Truth be told, a lot of watch writing is often a bit dry, technical and, well, dull. Time+Tide’s Contributing Editor Luke Benedictus takes a different approach. In the latest issue of Good Weekend, the Saturday magazine inserted into The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, Luke offers a word of warning to any vintage-watch obsessive who’s about to splash the cash. As usual, Luke considers the subject from an unorthodox angle.
“Obituary writers were traditionally hailed as the masters of euphemism,” he writes. “The squeamish reluctance to speak ill of the dead prompted the use of tactful doublespeak where ‘bon viveur’ was code for ‘alcoholic’ and ‘notable vivacity’ implied nymphomania, while ‘tireless raconteur’ meant a crushing bore you’d try to avoid at parties.
“Yet such verbal chicanery is now eclipsed by the vintage watch trade, which has elevated the art of understatement to staggering heights. A watch dial faded by sun damage is knowingly described as ‘tropical’. Old diving watches are hailed if they have ‘ghost’ bezels (translation: heavily discoloured). Dial patina makes a watch more ‘collectable’, despite being a sign of decay.
“What’s more, in a shameless act of successful marketing spin, such features even raise a watch’s price. These cosmetic flaws are rebranded as hallmarks of authenticity and character – the equivalent of laughter lines on an old man’s face.”
The article goes on, however, to point out that “vintage” is ultimately a euphemism for “old”, and old things don’t last forever.
Luke shares the fraught tale of how he bought a 1960s Vacheron Constantin Patrimony dress watch only for him to lose it almost immediately when the decaying buckle gave way and the watch fell off his wrist in a Sydney park without him noticing. Luckily, he managed to get it back when a passer-by spotted his hand-scribbled signs offering a $100 reward for its return.
A week later, the glass came off the watch and it required further costly repairs. Between the $100 reward, a new strap and the servicing fees, Luke calculates he spent an extra $800 on his watch in that first month of ownership alone.
The alternative approach, he suggests, is to go for a modern reissue of a vintage classic. Luke mentions three recent watches that combine throwback charm with the reliability of a brand new watch, the Longines Heritage Military Marine Nationale, Mido Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961 and Breitling Top Time as worn by Sean Connery in Thunderball.
As Luke concludes: “Essentially, what you’re getting is retro looks backed by the latest horological tech. For a set-and-forget option in the vintage space, it’s the right choice for your left wrist. Which isn’t a euphemism, by the way.”
You can read the whole article here.