Friday, June 03, 2011

An honest watch...

A 17 Jewel Baylor Diver with AS movement
Baylor was the in-house watch brand of the US jewellery giant Zales, and sold watches from the 60s through to the demise of Zales watch business in the 90s. As with many "private label" businesses, the watches were largely manufactured by Swiss companies, badged with the Baylor label (and later logo) and sold in the US. Perhaps the most famous watch company to be associated with Baylor was Heuer, although I believe there may also have been dalliances with Squale by the looks of a recent watch on eBay. Many of the movements appear to be manufactured by AS (Anton Schild) - itself a company with enviable horological roots: AS worked with Harwood to produce the first self-winding movements (although the credit was taken by Fortis who finished the movements) and even supplied movements to Blancpain for their Fifty Fathoms watches.

The crown and bezel, showing patina
The nice thing about these watches is their honesty. There's a phrase that keeps popping up on Watch Forums - wabi sabi* - that appears to have become the standard flipper's shorthand for "worn" when they really mean "knocked around and ground into the dirt, crystal-side down". Most of my watches are, indeed, used. Heavily so. They aren't nannied or pampered, these are honest pieces that have seen long and sustained use over their lives, often showing sun-damage, faded bezels or dials and that rich patina** that only true use can give. The example here shows exactly that  - a fair degree of brassing on the case, with faded numerals on the friction bezel. I know a lot of you will be upset by the friction bezel - after all, we all know the importance of a uni-directional dive timer. But many watches from this era (and earlier) were without the ratcheted bezels we now take for granted. Plus, to be honest, they are far cheaper to manufacture.

Water resistant to 600 feet, and ticking strongly, this watch has obviously been subjected to a not insignificant degree of abuse. But, for me at least, that's what makes these things to endearing. The heavily domed plexi is far more engaging than a flat sapphire crystal, and the skin diver / man in trunks on the caseback is charmingly rendered. The dial shows some signs of ageing, but the tritium markers are in good shape, and are nicely surrounded with a bright orange marker at the cardinal points. As with many of these divers, there's a date, although no day. Unlike modern movements, there's no quickset, either. Oh, and it's a manual wind.

It's not going to win any beauty prizes, and there are more desirable models out there, but for me, this is what collecting should be about. Honesty. 

the #watchnerd

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Click for full size

The famous Zen garden of Ryōan-ji
*literally (from Wikipedia) "...a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the Three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō). Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes." Unfortunately, this phrase has been misappropriated by a proportion of the watch "collecting" public and is now routinely misused. For the real meaning of wabi sabi, I suggest a trip to Ryōan-ji to contemplate the matter further...

**here we go again. Patina is another misused term, largely, it seems, by the Rolex fraternity. I may be wrong, but I believe there is a significant difference between the effects of ageing (as seen on cases, bezels or crowns) and the effects of a poorly-made dial. But I'm probably wrong, as they seem to command ludicrous amounts of money for what amounts to a mistake in the manufacture.