Writing an article about your personal love for watches can be difficult. There is simply too much to talk about to fit into one article. Watches can inspire days and days of conversation. How can you fit all that into a short personal piece without telling long stories? I guess I’ll just start at the beginning and see where it ends up, just like with my love for watches.
The Watch That Started It All
Like in so many watch stories, my dad is responsible for my love of mechanical watches. He laid the groundwork for my passion 11 years before I was actually born. In 1966, my dad was in his early twenties and was sent to Bedford, England for what was his first project for his first employer. Over the three months he spent there, my dad was able to save some money, and when he came back to the Netherlands, he used his first paycheck to buy a nice watch.
He decided to spend his 200 Dutch guilders (roughly 90 euros) on an Omega Seamaster DeVille. He chose the hand-wound version of the Seamaster DeVille because it was thinner than the automatic version, making it easier to wear. And he wore it a lot. It was the watch I saw my dad wearing every day when I was growing up, and it has, therefore, become one of the memories of my dad that has always stuck with me.
Back Out of the Drawer
In the early 1990s, he stopped wearing the watch after wearing it almost religiously over a period of 25 years. The problem was that he had never had it serviced and, over time, the watch gave up on him. My dad then left it in the drawer of his nightstand for years. Just before my dad retired a little over ten years ago, my mom and I made a little plan to have the watch serviced and bring it back to life as a nice gift from my brother and me for his retirement party. I still remember the look on his face when I gave him back his own watch. He was surprised and moved that we had taken the time to revive the watch he loves so much. I will never forget that moment, and my dad continues to wear the watch regularly to this day. I hope that I too can wear my dad’s Omega Seamaster DeVille one day because that would mean a lot to me.
As far as my own choice of watches, I vividly remember wearing several Swatch models in my younger days. I can still recall taking forever to decide which would be my first Swatch at twelve years old in 1989. There were just too many to choose from, and I didn’t want one that someone else already had. It drove my mom insane, but in the end, I was perfectly happy with my Swatch Bar Oriental. I loved that watch a lot and, in the process of writing this article, I had to rediscover which Swatch actually was my first. When I found out, it only made sense that there is a drummer on the strap, as my biggest passion in life is music. Somehow, I had already connected the dots as a twelve-year-old boy, and music still plays a big part in my life to his day.
Passion is Contagious
After wearing several Swatch watches, I wasn’t all that interested in watches for a long period of time. Instead, I developed other passions in sports and music. It wasn’t until I met Fratello Watches founder Robert-Jan Broer that my love for watches was renewed. Robert-Jan and I became good friends while living in the same building. After moving in in 2003, we quickly found out that we share the same story: both of us have parents that own Omega watches. One thing led to another, and we started talking more about watches.
Robert-Jan’s knowledge and passion for watches are to thank for rekindling my own interest in watches and brands that I had seen and heard of but didn’t really know that well. That’s when I started reading about watches, meeting other watch enthusiasts through Robert-Jan, and getting to know all the brands producing these technical marvels that somehow carry a great deal of emotion with them. That is what makes the world of watches so fascinating to me.
To this day, it’s the emotion or story behind a watch brand that often serves as the foundation of a lot of talks Robert-Jan and I have. We share a love for high-quality products with a genuine story behind them that you can connect to. Those stories can be built on a brand’s history, the technical excellence, the design, or perhaps even a personal story from your own life. As long as it’s genuine and not just product that tells time with some made-up stories to make it look good. I hate the business of just selling an image instead of selling a good story and then pairing an image with it. Obviously, selling products based only on an image can be highly successful. I know this from experience, as I create strategies and identities for brands to be successful in the retail environment as my day job. However, that experience has only strengthened my belief that if there is a lack of substance, chances are that people will not connect to a brand for the long term.
As a part of an industry that thrives on technological excellence and has hundreds of years of history, watch brands have a great opportunity to create genuine connections with people that love watches. Unfortunately, that’s where I think a lot of watch brands are lacking. I feel that making a connection is essential, especially since watch sales have been declining over the last couple of years and most consumers do not buy a watch every other week. That means you have to find a way to their hearts. This is where a lot of brands are coming up short. Most of the messages brands are sending focus on pushing an image with the conservative conviction that people will latch on to it because the brand is regarded as an absolute authority. This isn’t a successful strategy for today or tomorrow’s world.
That being said, there are also brands that do understand what makes this world of watches the amazing industry it can be. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of them are large, successful brands with a great history. Obviously, my love for Omega is nearly endless because my dad owns one and one of my best friends is also one of their biggest fans. Beyond that, Omega also understands what it means to create stories that make sense and pay respect to their past. At the same time, the brand is taking technological steps forward. Their latest example is the recently introduced Omega Seamaster 300M. It’s the perfect example of respecting the design and story of the original version while still taking huge steps technically to meet today’s standards.
Big and Small Brands
Another brand I have come to respect a lot is Seiko. The amount of time, expertise, and absolute passion for watches put into their timepieces is extraordinary. It doesn’t matter if your watch cost 500 euros or 10,000 euros: each is made with the same craftsmanship and respect for their heritage. People who say that the Grand Seiko is just another Japanese watch just don’t get it. It’s not even about those people: it’s about the person who actually does appreciate your choice to buy a Grand Seiko because they understand the story behind it.
A third brand I love is Rolex. It’s pretty ridiculous how many iconic watches they have created over the decades. The thing I especially love about Rolex is how their designers have been able to create watch designs that immediately feel like true classics. When looking at many other sports-watch designs, I almost always find something that feels unnatural and that I dislike. However, in my opinion, Rolex has created numerous sports watches with quintessential sports-watch designs, such as the Submariner, the GMT-Master, the Sea-Dweller, and the Yacht-Master. When combined with their technical excellence, it is no surprise they have become the world’s biggest luxury watch brand.
In addition to the big brands, I also love smaller brands that push the boundaries of watchmaking and watch design. High-end brands like MB&F, HYT, and Urwerk are doing just that, and that’s why I look forward to each of their new releases. I also love checking out brands like SevenFriday or Linde Werdelin, who base their philosophy more on outstanding design and create watches that stand out from the crowd. There’s one final brand I’d like to mention that I have a special connection with, namely Grönefeld. It’s amazing to see two guys from my hometown, Oldenzaal, being so successful and making an incredible name for themselves in the watch industry. It’s the same town my parents continue to live in as well. I will visit them soon and hopefully talk with my dad about his Omega Seamaster Deville and discuss my latest purchase… a Swatch Bar Oriental.