Disclaimer: Watch of the week here. A Soko for mid January.
This is the nineteenth 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, part 13, part 14, part 15, part 16, part 17, and part 18.
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.
The rain has finally broken here and I am back to seeing some watches on wrists unobstructed by layers of sweaters and rain jackets.
There's nothing quite as energizing as a sunny couple of days after endless rain and clouds. If there were any doubt that I am, in fact, solar powered, right now I feel like I've downed 3 gallons of fight milk and I am ready to spot some watches!
Also, we had the noteworthy event in the first non @Edge168n watches in the wild from none other than my dear colleague and #watchbro @rowiphi who spotted a crazy rado one evening. You should check it out.
One of the things I've noticed about my watch spotting is how, occasionally, I just will my thoughts into reality. A couple weeks ago, I was lamenting a lack of Breitlings and then bam, half a dozen Breitlings to talk about.
And this week, I was thinking that I hadn't seen many Seikos lately and, well...you'll see. Being the self centered person I am, I'm totally convinced this is providential.
Citizen Arrezo in White (35mm)
Seen at church on the wrist of a gentleman. No conversation.
I have often complained about the anonymity of citizen designs, but occasionally I do find myself pleased with an eco drive design.
Of course, it did look familiar. Where have I seen that one before......
I don't have any issues with homages of course and this one, as these things go, is a pretty good rendition of a super classic set of design features.
I enjoy the open leaf/spear style hands (maybe even more than the blued Cartier sword hands), the subtle lines through the hour markers and the angled and slightly twisted lugs.
Classic good looks with vintage sizing and a beautiful dial. Finally a Citizen that I (and perhaps even @Deeperblue) can appreciate.
Citizen! Do more of this kind of thing!
Panerai Luminor GMT ( PAM000088 or one of the very closely related ones)
Seen in the wrist of a extremely fashionable Italian gentleman who sold me a coat. I complimented the watch and he graciously thanked me but no further than that. Such is the lonely path of my watch voyeurism.
It's honestly hard to miss this guy. I remember trying this watch on about five years ago at a used watch dealer, hearing the description of the functions and genuinely wondering how they managed to make it 16mm tall and 44mm wide.
It's a giant watch with tons of personality and, somewhat unusually for Panerai, a semi skeletonized hands.
Even more interesting is the movement. It's wacky on so many levels. Panerais are typically manual wind (this is automatic), are divers not flyers (I guess this could be both), and has a giant honking circular date window that I'm sure is on other Panerais but beats me which ones those are.
Also instead of a modular ETA 2894 GMT like most watches of its era (I mean the 2894 has been around since at least the 70s and modular functions since at least the early 90s so if you want to do a mid range luxury caller GMT without going in house, it's a real good choice) the Panerai uses a heavily modified automatic Valjoux 7750, stripped of its chronograph functions and a caller GMT function added in. It's not even like they didn't know the 2894 existed because they have been consistent users of the movement for modular chronographs for the past 30 years.
It is, by far, the craziest and least intuitive way to implement a GMT function that I know of in a modern watch AND I LOVE IT.
Oh Panerai, never change.
Seiko King Turtle SRPE03
Seen on the street on the wrist of a gentleman. I was actually out of non shouting earshot of the individual when I saw this watch, so no conversation was had. It says a lot that this watch profile is as iconic a dive watch case gets that I can recognize it from 12 feet away. The grenade pattern of the dial is nearly as recognizable.
I should really put it out there, I don't like the Turtle very much as a watch. I am already naturally a little prejudiced against divers and I find the case a bit chunky for my liking.
However, I think the Turtle, perhaps more than any other Seiko out there, demonstrates Seiko's fundamental mastery of ergonomics and the contours of the human wrist. At 45mm, I shouldn't just find the Turtle chunky, it should feel positively obese.
And yet the design of the case defies this. The short lug to lug of the cushion style case means it wears like a 42mm watch. Even though this watch is not for me, I can respect the incredible design chops that went into the watch design and the attractiveness of the gestalt. It's a tough, good looking watch that oozes cinematic and military history and is only marred by that rectangular date cyclops.
Listen to @Max, back when he was indeed THE Haute One, and take a torch to that thing (and maybe add some superocean hands)..
Seiko Prospex SPB119, "Ghost Alpinist" but really about a Seiko Prospex SPB199 "Mountain Glacier"
Seen at the office on the wrist of a gentleman. Sadly conversation was not possible, but I was very unlikely to miss this signature Seiko case, given the very signature 2nd crown position and cool cream white dial.
I have a long history with the Alpinist, having owned both the OG SARB017 and, much more recently, the Prospex SPB199 Mountain Glacier. I was almost an owner of the Ghost Alpinist as well before deciding that I should leave well enough alone.
The Seiko Alpinist line occupies a tier of watch for me where I absolutely adore the look, the history and the size, but somehow can't get it to quite fit comfortably on my wrist. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the case back (most pointedly the see through caseback on the Prospex Alpinist, but also the SARB017 to a lesser degree) made the watch sit high on my wrist bone which meant it always felt a bit lopsided despite its relative lightness.
**Beginneth Aside** Can you imagine having this conversation with a non watch person? I have openly acknowledged that this watch is basically perfect for my wrist, looks great ina variety of situations, but I can't get it to sit comfortably...by which I mean that it hangs slightly off my wrist more than I'd like it to. This is such a stupid hobby. **Endeth Aside**
There were other little niggles. The associated alpinist bracelet was decently finished but had a really large gap at the back of the clasp. The internal bezel was too easy to move and tended to get knocked around reasonable easily with a flex of the wrist. That same internal rotating bezel also is never, ever aligned because of the side by side movement that the very action of turning the bezel creates. It's also a scratch magnet with fully polished sides and mid case.
Ultimately, the percieved hassle ended up being more than it was worth and I ended up parting with both my Mountain Glacier to a fellow enthusiast.
This is not to say I don't think these watches are awesome. I think, in many ways, it is the perfect adventuring/vacation watch. It's tough and rugged, well spec'd with sapphire crystal and a good water resistance. But rather than lean into the toolishness of the spec sheet, Seiko dressed them up by giving each and every one of them absolutely stunning dials, paired with delicately finished cases (I'm a sucker for a polished midcase and brushed lugs).
I recall once climbing to the top of the tallest mountain in Maui (Hakeakla), scuba diving in the ocean, and going out to dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant on the same day with the Mountain Glacier on wrist. It's just that good and sometimes I'm honestly a bit sad that I don't have an Alpinist in the collection anymore.
Though now that I think about it, I am noticing my old Mountain Glacier up for sale from the guy I last sold it to. Hmm.
Rolex Explorer 1 124270
Seen on the wrist of my primary care physician (henceforth Explorer 1, MD) during a checkup. I've lampooned this watch before as boring, but as with most things....the story is the most interesting part.
I've known Explorer 1 MD for perhaps 6 years now, when my old primary care physician moved across the country for family reasons. And for most of that time, our conversations have been purely medical, but two years ago, at another health checkup, he noticed my Grand Seiko and complimented it.
We got to talking and he asked me my opinion on a good first luxury watch to buy. He'd been having some professional success and wanted to commemorate with something special.
Now if you know me, I LOVE giving watch advice. And if that advice is solicited, so much the better. I directed him to three places to start his journey: the Tourbillion boutique in San Francisco (which has all the Swatch brands under a single roof), the Cartier boutique in SF, and my authorized dealer (a multi brand AD with Rolex and a number of other brands). I figured he'd be able to find what he was looking for. The only opinion I offered was that he probably shouldn't go in with the expectation of buying a Rolex immediately, given the supply shortage (relative to demand).
Since then, we've traded texts and it seemed, that despite my admonitions, he was increasingly intent on the sleek and simple style of the Rolex Explorer 1. Fair enough, I told him to contact my AD to get an estimate of the time and then just begin the waiting game.
And then....nothing for half a year.
I think there's a cycle of hope and despair that first time luxury watch buyers have when they express interest in a watch. You see, watch enthusiasts like you and me are hardened veterans to this kind of crap. Six months on a waitlist? Hell yeah, at least it wasn't a year! You mean they need my money in order to pay for a first run of production? Take it! This isn't even a Rolex thing or a luxury thing. I put down a pre order for the Direnzo DRZ04 before they even had product in hand.
And Rolex is by far the most infuriating of the bunch. They don't give you timelines, they just take your name down and you're left flapping in the wind. And so over the months, the texts from Explorer 1 MD got progressively gloomier and more moribund, like a man being separated from talking to his long lost love by vile villainy or unhappy circumstance or bad cellphone reception.
But if you know people at the store level, you can always get a decently honest answer as to what's going on. So a couple months ago, while poking around the store without any intention of buying anything, I ended up asking the AD sales rep if he had any Explorers come in that he could sell to the physician in question.
And as it happens, they did have a few in stock that they hadn't quite made the calls on. The market has cooled dramatically, especially for the Explorer, so supply has loosened up considerably. And, Explorer 1 MD's name was near the top of that call list and had been for a some time, but the guy hadn't left his phone number or email address. Freaking amateur hour.
Regardless, I quickly remedied their lack of contact information and made it a point to stick around for another hour or so to crack open a bottle of champagne at the AD with him as he took delivery. After sizing it to his wrist, the AD salesperson shook his hand and said "Welcome to the club!"
I've never seen a bigger smile on someone's face.
As I drag everyone I know kicking and screaming into this idiotic hobby, I do think that this is the beauty of the occasional purchase of a wonderful watch. They are physical totems to our personal milestones, reminders that we lead lives of privilege and comfort, and an admonition that we are not to take those things for granted. Every time I buy a watch (and especially the more expensive ones), I am reminded of how frivolous a hobby watch collecting is and, simultaneously, filled with gratitude that I can do such silly things without fear that my family's lives will suffer from my decisions.
And that, friends, is far more important than what watch you wear or even what I think of it. Treasure a watch for what it means, not what it is.
A small postscript. Explorer 1 MD was so chuffed with his purchase that he couldn't stop babbling about it for a fully thirty minutes.....and walked out of the store and grabbed an Uber home without the bag, box, and papers.
What cool watches did you see this week?