The 2017 Basel Fair, an annual horological pilgrimage, wraps up in a few days. So far it is a LOT of fluff, but for the watch junkie, it is also a lot of eye candy. Take, for instance, the new Rolex Yachtmaster (seen here via Hodinkee). In my humble opinion... what were they thinking? I’ve read some of this model’s reviews, within 48 hours of its debut, accentuated with words like chiclets, unicorn vomit, Easter and even, “I like it.” Sorry, not sure for what event, or even on what planet, this would be an accessory worn by any self-proclaimed “made-it” kind of Rolex personality. Be that as it may, we’re all entitled to our own opinions. This one I fear is destined for only those willing to take a super huge bet of the leveraged hedge fund variety, and only were it on Oct. 31st just to say “I’m that outrageous”.
I’ve attended the Basel Fair in 2009 and it was awesome. I met some wonderful people, saw some fantastic and innovative watches, tools and everything in between. It was an exploratory endeavour and it fed my horological belly with lots of vitamins and fervor.
These days though, I’m happy to offer my smaller non-corporate brands - Oris, Momentum, Boccia, Marathon - and a plethora of vintage pieces from notable American, Swiss and other countries. The business model I’ve chosen, albeit not written in stone, urges me to provide my customers with family brands, ones that an individual in the market for a new watch would not find at Costco or on some grey market website with lackluster customer service. Let’s be real, with a cell phone in the pocket, who needs a mechanical watch? Well, I’ll be the first to extol the virtues of something that ticks, something that can be maintained for decades by a competent watchmaker. Many of the watches that come to my bench for repair or restoration are family heirlooms. Are they worthy of such maintenance? In most cases, absolutely. This week, two Hamilton 992B railroad watches were received and offered service. One needed a full service and a balance staff replaced. The other, having been serviced by me only a few years ago (and since dropped by the owner’s grandchild) needed a balance staff, but retained a regulation that was impecable. Seconds a day error in all positions.
As much as I love seeing new innovations and cutting edge technology (see a future post of a wristwatch case using 3D printing), there are some things that tradition and old-school watchmaking can not diminish. And I am pleased to be a part of the maintenance of such well-made pieces of horology.
The Basel Fair does showcase some wonderful new models, and I’ll admit, I fell for one today (to be delivered in September), an Oris 1917 seen here. Some things never change.
With a myriad of ways to kick off the new website including thanking web designer Danny for being so persistent, I thought I'd create the first journal entry by offering somewhat of an introduction to not only a favorite book, but also a very dear associate. Watchmaker Barry Marcus and I have not met, nor had we even spoken on the phone until just a few weeks ago. He called with great concern, offering a sincere warning about expired watch batteries, both lithium and silver oxide. Under certain circumstances, these batteries can heat up or even explode, with the potential for a fire. That's just the kind of guy Barry is. I get a thrill with every email. I also get a jolt of reinforcement in the path that I've taken. And all too often, I come away with some tidbit of wisdom from a watchmaker who has been at the bench since he was 11. He's now in his early 80's.
The book, co-authored with his daughter Julie Campisi, Watches I Have Known, is a sociological collage of the people (family and customers mostly) who have engaged Barry Marcus throughout his long career. The stories weave one through the emotional spectrum because it is not about the watches, it is about the people; their stories and how their lives were changed, made important or otherwise effected by the kind spirit of a watchmaker. The watches are the thread that hold the cloth of this endearing book together. The fabric is Barry and the people he writes about. The short vignettes offer the reader a chance to peer inside the world of the watchmaker from a mostly non-technical vantage. Stories run the gamut from military veteran watches being passed down and finding their way into combat again (after the caring repairs of Barry) to watches with inscriptions of past loved ones, important occasions and the like.
Watches I Have Known is a must read for anyone with a love of humanity. An appreciation for watches certainly helps. The symbolism and emotional connection watches hold shines throughout the book. Barry's passion for his craft is clearly evident, as is his understanding and appreciation for a treasured timepiece. That heirloom that might be worth very little monetarily, but everything to the owner.... and Barry Marcus knows it.