Every watch aficionado has a story about how they fell in love with watches. It may start with the first watch he or she wore as a child, the first serious watch they received as they entered adulthood, or the watch that they dreamed about owning. Like every passion, appreciating fine watchmaking is a journey that is unique to each and every person. For this issue, Revolution’s Editors share their individual stories from around the globe.
Co-founder and Group Creative & Editorial Director
I’ve always been interested in watches, but there are two that really got me started. There was my grandfather’s Rolex Datejust, which was given to my uncle, who then gave it to me when I was 16 years old. But that watch has unfortunately been stolen.
The second watch was much later in life, in my late-20s, and what really got me back into watches was Panerai. My first Panerai was a PAM 61, a titanium, manual-wind watch with a tobacco dial. It embodied all of the mystique and heroism and sense of adventure that those watches instilled.
For me there are two potential candidates.
My first foray into watch journalism was back in the early-2000s when I was editing a luxury travel magazine. Finding my quartz sports watch unacceptable, our resident watch journalist — and now a close friend — decided to donate a piece from his collection to me. The watch in question was a 1950s black-dial Tudor Oyster Prince with applied indexes and a rose at 12 o’clock. Although I knew nothing about the brand, I adored the watch, and it started a love affair with Tudor that survives to this day.
The first watch that I bought for myself came a couple of years after the Tudor. I had just finished a freelance copywriting job for a watch boutique on London’s Fulham Road. Throughout the process, I joked with the company directors that my writing fee was likely to go straight back to them and, in the end, that is exactly what happened. By then, I was working full-time for a watch magazine and had read about the world’s best watches in articles by the world’s best journalists, but when it came to parting with my money there was only one choice: a stainless-steel Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic. Everything about that watch appealed — the Art Deco aesthetic, the clarity of the dial, the fact that it wasn’t round and that the case swivelled. And best of all, I could afford it!
It wasn’t even mine: the watch that got me hooked on things horological was a bar-mitzvah present given to my best friend, Steve Young, in 1965. He received an Omega Seamaster dress watch and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. At 13, however, one doesn’t think of, nor appreciate, time for what it is — the most precious of our non-renewable resources.
Within five years, I was minoring in philosophy, and that changed my entire outlook on life. Watches thus had a new meaning beyond merely keeping one from being late. I decided that, as time is so precious, it deserves to be marked in style. I was addicted.
By the end of the 1980s, I was the proud owner of an IWC Mk 11, the first genuinely covetable vintage watch in my collection, and that set me on a course of preferring older pieces. I’ve now owned over 1,000, bought and sold and traded.
But life is full of surprises: when my father-in-law passed away, I was left his watch. It was a mid-1960s Omega Seamaster dress watch. And it was the first fine watch I passed on to my son. Who’s now a watch writer, too.
The watch that started everything for me was a Roger Dubuis. I had accepted a job in the manufacture’s press department without knowing much about watchmaking at all. On my very first day, I arrived early, a little too early in fact, as I was the first one to turn on the lights. I didn’t know what to do with myself, when in walked Mr Roger Dubuis, all smiles. He introduced himself and asked me if I was familiar with the company’s watches. When I replied in the negative, he unstrapped his watch, a Sympathie Bi-Retrograde Chronograph, and handed it to me – not dial up, but sapphire crystal/movement-side up. To this day, I still remember the amazement I felt looking at that movement and listening to Roger explain how it all worked. This was my moment.
Shortly thereafter, the company gave me a MuchMore to wear while on company business and it has remained one of my favourite watches ever since. It is the perfect watch for my child-sized wrists as the case is curved to fit the wrist to perfection. I have yet to find a watch that feels so right. Since Roger Dubuis’s passing it has taken on more meaning as I remember him every time I look at the time.
Keith W. Strandberg
Back in another life, I wrote and produced action movies. The most famous of these was No Retreat, No Surrender, and I went on to make a total of 10 action features. I used to buy what I thought was a nice watch at the end of every production as a treat to myself. When I started to learn more about watches, I realised that I needed to be buying mechanical watches, not quartz ones. I was living in Lancaster, PA, at the time, the home of Hamilton Watch Company, and some of the people I knew well had worked for Hamilton.
So the first “better” watch I got was a Hamilton Field Chronograph. I was fascinated by the mechanical movement and I was constantly playing with the chronograph function, and this remains one of my favourite complications.
I love the blue dial with the clear white markings, and the dark blue leather strap. I still wear this timepiece from time to time and it reminds me of everything I love about watches, and it brings back fond memories of my former career. Also, Hamilton is an American-born brand that I still love, and I have several Hamiltons in my collection, including a yellow-gold “Keith” watch from the 1940s.
As a tribute, I plan on putting a Hamilton into the next movie I write and produce. How about this title — No Retreat, No Quartz?
Editor-in-Chief, Asia & Australia
It might not have been the watch that got me started in watches per se, but it was definitely the watch that got me started in appreciating fine watchmaking. That watch, the Lange 1, became a semi-permanent fixture in my dreams and longings the moment I saw it in a magazine article so long ago that I barely remember when.
It was the design of its off-centred time indication, its big date, and its power reserve indicator that hooked me, all elements arranged and composed so harmoniously within a circle that it seemed to have existed in this form forever despite being so radically new when it was first introduced. Add to the mix the unmistakable high quality of its conception and finishing, as well as the saga of Walter Lange and his struggles to make it come to life in the first place, and what I felt, in sum, was that this watch was now my new ultimate holy grail.
The Lange 1 was a watch that sustained me, by the mere thought of its acquisition, through times of troubles and strife, a watch that was the answer to the question of what I needed to achieve before I died, for my life to have had any meaning.
Finally, when I was able to buy one after immense sacrifice, it put me in a position to fully understand what it takes to own a fine wristwatch like this. In my journey, I’ve learned one thing: buying a Lange 1 is the type of thing one does when one knows what one wants, and when one is willing to work hard for it. It is now my pride and joy.
Editor-in-Chief, Latin America
About 20 years ago, I worked as the Editor-in-Chief of a motoring magazine. In the same way it happens with the watch industry, it involved lots of travelling. And a consequence of that is you get acquainted with some air travel quirks, such as the duty-free on-board catalogs, filled with assorted curiosities.
In those times, my first new watch acquisitions were of the “predictable” variety — Breitling, TAG Heuer, Omega. My watch knowledge was too thin — as was my wallet — so they were sensible options to me. Then, it did not cross my mind to even consider a mysterious or unknown brand.
But then, one day in the early-2000s, the Lufthansa catalogue blindsided me with the Nomos Tangente. I had never seen anything like it. And it was German! Was ist das?
A small, simple and humble watch, perfect in its execution and build, the dial shone as bright as an angel’s face, while the sapphire caseback let its manual-wind calibre show its delicate and nicely finished workings.
The Tangente was a watch that spoke clearly to me — it was in line with my tastes and character. It helped me understand that watchmaking was much more than centenary histories or overwhelming complications. It could also be about humility and pragmatism.
Alas, I never bought that Tangente and, obviously, one day the €700 watch (it was a steal!) disappeared from the Lufthansa catalog.
That did not prevent me from learning more about Nomos and German watchmaking, as well as paying proper attention to the smaller, independent brands. The Tangente was the piece that made me better appreciate the genuine, independent spirit of watchmaking.
For me, everything started early, at seven years old when my father gave me a Buler watch: I learned to wind it up every day and to care for a nice object, which is sometimes too much to expect of a seven-year-old, but that one was the seed. What made that seed blossom was an incredible pre-owned Seiko 7005, which my godfather gave to me when I turned 15. I call it incredible because of all the abuse it took living on my wrist. My main means of transportation was a bicycle (I have never liked public transport and, if you live in Mexico City, you’ll understand why) and it wasn’t rare to have disagreements with the pavement and the laws of gravity, after which I had to look for my glasses in one direction and my Seiko in another. I never took off my watch, not even for showers or sleep. It never failed or strayed too much on timing – if that is not quality, I don’t know what is.
In the 38 years that it has been with me, it has only been serviced twice and still works as it always has. That old Seiko has been a great wingman, even if I don’t wear it as often.
Editorial Director, Hong Kong
There are two watches that come to mind, but allow me to put it into context: I was always somewhat fascinated by watches, even as a child, and liked to wear the LCD and LED ones that were the norm then. My first “real” watch was a Cartier Must, with a Bordeaux dial, which I got around my eighth birthday, and I have very vivid memories of wearing it – unfortunately, I have no idea whatsoever where it is now. In all likelihood, I traded it, as I would occasionally do in order to get my next timepiece as I grew older. When I started working, I was able to keep the watches rather than trade them in, but there’s one watch that really stoked my interest in horology, particularly the inner workings of the timepieces. I was living in London at the time, and came across the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Chronograph at Harrods. I was absolutely floored by the price, which was around £8,500 then, and didn’t yet understand what justified it. It was the first high complication I had ever come across, and I was fascinated by the fact that it could mechanically track so many different time increments. It’s been a tremendous journey into the very heart of horology since then!
If there’s one person who can be blamed for all of this, the one I can safely say is at the root of my frankly obsessive (my mother would say “unhealthy”) love of watches, it’s Maximilian Büsser, creative powerhouse and founder of MB&F. Seven years ago, I was a rather indifferent watch writer at a luxury monthly title, assigned to a beat I didn’t really care for. I was a watch writer who didn’t know about or understand watches (I look back upon this time with the same horror that Janet Leigh exhibited in the Bates Motel shower). Things changed after I first encountered the MB&F Horological Machine N°3, changed with head-spinning force and velocity. Here was something different. Here was something that eschewed pragmatism for individualism. Here was something exuberant and expressive, that left function far behind in its pursuit of imagination. This was the very first watch I’d come across in which it seemed like we cared about the same things. This was also the first watch that I – very naturally – thought of and talked about as if it were actually alive. I do it all the time now, with almost every timepiece I encounter, because it’s become instinctive for me to see the humanity that’s been poured into a watch by its creator.
But I’ll always remember my first.
Editorial Director, China
My first intimate experience with watches occurred in high school when my father gave me a Seiko stainless-steel quartz watch. The rectangular casing was matched with a royal blue dial and a highly elastic and snug Milanese mesh strap. At the time, I knew nothing about wristwatches and simply saw this gift – which gave me the divine feeling of finally being grown up – as an expression of my father’s affection. Whenever I looked at it to read the time, I was always reminded that I had to live up to the expectations of my father, who now treated me as an adult.
What really ignited my passion for wristwatches was a picture of the Sportster Chronograph from Bovet, which I came across in a magazine around 2003. I was deeply attracted by its unique design. I was fascinated by its distinctive features that I had never seen before, which included “bullhead” crowns and pushers, Chinese Zodiac character hour markers and a brand name in Chinese characters. I was also amazed by the ingenious fusion of this European invention with elements of Chinese culture. This watch serves as a source of inspiration for me and has caused me to put more time and effort into the study and research of wristwatches. Despite the fact that this watch was discontinued after 12 years, I finally had an opportunity to become a proud owner of this exceptional piece after a long search, which took me to four different cities spanning two continents. Whenever I rotate my wrist to check the time on this remarkable watch, I still feel the same excitement and passion I felt the first time I saw it.