Disclaimer: Another Grand Seiko SBGA 429 Soko week for me because of a heavy travel schedule. I tend to not fly with multiple watches (why add another complication.... **ba-dum-tss** to my travels) so my watch choices are very utilitarian. It's gotta not be too fussy, it's gotta look decent in a meeting and its gotta have some water resistance. The Soko fits the bill perfectly.
This is the twelfth 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.
I am bouncing around the country this week on a combination of business and leisure travel so I am writing a quick watch travelogue while I have some spare time in transit.
On the weekend after Thanksgiving, my wife and I took our two girls to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the day. If you have not been before, I'd encourage you to check it out. Their work on marine conservation and responsible fishing is legendary. Their jellyfish collection is unmatched globally. And most importantly, they have some extremely cute sea otters.
The aquarium provided some really cool spots this time around of watches I very seldom see in the wild.
First a couple of resightings to wet the whistle.
Panerai Luminor 8 Day
Seiko SKX009 on the jangly jubilee
Tag Heuer S/EL
Rolex Datejust two tone five digit reference
I don't have a ton to say about these that I haven't talked about in past Watches in the Wild, but they are still notable watches that I've seen and enjoyed on people's wrists.
Bell and Ross BR-03 Carbon Ceramic
Seen by the (very cute) otter tank. I actually almost mistook this for an apple watch with a weird strap given the square blacked out ceramic case. But once I got a bit closer, the Bell and Ross text on the dial is pretty unmistakable along with the stark white flieger hands. I think this is the very first time I've seen a Bell and Ross outside of an authorized dealer and mentioned it to the owner.
He seemed surprised that anyone might recognize his watch, asked me about mine (another Grand Seiko SBGA429 Soko day for me) and we dashed off in separate directions after our kids. I realize, of course, that this is a symptom of the life stage that I am in currently but it sucks all the same. By and large, my interactions with other watch nerds are positive and I look forward to a time when I can linger over conversation.
At any rate, up until maybe six months ago, I rarely thought about Bell and Ross save for their signature square case shape. Then I saw the new BR-X5 with the in house movement and thought it might be worth taking a look in store. And you know what? I think there's something there!
I'm not sure about the price (but then again, I'm not sure of any watch's price point these days) but they're deeply competent integrated bracelet sports watches with a unified design language and exceptional quality and finishing. That's about as much as you can ask for these days.
The BR-03 is what a pilots watch looks like when reinterpreted through B&R's design language. I'm not convinced it's for me per se....blacked out watches and I don't really get along but it's striking and well made and a conversation starter.
I can dig it.
Bb58 925 on the OEM NATO
As seen in the aquarium cafe while getting ketchup and malt vinegar for fish and chips. I did a double take because this is the first time I've seen the silver in person and I think the thing that shocked me about it was just how different the silver case looked in the metal versus a stainless steel. Warmer, somewhat gold brown tones due to the silver tarnishing. The grey dial and bezel were stunning too and played off the warm silver tone beautifully. And before I could say a word, it was gone.
@the.watch.idiot had a great series of videos on the BB925 from his purchase to his tarnishing efforts, to his eventual sale. I'd seriously encourage you to go take a look at all of them because they are a journey.
I do have many questions though about the longevity of silver watches. The tarnish starts out warm and attractive but eventually just gets black and dirty looking. Tarnished silver also tends to have a pretty aggressive sulfur/garlic smell in my experience.
Still, this is an absolutely killer looking watch and I can only imagine how it shone when new and how settling into the warm goldish silver tone is so satisfying.
I look forward to reports from owners in the future on their experiences.
Milus Archimedes Orange Coral
Seen at the playground. When I mentioned this watch, the gentleman in question looked deeply confused that I had recognized it. We never really got past that initial weirdness.
Once upon a time when I was a watch collector that still entertained notions that he had normal tastes, I was convinced that my aversion to diver watches was an issue of modernity. I reasoned that my dislike of dive watches was actually just a dislike of Rolex Submariners and modern Seamaster Professionals (and their many design descendants) and that the key to my dive watch wearing future was a deep dive into vintage and vintage inspired.
In particular, I was entranced by an outdated dive watch technology from the 1960s, known as a super compressor (generally notable due to the presence of two crowns and an internal rotating bezel). That, I figured was the solution to my problem, no external rotating bezel means I could wear a diver again!
This Milus was one of the major contenders, specifically in the steel dial.
Milus, far from simply being a reference to a legacy Swiss brand, has been in more or less continuous operation since 1919 though under different ownership structures (including a couple of Asian conglomerates, along with a stint as the in house brand of the legendary Hong Kong jeweler Chow Tai Fook). Milus's modern history starts in 2016, when a group of investors led by one Luc Tissot (yes, that Tissot) acquired a majority stake, intending to build a new mid tier watch brand dedicated to reasonably priced updated versions of their old catalog.
I think they've honestly succeeded. Their Snow star is a beautifully finished and perfectly sized modern dress watch with strong Grand Seiko vibes.
And the Archimedes is a more colorf
ul funkier Longines Legend diver with better (in my view) on the wrist sizing. It's a super cool watch with a lot of fun stuff going on.
I honestly don't remember why I never pursued this watch harder but as it turns out my super compressor excursion was for naught, because I found the internal bezel made the watch look small even though the size at 41mm was quite reasonable. As it turned out, I couldn't deal with the cognitive dissonance of a watch looking small but wearing regularly (a problem shared by an old Seiko Alpinist I used to own).
If you ever needed evidence that my crazy collectors brain is broken, let it be known that I couldn't deal with a watch looking smaller than it felt.
Frederique Constant Highlife in Blue
Seen in the grocery store. Notable because of the integrated bracelet and chopped off lugs. I offered my compliments to the owner who grunted in surprise and then replied that it was a gift from his lovely wife. I replied that she had some pretty great taste.
I've never handled the Highlife in the metal, so my experience with it are limited to what I've seen on people's wrists and youtube videos. I honestly go back and forth as to whether I actually like the look of this watch but can' really render judgement until I hold it for myself.
That said Frederique Constant is one of those brands that tends to get homages right. This is just my two cents but the purpose of an homage, in my opinion, is not simple.copy-paste. Rather, there are truly timeless designs and styles of watches that deserve more than a single version by a single manufacturer (the panda dial Daytona or the Breguet Classique or the Cartier Tank or even, sigh, the Submariner).
FC really leans hard into the Patek and Breguet inspired homages (the worldtimer and the Slimline collection among others) and does so with a bit of its own pizzazz. The Highlife fits neatly into this bucket. Of the 3 big high horology integrated bracelet sports watches, it resembles the VC Overseas most to my eye due to case shape and hands, but with fragments of Nautilus in the hour markers and even a bit of AP RO in the etched globe on the dial (reminiscent of the Royal Oak checkerboard).
It's certainly not the finishing of a VC (and if that's your expectation, I think you'll be a little disappointed) but there's a bit of the flash and glamour that truly timeless designs have and the Highlife captures beautifully. I think that should be celebrated rather than lampooned.
I look forward to the chance to get one of these on my wrist in the future.
What cool watches did you see this week?