Sitting in my front room one night sipping on a neat Gray Goose, I obtained to occupied with the present state of watch accumulating.
I had just lately learn Derek Weinberg’s story, The Present State Of The Pocket Watch: It’s Higher Than You May Suppose, which obtained me occupied with fashionable horology basically.
However first, right here’s a short anecdote that explains the background to this rant.
It was the British Horological Institute’s a hundred and fiftieth anniversary, and I used to be a younger watchmaking scholar attending a WOSTEP partnership college on the time, the British College of Watchmaking. The WOSTEP college students, together with myself, had been honored to be seated on the desk with Dr. George Daniels and his good buddy Andrew Crisford.
I keep in mind this dinner properly: it was the primary time I had seen an F.P. Journe watch in individual, which graced Crisford’s wrist. Seeing the F.P. Journe, nonetheless, was not the spotlight of the night, eating with Daniels as an 18-year-old watchmaking scholar is clearly the winner there.
There have been so many nice horological names in attendance that weekend: Peter Speake-Marin, Stephen Forsey, the chaps from Frodsham, and, after all, the British Horological regulars such Justin Koullapis, Allan Middleton, Timothy Treffry, and Jim Arnfield, in addition to Quill & Pad’s personal Ian Skellern.
My good buddy Scott (who went on to work for Roger Smith) and I sat within the pub on the Sunday night chatting with Peter Speake-Marin about his watchmaking journey, imbibing a number of pints of beer. Speake-Marin properly satisfied us to blow off college the next day and proceed taking within the BHI a hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations.
When had been we going to get one other probability like this? The reply was by no means. And I’ve by no means to this present day been in a room with so many horological greats, and I doubt that I ever will.
I had individually met many of those people earlier than. Arnfield as soon as journeyed to our college as he was pleasant with Allan Burtoft, the person I owe my horological schooling to (patiently instructing my cocky 18-year-old self horology as I used to be nursing the odd hangover or two).
Arnfield introduced alongside an unimaginable collection of watches for us to view. One I keep in mind specifically was a Breguet pocket watch with a ruby cylinder escapement: this watch was actually a delight to see and I might perceive how manufacturing such a motion was actually an excellent accomplishment.
So, why precisely am I taking you thru this instructional watchmaking expertise?
I’m a contributor to a number of watch-related boards. I always see questions requested equivalent to “who’s one of the best watchmaker round to service this” and related.
The identical solutions normally come up, however the factor I discover so fascinating is that the solutions normally contain those that do the “prettiest” superficial work. In a phrase: case refinishing. And in different phrases: enormous chamfers on Rolex instances, completely flat surfaces, and properly executed sunburst patterns.
These watch restorers are sometimes thought of one of the best of one of the best, however I keep that little regard is given to the motion.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Case refinishing is a crucial facet of horology and is troublesome to do properly with out the suitable gear.
However, if I’m being trustworthy, as soon as the costly gear has been bought it’s pretty commonplace work, and most of the people might be taught to do it properly.
Wristwatch accumulating’s present state
Classic and pre-owned watches which were untouched are all the fashion and command enormous premiums. Customers pay double retail for chrome steel fashions of sure manufacturers.
And for what? A model identify?
Is a Rolex Daytona price double what the retailer is asking? No. It’s barely well worth the retail value, as typically talking retail costs are negotiable.
Now, I really like a Rolex as a lot as the subsequent man. I personal a Submariner 1680, which is my every day wearer, and I like it.
What am I getting at right here?
Watches perceived as “sizzling property” are price all the cash.
Watches which were “refinished with distinctive talent” fetch enormous premiums, and the work instructions high greenback. And so it ought to.
We dwell in a supply-and-demand world, so watches which can be laborious to return by ought to fetch excessive costs. The identical goes for skilled case refinishing; it too ought to command high greenback.
Nevertheless, I really feel as if a lot has been misplaced within the noise. Distinctive horology has been forgotten within the mass. Roger Smith, George Daniels, Derek Pratt, Peter Speake-Marin, Frodsham, Jim Arnfield, and my good teacher Allan Burtoft have all been left within the mud for a chamfer that’s far too massive in my view anyway.
In 2012 at Sotheby’s sale of the George Daniels Horological Assortment held after the nice watchmaker’s passing, a Rolex Datejust fitted with a co-axial escapement (and performed so by Daniels’s personal palms) was estimated to promote for £5,000 – £7,000. It will definitely offered for £21,250 – which is lower than the present market value of a Zenith-powered Rolex Daytona.
The Daniels-modified Rolex is a one-of-a-kind watch, which was personally fitted with a co-axial escapement by the best watchmaker our time has ever seen. And it’s price lower than a mass-produced watch with a motion that hasn’t modified for the reason that late Nineteen Sixties.
That’s a tragic state of affairs.
The present horological panorama solely cares in regards to the superficial: the chamfer, the lugs, the unpolished specimen.
What in regards to the true horological genius proper below our noses that we go over every day?
Those that can chamfer a lug, create a sunburst case sample, and polish the aspect of a case flat are thought of the watch masters of at this time. I’ve information for everybody: when you have $15,000, you should buy a lapping machine and produce the identical outcomes.
Sure, there may be after all a degree of talent concerned, however nowhere close to the extent of talent it takes to carry out movement-related horological restoration. Black sprucing of parts, re-bushing plates, re-pivoting wheels, and turning steadiness staffs are all far more troublesome duties, however no love is ever given to those as they’re the unseen, forgotten features of recent horology.
However, hey, I suppose I’m simply an Audrey Hepburn fan in a Kim Kardashian world.
* This text was first printed on Could 23, 2020 at The Superficial Worth In Refinishing/Refurbishing Rolexes: A Watchmaker’s Rant.