Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Watch Geek, The Early Years

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a geek. One of my geek-ish foibles is watches. I looked today and noted that I currently own 16 watches, though not all of them actually work.

I have a few "old watches". When I was in my teens and early 20's (30+ years ago) my parents would splurge once in a while and buy Seikos, and I still have two from that era, both of which would work if I put batteries in them.

The first was actually given to me when I turned 21.
Scratched and beat up
I wore that watch until I was almost 30. It probably had 5 bands in it's 10 years, starting with leather and migrating to metal. It's pretty chunky as watches go.

It has a nearly matching partner.
Nearly identical, but...
This one was my dad's. He got it about the same time, and converted his to a metal strap because he liked mine. Equally as chunky. Dad only wore this for about 5 years, because, speaking of my dad, I have this one, too.
A cherished possession
This was my dad's last watch, bought for him by my mom from Birks when he retired, and he was wearing it when he passed away. It ran fine for a long time, but died about 8 years ago. I took it back to Birks for repair, but they told me it could not be fixed. I told them its sentimental value, and they suggested putting a new movement in it. They offered to replace the band for free, but I said no. The band is leather and crusty and well used and was the original band that came with the watch, so it's my dad's crustiness on it. I like that. Unlike the above two watches, it's thin and elegant and I wear this on special occasions. Now that I've retired, that's a lot less often than I used to. But I still have it, and with it's new movement it works fine.

When I moved to Houston in 1994, I took up flying ultralights, since the nearest gliding club was so far away. No ultralight I flew had any instruments, so I bought this watch on a lark: a Avocet Vertech Alpin, about $250 US when I bought it. It has an aircraft grade altimeter in it, and I flew with it for a year.
Very beat up because...
It turns out this watch was designed for skiing and hiking, not flying. And it turns out I'm a skier and hiker. The watch records elevation, elevation gained, ski runs, and a bunch of other stuff. I have used it faithfully since I bought it 22 years ago. It's on it's second case and it's 4th set of straps (there's a strap for for winter and one for summer). Every 2 years I have to splurge ~$75 Canadian to send it to California for service and to put a new battery in it (it's gone for 4-6 weeks at a time when I do that). So since 1994, I've probably spent $800 keeping this watch running. Vertech sort of does but sort of doesn't make these anymore, so it's kind of irreplaceable. And besides, no other ski or hiking watch does what this one does.

In mid-1999, I was getting frustrated by whatever watch I was wearing at the time because it was awful for cooking. I was looking for ways to better time my dinners without needing to use horrible stove timers or other things. I was using my Vertech because it has 2 built in stopwatches, but I'm more an analog guy for some things (say, timing 10 min worth of pasta boil), and a digital guy for others (say, 2 min 30 seconds to BBQ a perfect steak). I was poking in The Bay and saw this:
Its a Timex
It had a rotating bezel for diving (which I didn't really do) that were be perfect for timing stuff like corn and pasta. It had a digital display that had a stopwatch function for precise timing of things like steaks on the BBQ. It was a dive watch, so waterproof enough for me to go snorkelling. And it was like $75. I fell in love. And a few months later, in the September 1999 edition of Esquire...
The cover of the copy I still have
...on page 175, was... my watch. There. On a page with a $4,000 IWC, a $3,300 Rolex, a $180 Seiko and $1,400 Movado. Right there. At the top right.
The upper right! It's my watch!
The article tag line says:
The sharpest new chronos have black faces and steely bands and have the ability to make any man look dangerously sharp.

I wore my Timex for ~4 years. The band failed and I got a new one, then, sadly, finally, the buttons that controlled the functions stopped working and couldn't be fixed. And Timex, in their infinite wisdom, had stopped making the watch by then. The analog still works, but the digital display is permanently stuck on the date. Sigh. What to do, what to do.

I did some searching, and found a nearly identical watch from Roots in what was then their Steel line.
Missing something now
Again, I wore it for ~4 years until... the inset on the rotating bezel fell off one day. Hence no numbers, making it useless (though the watch itself and all the functions still work).

Karen bought me this one from the CFCN "changing our logo to CTV" days.
Very thin, very black, very simulated alligator leather-like product strap. I still wear it to CTV functions, but it's almost impossible to see in the dark.

I won this watch for answering on line surveys.
A Bulova
This is your truly generic men's dress watch. Thin and forgettable.

When I was running around the world with Crestar in the late 1990's, I picked up this from an Air Canada in-flight boutique.
A Kenneth Cole
On board, it was only $75. Really nice in steel and black and I still wear it for dress occasions when my dad's watch isn't the right colour (the Kenneth Cole goes great with a tux).

So that brings me to about 2008 with no practical watch doing what I need, and a few nice watches for dress occasions.

Next post: 4 Casios and a lot of WalMart shopping...

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