Dedicating a lifetime to being a watch collector finally resulted in my grail sitting in watch box...
I've always been fascinated by wrist watches, for as long as I can remember. My earliest recollection was at around 6 when my father showed me his very well used/loved and highly patina'd, late '50s Omega Seamaster (which he acquired whilst in the Merchant Navy when on shore-leave in Hong Kong), and his father's beautiful, hand-winding Roamer from the same era.
Added to this later was my mother's father's engraved retirement gift of an unknown watch, in 1937.
Aged 7, along with my father, I attended a viewing of my first James Bond film at the cinema: 'Live & Let Die' - in addition to some amazing stunts that many a schoolboy (or girl) would love, seeing Roger Moore's Rolex Submariner transform into an industrial-strength magnet and mini rotating buzz-saw that would aid him to escape from the evil villain's underground lair, was beyond awesome. The images of that watch have stayed with me ever since and my love of the Bond franchise, and to some extent, watches, kicked off.
Fast forward 30+ years and I attend the 007 Memorabilia Auction at Christie's in South Kensington, London. I was keen to bid on the aforementioned Submariner lot; I so needed that watch in my collection, who cares if it didn't work and was only the prop version! Needless to say the literally useless watch sold for as much as a modern day sports car and I left empty handed, other than acquiring an autograph off the late, great Desmond Llewellyn ('Q') who'd been sitting right behind me all along.
My love for all things Bond and watches had been reignited and my attention turned to 007's new choice of wear: the Omega Seamaster Professional 300 CoAxial, affectionately known by fans as the SMP (ref 2220.80.00).
As most watch enthusiasts will appreciate, most of us have a 'grail' - something horolistically pornographic that we covet yet is often either financially unachievable and/or, conversely, something that we could one day feasibly possess, albeit in exchange for a kidney and/or child etc. In my case, my grail was quite likely of the latter, but not wishing to sell an internal organ or one of my offspring, I decided to take a look at my collection and 'flip' a few to part-fund my grail when the time would (eventually) come.
After several financial setbacks my grail watch was still a grail, a realistically unaffordable 'want to have' that continuously kept slipping away .. that is, until one fortuitous day in the summer of 2017......
Whilst drooling over the beauties in a local watch dealership window, there, sitting proudly on a plinth, was a limited edition James Bond Omega SMP, (ref 2226.80.00). And next to it a price ticket that was too good to walk away from. So my grail acquisition, to sate my love of all things Bond and Omega, had been realised in one go. And I still have both kidneys, and my children too!
I can still remember actually shaking as I rushed in to the jeweller to try the watch on before negotiating the sale. For me, spending over four figures on a time-piece was unknown territory and I switched between excitement and pangs of guilt - but the latter didn't last long. The horologist on the premises kindly adjusted the bracelet and gave it a quick polish and I was good to go. An amazing, fortuitous and unexpected end to a wonderful day.
And on to the watch itself. Well, it's a modern day classic and a firm favourite for many fans. The fit and finish of the mostly brushed and partly polished stainless steel casing is finished beautifully, the dial size is perfect, the bezel action is smooth and clicks purposefully, the lume is brilliant (literally), the jubilee bracelet is as smooth as silk - I love the way the clasp acts as a perfectly seamless bridge between both sets of links (something that the later SMPs don't seem to possess now).
The applied Bond 'gun-barrel' (vice trademark wavy) dial is smart and in a certain light, subtly hidden, and the second hands, with the trademark 007 logo counter-balance sweeps beautifully with minimal judder as it smoothly shifts at 28,800 beats per hour. For a 12 year old watch it runs at +1 second per day (well within COSC parameters) and to satisfy some mild OCDness, lying the watch crown-up overnight equals that time-gain to +/- 0, amazing!
I have a modest collection of a dozen or so watches with the SMP being my most expensive outlay (and most cherished) model to date. My other regular favourite is a Tissot Visodate automatic (ETA 2836-2) which was a family gift for a recent, significant birthday - in my eyes, one of the smartest and best value, Swiss made mechanical watches you can buy today.
My daily 'beater' is the more recently acquired Marloe Coniston (Steel); a stunning and very original in design handwound model, being the latest offering from this new and exciting British brand. My next acquisition is likely to be something by fellow British company, Elliot Brown - their Canford range, similarly priced to the aforementioned Marloe, is (in my eyes) a stunning and, again, original in design, tool watch that has received numerous positive reviews.
This brand is also destined to get bigger with a diverse range of tough and durable models. And then there's of course the Geckota range - one has to have at least one of these in any collection - but which one(s) to chose?!
I wear my SMP rarely as, like a good record, if worn too much I fear it'll become less exciting, scuffed up and/or worn out. Coversely though, I'm not so sure really as it's such a stunner that I doubt I'd ever get bored of and it's meant to be worn and enjoyed (not stored in its box) - but wearing it in rotation allows me to appreciate it even more, and the others I own, too - looking forward to 'SMP week' is quite satisfyingly pleasing.
So my tip to anyone looking to research, choose and acquire their grail(s): sometimes the chase is far better than the catch, but when you're subconsciously pondering, the surprise of an unexpected, random find can mean so much more - my 2226.80.00 is a sure keeper (well, at least my kids hope so - they'll have to fight over it though, one day!).