It wasn’t just about navigating these diverse landscapes; it was about finding a companion for my wrist that could keep pace with the ever-changing rhythm. As a dealer and someone who spends most of his waking moments thinking about watches and time in general these timepieces became more than just tools to measure the hours on the long haul flight from LAX to HKG. Picture the humid embrace of Tokyo, where the watch on my wrist wasn’t just a piece of metal; it was a connection to the beating heart of the city. Then, a swift jump to Paris, where each soirée demanded not just sophistication but a timepiece that could seamlessly blend into the elegance of the moment.
Of course I wore more than 3 watches in all of 2023 but as 2023 came to a close I started to think about the watches that meant the most to me this past year and I boiled it down to 3. These weren’t just devices; they were co-conspirators in a year-long adventure, each with a story as rich and diverse as the landscapes they graced. We’re not just diving into the mechanics or going deep into complications this is a reflection and a bit of a letter to the 3 lovers that I spent the most time with in 2023, the watches that etched into the very fabric of my experiences of 2023. Each watch became a tangible marker, a chronicle of moments that defined my year.
I found myself traveling extensively this past year; in fact, I flew over 450,000 miles and visited numerous countries in 2023, more than I could easily keep track of. Additionally, I discovered a need for a timepiece that satisfied my inner watch enthusiast while also proving to be a practical vintage watch capable of withstanding the heat and humidity of Tokyo’s summer and suitable for formal Parisian dinners, pairing well with a suit.
The watch that graced my wrist the most during my travels was a 1979 Rolex Explorer 1. This timepiece has been part of my personal collection for a little over a year, obtained from a fellow dealer friend. Interestingly, when I initially delved into watch collecting what feels like ages ago I think going on 14 years at this point, I wasn’t particularly drawn to the Explorer 1 or, specifically, the ref. 1016. However, as my career and passion for vintage watches, particularly vintage Rolex watches, evolved, I developed a deep appreciation for this timepiece.
What sets the Explorer 1 apart is its classic 36mm Rolex case size, typically associated with non-“Sports Models.” Simultaneously, it incorporates elements seen in Rolex sports models, such as a matte 3-6-9 dial and a Submariner-style handset. As a result, the Explorer 1 became a versatile timepiece, offering the most flexibility of a timepiece demanded by my travels and experiences throughout the past year.
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of vintage Cartier. Four years ago, I acquired a vintage Cartier Tank Louis Automatic, also known as the “jumbo,” and that was the watch that made me fall in love with Cartier. It pulled me into delving deeper into Cartier from a horological perspective.
“But wait,” you might ask, “the title said it was a Cartier Tank Louis ‘Extra Plat,’ and you are talking about a Jumbo?” Yes, that’s correct. After a few months with the Jumbo, it just never felt right on my wrist. I had this perception that Cartier Tanks were always small and insignificant, and the “jumbo” was meant to address this feeling of the tank not being substantial enough.
However, as is often the case, experience brings perspective. After finding a mint and complete Cartier Tank Louis Extra Plat Ref. 96019, originally acquired for the C + T collection, and not being able to take the watch off once it was on my wrist, I knew that this was the “tank” for me. “Extra Plate” translates to “Extra Thin,” and the thinness of the watch is what truly won me over. It resulted in a more wearable example of a tank, one that seems to effortlessly disappear while on the wrist, offering comfort and elegance without losing its substantiality. I wear this watch both formally and often more casually, paired with a custom black matte alligator strap on its original Cartier deployant buckle.
This is the watch that held great significance for me in 2023 which may surprise you as it’s not a rare Rolex or an elusive Cartier but one of the nicest Tudor black dial “snowflake” submariners I have ever comeacrsoss. With age, I find a growing appreciation for serendipity and sentimentality, especially in items like watches. They serve as powerful reminders, encapsulating moments and acting as markers of time, place, and personal experiences.
I came across this watch during one of our three trips to Tokyo in 2023, alongside my cousin and C+T partner, Tyler Vanes. Despite the trips blending together, they maintained a consistent pace and drive from touchdown to takeoff. In the course of these immersive journeys, Tyler and I work tirelessly until day’s end, fueled by our shared obsession. This relentless passion is what, I believe, enables me to endure the demands of extensive travel, jet lag, and a departure from the traditional sense of “home.” Tyler and I deftly navigate shops, a skill honed through years of watch hunting and life on the road. The ability to sense the elusive “vibe” of a place, to “find it” before it’s even seen, is a defining factor—one that can’t be taught. One evening, as we were wrapping up, we unexpectedly found ourselves in a section of Nakano Broadway, Tokyo, filled with “antique collectibles” and vintage “Americana,” stumbling upon a shop that seemed out of place without any distinct “vintage watch” vibes, especially from an external perspective. Likely tired, hungry, and running on espresso-fueled caffeine highs to combat jet lag, there was a magnetic pull into this particular shop, That “Just one more shop” feeling. Upon entering, we discovered a case with watches and vintage watch memorabilia, a rare find. Among the ten or so vintage watches, the standout was a 1977 Tudor “Snowflake” Submariner ref. 94010 with a black dial. The watch, seemingly simple yet inherently complex, possesses that unmistakable “if you know, you know” factor so much so that it became the primary watch I wore at Rollie Fest this year. When I wear this timepiece, it prompts reflections on the growth of our little company, the adventures and opportunities that this passion has afforded, and the joy of sharing it all with people I love and admire.
So, here’s to the watches that stood by me, ticking through the chapters of 2023. May their stories continue to resonate in the silent moments, reminding me that time isn’t just measured in hours but in the myriad of experiences that make life truly timeless. As the clock resets, I eagerly anticipate the unwritten tales that the next set of timekeepers will etch into the canvas of my journey.
Until then, may your own moments be filled with the enchantment that only the ticking of a well-loved timepiece can bring. Here’s to a new year, new adventures, and the timeless beauty of a life well-lived.
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