I was obsessed, Probably compulsively, buying watches for about 15 years. Through my work in the industry, I have had the opportunity to see, experience and buy more rare and unique timepieces than I dreamed of. But to my surprise, my tastes have evolved a lot in the last decade and a half. The clocks I have covered in this column – Submarine, The Royal Oaks, and Speedmasters of the World – remain close to my heart. But the urge to stunt on Instagram is gone (there it was, it was done). I don’t even send big complexions or mega-mint vintage watches to friends. Now I find myself looking at two watches that fall into one of two classes: the pieces that tell stories and the pieces that make me happy whenever I put them on.
I spent the summer of 2021 using a Unimated Diver next to the pool and Swatch System 51 elsewhere. Collectively, they cost less than a single extra push of a “Big Red” Daytona, and yet they bring me as much pleasure as I have a Hype-Y watch. It was this experience that drove me to fall in love with the slip, a new line of timepieces for children conceived and created by former Hodinki editor Cara Barrett. The idea is to encourage young people to tell the time in an analog manner, but the straps will also be appropriate outside of elementary school days. Wearing me really makes me feel like a kid again. (Oh, and the watches contain a Japanese-made movement and only $ 50.) The brand was officially launched in July, and I hope many parents would like to buy matching parcels with their kids, which I think is much more than inheriting a timepiece. Exciting.
And then my war wounds omega semaster.00. The crystal is so scarred that you can’t see the circle on the dial, which means it was issued by the British military for official service. (It’s still with the sweat-stained NATO strap that came with the original.) The six-figure Rolex “Milsab” is built under the same contract, it has the same bezel, hand style and specific spring bars like Saber, but it’s certainly not fancy. This particular piece was issued in 1967 as a true tool for clearance divers and was used in service for a higher purpose, possibly even misused. It’s real, and the person who wore it with courage and respect for decades before achieving it was real. The stories that it can tell make a lot more sense to me than the stories of dropping the waiting list for more luxurious watches. And that’s what excites me today. Whether it’s rare or hardest to achieve now – it’s now fun for me to collect watches and celebrate those moments when watches were not an access trophy.
This is the last part of Ben’s year-round duties as our watch columnist. Thanks, Ben!
A version of this story was originally published in the September 2021 issue entitled “The Ultimate Flex? A Clock That Makes You Happy”.