As it goes for just about anything “military”, issued timepieces are some of the most collectible in the watch world. Between enthusiasts looking for a rugged watch to go on adventures with, fashionable folks pulling off military-inspired looks, and history buffs bolstering their military regalia collection, the military watch market faces the perfect storm of demand. Couple that demand with a fixed number of issued timepieces, and you start to see the whole picture. The rabbit hole of military watches and their history delves very deeply, very quickly, so we’ve broken our overview into two parts: those countries from the West with influential and interesting military timekeeping history, and those from the East. This week, the West — America, Britain, Germany, France, and the unlikely Brazil, Argentina and Peru — flexes its stuff.
A Compendium of Wearable History
Will Dufour Bring the Conservative Brand Into the Modern Age?
Rolex had just three CEOs in its first century of existence; it’s had three more in just the past eight years. This week, the iconic company made the latest change in its game of musical chairs, putting Jean-Frédéric Dufour, whom many will recognize as the man who turned Zenith around, in the hot seat. This a major development for one of the most conservative companies in a very conservative industry — particularly because of Dufour’s track record.
Today in Gear we examine the return of the “Pepsi bezel”, Office’s move to mobile, an off-roading bumper built for Wranglers, a new escapement from Nomos and a modern take on the Super 8.
Nothing short of impervious
In recent years, watchmaking materials have improved to the point where many Swiss-made mechanical watches meet minimum anti-magnetic standards. But that’s not good enough for us; we’re bringing you six of the most badass anti-magnetic watches on the market. Each has the same magnetic field resistance, 80,000 A/m (well above the minimum standard), except for Omega’s offering, which…well, it puts the other timepieces’ resistances to shame. Now, go forth and fear no refrigerator magnets.
Size doesn't matter
Big watches still rule the timepiece landscape, but, like dinosaurs and SUVs, their days may be numbered. Much to the relief of small arms (and those who don’t need to compensate with their wristwear), a growing crop of reasonably sized watches are popping up. While 40mm would have been considered gargantuan 40 years ago, nowadays it suits most wrists well and looks appropriate with a variety of apparel. Here are our favorite six watches with diameters at or below 40 millimeters. Big watches, watch out.
From the deep, for the deep
As men were pioneering ways to explore and live in outer space in the 1960s, another groundbreaking initiative was taking place closer to home, in an equally hostile environment: the ocean. Parallel efforts by the U.S. Navy, the French commercial diving firm COMEX and diving legend Jacques Cousteau were developing a way for man to live on the ocean floor by breathing a gas mixture made up of a majority of inert helium combined with oxygen. “Saturation diving”, as the new method was called, greatly increased possibilities for living underwater by removing the need to frequently come to the surface to decompress.
But a problem was discovered: the crystals of divers’ watches were blowing off upon decompression at the end of their time on the seabed. A new dive watch was needed, and Rolex responded with the now-legendary Sea Dweller.
King of the Underworld
If the Rolex Submariner was the original sports watch, then the Explorer II was the original extreme sports watch. Introduced in 1971 as a timepiece for cave and polar exploration, the Explorer II remains a favorite of ours thanks to its purpose-built design, intended use and legendary Rolex build quality. Singular in purpose and entirely uncompromising, the Explorer II was a pure tool. We got our hands on a new Explorer II and an ancestor, a rare, straight-handed reference 1655 from 1972.
The sincerest form of flattery?
Within the watch industry there exists a thriving category of timepieces that is wholly unoriginal. This is the realm of the so-called “homage” watch. While legions of fans gratefully purchase these ersatz Grail timepieces, homages also have their detractors — those who write them off as mere derivative copies that don’t deserve attention.GP’s Jason Heaton dives into the debate.
Newman or Everyman?
Today we’ve got a vintage version of “Want This, Get This”, and its timing couldn’t be better. 2013 is the convergence of two important events in the watch world: it is the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Daytona and also the year in which Tudor makes its American market comeback. One is virtually unattainable to mere mortals and one will give you the same look and Rolex pedigree without having to mortgage your home.
There once was a watch from Nantucket
There are few scenes that conjure up summer more than white sails against a blue sky, whether you’re cruising in a 12-meter out of Newport, rounding buoys in a Laser at your lake’s weekend regatta, or just sitting on the beach watching the action. Our country’s lore and style are steeped in sailing culture, and watch companies haven’t ignored the nautical theme. Even if the closest you come to a boat all year is your company’s annual booze cruise, you can still channel a little bit of the maritime vibe and look like an old salt with any of this year’s fleet of nautical watches.
An enigma wrapped in a riddle inside of a mystery
Today, the Daytona is one of Rolex’s most popular models, and no one is surprised when a rare vintage model achieves a half-million dollar hammer price at auction. This is ironic, because not that long ago, Rolex dealers could hardly give these models away. It’s not too often that a watch goes from a sales dud to a piece for which people will wait years (just for the honor of paying full retail price), but that’s what makes the Daytona such a fascinating story.
Time to Drive
Wheels and gears, second hands and tach needles, power trains and power reserves. Men have always been fascinated by time, speed, accuracy and power — and the beautiful combination of high-end timepieces and exotic roadgoing automobiles captures these obsessions appropriately. And whether the watch of choice is used to measure lap splits or to simply echo the same kind of quality and heritage as his car, you can be assured that careful time was taken to select both. We match up some of the best in timekeeping and automobilia in Gear Patrol style.
Rising to the top
Another BaselWorld is in the books. Journalists, retailers and watch nerds alike are retreating as we speak to their blogs, stores and web forums to debate who the winners, the losers, the biggest surprises and the biggest disappointments were at this year’s show. Of course, all of the hype surrounding the biggest watch event on the planet is a sign of the times. Watches have become big business, and the launch of a new OMEGA or TAG Heuer attracts the same buzz as a new U2 album or Bond film. Watches are cooler now than they’ve ever been.
Our intrepid band of watch experts has elbowed past the hype and tirelessly pored over the onslaught of new watches shown this past week to distill a list of the most interesting, groundbreaking and just plain sexiest new timepieces of BaselWorld 2013.
Mr. Heaton's Holdings
It’s pretty clear that our staff is passionate about gear, and as we strive to bring you the best of the best, we also want to take the time to share our own personal favorites. For the next eleven weeks, we’ll bring you each of our writers’ 10 personal favorites. The selection runs the gamut, from heirloom pieces to the most practical of gear that can be easily procured. Last but not least, each man will share one “holy grail” item that remains the stuff of dreams: out of reach, and hopefully only temporarily so. Our inaugural Staff Favorites features Mr. Jason Heaton, one of GP’s most seasoned writers and a consummate adventurer.
Vintage watch buying is enjoying incredible popularity, thanks to a community of savvy collectors, great internet resources for both learning about and buying old watches, and a nostalgic yearning for quality products from an era before planned obsolescence. Old watches also represent great value, the chance to wear a piece of history and, if you’re lucky, a good investment. Not to mention, they just look cool. We explore just how you should go about buying one of these beauties.
There’s a bit of dialogue in Casino Royale, the 2006 reboot of the James Bond movie franchise, when Vesper Lynd thinks she has Bond figured out, right down to his watch: “Rolex?” she asks. “Omega”, Bond replies. “Beautiful”, Lynd assesses. Those three words sum up 50 years of Bond and his wristwatches. They also have…
Know your movements
When most people start getting interested in timepieces, the first thing that usually attracts them is the appearance. A distinctive dial, a unique case shape, even a nice strap can draw in the uninitiated. Then they notice watches whose hands sweep smoothly, driven by springs and gears versus the tick-tick that gives away battery driven…
The most important excerpt from this week’s Briefings, which we ask that you read if you have time for nothing else: “Perhaps more importantly, did you know that the 18th century Hungarian engineer, Wolfgang von Kempelen, made a phony mechanical chess master to woo Empress Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina of Austria?” But you can’t…
Two-timer from the jet age
Introduced at the dawn of the jet age, the Rolex GMT-Master has become an enduring symbol of a time when travel was both more glamorous and more adventurous. This most colorful of Rolexes, transcended its aviation beginnings and has been worn by astronauts, test pilots, a famous TV detective, a Bond girl and a sports…
Depending on who you ask (or read), there’s a good chance you might walk away with a handful of stories behind the origins of the “California” dial. This writer humbly admits to not knowing the truth. Some attribute the widespread knowledge to a California-based company that refurbished a large number of Rolex Bubblebacks in the…
Evolution of a watch nerd
Someone once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. But while I’m sure music critics have their own challenges, I suspect they have an easier time explaining what they do than we watch writers, who fetishize the arcane minutiae of an anachronistic art. But I’ve learned to respond to questions about my…
Changes Come Easy
Let’s face it, times are tough and it’s not just European governments that are implementing austerity measures. A lot of guys can’t squeeze a new watch into their 2012 budgets. But don’t despair, there’s an affordable way to get a fresh look for your existing watch – change the strap. You might be surprised at…
Go deep, or go home
Yes, they’re doing it again. Are we surprised? Not at all. In 1960, Rolex created the Deep Sea Special with the express purpose of joining Jacques Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh on their record-breaking descent to the bottom of Challenger Deep in their submersible, the Trieste. Unlike Mr. Piccard and Lt. Walsh, however, the Deep…
"I'm the King of the Sea World!"
Director James Cameron has been an avid diver and deep sea explorer for the past ten years, unbeknownst to the majority of us plebs. It’s like finding out that Jack Nicholson enjoys serious forays into quantum physics. And perhaps not even James Cameron, himself, could’ve imagined that his 1989 film, The Abyss was actually quite…
Rolex reaches for the sky
It is rare enough that Rolex updates their existing model line up, let alone creates an entirely new watch, so it is understandable that one of the most hotly anticipated announcements at Basel is their new Sky-Dweller. Featuring a revolutionary — for Rolex — annual calendar, in addition to a GMT indicator and a healthy…
Vorsprung durch Technik
Ask the average guy where the best watches in the world are made and he will undoubtedly say, “Switzerland.” After all, most of the recognizable brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin, Rolex and Patek Philippe hail from that neutral Alpine nation. It is partly the neutrality of Switzerland that has allowed these great names of horology…
‘Tis the season for wishes and we bet that a lot of Gear Patrol readers have a new watch on their Christmas lists. We do, too, so we rounded up ten of the most exciting and gift-worthy timepieces of the year for you to add to yours. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice is between…
Worn and Well Worn
Author’s Note: It’s no secret we’re all about surfacing the latest and greatest, newest and shiniest gear. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a healthy respect for careworn, well-made gear from the past. Because in the end, good quality stuff should last a while, perform for years, and become careworn itself. In this era…
Taking the Tool Watch Fetish to New Heights
As Rolex moves further away from its tool watch roots with bigger, shinier version of its classics, there are still those in the watch community who are carrying forward the legacy that began in the 1950s with the Explorer and Submariner. A couple of years ago, a Dutch Rolex collector, Philipp Stahl, created a modified…
Unique and utilitarian vintage timepieces, qualifiers that are in like a raging tsunami, are rarely embodied better than a classic Rolex with dive strap. Granted, one of the biggest hurdles when purchasing a vintage timepiece is not just finding solid product, but identifying a trustworthy procurement source. Worse, the two in tandem are practically rarified…