Getting Through The Great Lockdown Of 2020: A Collector’s Guide To Solitude
You don’t need me to tell you, watch enthusiasts: these are tough times. People around the world are fighting for their lives against the novel coronavirus, and far too many have already lost the battle.
At the same time, many others, from health care professionals to grocery store clerks to long-haul truckers, continue to put their health on the line to tend to the ill and to ensure the delivery of essential goods and services.
As for the rest of us, for at least a while, all we need to do is stay put! However, that too comes with a great cost; I’m certainly not about to minimize the challenge that it poses for the millions who are losing sorely needed income and I earnestly hope that governments around the world will move rapidly to provide the required economic relief to those in need.
But even for those of us fortunate to have sufficient resources to ride out the storm, there is the issue of unexpected immobility and isolation – and perhaps the tendency to allow a bit of self-pity to sneak into one’s thinking from time to time. As with many other challenges in life, however, there is one sure-fire solution for that specific problem: watches!
Sometimes, you need to laugh – or you’ll just cry
Here in California at press time, we’re in the second week of a strict “shelter in place” order that limits travel outside the home to essential activities such as food shopping with the occasional addition of a bit of solitary exercise.
Just as necessity is the mother of invention, boredom is apparently the father of musing: a few days ago MrsGaryG asked me why I was wearing a particular watch, and our conversation soon turned to the somewhat whimsical idea of identifying which of my pieces might be best matched to each of several quarantine-related activities.
Let’s start with gardening – or at least with the non-dirty version of it that I practice, which amounts to pruning my garden of about 15 rosebushes early each season and clipping off the spent blooms during the remainder of the year.
For that I’ll pick the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus: I’m sure that it’s more than robust enough for this relatively easy outdoor action, and its metal bracelet means I won’t need to worry about a bit of perspiration as I go.
As long as we’re outside, perhaps a hike on the local trails? I haven’t been running since a fall from horseback in December bunged up my hip, but it’s now a fairly easy matter for me to leg out a couple of miles walking, wearing a piece like the Timex Marlin re-creation that both keeps me current on the time and reminds me of the days of my first-ever watch, an original-production Marlin that my dad bought me.
Enough of that healthy outdoor stuff, at least for now! Once back inside it will be tempting to peek at the latest news; for that I’d better fortify myself with a robust and distracting piece such as my A. Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite Tourbillon on its weighty gold bracelet, a watch that has stood the test of time, whose physical heft I find comforting, and one that puts me in mind of my many friends at A. Lange & Söhne and of the accomplishments of Walter Lange and Günter Blümlein in reviving the brand.
Quarantine or no quarantine, I spend a decent amount of time each week in my downstairs office photographing watches. And the past week has been no different. For that, there’s no better wristwear than the Ming 17.06 Monolith, a beautiful and comfortable wearer that also happens to be created by a team led by my photography teacher, Ming Thein.
A running joke between the two of us is that I signed up for a series of ten online photo lessons with him in 2010 and haven’t finished them yet – the current situation gives me the time to kick back into gear, though, and he and I are planning to pick up the thread later this week with (of course) a bit of new photographic equipment added to the equation.
Once I shoot, I must write! Heavy mental effort calls for a heavyweight piece, and were it not nestled securely and unreachably with most of my other pieces in an offsite vault, I might just pull out something like the Patek Philippe Reference 5370P with its darker-than-night, smoother-than-silk black enamel dial to inspire me and its split-seconds chronograph to provide distraction as needed.
Not surprisingly, more time at home with MrsG leads in turn to more opportunities to contribute to household upkeep and routine cleaning, with tasks like cleaning the cat boxes and re-arranging the refrigerator being added to my usual laundry, mail retrieval, and hot tub maintenance responsibilities.
It pays to keep a positive attitude during these activities in hopes of stimulating the elusive choregasm as a response, so I’ve made a practice of wearing a suitably sturdy yet aesthetically pleasing piece like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande GMT on its steel bracelet and checking it frequently as I go.
With restaurants closed for dining in and a bit of additional caution on our part when it comes to delivery and takeout, the result is a lot more meals to be cooked and eaten at home. For my low-value inputs to the food prep process as well as my more critical mixology duties in the designated Hubby Kitchen (basically, a really big wet bar) and for doing outdoor grilling, a daily wearer like the Hajime Asaoka Tsunami more than does the job of minding the time and brings a bit of visual pop each time I catch a glance.
Once the meals are done, I’m also the designated dishwasher in our house; for that, there’s no substitute for the vintage Omega Seamaster Ploprof 600m. I figure that if it’s rated to 600 meters, a few splashed suds won’t cause any problems.
When it does come time to venture out to the store, circumstances call for something rugged that can be swabbed down afterwards – in other words, perfect conditions for the Overseas Chronograph from Vacheron Constantin, which has the additional merit with its combination of steel case and titanium accents of matching the grey rubber gloves I keep in the car these days.
Back home, now that we’re cooped up we are watching more television in the evenings than our usual light load, and as most broadcasts do live up to Newton Minow’s “vast wasteland” description of the medium it’s useful to have a watch like the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire that provides a whizzing display on the dial side every eight seconds as distraction.
And if even that doesn’t work, a quick flip to the movement side generally does the trick!
For quiet reading, classic watches that are perhaps a bit too fragile for rough-and-tumble use come to the fore; in my case, a couple of prime examples are two vintage Patek Philippes: the Reference 2526 with its delicate black enamel dial and Reference 1526 perpetual calendar with its snap-back (and therefore not very water-resistant) case.
I’ve been pursuing research into our family’s genealogy for a number of years, and perhaps now is the time to try to wrap up as much of that as possible as we push to the limits of the available information on my forebears in Germany, East Prussia/Lithuania, Ireland, and even a branch through early Massachusetts that has a definite Mayflower flavor, much to my surprise and amusement.
Wish I’d known that when I was getting the cold shoulder living in Boston years ago! To get in the mood for this trip into the past, I’ll likely put on one of my grandfather’s pieces like the Hamilton Milton gifted to him by my mom.
I almost forgot work! There are still various phone calls and videos on the schedule despite the slowdown in business, and for those it can be anything that strikes my fancy, including a watch that perhaps graced the wrist of another businessman in its early days, my Vacheron & Constantin Reference 4560.
When the going gets tough, and until then
Of course, we’re all hoping that effective treatments for COVID-19 come sooner rather than later, and that a vaccine is identified and proven out more quickly than currently expected. In the interim, if and when things get truly tough in our household, I’ll be looking to one independent piece to help me as I focus my thoughts: the Philippe Dufour Simplicity.
For now, though, I hope that we’ll all keep an accent on the positive, as typified by another indie watch. Konstantin Chaykin’s Joker came at just the right time to buoy our spirits during a downturn in the watch industry, and that wacky face still has a lot to tell us as we face life’s ongoing challenges!
What watches are helping you to keep your spirits up during today’s challenging times? And are there pieces that have been particularly meaningful to you as you’ve dealt with tough situations in the past?
I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below – and I wish all of you, your families, and your friends the very best of health.