxury, and affordable and everything in between. Enjoy!
Potentially a Benrus DTU-2A/P
Seen in Old Town Lahaina while getting shave ice on the wrist of an older gentleman.
I didn't get to talk to the owner but I think it's important to lay down a couple of facts.
1. It was not a quartz. From the sweep of the seconds hand, it was mechanical or automatic.
2. It was small, sub 35mm
3. It was well worn and well patinated.
4. There was no brand on the dial.
That said, I know there is an entire cottage industry devoted to reproduction of these (completely legitimately, though with varying levels of quality) so I don't feel particularly good about putting a stake in the ground here as to the exact make and model. But the watch above is the one I saw so would love for others to weigh in if there were other manufacturers who made this pattern.
There are others here who could tell you more about this watch (*cough* @Aurelian and @chronotriggered ) but it is an archetypal watch and a direct predecessor to modern field watches by Hamilton, Bulova and others. I know it was issued in the 60s to American soldiers in Vietnam and was probably one of the last non quartz watches in issue to American soldiers.
I know that good condition versions of this are not overly rare or expensive (issued in the millions I imagine) but I don't see a ton of these around.
One wonders where that little watch has been.
Timex Field Expedition Green
Seen while checking out of my hotel. A direct descendant of the aforementioned Benrus with a very similar patterned dial.
In many respects, this feels like a true spiritual successor to the Benrus. Cheap and disposable, with a simple and durable movement. As I understand it, the American military no longer issues watches but I'd like to think that this would be one of them if they did.
I might have purchased five or six of these over the years for watch curious friends (which is probably five or six fewer than @TimexBadger currently owns). It's an outstanding field watch and a fantastic starter watch gift.
Seiko Tank (gold)
Seen at a rental car agency in Maui in the wrist of one of the attendants. Among my other watch foibles, I think I have a small obsession with homages of the Cartier Tank, the original square watch. I'm not certain exactly where this focus came from but I suspect it arose from an old argument on a watch-forum-that-shall-not-be-named.
The argument centered around the Cartier Tank Basculante being an illegitimate homage of the JLC Reverso. And someone chimed in that the Reverso was an illegitimate homage of the Cartier Tank. And then someone else chimed in that the movement was a JLC so could Cartier truly claim originality there. And so the watch circle jerk of outrage continued. All participants in such arguments can all DIAF.
These arguments are incredibly stupid for three primary reasons.
First, the history of watch making does not really allow for true vertical integration of production from movement to case. Until Rolex made it a marketing thing, there was substantial specialization. Cartier was a watch case designer. JLC made movements. Both remain till this day required for a functional watch.
Second, long standing collaboration between watch makers means claims of originality are always a little spurious. I am told (but have never confirmed) that Louis Cartier actively collaborated with Jaeger and LeCoultre on the design of the Reverso. If true, he was far more generous with his IP than his legions of fans are.
Third, obsession with originality is a blight on the watch collecting hobby. If a watch is iconic enough, an homage makes it more not less glamorous.
This gets to the central truth of watch making; good design is good design. The true measure, did you execute it well?
This is a long winded way of saying that I love the Seiko Tank in virtually every one of its iterations. They are aggressively giftable watches and are a great entry into an iconic watch design.
To paraphrase a well spoken individual with excellent hair
No one would mistake the Seiko Tank for a Cartier Tank but it's a beautiful amuse bouche of good design and high complication.
Sinn 556a on black leather
**Beginneth Long Aside** Does anyone else feel like the watch press describes Sinn....oddly? Like whenever I read a preamble of a history of Sinn, I always see a reference that Helmut Sinn was a flight instructor in WW2 but conveniently leaves out for who (for the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich). Like they're trying to give fighter pilot credit (see it's a tool!) and also German credit (Germany makes high quality things right?) while also trying to ignore that the fighter pilot thing and the German thing happened together at a very specific point in history.
Now, I don't think relitigating Helmut Sinn's past is particularly relevant to liking Sinn watches (FWIW, I am pretty sure he disavowed Nazism through much of his later life) and to be clear, I happily own Seikos even knowing their involvement in WW2 on the side of Imperial Japan (which given my family background is far more relevant and personal). Just the way that most watch writers describe it without actually describing it is odd, especially since Sinn wasn't founded until the 60s anyway (so any WW2 link is manufactured anyway). I guess I'm not certain why they bother bringing it up in the first place.. **Endeth Long Aside**
At any rate, I love the Sinn 556 in only the way a serious watch dork can love a watch. I love the inky black dial (and the mocha and the navy and the yellow and the green one too). I love the proportions that do a great job of spanning both dress and sporty dimensions. I love the flexibility that a well proportioned watch can offer, even when the finish isn't dress watch standard. I love how capable it is with nice lume and good to great water resistance. The off the shelf movement is well regulated, durable, and easy to repair. I should own this watch but I fear this guy would crowd out half my collection with underlying excellence and low maintenance. It is a watch that, as close as can be, has little compromise attached to it.
Well, maybe one compromise. I can't understand how a company can make such a nice bracelet with all the bells and whistles of tegimented scratch resistant steel and exceptionally comfortable h-links can still use this terrible of a clasp. I think watchmakers of the 1960s might have been ashamed to put this clasp on their watches. The divers extension is terrible, the outer clasp is pressed steel awfulness that doesn't even conform to the bracelet (it bows out oddly), the clasp has too few micro adjusts for a tool watch, and the fliplock feels so so cheap.
Come on Sinn! You could have a market leading clasp at $50 more per unit and it would devastate every competitor in the price range. You know it's a problem when I think Seiko clasps at this price point are actually preferable to the 556 clasp (also pressed, but at least they fit the bracelets correctly).
I did compliment this watch and had a brief and lovely conversation with the owner. Of course, I was curious on his opinion on the Sinn bracelet. What did HE think of the clasp?
The gentleman in question gave me a look of such scorn that I felt no need to press the conversation further.
Cartier Roadster Chronograph XL (black)
Seen while in line at the airport. I offered my compliments and mentioned I had the silver one at home. First time I've pulled out my phone to offer a wrist shot as evidence.
Aside from the fact that this is the first time I have seen in the black version in the metal and I liked it very much, I need to offer no further thoughts on this watch than these.
Cartier Santos Carree
Seen on a flight attendant's wrist on the way back home. She was a genuinely lovely woman who was absolutely charmed by my youngest daughter (who insisted on marching up and down the length of the airplane) while on the way back home. If by any chance you're on here, you're an absolute peach.
No there wasn't any conversation. You try talking watches when your two year old is scrambling around an airplane trying to climb over seats and open emergency hatches!
I originally brought this watch up while answering one of The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-DeeperBlue (@Eris_Goddess_of_Discord) 's innumerable free thinking prompts as a vintage watch from the 70s that I would happily own in a 3 watch collection. The Carree was my choice for a dressier everyday piece and, man, do I like it even more, particularly the rare slate dials.
Carre means square in French, a reference to how angular this Santos case is versus latter models (the Santos Galbee, the Santos Dumont, and the Santos de Cartier). It'ss a beautiful and graceful watch that, given it was at least 40 years old, I was surprised to see in a somewhat physically intensive role. Being a flight attendant is no joke. Heavy bags, unruly passengers and my ill behaved kids all mean that a beautiful two tone Cartier mechanical is going to be beaten up and beaten up good.
It was a lovely tribute to why we treasure these odd little knick knacks. They are the rare generational items that still can and ought to be used by the people we pass them down to.
What cool watches did you see this week?