I’ve been a watch lover for quite some time and have been working in the industry for the better part of five years. One thing that has always stood out to me is that watch collecting is a particularly emotive hobby. Whether you like a watch for its design, heritage, mechanics, craftsmanship, utility, the fact that a loved one once wore it, or because your favorite celebrity made it popular, when a watch feels right on your wrist, everything else about it clicks – no matter what does or doesn’t draw you to it.
I don’t quite know how to describe it, but when you get that feeling as you strap the one onto your wrist, it feels almost like you’re in love. Maybe that’s what it is – love. It’s a strong word, but to some extent we all share that love of watchmaking regardless of what brought us into the hobby, and most of us will have one watch in our collection that epitomizes that feeling more than others.
When I was told that everyone at Chrono24 Magazine would be writing about their most cherished watch, I immediately knew what watch I would write about – my TAG Heuer Aquaracer ref. WAY2111.BA0928. Gifted from myself to myself nine years ago after my 18th birthday, it has come to symbolize what I think watch collecting is all about – that innate sense of attraction you feel to something that ticks all of your boxes and immediately clicks with you. While my Aquaracer isn’t the most valuable watch I own, it’s the one I think I have connected with more than any other, and it is definitely the last watch I would ever dream of selling.
As my first “real” watch, it made me feel like I was a “real” watch collector. It cost me nearly every penny I had at the time and I bought it without worrying about resale value, what brand was trendy, what dial color was popular, or what style of watch was the one to have – I bought my Aquaracer with a completed unfiltered set of eyes. I wasn’t yet influenced by years of scrolling through Instagram, which subsequently came to tell all of us what watch is hot and what watch is not.
Simply put, it’s what I loved without any outside forces at play, and it’s the one watch in my collection that I can trust speaks to my unadulterated tastes and preferences. And while it might be a bit of a reach, that’s something I probably can’t say about the rest of my collection, as my tastes are increasingly infiltrated and influenced by social media. Maybe that’s why I still love it so much. It speaks to a more innocent watch-collecting version of myself and the pursuit of something I loved and bought purely for the sake of doing something for myself. I didn’t buy it to flex, have it as an asset, or because someone told me it would win me cool points (I seriously don’t need even more of them). I bought it out of my own love of watchmaking.
As I sit here writing this article, I can’t help but examine my Aquaracer and allow myself be transported back in time to my experiences with it. It’s funny, there’s a trope in watch collecting about how scratches add to the personality of a watch and tell its story. And there are a handful of scratches on my Aquaracer that remind me of how naïve I once was, and probably still am, and the collecting journey I’ve gone on since I bought it. In fact, one scratch on the clasp really jumps out at me. I had learned that you could remove scratches from a watch by gently scratching it with some high-grit sandpaper, so I decided to test it out on my Aquaracer’s clasp. To my surprise, it worked brilliantly. After some light polishing, the clasp looked brand-new.
Then I noticed a scratch on the side of the clasp, so I took my sandpaper to it and did the same thing; only this time I ruined it. The reason being? The clasp sides are polished while the top is brushed – not something I would ever consider paying attention to at the time, so I inadvertently destroyed the side of the clasp. After some worry and panic, I managed to somewhat restore the side of the clasp by polishing it with some different grit nail files that my mother had in her bathroom, and so the remnant of that episode looks back at me like someone telling me, “I told you so.”
In contrast to that haphazard attempt at maintenance, I now store my watches on a watch stand on my bedside table when I take them off at night. I wrap them up in toilet paper if I leave them in the open for whatever reason, and at the slightest knock I immediately inspect them, like a doting mother checking to see if her child is ok when they trip and fall. Again, everything about this Aquaracer, from its scratches to the dent on its case at 9 o’clock, reminds me of the original love I felt for watch collecting and watches in general. It allows me to rediscover the love for watchmaking that I share with my younger self, and reminds me that I probably shouldn’t worry about keeping my watches as pristine as I do.
Besides my own emotional connection with the Aquaracer, it doesn’t hurt that it is quite an attractive watch, at least in my opinion (and I’m right). Sized at 41 mm and made of stainless steel, it is powered by the automatic Calibre 5 movement and features an appealing silver dial with a horizontal guilloche engraving that adds a subtle touch of elegance to an otherwise utilitarian design. Framed by a stainless steel uni-directional bezel that mixes brushed finishing with polished tabs that punctuate its circumference at 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55 minutes, the Aquaracer is a pure dive watch at heart. Nonetheless, it has been a fantastic companion of mine no matter what I needed it to do, whether that was accompanying me to college, work, a swim, or the general trials of life. Whenever I needed it, it was always ready and rearing to go.
My TAG Heuer Aquaracer holds a special place in my heart, not just for its aesthetic allure but for the profound personal significance it carries within my watch-collecting journey. As I glance down at it on my wrist as I write this article, I can’t help but look at it like an old friend whom I have always been able to trust. I am reminded of my watch-collecting journey from its adolescence to its now slightly older adolescence (I’m still young, ok?) and the countless memories that I have shared with it.
I know it might seem a bit cliché, but it’s more than a watch – it’s a companion that embodies the essence of my 18-year-old self and the beginning of a journey that has ultimately resulted in me having the career I currently have as a watch writer writing this very article. And so now it can consider its impact on you, if there was one, as part of its journey too.