My old watch and my new watch

February 5, 2013

For the past few months I have been experimenting with not wearing a watch.

The impetus for the experiment was the burglary we suffered last year, in which we lost — among other things — a number of valuable watches. They got Karen’s Movado; and a 1936 gold Hamilton I owned. Worst of all, they got my father’s Rolex Air-King, a watch I’d worn almost daily from 1985 until the last months of 2008.

Not my father's watch, but one much like it.

Not my father’s watch, but one much like it.

I only stopped wearing the Rolex because I thought it a little unseemingly to wear an expensive watch while people I knew were worried about their jobs. Though it wasn’t an especially extravagant watch as extravagant watches goes, it was still a Rolex (albeit a mid-sized, stainless steel Rolex) and I didn’t feel right wearing it through a recession.

So I took it off and put it in a box with eight or nine other watches I owned (there was a nice Swiss Army Victorinox tank in there too) and starting wearing a Citizen Eco-Drive (also a nice watch, but nothing special).

And I was wearing the Citizen the morning they kicked in our door and took our stuff.

As I’ve reported here before, we got off light. The only thing that really bothered me was the loss of my father’s Rolex. I made some sorties into pawn shops looking for it (I found some nice watches, but not it) and my insurance agent assured me that if I wanted to replace the watch I could.

But I didn’t really want a Rolex. I wanted my dad’s watch. And, after a couple of months, when it became clear I was not going to recover the watch, I decided to try and live without a timepiece on my wrist.

Because, after all, a watch is an anachronistic appliance, not anything that anyone with a cell phone really needs to tell time. I wear a watch on the golf course that tells me the yardage to the green. I have one of those Nike watches that maps your running route via GPS. But I don’t need a watch to tell time.

Still, I’ve always like watches, and I’ve appreciated fine ones. Had I unlimted funds and no conscience, I’m sure I’d accumulate an arsenal of expensive timepieces, though to be honest I’ve always been drawn to the simpler, more utilitarian designs. I liked the way my father’s Rolex looked — and if I were to spend $5,000 on a watch for myself, I’d probably get a Cartier Tank Solo.

But I can’t justify spending that sort of money on a watch. But I didn’t want to settle for half-measures either. So I’ve sort of been looking for watches these past few months, and now I believe I’ve found one.

It’s not a brand you’ve likely heard of, and I’ll admit I was a little suspicious of the company’s claims, but having lived with it for a little while, I’m becoming convinced its exactly what they say it is — a high quality watch that’s the equivalent of some that sell for three or four times its price. It’s from a company called the Ovo Watch Company, based in Chicago.

I’m wearing this black on black Wicker model, which is a stainless steel chronograph named for the Wicker Park section of Chicago. full1_grande

It’s a fine watch, and though it’s a little larger than anything I’ve ever worn — the face diameter is 42 mm, which passes for a mid-sized watch in these U-Boaty days — I’m starting to get used to it. More than that, I’m starting to really like it. It’s got a sapphire crystal that’s very hard to scratch (and that’s important to me, my Citizen, with its mineral crystal, is pretty scratched up now) and the design is clean. (Though I probably would prefer their more understated and more expensive Millennium P model, which isn’t in stock at the present time.)

Ovo says they can keep their prices down — the Wicker “lists” for $180 but it’s “on sale” for $130 — by doing all their designs in house, selling only via the Internet and not paying for celebrity endorsements or doing much advertising.

Here’s what they say:

“A lot of the major brands are actually owned by a handful of companies.

“There are even fewer companies that produce the watch movements and supply these movements to others. So the same watch movement can potentially be found in a $500 watch and a $5,000 watch. Finally, the functional difference between comparable movements is non-existent.

“The designer brands just license their brand name to existing manufactures and get paid royalties. These designer brand watches are manufactured all over the world from Switzerland to China.

“The markups are huge and there is a lot of money spent on endorsements and marketing … There is a range of quality that is used to make watches and we appreciate good quality material. But at the same time felt the price being charged for them was unreasonable. ”

That’s sort of what I believe too.

“Our mission is simple, to create luxury quality watches without the inflated markups of the traditional players. We are able to achieve this by taking out the bloat from the industry; going direct to customers and cutting out middle men, not paying celebrities for endorsement or telling you that you need our chronograph to fly an airplane, being online only and trusting that our customers will be our true spokesperson and partners in this journey.”

Well, count me as a satisfied customer. I am very impressed with the quality of the Ovo. It’s not my father’s watch, but it’s my new one.

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