Curating the Collection Allen Pares Back to Less Than 20 Core Watches

All activity on my personal watch collection has come to a grinding halt since I bought my two Cartier Tanks toward the end of 2020. Having invested in a stereo system and guitar stuff, both of which have been important for me during COVID isolation, my watch funds have been a bit tapped. But the halt is also the result of my having chosen to collect Cartier Tanks, which require more money and thoughtfulness – and time – than I’m accustomed to. I predicted this decision would slow me down, and I was right.

This halting has given me time to get to know my watches better, and to develop new kinds of relationships with them. While I may not have reached for every watch in my collection, it is the few that I continue to reach for which intrigue me the most these days. It’s become clear that I really like three categories: dress watches, dressy tool watches, and dive watches.

Allen’s Dress Watches as of Winter 2021

As for dress watches, I’ve learned that I really do like to get dressed up, perhaps more so during isolation than ever, and my shirt cuffs require a thin dress watch for comfort. I own only a handful of dress watches, but they’ve all seen regular rotation lately. The Cartier Tank Louis and Basculante get the most time, with the latter having become a surprising daily watch for me. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a single dress watch as much as I do the Basculante, which is a testament to the balance of elements the watch brings: it’s steel, has a flat crystal, and is flippable for more strenuous activities like effing around with my motorcycles or something. But it looks excellent if I’m lounging like Hugh Heffner in a robe or am dressed to the nines for yet another day alone here in the writing shed.

I’ve also been reaching for anything really plain, such as my Zenith and my King Seiko. Both of these watches offer me a change of pace from the Cartier Tanks without forcing me to grab a tool watch. That’s been great.

Allen’s Divers as of Winter 2021

My dive watches have really boiled down to three absolute life-long keepers: my Bremont S301 40mm Supermarine Black, my Oris x Momotaro Divers 65, and my Seiko SPB143. I own other divers, but I don’t reach for them nearly as much as these watches. There’s no question that I attach myself emotionally to dive watches with the same fierce loyalty I had toward my Timex Boy’s Diver when I was 7-years-old. A dive watch has to be very familiar, and it has to give me a special feeling that I can only describe as “warm fuzzies.” Phenomenologically speaking, my subjective experience of a dive watch must generate palpable positive feelings, likely endorphins, though I’ve no science on the matter.

I’ve also started to think of dive watches as no longer existing on anything but bracelets and straps that can get wet, largely because during this cold-ass winter we go in our hot tub at least once – often twice – every day, and also because I’m also doing a ton of dishes. We don’t own a dishwasher, and we’re cooking and baking like a restaurant these days, so it’s sleeves up about twice a day. Lastly, I really do use the timing bezel a lot around the house, and especially for my newfound love of baking bread. Even if I have a rise time of 10 hours, I can set the bezel to the hour hand and keep track.

Allen’s Dressy Tool Watches as of Winter 2021

My Grand Seiko SBGH269 and my 1972 Rolex Datejust 1603 represent a category I’ve come to call the Dressy Tool Watch, or DTW (this term devised during my time at Worn & Wound). I suppose this is redundant with the Luxury Steel Sports watch, as represented by classics like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and many more, but there’s something about my GS and the Datejust that lean more toward dressiness than to sportiness. Performance-wise, both are up to spec for diving, but neither watch announces itself as particularly sporty the way, say, the Royal Oak does. In a sense, my two beloved DTWs sit right between my dressy watches and my divers, making them incredibly versatile, all-day-every-day watches.

If I were asked to pare back my collection a lot, I’d end up with the following:

Dress Watches

  • Cartier Tank Louis
  • Cartier Tank Basculante
  • Dad’s Bulovas
  • 1970 King Seiko (birth year, hi-beat)

Dive Watches

  • Bremont S301 40mm Supermarine Black
  • Oris x Momatoaro Divers 65 40mm
  • Seiko SPB143 40mm

Dressy Tool Watches

  • Grand Seiko SBGH269
  • Rolex Datejust 1603

What To Do About My Vintage Chronographs

I own five beautiful Valjoux-7730 loaded Chronographs from the 1960s and 70s, and I never reach for any of them, ever. I don’t know why. I try. I do. I want to like them more, but I seemed to have collected them under a false pretense – and by false I mean one that didn’t really respect what I liked as much as what I thought was cool to own at the time. I had written this long and deep guide to the Valjoux 7730 movement, and then I realized they were undervalued, so I bought them up on eBay. My fleeting interest in the 7730 didn’t sustain me long, and I hardly ever wore these watches to begin with, and now they’re literally in a pile in a cabinet awaiting resale. 

But then I gathered them up together and thought about putting them all in a box and just sitting on them forever. I think this is a good idea for a few reasons: 1) I will enjoy them as a little collection if they’re stored and displayed with love; 2) they’re only going to appreciate; 3) they should be cared for better than I have been. So, curatorially speaking, it’s time to develop an exhibition of my 7730 Chronographs. I have ordered a new box!

I also need to be perfectly honest with myself about the varying state of repair of these chronographs, and two of them need love. I’ll spare you the details, but I have a feeling that if they were all working well, I’d feel better about the whole collection.

What To Do About My Omega Seamaster Redials

Again, I sit on these watches and don’t do much with them. I think they’re beautiful, but now I’m thinking it’s time to display these as well in some more curatorially sophisticated manner. It shouldn’t be hard to top the disregard I’ve shown them lately, as they’re among the chronograph pile on in my cabinet.  I’ll seek out a box for these, I think.

What’s Next?

I really want a Unimatic, but haven’t picked one out yet.

I am homing in on some 1970s Tanks, but will need to save for a long time and then hope for the right watch to appear. Those are big purchases I’m in no rush to make, but plan to get a gold bracelet of some kind from Cartier before too very long.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a Moser Green Dragon. I really really do. I could even see myself foregoing the Tank for the Moser Green Dragon.  It’s just about the best DTW I’ve ever seen.

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