Watches I Love by Tim Mosso – Part 1: How I Got Into Watches and My First Watches
by Tim Mosso
Of all the questions I’ve been asked by other watch collectors, the most personal is the one I’ve never answered in full. “What kind of watches do you like?” is a straightforward query that manages to become a rabbit hole for any watch collector older than 20.
My fortieth birthday awaits in 2024, so if I’m ever going to answer this question, I had better do it before the list grows too long or the memories run too short.
Please understand that several of the photos in this meandering reminisce were never intended as anything but personal keepsakes, so if a few images aren’t studio quality, quel dommage.
And because your time is precious, I’ll unpack this three-stage drama as a series, so read the installments at your leisure.
Like virtually every watch enthusiast who’s ever lived, I had an early and irrational attraction to timepieces. Armitron, Casio, Timex – it didn’t matter. I begged and borrowed these from friends and relatives from at least second grade.
My grandfather understood this, so he gave me a special Timex acquired by hoarding box tops from Wheaties, Shredded Wheat, and other soul-killing cereals loved by grandparents and loathed by grandkids.
I can’t tell you what became of that watch, but the circumstances of its procurement and Grandpa’s kindness are seared into memory. Not only did he think kindly of me, but he endured wheat cereal without frosting so I didn’t have to.
By age 14 (1998) the watch bug endured sufficiently that my parents saw fit to buy me my most enduring Christmas gift to this day: a Casio G-Shock.
Behold its noble purity, grace of ages, and… putrid condition.
A dog wouldn’t touch this thing. My Mom finally banished this watch from my wrist following its terminal career as a gym timer.
That Casio served me well through middle school and high school. I wore it to debate tournaments, while editing the school newspaper, and during the absurd battery of standardized tests that can feel like make-or-break moments in the lives of young people.
And, to Casio’s credit, that watch answered the call of duty and returned to action for my stint in U.S. Navy OCS in 2009. In retrospect, I wore the G-Shock during some of the most important moments of my teenage life and brought it back for a tour of duty during the toughest challenge of my 20s. It was a dependable friend.
Back to high school for a moment…
By my junior year in high school, I’d finally realized that “watch collecting” was more than a vague impulse or behavioral compulsion; there was a whole sub-culture of people obsessed with the idea. For this, I credit the early stirrings of the online watch community and the kind of magazine-rack obscurities that most convenience stores know better than to stock.
Grandpa’s watch dial
But more than anything, it was the sudden resurfacing of my grandpa’s retirement gift from Remington that vaulted watches to the forefront of my teenage mind. Grandpa had passed away on a road trip in 1996, and while I knew that he wore a serious watch, nobody in the family seemed to know what became of it. At least, nobody knew until I found the watch in a drawer of junk in 2001.
The watch was small, beat up, and made of “rolled gold,” but it was also mechanical, an Omega, and, above all, it was Grandpa’s watch. That became both my first fine wristwatch and my first “never sell” watch.
GRANDPA’S WATCH REVERSE
Even today, when I hold that heirloom, I sense echoes of the surging excitement it brought me at the moment of discovery and the boundless appetite for knowledge that it inspired. Not only did that Omega make ‘Pa’s memory feel more real to me, but it drove me to read endlessly about watches.
I’ve recorded videos of more than 10,000 timepieces to date: Greubel, Journe, Dufour… everything. Perhaps once a year, I encounter a watch that makes me feel the electricity of Grandpa’s watch. It was that special in 2001, and it remains so.
By my senior year of 2002, I had become a regular lurker on community websites like Timezone, Chronocentric, and the earliest version of “The PuristS.” I had also become addicted to motorsports, including endurance sportscars and Formula One, which meant I was bombarded by Rolex ads.
An impressionable kid responds to that kind of pitch, but I also had a cool uncle who used his entire paycheck from a brief role in “The Natural” to buy a 16550 Explorer II. He showed me his Rolex – WITH TWO HOUR HANDS – and I was sold; I wanted a Rolex Submariner.
But I couldn’t afford a Sub. Or any Rolex. I had a backup plan: the original “James Bond” Omega Seamaster Diver 300M. And after inviting every second cousin, obscure uncle, and vaguely friendly neighbor within a block’s proximity to my graduation party, I had enough money to buy the 007 Seamaster Professional from one of the earliest online aftermarket dealers.
Not only did I get it 36% off list price, but it came with a full set, including a valid warranty filled by the original authorized dealer! It taught me an early lesson in the power of internet retail and the secondary market.
At the time, I had enough cash left to buy a laptop for college – which I did. Some of my relatives said I should have spent all of the dough on college supplies, but that laptop and everything else from college is now all landfill; I still have the Seamaster. He who laughs last…
The Omega was more than my door prize for missing the Submariner. Through online research and several trips to the local Tourneau, I’d become convinced that the Seamaster 2531.80.00 was superior in every way to the 16610 Submariner of the time. Bracelet, clasp, dive extension – even without the 007 link – the robust Omega won my heart because it felt like a bank vault compared to the contemporary Sub.
It felt like I had added a natural companion to Grandpa’s “Seamaster De Ville.” With two mechanical watches in hand, I’d officially become a “watch collector.”
I lived many lives with that Seamaster on my wrist. There was the summer after high school when I had the best watch by far among the sandwich staff at Goldie’s Deli. I wore it that July in D.C. to witness the USA’s thunderous Panoz Roadster defeat the Le Mans champion Audi R8 at the U.S. capital’s first motor race in decades. The diver was with me in college from the first week’s mandatory swim test to the day I heard Elie Wiesel speak at commencement.
That watch was an island of joy in the salt mines of my first lamentable job. And it was on my wrist the only times in my life I flew an airplane. I wore it during my Navy second class swim test, which makes my watch a “military used” Seamaster according to the unimpeachable honor code of eBay sellers.
After graduating college in 2006, I celebrated by purchasing a 1974 Bulova Accutron Spaceview from Time Source Jewelers in my hometown of Huntington, NY. It wasn’t high luxury, but it was vintage, cool, and I learned in the process that you can negotiate for a watch if you ask nicely and pay cash. But… mostly if you pay cash.
I also learned that neat watches have incredible power to captivate the imagination. No sooner had I left the shop with my caliber 214 Accutron than I found a crowd gathered around the then-new Ford GT supercar. The owner – perched over his exposed supercharged V8 – was holding court for a crowd of about a dozen riveted men.
Or at least he was until somebody noticed my $400 watch and went full Chernobyl over it. In an instant, the crowd was mine, and I was explaining the watch the way the driver had been talking about the car a moment before. The driver looked like his dog just died, and he stormed away in a huff.
It was stunning! An archaic Bulova upstaged a road legal race car. If I’d been more self-aware or socially conscious at age 22, I wouldn’t have waited until age 30 to start writing and talking about watches for a living. Still, that day at the curb left me with an impression I never forgot.
I spent the next three years learning that I didn’t want to become a mortgage securitization attorney. And because young people are fond of career non sequiturs, I commissioned as a Naval officer. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and not because it worked out as planned from day one.
In the end, I found my voice working with Navy Public Affairs. For the first time since college, I was able to hone my writing skills in military publications and local newspapers. I began speaking publicly to journalists, tour groups, and visiting uniformed dignitaries.
I did my best to make mission statements, esoteric training agendas, and engineering jargon emotional, accessible, and immediate to outsiders. Military aviation public affairs in my 20s became a kind of boot camp for the life I’d live explaining watches in my 30s.
During my Navy years in West Florida, I re-engaged with the watch community. New forums and message boards, online journals, and brand-run websites had exploded while I was focused on mortgages and the military. Online resources for watch collectors – especially younger collectors – had finally come of age.
I budgeted, swallowed my doubts, and bought my first haute horlogerie watch, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme World Alarm Tides of Time.
Billy Joel and I hail from the same patch of north shore Long Island, so it’s no coincidence that I ordered the JLC from the same Manhasset “Miracle Mile” retail strip of which WMJ crooned in “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” London Jewelers had the aging inventory, the motivation to move it, and a weirdo ready to send a wire from a Naval installation in the Redneck Riviera.
A deal was made, and it stands as my only transaction to date with an authorized dealer. Even at 32 percent off, the five-figure purchase price felt heart-stopping for a first-timer playing in this league.
Like all unseasoned collectors, I jumped into the flames with more enthusiasm than sense. The history of the JLC brand, the huge number of features on the “World Alarm,” and the insane boxed set had me seeing stars.
Never mind that the watch was 46.5mm in diameter, as thick as a brick, and incompatible with any service uniform I owned. It was awesome, it was exotic, and it was mine.
While I wouldn’t purchase anything remotely this fine for the remainder of my Navy days, I knew for a fact what I wanted to do when those days were done.
That’s a tale for the next installment of this series.
For now, let’s linger in the summer of 2010. As that box lay on my desk, I was naïve, manic, and hanging on every second of the experience. But even then, I knew enough to document that momentous day. Join me in reliving the joy of unboxing that first watch.
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