They say that you never forget your first time. While that may be true, sometimes your first is a bit of a mismatch and could be full of regret. I would think that the one you truly remember is the one that you really liked, the one you didn’t rush and the one that really satisfied you.
I love watches. I have a modest collection of them right now and acquiring each of them was a unique experience in itself. While I do remember my first watch, I’d rather talk about the first watch I earned.
As a child, each of my uncles wore Rolexes that they still wear to this day. At age 10, although they didn’t really educate me about their watches, I already knew the brand. For some reason, aside from my Transformers, it was those watches that piqued my interest. I didn’t know anything technical about watches.
For instance, I didn’t even know that Rolexes cost a fortune. I knew none of that — they just looked cool.
One uncle wore a stainless steel watch, with a black face and had a red and black bezel that turned in combination with a red hand that acted as a second hour hand, which would in turn function as a second time zone. It looked sporty and had the function of telling its wearer the time in a different country: ideal for people who travel a lot. That uncle played basketball and went back and forth to the United States from the Philippines.
Another uncle wore a watch made out of gold and steel that simply had the time and the date with a royal blue face. He liked fancy cars as well as dressing up. At that age, I understood: Your watch reflects your personality.
Around five years ago – after having just passed the bar exams – I was working in one of the largest telecom companies in the country. I was just starting out and my salary was pretty low when my watch of 14 years, one my uncle gave me, stopped working. Whenever the second hand reached the 50-second mark, it would stop and you’d have to shake it for it to work again.
Before the 14 years it spent with me, my uncle had already used it too. So, if I had to guess, it probably worked perfectly for a good 30 years.
That’s not too bad. I could have had it serviced — and in fact tried to — but sadly the fee was too much for me at the time. To have it fixed cost more than a reasonably priced mechanical watch. After that, I decided to save up for my own watch.
I won’t lie — I wanted to have an expensive watch. Maybe something like what my uncles had. However, I had to face the reality that I was going to have to buy something within my limited budget. I knew that I had to have a watch that was appropriate for me. I couldn’t be a young professional in his late twenties with a gold Rolex Sky Dweller. I wasn’t the son of a tycoon but even if I were, I would have still wanted a watch that I bought on my own.
I wanted a watch I earned.
I really enjoyed looking for the perfect watch — something I still enjoy. My girlfriend at the time, however, did not share my enjoyment. In fact, she was pretty annoyed at all the searching I did. Every night, I spent hours on the Internet researching. I’d look at the watches I couldn’t have too. Then I’d spend more hours looking for the cheapest sellers.
I went inside A LOT of watch stores, credit card in hand, only to come out without a purchase.
My girlfriend offered several times to just buy for me, to finally end those long endeavors. I don’t know how many times she told me to just make up my mind already.
One thing I did make my mind up about was that I wanted a self-winding mechanical watch. This means my watch would have a rotor that swung around like a pendulum, which would rock back and forth according to your arm motions and these movements would wind the watch.
When a watch has a function other than telling time, it is called a complication.
There are countless complications that a watch can have. It can be anti-magnetic or have a chronograph. It can display the phase of the moon, or have a complete calendar including the year.
Besides the fact that more complications directly translate to more expensive timepieces, I decided on an uncomplicated watch. I just needed something that told me that I had to go home from work. Since I’m pretty much always in office attire, I decided on a leather strap instead of a metal bracelet. It seemed like the more “mature” choice. Leather straps go well with suits and semi-formal wear, whereas the sportier and more casual looks work better with metal bracelets.
Many watches that are automatic or manually wound have sapphire case backs. This is so the wearer can see the movement. Most brands usually like to showcase the craftsmanship put into the movements inside. The movements usually include a few small jewels and engraved decorative parallel lines on the surface of the metal inside called Cotes de Genève. I wanted this.
I wanted a watch I could look at both from the front and the back.
You would think that after all that, I’d have all the details needed to make an informed decision. This wasn’t really the case. I had maybe 15 options that fit my criteria. The one I eventually chose — after many days of research and saving money — was a simple automatic watch that only told the time and nothing else.
A decent-looking watch with a second hand that sweeps instead of ticks was all I wanted. However, I decided I wanted something a bit more unique. So in addition to what I wanted, I got a semi-skeleton watch, which means part of the face was transparent, allowing visibility for the movement inside. It was an “open heart” to be exact, as it showed the “heart” of the movement. To me, they were pistons rocking back and forth in a car engine.
The watch I got was a Hamilton Open Heart Viewmatic.
I asked my brother to buy it from the States and bring it back for me — it cost half the price it was selling for in Hong Kong.
I’m immensely proud of that purchase to this day. It’s a watch that definitely catches a few glances. From afar, the “heart” noticeably beats and captures attention. I got most of what I wanted and didn’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to get it. That’s not to say I won’t pay a ridiculous amount for a Rolex, Panerai or Patek Philippe one day.
Looking back, it was the perfect watch for me at that point in my life. It wasn’t my first watch, but it was the most satisfying because it was the first one I earned.