My love for watches began when I moved to Collonges, a small French town near Geneva, Switzerland. In France, I so rarely carried a cell phone that wearing a watch became a part of my everyday life. From my small town, I frequently took day trips to Geneva and grew to admire the beauty of haute horlogerie. I walked past boutiques for Patek Philippe, F.P. Journe, and countless others, ogling timepieces from the outside window. As a poor university student, most often wearing a Citizen Eco-Drive, I didn’t bother trying to get past the ever-present doorman even once over the course of a year.
I returned to the U.S., but watch lust had become a part of my life. Fortunately, there was something to slake my thirst. As a belated Christmas present I received my first automatic, a Hamilton QNE H76655723. I was enthralled. I spent countless hours looking through the open caseback, becoming so accustomed to the leather band on my wrist, I felt naked on the rare day I forgot to wear it. Even still, I wanted more. Only a few months after receiving my Hamilton, I was on the hunt.
As a student, budget was the enemy. My minimum wage job left little to no space for frivolous watch purchases. Every watch from Switzerland seemed so far out of reach, but I wanted something to remind me of the favored city that had been a gateway to Europe. Each new adventure had started in Geneva and a watch seemed an appropriate way to commemorate such an eventful time in my life.
I was finally able to settle on Mondaine, a company known for its impeccable legibility. Mondaine successfully leveraged this quality until it gained its title as the official clock and watch of the Swiss Railway. With such a clean look, a perfect throw to nostalgia, and a reasonable price, the decision was almost made for me.
I thought I was set, at least for a while, but then I started shooting looks at diving watches. The rough and ready aspect appealed to my tendencies to run around outside. Originally, I used my Citizen when I was roughing it, but the spring bars were starting to wear out, causing the watch to spontaneously fall off my wrist. A small fault, like a spring bar, was all the justification I needed to buy a new watch.
Only a few months after purchasing my Mondaine, I discovered the Seiko Monster, a tough, almost-but-not-at-all automatic movement diver. It was the perfect combination of what I needed for an outdoor watch.
The Monster was the last watch I bought that was actually justifiable. The truth is that I didn’t even care about justification anymore. Some days I would spend hours looking at new watches. I made it well over a year without buying a watch, soothing my needs by buying NATO straps online. At one point I did buy a Seiko Bullhead 6138, only to quickly return it due to a broken chronograph.
My most recent watch purchase was a Steinhart Ocean 1 Red. I couldn’t resist the spot on homage to the Submariner for only a fraction of the cost. This particular model even came with a NATO designed after the original James Bond Sub from Dr. No. In truth, the Steinhart doesn’t have anything on the real Submariner, but for a poor college student, it was perfect.
Every enthusiast has a “grail watch”, aka their epitome, the watch to end all watches. Like them, I have a list of beautiful handmade watches that cost more than I can even imagine. But, I’m a reasonable man. Maybe someday I will buy a watch that costs more than my car, but for now I’m sticking to what I like to think of as my reasonably-priced grail watch, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black Reference 79220N.
The Tudor is the perfect combination of a watch that can be dressed up or down, especially with the option of either the bracelet or the strap. For a relatively low price, this watch comes with an awesome quality that stands up to Rolex, Omega, and even more expensive brands. As a recent college grad, the Tudor is a watch is out of reach, but also an attainable goal in the near future.
Until then, I’ll get my watch fix from reading watch blogs, buying new NATO straps, and casually stalking people with nicer watches than me. I’ve also overcome my fear of walking into watch boutiques, which means I can actually go talk to retailers and try on new pieces. For now, I’ll stick to being an onlooker, awaiting the day that I get my reasonably-priced grail watch.