These infrequent slots are normally set aside for chats with the movers and shakers in the watch industry, from collectors to CEOs or Heads of Marketing. However, this Q&A is a bit different, and hopefully of interest. It’s a personal chat with a 24-year-old friend, George, who is a totally new watch enthusiast. It followed a real chat in my house which became interesting, so much so that we decided to pause, start again, and record it. We’ve tried to compare and contrast the different perspectives between a vintage geek (me) and someone at the beginning of their journey.
Richard: George you and I chat as friends and analyse watches incessantly, much to the amusement of our respective “watch-widows”. So, it’s interesting to speak on the record. Thanks very much for allowing the WG Magazine to do this. Let’s start with the same question we always ask everyone. Tell us what’s on your wrist just now?
George: Yeah Rich, this will be fun. I am wearing a Seiko Monster 2nd Gen “Dracula”. Called so because of the monster teeth with a red outline on the indices. The 1st Gen and later generations did not have the Dracula teeth, so this model is often called the “True Monster”.
What year is it and what movement does it have?
2014 and it has the Seiko 4R36 with hacking and hand winding.
I know you are a Seiko Monster collector! What other models do you have?
I have 1st and 3rd Generations but have not bothered with the 4th as I feel they have lost their way a little. As the 1st to 3rd have all now been discontinued, they seem to increase a surprising amount annually. I recall, when Gen 1 and 2 were US$200 but now I expect to pay £500 ($600) for a good model.
What started you onto the road of loving watches and what was the first watch you remember that left an impact on you?
My first watch was my grandfather’s 1970s Rotary, given to me when he passed. It’s not an expensive model, but it will always be a special watch to me. However, I would say my love of watches, this rabbit hole I have now fallen into, started when I bought my first Seiko Orange Baby Monster reference SRP483. I have since sold it, but it was a considered purchase which resonated on a different level. And, of course, the last 12 months of chatting to you has only cemented this passion I have. I’ll never come back from this now.
Yes, we have all been there. It’s a great moment. For me, it was my first Tag Heuer F1. I just had to know more about it, how it worked, what does 200M mean. It changed me forever.
Are you interested in the “story” of a watch? Be that the story crafted by the manufacturer or a real story. Older enthusiasts tend to be, but I am curious if the younger demographic of buyers is so keen.
Yes definitely. Heritage and a story add so much to a watch. The story behind the Moonwatch would attract me to a specific model, be that a Bulova or a Speedmaster. Take for example Field Watches. I am a big Seiko fan as we know but I would probably prefer a Hamilton Khaki Mechanical due to its long heritage back to WW2 than the more modern design Seiko. History and heritage put watches in context for me, but I recognise that often comes at a cost. I don’t doubt many buyers of my age are happy with superficial “fashion” watches (like the watch brands who make clothing also) but that will never be me.
Turn your mind to straps. Any thoughts on strap changes? Are you a swapper?
I would not call myself a serial strap changer…. yet. I’ll be honest until I met you and was introduced to the world of NATOs from ZULUDIVER I had never changed a strap! The manufacturer put a strap on the watch and, even if the quality was average, I just stuck with it. However, my Apollo 15 Bulova is now on a Classic Bond NATO, and I am seriously considering attaching a Tropical Rubber to one of my Seiko Dive watches. In fact, didn’t I comment earlier today that your Speedmaster looked good on a Marine Nationale NATO? I would never have made that observation a year ago.
As a young buyer, what do you look for in a watch? What’s your starting point on a new search – for example, how important is value for money or technical capability?
I can split this answer into multiple parts. First, it’s all about how the watch looks to me. The second is price. I am just 24 and at the beginning of my career following years at university, so price is a very real fact of life and I just have to accept that for now. The third is heritage, I love a watch with a story. And finally, case size. I have “teeny” wrists so 36mm to 39mm is optimal for me. Saying that I accept that my Seiko Monster collection goes up to 43mm, but they seem well designed and don’t appear to dominate my wrist in the way that some others do. I recently sold a G-Shock after only one of two outings as it was disproportionately huge on me due to the chunky design of the watch.
What’s your view on the Swiss Giants?
I am almost hesitant to admit it, but I am still quite starstruck with the Swiss giants. I cannot deny I would love to own a Rolex Explorer or Submariner and just recently I have been really taken with the Tudor Ranger. I even caught myself looking at an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak but let’s be honest – that’s not going to happen! When I take a step back and think about it, I believe there is a tunnel I need to go through and come out the other end. In a conversation I hear you, as a seasoned Rolex owner, stating that you would probably not buy another, but I am nowhere near that stage and struggle with your view. Maybe if you ask me again in 20 years, when I am on Swiss Giant number three, you will get a totally different answer but right now, I genuinely aspire to own my first Rolex.
Thanks for such an honest answer. I totally understand your perspective. We have all been there and I hope the Rolex happens soon! So, keeping in mind your views of the big brands, what’s your view on smaller or Micro-Brands?
At present, it is harder for the smaller brands to turn my head, but I want to qualify that statement. I am still conscious of how many years in the game a watch company has. It's why I suspect my first Field Watch will be a Hamilton rather than a boutique brand that few of my generation are aware of. I freely admit that I probably need to do more research into some of these brands as I know there are amazing watches out there which are very capable but equally perhaps these brands need to do more to attract me away from the big brands. To my generation, social media is a huge force and it's all about Rolex, Omega and Breitling, sadly not smaller brands. We call them “hype” watches which are basically anything someone is photographing on their wrist to generate an impact or comment on social media.
The one watch that got away from you was…?
Well, I have not actually been in that position yet. For many reasons mentioned earlier, like funding, I have made a realistic list of what I want and what I can afford. The only deviation was a Bulova Apollo 15 watch (after I test drove yours) when I snapped up a pre-owned bargain from eBay. I suspect had I procrastinated, or even not bought that watch, this question would have had a different answer.
What, if anything, do you find frustrating about buying watches and the watch industry – from the perspective of a new buyer?
Just now I feel that what you want as a young buyer is so often unattainable, unnecessarily so. Even if you have the money, by the time you go to buy it's probably gone up in price, and that is assuming they will even sell you one. When you were my age, I suspect you could have walked into a Rolex AD and bought a Submariner, but I cannot. Maybe it’s due to the flipping of watches, or strange attitudes from manufacturers, but I have just watched a new Explorer jump from £5100 to £5700 – why? I appreciate everything is going up but £600! It’s a great watch however it is still a stainless steel tool watch. I struggle now to see how current prices for the base Oyster are justifiable when direct high-end competitors have similar models between £2K and £3K which I could theoretically buy tomorrow. It’s very frustrating. The Explorer is unquestionably one of the best Field Watches in the world but when the aforementioned Tudor Range is £2400 and the Hamilton Khaki Mechanical is £400 why should I focus on the unattainable Rolex?
Yes, I completely agree and speaking from the perspective of an older enthusiast, I feel that some big brands have also now rejected much of their die-hard customer base. Again, looking at the Submariner, back in the 90s it was a great dive/outdoor watch. That’s why I bought one in 1989. I now get the impression Rolex doesn’t want to know that customer demographic so well as they are more interested in what celebrity is wearing a Sub today. And considering there are some other great 300m dive watches available under £1000 they need to take care not to lose too many older customers.
Let’s lighten the mood. Tell us about one watch that took your breath away recently.
The Hamilton “Murph” Automatic ref: H70605731 from Interstellar. That gives me the wow factor. The vintage look really speaks to me and at £800 it is affordable.
Image credit - Hamilton
What is your most prized possession in your collection?
The Dracula….or maybe my Casio F-91W but if the house was on fire I’d grab the Dracula.
Date or no date?
Date. But the position must be right. The symmetry cannot be ruined. (Long pause…) Actually, the more I think about it. No date!
What was your most recent watch purchase?
My Bulova Apollo 15 Lunar Pilot. After being so amazed at the story behind the watch.
And the next watch you’ll be adding to your collection?
A classic Field Watch yet to be determined! I am quite organised, and I know what genres I want to fill – e.g., Moonwatch. Field is next.
What’s your “holy grail”? Money is no object.
If money was no object, a 1655 vintage Rolex Explorer II. More realistically it’s a Cartier Santos Medium. I appreciate to many that’s an instantly achievable watch but to me today it’s a “grail watch” as it’s still very expensive. If you ask me that question again in ten years, I may well pick something totally different but right here, right now, that’s what I would love.
Image credit - Bobswatches
Image credit Cartier
George, thank you so much for giving some time to WatchGecko magazine. Away from the magazine, we will continue with our (almost) daily chats. I feel sure that many new and older buyers will identify with your answers. Please keep us posted on any new acquisitions and when you find a gem that’s on your list we may well come and chat again.