Hey! Watch This!

Current watch collection

I’ve always enjoyed watches, from the time I was perhaps 10 or so. I remember the first watch I had, which was a men’s watch, was too big for my wrist, and we had to put another hole in the strap. It was an analog watch with day and date display. I think I had two analog, wind-up wristwatches before I moved on to digital watches. My best friend growing up had an early Texas Instruments LED watch, a lot like this one:

Photo credit — Joe Haupt, flickr

The interesting thing about LED watches was that you had to push a button to get the time to display. Otherwise the display was off. A few years later, I did get a digital watch but by then the displays were LCD and always on. I went through a digital watch phase, and those were what I wore through college. I think it was just after college, or maybe towards the end, when I leaned back towards analog, and got a watch that was somewhat like this Casio model:

Casio AQ-230GA-9DMQ from casio-intl.com

The one I had, as I recall, was darker in color. It had an address book function, where you could laboriously enter in contact info via the three or four buttons available. I definitely entered some in, but back then, I had few enough contacts, and a good enough memory, that I didn’t really need to. But I did like that watch, and thought it was pretty elegant looking.

Best I can remember, that’s the last watch I no longer have. Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked in Boston and Cambridge, and there was a department store in Downtown Crossing called Filene’s, and in their basement, they would sell merchandise that wasn’t selling upstairs, and there was an automatic markdown process, so that the longer anything was there, the more steeply it was discounted. Filene’s Basement is where the first two watches in the top picture came from. The first is a Jules Jergensen, and is nothing special. I think I bought it because I thought it was a bargain. The next one to the right is a very thin Pulsar, which in fact I still find to be pretty good looking. After that is a very lovely and classy Seiko Quartz, which Susan bought me as a wedding present. Next comes my Suunto Vector, which I loved dearly for many years. It has a digital compass and altimeter/barometer. Great for hiking. And while it’s been a long time since I used it regularly, I found the four button user interface to be really well thought out and consistent through all its many modes and sub-modes.

To the right of the Suunto is a Withings Activité Pop, which I feel is a great “smart” watch. Its main claim to fame is step counting, and it displays your progress towards your goal on the inner dial. It uploads the data to your smart phone via bluetooth, and of course also sets the time that way. First (only) watch I’ve had that would adjust to DST at least semi automatically. It uses a disposable battery, but the battery lasts many months. It’s really a nice implementation, and I think it has a nice casual, though elegant, look.

Second to last is another prized possession — a Luminox. It’s one of their least expensive models, but it handles time-telling duties quite well. The big selling point of Luminox is their “lume” — tiny tritium vials on the hands and the hour markers (and the bezel!) which is always active and requires no “charging.” It’s supposed to last about 20 years. I’ve had it somewhere between 5 and 10 years, and you can tell it’s not as bright as it once was, but still very functional and readable in darkness. Ironically, it was this watch, my newest at the time, that had ceased working reliably first. Bringing it in to get serviced was what inspired me to track down all the others, so I’d have something to wear. They all seem to be working just fine.

And finally there is my most recent acquisition, a Seiko 5 SNK803, which is currently the watch I’m wearing daily. The thing that attracted me to this one is the fact that it’s an “automatic” watch, which means it uses a traditional watch spring and escapement to measure time, instead of a quartz crystal and battery. But instead of winding it by hand via the crown, your normal daily movements are supposed to keep it wound, by virtue of a an off-balance weight that swings around a pivot and winds the watch spring that way. It supposedly has approximately 40 hours of “reserve power” so you could put it down for a day, and pick it up the next day, and it should be fine.

The quartz watches are really pretty accurate. Mechanical watches struggle to replicate quartz’ accuracy, even at the very high end of the market. But I just love the idea of the watch winding itself this way. Mechanical engineers are genius!