Crazy for Calypsomatics

You might be saying to yourself, “A Titus Calypsomatic… what the heck is that?” Hey, I’d never heard of one either until I met David. You see, as much as he’s known for being @watcheswithpatina on Instagram – one of the friendliest, most respected vintage dealers out there – he’s probably better-known for being the passionate collector who brought these obscure diving watches to the surface. With the siren call so seducing to chase after brands like Rolex, Omega or Heuer, it’s easy to forget there’s other fish in the sea…

Even David can’t resist the allure of possessing a mega-Rolex (his grail watch is a Ref. 6538 “James Bond” Submariner). But the reality of collecting Rolex “Big Crown” Subs is a fantasy (affording just one is a tall order). Fortunately for David, Titus Calypsomatics came into his life five years ago. And while not a 6538, 6200 or 5510 in body, they are in spirit… Look no further than Titus’s version of a crown logo, a laurel wreath, a symbol signifying the Calypsomatic is a winner (certainly in David’s eyes).

As many great watch stories go, this one starts on eBay. David was searching for vintage dive watches when low and behold a Calypsomatic popped up (at the time he didn’t really know much about them – having only had a brush with one on a military watch forum.) This particular Calypsomatic passed David’s eye test, which first and foremost meant it was drenched with patina. He decided he’d try and snag it…

When the auction was winding down (T minus 2 minutes…) David was in the middle of dinner with friends. If his friends were like you or I, he would’ve invited them to join in the last-second drama. But his buddies were more interested in the NBA Playoffs on TV, so David excused himself and ducked into the men’s room. Now, this being a Titus, he wasn’t sure what to pay… With only a few ticks remaining, he entered a max bid he could live with – hoping to snipe the watch. David confessed to me, “If I had lost to a higher bid I don’t think I would’ve been that upset because I didn’t know how great the watch was until I got it in my hand.”

Going after this watch wasn’t a speculative move (there’s never been whispers of Titus becoming the next Universal Genève). David just happened upon an off-brand diver that simply spoke to him aesthetically. He also didn’t need a week on the wrist to become hooked. From the first time he held it – rotating the thick, untouched case between his fingers and angling the glossy dial back and forth in the daylight – he could tell the bones of it contained the DNA of a classic ’60s dive watch.

Besides the recessed, gilt text and the rivet bracelet, this Ref. 7985 (the fifth-generation of the model David later determined) was saturated with vintage charm. Really look at – and think about it – the way David did. Notice the “lollipop” style hour hand and hour markers (ahead of its time – before the Tudor Ref. 76100 made it en vogue). And like so many famous divers, this Calypsomatic has a red accent too – courtesy of the date wheel, which on even dates hits you with a splash of blue (to see this, zoom in on the insane collection shot below. Top row, second from left).

David saw something in this watch that 99.99% of watch guys missed because he was focusing on its design and following his heart (i.e., he looked past the name on the dial and saw the watch for what it is). When I asked him what he likes most about Calypsomatics, he half-joked, “Nick, to make our conversation shorter, you should ask me what don’t you like about this watch?” I guess that explains why David has over two dozen. With great humility, he says he’s, “unofficially the biggest collector of this model.” I think it’s safe to say he is the world’s #1 collector (and well-deserving of this title). Of course, he still wants a Rolex Big Crown. But for the foreseeable future, Calypsomatics are the next best thing for David. They remind him of a 6538 without trying to imitate it – just very well-executed watches (from the same era) that use similar parts he loves (we love), like a no crown guard case with a monster crown.

Very little information is publicly available about Titus. David, being the upstanding watch community citizen he is, is planning to do something about this… Before the year is up, he plans to share his vast Calypsomatic knowledge with us in a comprehensive article on his website, watcheswithpatina.com, addressing among other things, the most frequently asked questions he gets through DM, email and text message. David is mostly self-taught, but his education also comes from comparing notes with other Calypsomatic-heads. A teaser to his write-up: Consensus opinion among Calypso nerds is that it likely hit the market in ’61 or ’62 (with first-generation models having radium-lumed dials) and continued through the ’70s.

As David dove deeper into collecting Calypsomatics, he was searching for a first-generation example – a Ref. 5913. He knew of one owned by a fellow collector, whom he credits with being at the forefront of recognizing the greatness of Calypsomatics. (David claims to know the whereabouts of every Calypsomatic that’s ever surfaced. And knowing David, I don’t doubt this one bit.) The first-gen that this gentleman owned happened to be quite the Calypso… It was near mint, all original, accompanied by the box it was sold in (the instruction booklet too) and an original advertisement (truly a Unicorn of a watch). David had to let him know, “If the day ever comes when you sell this, please consider me…” Well, one day David got a phone call and heard the words, “I think it’s time…” This was music to his ears. How he got his grail.

Ironically, his grail is not his favorite. Asking David to choose his favorite Calypsomatic is a lot like asking a parent to pick their favorite child… Impossible to do. Like children, David loves his Calyspomatics unconditionally (or rather, battle scars and all). But since these are just watches, I made him tell me which one he liked the most – the one he’d never let go of. He says it’s his first, the eBay Calypso, because it most closely resembles a Big Crown (his favorite watch of all time). But, I also believe his first is his fave because it’s the one that got his feet wet – eventually sweeping him out to sea. David only staying afloat by finding more Calypsomatics…

To get in touch with David, email watcheswithpatina@gmail.com

*all photography courtesy of Mr. David Kim

2 thoughts on “Crazy for Calypsomatics

  1. Great write up and fun read. I’ve had some brief interactions with David, and he has always been more than kind in sharing his knowledge. I’m currently on my 4th Calypsomatic. Two are now with friends, and a third went to someone who caught the bug.

    Like

    • JZ,

      Thanks for your comment 👏🏼 I love hanging out with David! Listening to him (and watching him) as he talks vintage is a treat 🙂 Easy to catch the Titus bug around him!

      Like

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