New watch day

Last time I checked in with you folks about things that go around my wrist that tell time, I had decided to do some DIY battery replacement. It didn’t go so well for my Timex Scout watch, the face was cracked. It still worked, but it was quite ugly. I had an easier go on my other Timex, the one I don’t like as much. But since then the outer covering of the crown went MIA, and I think there’s condensation building up inside. A new watch was in order. But what?

Since I got more into analog over the past couple years, the idea of going “full analog” in a watch had appeal. Most watches these days, even if they have an analog face, are regulated by quartz and a battery. They can be made cheap, and usually keep pretty accurate time. But they aren’t truly analog. I was thinking about something more old-school. A full on wind-up watch would be okay, but I’ve owned one before, a Vostok, and I would forget to wind it. That pointed me towards “automatic” or self-winding watches: the daily movement of the wrist will power the winding, meaning you shouldn’t have to wind it if you wear it regularly.

And automatic watches are not cheap. I had gone most of my life spending $30-60 on a quartz watch, automatic ones are usually a couple hundred dollars to start. I thought about something from Seiko or Citizen, as they are reputable and established Japanese makers. Not only that, Seiko and Citizen made shutters for several cameras I own (it would only make sense that a watchmaker would be good at that), so I thought it’d be cool to have a watch that matches a camera.

In the end, I did a left turn and got another Timex, a diver style one. Timex is the brand I’ve turned to most, mostly because they do a good job with stylish, affordable pieces, but also because they are based in Middlebury, Connecticut, one town over from Southbury, where I lived for six years in the mid-90s.

While Timex is mostly about quartz watches, over the past few years they’ve reintroduced automatic watches. The particular example I got is from their “The Waterbury” line. Waterbury is the city just to the east of Middlebury and the original home of the Waterbury Clock Company, the predecessor to Timex. The entire Naugatuck Valley, where Waterbury is located, was a clock/watch making powerhouse in the 19th to 20th century, earning the name “The Switzerland of America”: North of Waterbury is Thomaston, former home to the Seth Thomas Clock Company, the maker of the clock that sits in the middle of Grand Central Terminal’s Central Main Concourse. And to the south, my hometown of Ansonia boasted the Ansonia Clock Company.

Now, Timex’s connection to photography isn’t as storied as Citizen or Seiko, but there is a connection: According to Wikipedia, Timex (then known as United States Time Corporation for a bit) exclusively manufactured Polaroid cameras–about 44 million of them!–from about 1950 until about 1975. And while at the turn of the millennium Timex moved production overseas for pretty much all their watches, including my “Waterbury” one, there is a line of “American Documents” watches they still manufacture by hand in the Middlebury HQ, a building 2 1/2 miles from my high school. 1 Mind you, the movements come from Switzerland, but the idea of an American made watch is a big deal these days.

Anyways, I asked for the watch for my birthday and Emee got it for me. It’s definitely a nice-looking watch, classy and understated, with a shimmering emerald-green “sunburst” face. The diving bezel actually works (I’ve tried a few cheaper watches where the bezel was merely decorative) and I not only get the day of the month, but the day of the week too (my choice of English or Spanish!) And the back of the watch is also transparent, allowing me to see the internal movement working. It feels nicer than any watch I’ve owned before, so already I feel a bit self-conscious, wondering when the first scratch will happen.

There’s a few things I’ll need to get used to, though. Mechanical watches are just not as accurate as quartz, and even the best ones lose a few seconds each day. 2 The time-setting is “non-hacking”. “Hacking” means when you set the time, the second hand stops. This is pretty much standard for quartz watches, not so for mechanical. I did get the second hand to stop by turning the crown slightly backwards and holding it. And finally, this watch lacks the Indiglo backlight that I just love. I have to rely on the luminescence painted on hands, which is just not as good for dark/night reading. 3 Oh well.

All in all, it’s a really nice watch. It’s no Rolex, nor a watch that timepiece afficionados will go ga-ga over. But it’s good for me. I might get another watch at some point, either quartz or mechanical, as a back up or when I feel like wearing something different. But now, let me enjoy this timepiece!

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1 While it would have been nice to own a “Made in America” watch, the American Documents line was a good couple hundred dollars more than the watch I got, and none of them were that aesthetically pleasing to me.

2 Another reason why I didn’t take to that Vostok was it lost about five minutes a day!

3 The luminescence on early-mid twentieth century watches can’t be beat, because they used radium. This caused a lot of the watch painters (mostly women) to get cancer.


6 thoughts on “New watch day

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  1. I like this watch a lot, as well as your reasons behind selecting it. While not inexpensive for me, either, it’s encouraging to see a wind up (not to mention self-winding) is still available at what I would consider a reasonable price. Looks really great, as well.

  2. During the time Dad was ill, a wave of nostalgia overcame me. Dad was into photography, documenting his travels with mom before and after us kids were born. Inspired by Dad’s old but non-functional Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II, I started using 35mm film again. My younger brother, Shane, must have had similar feelings because soon after Dad passed, he bought three replicas of the Seiko 5 Automatic self winding watch that Dad wore when we were children.

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