Leap Day 2012 -- Wrist-Shot Wednesday, at Last

“Leap Day” (February 29th) is a special day that only occurs every four years.  Watch guys who own perpetual calendars marvel as the “29” arrives at midnight; 24 hours, they are even more impressed when the date moves to “1”.  This year, I marked Leap Day by playing hooky from work — traveling to New York City to take care of a couple of non-work related matters.  I mean, in most years (or 75% of them, to be precise), 28 days are enough for February, so I decided to end February 2012 on the 28th and declare the 29th to be a free day . . . off the calendar.

During the course of the day, I saw a “Watch You Wearing” message on our discussion forum, so I decided to take some wrist shots, all along the way.  [I usually don’t take wrist-shots, but maybe I will make an exception every February 29th.]

I began the day wearing the Chronomatic Autavia.  You see, I was carrying exactly 13 watches for the day, and the Chronomatic was the one that I decided to wear on my wrist, rather than packing it in the watch roll in the backpack.  I was confident that the other 12 would be secure, even as I went through airport security, but it still seemed more appropriate to let this special Heuer travel on my wrist.

Heuer Autavia Chronomatic

A Visit to the Hublot Boutique

My first watch-related stop of the day was – believe it or not – the Hublot Boutique, on Madison Avenue at 62nd Street.  The occasion for this visit was to see my friend, Rachel Branch, previously Senior Director of Public Relations and Education at TAG Heuer, and newly appointed as the Vice President, Sales and Marketing of Hublot of America, Inc.  Gabriel Rodriguez, Director of the Boutique, was kind enough to show me several of the watches, and we selected the Big Bang Red Magic for the wrist-shot.  I enjoyed wearing this chrono for a few minutes; it looks absolutely enormous compared with most of the vintage Heuers, but was very comfortable on the wrist.  The black / red theme is very well done, a bit more restrained than many of the models that we associate with the Hublot brand.  Think of it as Hublot’s homage to the Heuer Viceroy Autavia!

Hublot Big Bang Red Magic

Of course, if today will be the day of the wrist-shot, why not go for broke.  Why only take photos of my wrist when there are other wrists to be shot?  That said, here’s the photo of Rachel wearing her Big Bang Red Gold Ceramic chronograph, along with my Big Bang Red Magic.  [That’s right, Red Gold is a new gold alloy containing five percent platinum.]  I’ve got to say that for someone who had been on the job for exactly two months, Rachel has an excellent command of the watches (and a new-found familiarity with the periodic table of elements) and she does wear this Hublot well!

Hublot Big Bang -- Red Magic and Red Gold

I showed the folks at the Hublot Boutique my roll of old Heuers, and in the process made the switch from the Chronomatic Autavia to one of my all-time favorite Heuers, an early three-register, black-on-black  Carrera Reference 2447N.  This is an early model, with the polygon shaped case-back; later ones used a slotted case-back.

Heuer Carrera, Reference 2447 N

A Visit to the World Headquarters of Hodinkee

From Hublot, I headed south, to Greenwich Village, specifically to the world headquarters of my absolute favorite watch publication, the Hodinkee blog.  I am working on a project with Hodinkee that will be released soon, but as Ben [Editor of Hodinkee] and I were working on this project, I managed to find some time to try on a few of Ben’s favorite watches.

JLC Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931

First up was the JLC Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 U.S. Edition, offered last year as a limited production watch.  I had read the Hodinkee story about this watch, and received messages from Ben saying that for someone who might want only one Reverso, this should be “The One”.  Still, I will admit that I was skeptical about this watch.  As a something of a purist, I thought that I would have wanted my Reverso to be heftier.  It seemed to me that the thickness of the original Reversos was one of its most attractive features.  Despite these misgivings, I can now confirm that the Ultra Thin Reverso is an awesome watch on the wrist.  The shape and dimensions look just right, and the watch is beautiful . . . maybe the first that I have seen with faux patina.  The Ultra Thin Reverso is the one that Jay-Z selected for his recent concerts at Carnegie Hall; if I’m ever onstage there, I’ll make the same choice!!

JLC Grand Reverso Ultra Thin

LeCoultre Polaris

Another of Ben’s watches that got some Leap Day wrist time was an interesting vintage dive watch, a LeCoultre Polaris, from 1968.  I had read about these watches on Hodinkee, but these are very rare watches and I had never seen one in the metal.  For a 1968 watch, the Polaris is nothing short of huge, at 42mm; it is built like a tank, but has beautiful lines (at least for a tank).  The watch has an inner-rotating bezel (for minutes) and an alarm . . . thus the two extra crowns.   There are 16 holes in the back of the compressor case, to increase the audibility of the alarm under water.  So how’s that for mixing complications – diver, plus alarm, plus inner rotating bezel, with a date as well.   The design is timeless, and it looks as current today as it must have in 1968.  A fun watch to wear!!

LeCoultre Polaris

Zenith El Primero Striking Tenth Chronograph

Next on my wrist was another of Ben’s favorites, the  Zenith El Primero Striking Tenth Chronograph.  This is another watch that I had read about on Hodinkeee, and always wondered, “Why did Ben make such a big deal out of this watch?”  Vintage El Primero enthusiasts will quickly recognize that this chronograph was modeled after one of their all-time favorites — the one with the tri-color recorders.  But playing with the Striking Tenth chronograph for a few minutes showed me that this is more than just a re-issue of an old favorite.

This chronograph is completely different from anything in the current or historic world of chronographs.  The red sweeping hand (which is the chrono seconds hand on a “normal” chronograph) moves at six times the pace of a normal chorno second hand, so that it makes a revolution once every 6 seconds, rather than once every 60 seconds.  The inner bezel is marked in 1/10 seconds, and the chronograph seconds register is at 3 o’clock.  [For those wondering about the name “Striking Tenth”, Hodinkee offers the following explanation:  “The silicon clutch wheel has 100 teeth on it, which translates into 100 beats per the ten second rotation, or ten strikes per second – which provided Zenith with a little naming inspiration for this model.”]

Watching this chronograph start and run is a sight to behold.  Push to start the chronograph, and the second hand (or maybe we should say the 1/10 second hand) jumps away from its resting position.  And it seems to fly around the dial.  Stop the chronograph, and you see how easy it is to read the 1/10 seconds around the inner bezel.  Historically, this is one of the few chronographs to deliver the full bang of the El Primero movement.  But forget about history and technology.  This watch is fun to wear and even more fun when you are timing things (to 1/10 of a second)!  [Sorry — the wrist shown below isn’t mine, but you get the idea.]

Zenith El Primero Striking Tenths

Comparing the Carreras

As I mentioned, I am working with Ben on a project relating to vintage Heuer Autavias, and so we spent a lot of time chatting about and inspecting these watches.  We did take a break from the Autavia action, however, to compare a couple of black-on-black three register Carreras, shown below (mine on the left and Ben’s on the right).  I expect that Ben will be writing about his special Carrera, so I won’t go into any details.  Let’s just say that Ben made a fantastic buy on eBay, and he now has one of the coolest, oldest Carreras on the planet.

Heuer Carreras, Reference 2447N

Final Stop — Alltiques, in Chinatown

After visiting with Ben for a while, we headed to one of his favorite place to chase the vintage watches, Alltiques, a small booth in a jewelry exchange located in Chinatown (70 Bowery, NYC 10013).  As with most of these types of places, it’s all about the owner / proprietor, and John Criscitiello is no exception.  John knows and loves his watches, and he has an impressive variety of vintage watches on display (and in his safe).  They range from the least expensive “no name” watches to some high-end Rolexes and rare Cartier models, with lots of watches in between.  The common Seiko chronograph from the 1970s (est. $200) is in the same roll as the Patent Pending double red Sea-Dweller (est. over $100,000).  John collects and sells the watches that he enjoys, and looking though his watches was entertaining and educational.  Most of John’s watches are in “as found” condition, meaning no polishing or refinishing.  Being out of the “high rent district”, and a true enthusiast, John’s prices seemed reasonable.  After you finish at the usual places on 57th Street, jump down to Alltiques, and you will see some interesting watches.

My Last Wrist-Shot of Leap Day

My very last wrist-shot of February 29, 2012 was taken, not in New York City, but back home in Atlanta, shortly before the clock struck midnight.  There I was, in the same spot where I had put on the Chronomatic Autavia 19 hours earlier, but now putting a new strap on my oldest Autavia.  You see, I didn’t buy any watches during my Leap Day in NYC, but I found a great new source for straps.  You’ll be reading more about these straps soon, so stay tuned.

Heuer Autavia, First Execution Dial Heuer Autavia, First Execution (Strap)

Leap Day 2016!!

Leap Day 2012 was good fun, from beginning to end (well, at least I got past the 4:40 AM wake-up for the 7:40 AM flight).  While I have always shied away from the wrist shots, and only rarely taken a day away from work to play hooky, I have decided that Leap Day is the perfect occasion to break both rules.  And what better way to get the wrist shots and play hooky than with my good friends at Hublot and Hodinkee.

So I’m already looking forward to February 29, 2016, and will be planning to visit NYC.  See you there!!