I have loved watches for most of my fifty plus years of life. I can remember a Popeye branded watch where his massive forearms travelled around the dial with a can of spinach in his hand. At least that’s how I remember the watch. Also, there was a full hunter pocket watch from the Sears catalog full hand wind with an engraving of a massive Elk or Stag on the front lid. Later came an Armitron with its blue light I nearly wore out checking under my covers and the beeping alarms and chiming hours that drove my parents nuts. I do remember my father who was right-handed would wear his watch on his right wrist with the watch face palm inward. My papa or my Mom’s Dad had a quartz Omega on a black and gold tone Speidel bracelet. Unfortunately like the Swatches that came later in my high school years I haven’t a clue where these watches ended up but more than likely in the local landfill.
There was one watch though that my dad had in his dresser drawer. It was in the top drawer with long not used cufflinks, old cologne, his pins he earned in church for memorizing his scriptures, and lots of old wheat pennies and mismatched keys. I can still smell the Brut 33 and the copper pennies as I would peek in top drawer pull out the old broken watch and try the little thing on my right wrist just like my dad with the watch face palm in. The watch was gold tone and worn out after many years of use. It was about the size of a postage stamp the crystal cracked and the dial dirty. The band had that signature green in between the expanding links and the crown had long disappeared. The watch you see I later learned belonged to my father’s dad my paternal grandfather I never knew. This was the only thing I knew of him other than a black and white picture of a stout man with those old glasses’ men wore in the 1960’s his over coat and his serious expression peeking out under his fedora. I always handled the little watch with care because my grandfather was watching from the old, framed photo on top of the furniture, and I shouldn’t have been in my dad’s dresser while he was away at work anyway.
Years went by and I moved away from the east coast. I found myself living in Salt Lake City, Utah when nobody moved here. I started a career got married had a couple of kids and of course bought a few watches. Most were a quartz Citizen or Casio because I could remember the commercials on TV when I was a kid. I just smiled as I wrote this line as I recall the commercial “ACCUTRON” from the deep voiced announcer. But I digress. With success in my job and the advent of the internet I learned more and more about watches and found what was and is my love of Rolex watches. Four-digit serials and five-digit serials specifically. Now years ago, (man I’m dating myself here) we had forums such as the earlier incarnations of the Poor Man’s Watch Forum, WatchUSeek, Timezone, The Rolex Forum and the Vintage Rolex Forums. Interactions with watch people or the “WatchFam” was new back then and the concept of Meetup Groups really didn’t start for any hobby or interest till the mid 2000’s.
With the financial crisis which took its toll on most Americans culminating in 2008 watch collecting took a backseat and fortunately and unfortunately collections could be moved, sold or traded to help make ends meet. I know this affected me in my career and then marriage and, in a way, depressed me or really gave me a bad taste in my mouth regarding what was once a very big part of my life. After all, to my friends I was John the watch guy. Things sucked for several years. Then they didn’t. The kids grew up and prospered, I remarried, got a few dogs and yes started to purchase a few watches. You see I never left or lost my love of Horology really but in the time between what was and is I learned to appreciate things based on research, gaining knowledge, and reading these new internet Blog things called Fratello or Hodinkee. I had to find my way back.
In March of 2019 I was invited to a Watch Meetup called SLC-Chrono from a new local Friend Bruce Williams the well-known watch YouTuber. YouTube became my link back into the WatchFam and in conversing with Bruce over email he brought me back into this new world of watch meetups. Thanks Bruce don’t know if I have ever told you that. From that Meetup in 2019 I have developed some of the best friendships I have ever had. Friends with the same love of watches. All watches not just one brand. Friends who are collectors like me, who are watch makers, retailers and the odd dude with a pelican case full of Invictas. Me and my new friends 3 years on now have met monthly shared old watches, new purchases and well we even started a nonprofit designed around the love of horology. We started the Horological Society of Utah. I never do most things halfway and I’m a board member and I take my responsibility seriously. As we in the Society are here for the new collector, the new guy or gal learning, reading and sharing stories. Laying watches out on a table for all to see no matter the make or price while sharing a meal and a drink. I get to be part of the group and hopefully I can help rekindle someone’s memories of their grandfather’s watch hidden away in a drawer. Oh, by the way I restored that little watch. It’s all cleaned up now. I inherited it when my dad passed in 2015. The watch is a Bulova with fifteen jewels. I had the watch cleaned the dial and case repainted and replated. The watch is now attached to a NOS expandable bracelet minus the green DNA left over from grandad (I know gross). Looks probably just like it did on the day he bought it and I’ll cherish it forever.
Watches tell time. Watches have their own stories. Watches have intrinsic value and sometimes Watches have Popeye’s muscles. Mostly though watches have made me friends and you know I’ll cherish these friendships just like that Bulova for as long as I keep ticking.