Meandering Man: Spying the Oris Aquis Date Up Close
So many ways to begin a post like this, so I’ll just start with a confession.
This blog installment will feature an intense, geeky, up-close, deep dive into one of my obsessions. And a look at how I indulge that obsession, when I can, on the road for work travel.
If you care at all about watches — as a lot of guys (and gals) do — you’ll get it.
If you don’t, and are after a nice, concise travelogue of my weeknight in Los Angeles, I book-ended my day of work meetings, followed by watch-gazing with stops at a great sushi joint, microbrewery and French wine cafe in Redondo Beach. I’ll share that, too.
And if you don’t care at all for yummy food, great beer and fine wine, well… wait for my next post on having too many artificial Christmas trees in the basement.
Seriously. 😉 OK. Buckle up.
Watch Caught Your Eye? See it “In the Metal”
Where I hang my hat, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see some of the watches I’ve got my eye on up close and on wrist. I’ve snobbed my way out of the mall watch bracket, I guess. And the closest authorized dealers for Tudor, or Omega, or Breitling, or Nomos, or Bremont — to name a few — are states away, at least.
So I try to take advantage of any spare hours I find on work trips to look up a few reputable ADs in the vicinity, and spend a little “me” time gazing at these beauties up close.
I do realize there is some inherent nuttiness (crippling depression?) in that last sentence. But: moving on.
On a trip to Hong Kong last month, I tried to make the most of my time in one of the best watch cities in the world by scoping out the two watches currently topping my next-to-acquire list: the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono and the Oris Aquis Date. There’s, like, dozens of shop, even listed on the brands’ store finders, so they had to know what they were doing, and have the model I wanted in stock, right?
Well, maybe not so much.
I wound my way through the crowded streets of Wan Chai after work and into a few dealers. One on the main drag had an Oris Aquis Clipperton Limited Edition in stock, and brought it out for me to inspect. Something looked off about it — though, admittedly, I’d never seen an Aquis “in the metal” as the trade publications call it. And this is why you make that effort: the bezel seemed to have the indices painted on, and the triangle at the 12 o’clock pip seemed too wide, sloppy. The watch gave off plenty of bling, but not in a way that seemed to match the endless pictures I’d pored over in Zen Love’s thorough review of the Oris Aquis Date on A Blog To Watch. It was also the Clipperton, so it had a solid case back and I couldn’t check out the actual movement inside.
But the salesmen said they had an Aquis Date at one of their sister stores, and could have it there for me the next night. He made me an offer right there — I borrowed his calculator to type in the exchange rate (which I looked up in-store) and saw that he was marking it down to $1,100 USD from its list of $2,000. And then he asked me to make a deposit.
So, if you’re scoring at home (or even if you’re alone) that’s strikes two and three for probable authenticity. I let him know that I wasn’t putting money down on anything until I could look at it personally, made some vague assurances that I’d be back after work tomorrow, didn’t leave my number or email, and I headed out into the night never to return.
Instead of a missed opportunity, though, what I had was a firsthand experience in dealing with a probable fake watch, and some newfound confidence that my hours and hours of research were suitably arming me for future negotiations.
Fast-forward a month later and I’m in Los Angeles for a couple days of work meetings. I had a night free to myself and I dutifully hit the Oris store finder and found several locations near Torrance, where I was staying, and farther up the coast. Although the Feldmar Watch Company, a dozen or so miles up on Pico Boulevard, definitely had the wider selection, I had my eye on the neighborhood Jared up the street on Hawthorne. Although I’ve long made fun of Jared commercials and generally look down on if not outright distrust the mall-type jewelry stores, I’m glad I stopped in.
Just Some Dudes Talkin’ Watches
I ended up chewing the fat with a few salesmen and saleswomen, especially Joshua, who was only too proud to tell me that the Jared on Hawthorne in Torrance had been touted for being #1 in customer service out of all the brand stores in the USA. Well, OK, then!
Who am I to argue? I had a great time talking about my Hong Kong misadventure, as well as hitting them with the knowledge I’d acquired about Oris as a brand, the Aquis in particular, and some of the other brands they carried, including Hamilton, Tissot and Bulova.
We weren’t dipping into the deeper waters of haute horology here. Still, it was great to haul out the watches and compare notes on the ones we obsessed about, whether that was a series of music box Tissots (collect ’em all!) another salesman had his eye on, or the skeletonized Tissot Joshua is saving up for.
As for the Aquis Date, a couple quick looks told me I had the real deal in my hand, as opposed to my Wan Chai shopping expedition. The bezel clearly had enameled indices, and not cheap paint. And it turned with a firm 90 clicks, rather than the silky 60 of my Tudor. The blue dial with its sapphire crystal dome shimmered and swirled in the light. Part of the reason I’m after this diver is to give myself a solid, daily wearer on a bracelet that I could feel comfortable swimming with (giving it a thorough rinse) or wearing to a work meeting. Its striking, modern array with the practical, unadorned small date at 6 firmly set its hooks in me after I tried it on and kept sneaking peeks at it, and the reliable ETA movement had the right finishing visible through the clear caseback.
They were impressed I already knew all about the Carl Brashear bronze diver (inspired by the man Cuba Gooding played in A Man of Honor), and could school them on the Hamiltons they didn’t have in stock (like the Jazzmaster Regulator, or the World Time with its globe dial, or the watch made famous on Interstellar), or the Bulova moon watch, or its throwback cousin in the Archive series, the Chronograph C. Eventually, I was liking these guys so much I began texting my wife: “Help me get out of here???” followed by “merry hard earned bonus??????” To which she dutifully replied: “No you may not.”
So I left with Joshua’s card. After dutifully sharing my info in their database under “Colt’s Next Watch,” and dealing, only a little, and scheduling a call back. I’ve had some luck developing relationships with ADs in other states: if they can get what I want, and at a fair price, I definitely shop around. At this level of watch, in all honesty, and with the ubiquitous ETA movement, I’d probably recommend buying from the gray market at 25% to 35% discounts — if it’s available — knowing you can always return it and/or have it inspected or serviced just about anywhere. But relationships matter a great deal, and if the price is right, Joshua has himself a deal and I’ve got my next watch locked up.
And a great time talking watches to boot.
Noshing in Redondo Beach
After my watch side trip, it was time to Uber back to the hotel and scoop up my colleague, John Akin. As a man of the world — and native Californian — John was only too happy to back off his mission to have Mexican for every meal while in L.A. and scope out a great sushi restaurant for dinner.
We ended up hitting the FlyinFIN (4+ stars on Yelp) on this great little strip of bars and restaurants and shop on South Catalina Ave., a block or so from the ocean in Redondo Beach. The FIN was at a temporary lull around 7 p.m. — which felt late to my Central time zone orientation, and John’s East Coast inner clock — but we were famished after multiple meetings that day. So, being two dudes on a culinary expedition, we loaded up our little table with tall Asahi and Sapporo bottles, nigiri, three specialty rolls encompassing my usual checklist of spicy tuna, shrimp tempura and unagi, and possibly the world’s best uni — Santa Barbara Uni — which was going for $15 for two pieces.
Finer things, right?
Although we’d done a great job stuffing ourselves to the gills, so to speak, ending the night by eating mashed sea urchin balls is not really a showstopper. And the couple blocks on South Catalina were loaded with options.
So, next we grabbed microbrews at King Harbour Brewing Co. How can you go wrong with draft IPAs, Thursday night football on the tube, and some friendly conversation with a couple who work as wine ambassadors. We traded stories about (arguably) the finest French wine in the world — Domaine de la Romanée-Conti — which I’d discovered in a book detailing the real-life plot to poison the most famous vines in Burgundy, Shadows in the Vineyard, which may have a Hallmark-Channel title, but is loaded with details and true, journalistic coverage; as well as Akin’s reveal that basically his whole family had worked in the wine industry at some point or other; and his probably accurate theory that French winemakers with Sonoma grapes would engineer undoubtedly the best blend you’d ever taste.
Let’s see about making that happen.
The wine talk was so stimulating we had to check out the French cafe across the way. I had the utmost faith in Akin at this point, so he chose the bottle and the cheese board, all while speaking French, and we split the red and traded work gossip, stories of our families, and John even plotted out a future trip to Italy for my wife and I. Thanks, buddy!
All good evenings must come to an end: especially with a 2:30 a.m. dash to LAX in my near future, and the body clock registering after midnight, Central. But it sure beat crackers and Keurig in the hotel room, and armed me with some more knowledge on watches, and sushi, and craft brews and French wine. Not a bad Thursday night travelogue for this meandering man.