December 26, 2018
by Bilal Khan
Watch collectors are obsessed with marking times in their lives that were significant, but sometimes we just want to take inventory of how the personal collection has fared in the past year. So, I asked the aBlogtoWatch Editors what was the one addition to their personal collections this year that just stands out. We all as collectors (that includes you readers) do so much buying, selling, and trading, of our watches, that it’s the pieces that you just know have earned something of a “tenure” in the collection that deserve some special attention.
I know you’re probably just scrolling down to the watches right now, but I’d really love to hear from you guys about the watch you got this past year that is just the standout. So, you know what to do: share your thoughts in the comments. Really, I’m so much more curious about our readers and their acquisitions than I was about my fellow aBlogtoWatch Editors (no offense, guys), so keep it civil and here are our picks!
A few years ago I reviewed the previous generation Cartier Santos 100 watch for men and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought. In 2018 Cartier introduced a totally new Santos model and while I think they did an excellent job, I actually personally liked the chunkiness and sportier design of the outgoing model just slightly more. Lucky for me I was able to find the exact model I wanted that came on the matching bracelet, which for me is critical in giving the Santos its iconic look. In addition to being surprisingly comfortable on the wrist, what I love most about the Cartier Santos is specifically that not everyone loves it. Some collector friends I have adorn it with praise while others admonish me for what they see as being differing taste. I just smile and say “I don’t care what you think because I love it and I have a good reason for it.”
It’s got to be the Konstantin Chaykin Joker, no doubt it. Fortunately for me, the Joker is all sold out – many times over – and while Konstantin I know is actively working on many other exciting projects, some based on the Joker, this gives me much needed time to put my review together. I say this because it’s going to be extremely difficult to do this watch, and yet more so the way it makes me feel, at least some sort of justice. In a nutshell, though, I can say that I find the Joker to be absolutely brilliant for a host of reasons, the most important of them all being that it makes me feel like no other watch, no matter how expensive and desirable, ever could. It takes a whole lot more to get that done than just to put a face on a watch, but the great complexities and achievements of the Joker remain to be unveiled in the full review. Until then, I urge you to read my report from the time I visited Konstantin Chaykin in his manufacture in Moscow. That will tell you a large part of the puzzle.
I’ve been obsessed with the Rolex Milgauss 116400GV with the Z-Blue dial and green sapphire crystal for years now and after a gnarly two-week stay in the hospital this fall, there was no better time for a “life’s too short, get the watch” moment. I spent a lot of time gazing at the super-magnetic machines used to perform X-Rays and other scans and to distract myself I often found myself thinking about a host of more cheerful things including, of course, watches. Specifically, I got to thinking about the scientists, researchers, engineers, and others that the original Rolex Milgauss was designed for decades ago.
I know it’s not the most magnetic resistant watch out there (props to Omega) but I love how much personality and unique design flair this particular Rolex has. Plus, I love orange hands on watches (I think have the only two contemporary Rolex watches with an orange hand with the ‘Guass joining the Explorer II 216570) and I can’t put my love of the lightning-bolt seconds hand into words.
I’m not sure if I’ve just grown tired of dive watches, or if I’ve finally settled on the only ones I’ll ever enjoy actually wearing and diving with, but this year marked something of a shift in my collection as I chased down the perfect “GADA” (Go-Anywhere-Do-Anything) watch. The criteria were relatively simple: it couldn’t be too common, and it had to have at least 100m of water resistance (bonus points for screwed crown & caseback) and some luminous element in a classic design that could be dressed up on leather, or down on rubber. The specificity of the search turned to be a liberating factor, as it marked a conscious shift in focus away from more conventional and ubiquitous choices, rekindling the joy of finding ‘just’ the right watch.
It ultimately ended with the Panerai Radiomir 1940 PAM 655, which in many ways, represents everything that dyed-in-the-wool ‘wristi are supposed to hate: it’s ‘only’ 42mm and whisper-thin, it has a gorgeous in-house movement, and comes with an “un-resellable” (the forum’s words, not mine) white dial. But it’s this surprisingly rare combination of high-end finishing with supreme wearability and classic capability that makes it such a brilliant GADA dark horse, and easily one of Panerai’s most underrated offerings from the last five years. And now that it’s fitted to a waterproof RubberB SwimSkin strap, I have what could very well be a singular GADA combo that could be impossible to top – until next year, obviously.
This is a watch I never expected to own and a watch I’m very private about. But 2018 was personally and professionally a great year for me, and I thought it would be the right time to hunt down the piece that kept me up at night for several years. The Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570 ‘Polar’ is in many ways, the only modern sports model from the brand that still upholds a sense of utilitarian focus. It isn’t as luxurified as a Submariner or as glitzy as the new GMTs. In fact, I’ve seen Seikos with more polished surfaces. Looks aside, the watch is also very significant when you consider the Explorer’s lineage.
The 42mm case size, the maxi dial, and those fat hands are just a few traits that had purists up in arms when it was released in 2011. As a whole, it is a little goofy but I love everything about it. Not long after soliciting Bilal’s advice and reading his detailed comparison between the Explorer II and the Submariner, I decided to actively consolidate, save, and make it happen. Besides being one of my biggest watch purchases, I’m immensely proud of the lessons I learned while pursuing it. With a little focus and a mindful approach to collecting, I can only hope that all of my future watch purchases will be this satisfying.
It might run on batteries but is there a more useful watch than the Apple Watch? Search your feelings before you answer that. The one watch that I found myself reaching out for more than others this year was the Apple Watch Series 4 – Apple’s latest smartwatch. It might look similar to previous models but the new case dimensions and edge-to-edge display makes for a whole different wearing experience – it is considerably slimmer, sleeker, and sits closer to the wrist. In some ways, it reminds me of the Cartier Santos. But most of all, I like how useful and versatile it is. It is an activity tracker, fitness trainer, chronograph, world-timer, music streamer, and navigation guide all rolled into one. It might run on batteries, but it’s all the better for it.