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  • Alvin

A Tale | New Year, New watch - How I got my Rolex GMT Master II?

On the morning of January 3rd, a UK bank holiday, I wondered if my local watch shop/jeweller was open. I guess it would be business with reduced hours, so took a walk to the nearby town centre. It was open and Sam, the steadfast watch fanatic and repairman, welcomed me. An older gent who had worked in the shop for decades was as jovial and charming as usual, I'd been a customer for 6 months or so. Our relationship started off a bit tentatively, with 2 watch battery replacements and a demagnetization. His patience was repaid when I bought a Tissot PRX. It was a black dial, quartz, great value, that's how I justified the unnecessary purchase - rationalize it somehow one must. The mechanical Powermatic 80 didn't warrant the price jump, but I loved the design and he did me a good deal. From there he knew I wasn't a time-waster, though he enjoyed the chats he obviously wanted to a sale or two too. We'd discussed watches enough for him to know I was also a fan and I also bought a Garmin smart watch from him for my nephews Christmas present.

On this decidedly balmy winters morning when I should have been doing something constructive or productive I was chatting away with Sam. Asking him how his festive period was, and if Santa had brought him the F.P Journe Chronometre Optimum he was after. Unfortunately, he said, Santa had suffered an oversight and missed his house despite Sam having sent several postal correspondence, and an email chaser. An admin error, lapse in concentration or hopefully a cardiac event of some sort had been unable to bring forth this Christmas miracle. A shame we agreed, a crying shame. I then showed him what Santa had brought me.

Image: Rolex

I pulled out of my pocket a Rolex GMT Master II Batman, I should have had it in a sock or something but it was loose amongst the flotsam and jetsam, receipt, tissue, N95 mask, nothing that could damage it though. I'm not entirely sure why I wasn't wearing it. I told him the story of how I had received it as a belated gift from my brother, who wasn't in the country for my 40th birthday - we couldn't have celebrated much due to lockdown/restrictions - but it certainly was better late than never. He said that he picked it up in the states, in Illinois somewhere, I had no box or papers but it was in good nick, a bit of wear and a scratch, so I speculated it was only a year or two old - I didn't want to ask him too many questions, seeing as it was a gift. My brother was pretty indulgent and clumsy, but had plenty of money, he was probably thorough as he is with everything but I just wanted a trusted local professional opinion. Really, god knows what dodgy backstory this thing had, so much shifty stuff going on out there. It had a clear scratch on the crown side of the case, but apart from that Sam said it looked good on first impressions, I concurred. I popped out for a walk and to grab a coffee while he checked it out, it felt a bit weird, the symphony approaching the climax.

When I returned about 40 minutes later, I was nervous, the orchestra at crescendo. Sam had a big ass smile on his face, which I mirrored with a deep breath, my smile grew teeth as I reflected. We joyously discussed how amazing and awful family could be. He was more buzzing than I was, he wondered how much my brother had paid for it. I didn't, I was just over the moon-phase that it was legit. I requested a strap adjustment, which he sorted out, all at zero charge, happiness abounded the confines of this small watch shop/jewellers.

When I got home I marvelled at this timepiece. Rolex was an interesting one, I've always thought I might get one, but I was looking at an Oyster Perpetual 39 with the Rhodium dial, I really liked that. I should have bought one a couple of years ago, I remember telling my sister I was considering it - hindsight eh. But this, this was a gift, I was feeling like a kid at Christmas, or a man who just got a Rolex. Reminding myself that this was real, and I thought that in the 365 days that had just passed, the earth had travelled around the sun - I wasn't sure which was more miraculous. Despite the unrelenting pandemic, it hadn't been as bad as the year prior, and my Christmas was pretty chilled out, the way I like it. New Years was a different story.

What a new years eve it had been. New years isn't particularly a big deal for me, I usually sleep - I'm a rebel - same for my girlfriend who was staying with family so I was out and about with a couple of friends on an impulse, I had a feeling it would be a good night. I probably shouldn't have considering the rocketing number of the latest Covid19 variant but it was meant to be I suppose. We went to a couple of the usual bars, then onto a place I hadn't been to before. South East, a small bar/club that the lads had bought tickets for, they had reduced the capacity to give Covid room to manoeuvre. It had a speakeasy vibe, brown leather and walnut with gold and green accents, the front door wasn't entirely hidden but was nondescript, leading directly to a staircase, not great for the wobbly ones on the way out. We were a wee bit wobbly on the way in. As I careened slightly on the stairs, my Tissot PRX clunked into the hand rail, thankfully protected by shirt and jacket, this jolted me sober for a second, and made my decision to wear a pretty but inexpensive watch out on the town a sensible one. Regardless, I was loath to damage to any watch, and I was thinking about going with the Seiko Whirlpool tonight but it held too much sentimental value to wear whilst even slightly intoxicated, or indeed on the highway to potential inebriation. So, I was switching to one whiskey, one water, too old and wise to be wasting a watch or wasting a day with a devastating hangover.

Image: Tissot

We mooched about in the darkness, it was nicely busy, the lighting was moody and strobes were white and gentle matching the hip hip, funk and R&B hip pop tunes. We settled on a bench in a kind of open booth, I was backed onto another where a couple were conversing, he was obviously American, out to impress and a bit worse for wear, giving it the 'big I am' but there was familiarity there, I would say third date or so. As we chatted about the year, turning 40 and whether we would ever get to chill out in Thailand ever again - borders still closed - I was drawn to keep an ear on the neighbouring conversation as he was waxing lyrical over the music. He looked like a flash git and if his banter was factual, he was doing alright for himself, a recent holiday in St Barts and a Porsche Taycan no less, offsetting his carbon footprint in style. His name was Carlos, quite fitting, fancied himself a faux-narco I reckoned.

As with flashy geezerish types, I was always keen to get a wrist and risk assessment. What watch are they wearing, are they so rich they don't care if it takes a knock? That irks me a little but it's a question of relativity, and I accept it may be a more rational position than my own. I see watches as significant, but I guess for some people they are status symbols or jewellery before, or rather than, works of art, design, craftsmanship, or historical conduits. Wealth can skew this perspective I imagine, what is coveted and unobtainable holds sway over the emotions, once attained feelings could change. I guess the aspects of how an item is obtained might also effect the perceived value, is it your hard-earned cash, trust fund money, a gift, a stolen or found thing. Interesting ideas in sociology and psychology to pondered in depth once my pockets are deep enough to get an F.P. Journe Vagabondage III, rather than just partaking in vagabondage as I am at present (note: please give weight to Vagabond over Bondage in this context, vagabondage meaning aimless wandering or something like that, a distinct possibility of misinterpretation which I'll leave to your imagination).

Image: F.P. Journe / The Vagabondage III

The night wore on, we met some other friends and made strangers into interim friends. I had forgotten about Carlos temporarily until we bumped into each other in the restrooms, he was in there already, and looked to be struggling a bit. Now, herein lies a potentially very tricky situation for a watch fan. How to check out the watch of a guy at the next cubicle without making it look like you're checking out something else, an etiquette faux-pas in almost all settings. Fortunately or not, he was wearing a long sleeve shirt so I was spared the temptation to gander, noted though was his swaying unsteadiness, loafers in the danger zone. I thought I'd get a peak when he washes his hands whilst singing happy birthday...if he was so inclined to do either.

He finished before me, but rather than go to the sinks he staggered towards the cubicle, I imagined he was at critical depth, about to activate his alcohol escape valve. As he stumbled heavily into the cubicle door, using his left hand to stabilize himself on the frame, his shirt sleeve retracted to reveal a shiny Rolex GMT Master II, the Batman.

As I finished my business, I was happy I got a glimpse and guffawed at the obvious and fitting timepiece, whilst at the same time nodding approval. I left the cubicle as the left hand of Carlos slipped, right hand came up pushed against the door for support which opened causing him to crash into the cubical doing a pirouette of sorts, landing on his ass in front of the toilet, his back, maybe his head, hitting the toilet. I saw the GMT smack against the cubicle door. Jesus Carlos, what did I say about wearing nice watches out.

He was out cold, his head hung limp over and into the toilet, there was blood in the water - better than the floor, the cleaners agree - his Adams apple stuck out, eyes were a bit open, showing white. This is what happens if you don't take care of your watches, the watch gods take action. As a matter of principal I removed the Batman from his wrist, they and the universe taking action through me. Batman himself would agree through logical deduction that the watch was safer with me. He convulsed and vomited liquid but remained unconscious. Disgusting. Carlos doesn't deserve the watch, or to live apparently. And despite his ill treatment of it, I expected it to be real, though it could have been a genuine fake the watch gods wouldn't have gone through the trouble for that, or maybe they would have... Thankfully I didn't get any vomit on me, and the damage to the watch was limited to a scratch on the crown side of the case, it wasn't too bad, it had a few marks but nothing to worry about, a stunner really, I see what the fuss is about.

The next morning, I was feeling a bit rough but I was in good spirits as the Batman sat calmly and safely between to the Whirlpool and the Whirlwind. After the morning routine I took to spending some quality time looking at the Batman. The case size at 40mm is perfect for my skinny wrist but it has an immense presence. The ceramic bezel pops as the light hits it. The Rolex logo on the crown does evoke a sense of the superior, and blue with black has always been a winning combo. I wasn't sure if the cyclops was for me previously but now I've really taken to it, the asymmetry gives it more character. The dial detail is subtle but magnificently balanced, the text is the perfect size and font, as are the hands, the quality and precision are evident throughout. I also really like a dishy chapter ring, it adds depth and dimension to a watch, the feeling of strength and integrity I guess, so the Rolex text is right up my street, or in my cubicle if you prefer. Not a fan of the jubilee bracelet, but it will do for now.

Image: Rolex

I may have spun a yarn for Sams sake, it was better that way, better for him. Anyway, Carlos was like a brother to me, a brother from another mother, a brother I had yet to meet until last night, a generous and forgiving long lost brother. He knew I would love this watch more than he ever would. I would appreciate it, in both it's overhyped, irrational and symbolic nature, and it's historic, iconic, technical prowess. It was where it belonged, it was why I was out that new years eve, why we had tickets for South East, it was the universe speaking to me about time. About bloody time. I had been waiting for it, the Whirlpool wasn't a fluke, was it a beginning.? I wouldn't force it, I wouldn't overthink it. This might be the last time something like this happens, and if so, that's fine, twice was divine. But if not, if it was a beginning, I would follow my gut, go with the flow and vibes of the universe leading me to the next time.


P.S. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2022.



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