In the first part of this two-parter I talked about watches that for one reason or another I ended up selling only to buy them a second time. I don’t know if I ever came to a logical conclusion about why that was. Logic, once again, will take a back seat here. Or, rather, the kind of logic driven by general watch know-how or the influence of others. It’s hard to escape the influence of other people.
Much of my interaction with people in this hobby happens on Instagram with the exception of a few IRL friends (who started out as Instagram friends of course since, you know, who ever meets another random watch nerd in the wild?). Instagram is an interesting scene because, after you spend a few months posting and digging yourself in, you seem to find your smaller cohort of like-minded people with whom you regularly exchange comments, likes, and even messages. But the further in you go you are also exposed to more and more of the Watch Fam at large.
Your follows may quickly outnumber your followers and soon your feed is filled with dazzling images from collectors whose pieces you admire, appreciate, and begin to covet. At some point, your tastes likely become enmeshed with the environment outside your account and you may even reach the unfortunate point where you trust your own gut less and the trends, whims, and opinions flush in the Watch Fam Insta-sphere more. If you’re more strong-willed and cannot be so easily moved by the gale forces of broad consensus, you may still get snagged in the nets of other, more subtle, tastemakers who dispense matter-of-fact opinions that are supposed to throw cold water on established ideas and trends. Even those who aim to cut through the BS end up finding themselves in like company until another, though smaller, level of less-broad consensus starts to form.
How then, can you listen to your own instincts when so much of the environment around you seems to be working against that very notion? This is one of the many problems of consumerist culture. But I’m not here to paint myself as being above this dilemma, not in the slightest. I could probably count on two hands the number of things I’ve purchased based on others’ opinions I considered to be more valid and reliable than my own, and this certainly goes beyond just watches. Some of these things I’ve parted with after reaffirming my own sense of self while others, I’m sure, I’ve kept after convincing myself that their purchase was very much my own idea.
The hardest thing about operating on gut instinct is that, undoubtedly, someone (or many people) out there is going to disagree with your decision. I suppose how hard you take that disagreement or what light you paint it in has a lot to do with your own personality. However, any contention to a decision you’ve worked hard to make, mulling it over in your mind for long stretches, no matter how small can decimate your confidence in that decision. Whether they intend to or not, other people have a way of making you feel like you’re making a horrible choice simply by objecting to it, like somehow you’ve done the unthinkable by acting against your own best interests. I tend to think it certainly has more do with me than them (but that doesn’t make it any easier).
Making your own decisions, independent of the noise that surrounds you, is tremendously difficult in any part of life. It means having such a strong sense of self that you’re confident that you know something that other people don’t. The very notion that you, a humble, ordinary, uninteresting person has some great knowledge that swathes of others don’t is hard to come to terms with. It feels a bit pompous. It makes you nervous, perhaps. But you need to take into consideration that this special knowledge isn’t getting something over on everyone else. In fact, it’s stopping everyone and everything else from getting something over on you.
In keeping with that idea, I’d like to share a few pieces that I’ve parted with and whose departures people might assume are also regrets. However, though I enjoyed these pieces and had even hunted some for quite a while, I felt nothing but release and contentment when each moved on to their new destinations.
A quick warning that some of these partings are not for the faint of heart.
Caravelle 666 Diver
After a ton of searching and a bunch of near misses and outbids, I finally snatched an excellent condition 1970 Caravelle Sea Hunter, otherwise known as the “Devil Diver.” This, along with several of its incarnations as well as several differently-styled Bulova divers are known as Devil Divers because of their original depth rating of 666 feet.
I had been looking for one of these for quite a while. I really wanted a clean Explorer-style dial (12-3-6-9 for the win) with no date and I already had quite the bug for skindivers. Of course, as with many other pieces, this watch came to my attention from a few IG accounts I follow. I’d pore over photos of this watch but could never find just the right one (particularly with just the right color change/patina on the second hand lollipop tip). Finally, one popped up and I won it for a more than decent price.
When it arrived, I was ecstatic. It really was a beautiful and understated watch. The vintage aesthetic was there, the cleanliness of design, the nearly-perfect lume aging. It wore very well, one of the rarer vintage divers with 20mm lugs which also made it quite the strap monster. It seemed to have all the hallmarks of a piece that would enter into regular rotation.
I’m not sure exactly what went wrong with this one. My best guess is that it was maybe too perfect. To clarify, I don’t mean too precious in the sense that, say, the owner of a rare vintage watch would feel hesitant to wear it out of a fear of ruining it or of its general fragility. I mean that I had been waiting for it for so long and it was something that I had lusted after so, when it arrived, it was hard to actually wear. Does that make sense? I couldn’t in other words wear it with a sense of abandon. It was always a thing. Maybe that sounds nuts. Maybe this is the very notion of getting a “grail” type watch or at least a watch you’ve searched for. I can’t even say this is the case with other watches I own with the same type of goal-oriented aura surrounding them (though my beloved in-unearthly-condition Benrus Bullitt still languishes in the box most days…).
Whatever it was, there was some mental block preventing me from wearing it. Maybe I didn’t really like it as much as I convinced myself I did. I don’t know if I ever quite figured that out. Selling it, though, just felt right. I used the funds to purchase something that gets more wrist time these days.
King Seiko 56KS
I’ll preface by saying that this anecdote is a good old-fashioned heartbreaker.
I got interested in King Seiko when I found out that vintage Grand Seiko was a bit above my pay grade. At the beginning of my watch collecting journey (and at the very beginning of my time on IG), I bought a lovely Seiko “Seikomatic” Self-Dater. It was a handsome silver-dialed dress watch, a variation of the more popular (now, among Seiko geeks) “Weekdater” with a lot of its own personality. I wore it quite a bit but, once King Seiko entered my field of view, I decided it had to be sacrificed in the service of procuring a revered KS (I mean, you can’t have two silver-dialed Seiko dress watches, can ya?).
After my usual bout of research on YouTube, review sites, and forums, and my usual exhaustive eBay hunts, I ended up finding a pristine King Seiko 5626-7000 (56KS). It was flawless. The crystal and dial had nary a mark, the case had only minimal wear and no polish, the signed crown was intact and, perhaps most significantly with these, the gold-colored “KS” medallion on the caseback was crisp and unscathed. When I got it I was, once again, over the moon. It didn’t come with a bracelet but I found an excellent vintage Seiko beads of rice for it. The combination was nearly holy.
And that’s when the trouble started.
Right off the bat, I noticed severe fogging in the crystal. I’m well acquainted with vintage watches, so don’t worry. I didn’t wear this thing in the shower or expose it unnecessarily to hazardous conditions. I think I wore it to work on a mild day and the humidity under my cuff made it fog up something fierce.
I had it looked at and the watchmaker told me that it was unfixable. He said that someone had “drilled into the case” and that the crown tube had a gap that was unrepairable. Completely unsatisfied with this moron’s assessment (I mean, what did a watchmaker know about King Seiko? I doubt he watched all the YouTube videos I did…) I brought the watch to a new watchmaker that had recently opened in a town close by. I was a little skeptical about the new place but the blustery, over-confident guy at the counter fluffed off the previous watchmaker’s assessment and assured me they could fix it.
This place was new but apparently they had existed in some incarnation beforehand somewhere else. It was a family operation with dad, the master watchmaker, constantly back of house along with one brother, the other watchmaker, and brother number two, the unctuous “personality” doing sales up front. When they opened, I went in with my father-in-law and they were so excited about their new shop that they gave us a short tour. All the watch repair staff were wearing white coats and shoe covers. It looked more like a lab than a watch shop. That should have been my first red flag.
I dropped the KS off and, after a longer time than they quoted, I got it back. Great. Job done. That was, until I wore it to work the next week and found that the fogging was occurring exactly as it had before I brought it in. So I brought it back. Same over-confident estimation of their skills, same longer than quoted wait time. When I was finally able to pick the watch up the watchmaker gave me a less assured assessment, saying that sometimes watches just fog up. He even had new watches which did the same thing. You just have to be careful.
What was even more egregious was that I noticed two points of damage to my otherwise perfect watch (which had been photographed vigorously for IG, dear IG, and therefore provided me with proof that the damage didn’t exist before). First, there was a spot on the dial, what looked to be an oil stain that completely covered one of the minute hashmarks between five and six. It looked careless and was completely noticeable. Sure, vintage watches have flaws like that but this thing was immaculate before I left it in their care. Secondly, there was a chip on the edge of the boxed glass crystal.
The watchmaker told me that the spot was actually a result of some of the dial flaking off. That they were likely cleaning the dial and, while using a tiny vacuum, a piece simply detached. This happens with vintage watches. There are no guarantees that it won’t. Blah, blah, blah. I argued that this is why I brought it to an experienced watchmaker rather than try to Brillo the motherfucker myself. Shouldn’t they be able to clean and service a vintage watch without, oops, staining the dial? Of course, there was no movement on the crystal on their part. They told me I couldn’t prove that I hadn’t done that myself. Needless to say, these fellas were off my Christmas card list that year.
I was so deflated by the experience that I couldn’t bring myself to wear it much. I ended up listing it (damage and experience disclosed of course) as, even with the new battle scars, it was still in fantastic condition for what it was. Funny enough, I decided to put the funds toward the next watch on this list (spoiler alert!). I guess that was one way to salvage some kind of good from the bad.
The epilogue is equally heartbreaking and, possibly, an appropriate spiritual conclusion to my time with this piece. Someone made an offer on the watch and I shipped it out. After getting delivery confirmation, the buyer told me that they never received the package. It arrived when he was out and, as he told me, he’s had issues before with his building and the way they handled packages carelessly. That, plus the recent skullduggery going on with USPS surrounding all the mail-in voting stuff happening at the time had us both worried. I offered to help track down the package (which I had insured). After some days, I opened a claim with USPS. I hoped to finally use the insurance that I usually purchase to make sure the buyer and I both landed on our feet with this one. After a few weeks, however, the claim was denied because, after all, the package was listed as “delivered in/at mailbox” on their website.
The buyer was a solid dude about the whole thing. He didn’t ask me to refund his money and he wasn’t a dick about it. I felt bad. He felt bad. The King Seiko, which had such a tumultuous journey with me (and perhaps in its life before me) was now lost out in the ether. In the end, I suppose it just wasn’t meant for this world.
This leads me to my third and final surprise flip, the watch procured using funds from the sale of the ill-fated 56KS. I had kinda, sorta been on the lookout for a Seiko MACV-SOG watch for a while. Kinda, sorta in the sense that I had heard about them, became interested, assumed I’d never find one, but proceeded to check eBay and the like just in case.
Funny enough, a friend was clearing some things out of his collection and I spotted what looked like a Seiko 6619-8060, what is often termed a “pre MACV-SOG.” I won’t go into the full history here, but these watches were apparently used by a super secretive special ops group during the Vietnam war. There were three versions, two that were “officially” issued to these operatives and the first iteration, the 6619, which was reportedly worn by them but not officially issued (I highly recommend that you do Google it though. It’s really an interesting story.).
I messaged my friend just to confirm (“Is that a MACV-SOG?!?”). Indeed it was. I ended up selling the King Seiko and another piece and came up with the dough for the watch. It arrived and, as you guessed it, I was “chuffed to bits” as our friends across the pond might say. It was in great condition, looked awesome, and had that little extra panache to set it apart from other watches in my collection: slate gray sunburst dial and Arabic numerals on a dial that, in other versions of the 6619 case, had indices instead of numbers. The provenance was also irresistible. As bonuses, I was also buying from a trusted seller I knew who also had the watch serviced in the previous year or two.
The watch got some wrist time. It wore well, and was a cool take on the field watch, one of the staple genres of my collection. There were no problems with how it ran, it didn’t fog, and it kept time pretty well. What, say you then, was the problem with this one? Well, again, it’s hard to pinpoint with absolute certainty but I would say that these particular Seikos, while appealing to the eye, are not such amazing watches or even such amazing Seikos (the objects themselves). Aside from the provenance (which is, I know, very cool), the watch itself was not unlike some other vintage Seiko pieces that I had purchased and let go of.
As with the Caravelle diver, I think I got swept up in the hoopla surrounding the watch. Not to say that the hoopla was not deserved, but if you’re not buying a watch to wear and because it feels gratifying on your wrist, what are you doing really? Maybe collectors with bottomless pockets who buy the rarest of the rare references from the biggest, most important watch houses buy museum quality pieces from auction houses that they then simply display in a case somewhere and look at from time to time. At the price point that I, and most of my Watch Fam friends, collect at, it doesn’t seem worth it to have things just to look at, especially when something better could be one watch sale away.
Ah. That was very therapeutic. I thank you, dear readers, for affording me the chance to work all that out (hopefully) for some of your benefit!
One last note –
Honorable Mention: The Aquastar 63
This was a recent catch and release for me. I didn’t feel it warranted inclusion on this list because I had not been on the hunt for one. One came along, I got it for a good price and, though it’s a great watch (I’m sure you’ve heard that before), I decided it wasn’t for me!