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  • Alvin

Pandemic purchases - the breakdown.

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

The lockdown, the pandemic, the nonsense, the inconvenience, the fear, the uncertainty, the breakdown. Thankfully it's not that kind of breakdown, and my thoughts are with those who are and have been seriously affected by the events of this wretched year. It's not been entirely easy for me, I've had a number of issues to deal with, but I am very thankful for so much. One of those things is my watchlife that respawned with a vengeance in the lockdown months, partly due to being confined, and partly as I wanted to renew my creative efforts and watches are great way of doing so. I can write about them, photograph them, read and research the realms of horology, physics and philosophy, so it's quite the deep connection, the pursuit of the theoretical and technical, art and engineering. It's a world of its own, miniature and marvellous.

In 2020 so far, I have bought 8 watches, that's one a month as I write this at the start of September, though my mind has not quite reconciled that fact, it still feels like May to me. Eight watches then, a total spend of under £1850 which is a fair bit, but considering I didn't buy a watch in 2019 I'd say that was ok. One might say I was dealing with the pandemic stress by comfort buying things, aka retail therapy, whilst also experimenting in the kitchen, aka eating my feelings, which might be accurate. I can honestly say if it wasn't for the lockdown I may not have bought any watches, I was planning to travel for a while and that would have been the focus of my time and funds.

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy. - Ivan Illich, philosopher and priest.

Addiction or envy, an interesting idea and one many watch fans might relate to, whether they know the truth is another matter. Personally I rarely feel envy when it comes watches, or if I do it's not malicious, it's motivational - that's a topic for another time. Anyway, enough of what ifs, actually no a different what if. Is there a watch that could replace the below 8 for sub £2000? I guess that's a bit of a nonsense way of justifying buying 8 watches but justification isn't really required - we'll dig into this idea later on. Each watch has its own merits and charms, and story about how it came to land in my basket. The SARB, Sugess and the G-lide were on a list, the others were opportunist buys, and when I say opportunist I mean I found the deal hard to refuse, not all were impulse buys, honest. Some I kept in the basket for days while I pondered, hoping they would sell out, but alas, what will be will be.


Longines Conquest VHP GMT Flash Setting 37184966 17470277 - I had a 20% off voucher for Beaverbrooks jewellers, I was very close to buying a Speedy, but then I saw this and I've been looking for a GMT with a difference, in this kind of versatile tool watch style. I like innovative and unique features on watches, and the flash setting is one of those things - I look forward to doing a feature. It's also one of those watches that goes with jeans and T as well as it goes with a shirt and tie.

Seiko SARB035 - I was drawn to it because of its reputation, the love it received on social media and the photos of it thereon, so photogenic it's ridiculous, so versatile its a watch that can render a collection obsolete. It really is one of the most simple but alluring watches I've ever seen, I think they call that, class.

CasioG-lide GBX 100 7ER - I'm a fan of a smart watches as I'm a bit of a techy, so this appealed due to the mashup of the Casio square style and the functionality of smartness. I wanted this when it launched but I missed it and they sold out, picked it up on eBay for a touch over retail price. Also I don't have a white strapped watch so this is something different.

Casio Collection Digital SGW-100-2BER A full on impulse buy because it has a compass and a thermometer which will be so useful while I'm stuck at home. I like the digital layout, it's different to the regular Casios which use the same interface, also the lume is full screen and quite awesome, with a massive caveat in that it only stays on for a second which is quite annoying.

Orient Bambino II - Now this watch I've been hearing about for years and never really was that bothered, but I was looking at getting a watch with roman numeral markers, and this came to my attention, so I looked for a deal and found one, a steal really at £99. Really impressed with it at first sight, Orient really know what they are doing in the quality x value space, and the blue hands are on the money.

Seiko World Time SPL057P141 - I came across this one by chance on youtube, and immediate loved the colour scheme and design, despite being annoyed by worldtimers and GMTs at the moment due to the lack of global mobility, I found a deal on eBay that was quite reasonable. It won't quite fill the void of the Frederique Constant Worldtimer or the Jaeger LeCoultre Master Compressor Geographic, but it will definitely do for now.

Sugess MoonPhase Master SU1908SW - this is a Chinese made watch, oooooh controversial. There are so many people out there who are very happy with their Chinese watches, Seagull being the main brand and movement maker. Considering half the stuff you own is probably partly made in China, I think it warrants a look. I wanted a Tourbillon but I went with this as a tester, it has the full shebang of chronograph, moon phase, clear caseback and manual wind, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Reginald 'Submariner' Homage - a funny one, a purchase without the intention to actually wear it. I'm not usually for the straight up homage but this one serves a purpose, this very cheap watch was bought due to curiosity and with an idea in mind - taking apart a watch and putting it back together without worrying about the cost, as I will almost certainly make a mess of it. I might wear it but first I have to accomplish that mission. I haven't opened it yet so no pic, and it's not really worth the effort to source one.


Ok so time for some theorising and pondering. If I had only bought one watch for £2000, I would have been a luxury consumer, a connoisseur, but buying 8 makes me a hoarder, crazy, bonkers, why do you need 8 more watches. I don't need them fool, I wanted them. So what if I had only bought one watch for £2k, what would take my fancy and how would the one stack up against the 8 in the hypothetical arena.

First up is a random one but quite the fantastic little number, the Citizen Campanola Kuro Tsurubami Grand Complication. It comes in at under £2k and runs a bunch of complications including Moon phase, Minute repeater, Chronograph, Date, Weekday, Perpetual calendar - unreal - great value for money, and super finish. With all that heat, it really would be a great one for the collection, and really a jack of all trades for a specific taste. It's a great value proposition, I mean, a minute repeater and perpetual calendar, that's wild haute horology hedonism. There is a problem of course, and that problem is, it's a quartz. Yes, it allows it to meet the budget but also yes it ruins the impact and prestige of the watch as a whole. It almost blasphemous, oops snobbery - I hope not, but I just can't get comfortable with the juxtaposition of the quartz with grand complications, even if it does save a few ££££s on total cost. The other thing is that there's no clear case back (obviously) but that's the joy of grand complications, seeing them in action - of course one must pay for that privilege. Actually now I think about it, I would get one, hmmm, maybe. What do you think?

Kuro Tsurubami Grand Complication / Img: Campanola - link to site at bottom of page
Img: Meistersinger

There are only other two particular watches I can think of at that price range - obviously there are loads more (Grand Seiko, F Constant) but if a specific model doesn't come to mind then it's not lurv - the first is the Meistersinger Pangea Day Date. It's a really good looking single hand, with separate day and date rings running around the centre of the watch in concentric circles. I like an odd complication and this one really appeals as the single hand alone is bit too minimalist for me. The issue with this one is that I would have to have all the other watches I wanted before spending money on it, it's a great watch with unique design and functionality but it's at the bottom of the list.

The last one is the Bell & Ross BR-03 Diver, I love the look of that thing, a very rugged and hardy looking watch, with the B&R signature square, accented with awesome design notes. It really is put together well, in a style that is very me. I will buy one of these, but it has to be a good deal as there is a catch, and that is the movement, it's running a standard ETA movement which is push for the near £3k retail price. You can pick it up for less than £2k in the US, but even then it's a bit steep. Stunner though, I like it, I like it a lot.

Img: Bell & Ross


So that's where I stand currently, but another potential battle here is the collector vs ego one perhaps. If things were back to normal and I was working in London, surrounded by all the fancy suits and blingage, would I have opted to buy a more luxury piece to wear and show off? To be noticed for the prestige, price and heritage, over the watches I have bought. I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have done that way, I may have done so without realising what I was actually doing, citing only my love of watches to justify the purchase. It's an interesting angle to look at, external influence on purchases, and when buying watches some people swing more one way than the other. There's nothing wrong with either as long you aren't hurting anyone, though it is good know and be aware of what's going on in between your ears.

The final thing to consider for this post is that if I buy more watches, the aggregate cost increases, and therefore other watches fall into the potential cost bracket. So, say I buy Baltic Bicompax, and a Sugess Tourbillon and that Louis Erard Regulator that's on eBay right now (stop it). This bumps total cost of all watches up to around £4000, and at that price point we have the Speedy with the clear caseback, and even approaching my primary grail, the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster. Would I rather own the Zenith than the 11 aforementioned timekeepers? That's a tough one, put one in my hands and I'll tell you! Well, that's what I've got to watch out for now - not breaking that barrier.

So lots to think about when balancing the budget and the watchbox, it makes it all the more fun, but I've just come across the Citizen Bullhead Supertitanium Special Edition Black AV0080-88E, damn you internet, I'm definitely a prisoner of addiction, need that 12 step program - it could be something like buying 12 watches a year, sounds like a plan!



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