Small Fish in a Big Pond


It's June and students are checked out waiting for summer break to begin. But here in Chicago, I'm not checking the expiration date on the sunblock in my bathroom cabinet just yet. You see in the Windy City, we flirt with warm sunny days this time of year, but milder temps are more the prevailing wind. However, the local weatherman and The Weather Channel App both forecast that this weekend Mother Nature is unleashing an unseasonable, record-breaking heat wave upon the Midwest - with feel like temps predicted above 100 °F (38 °C).

As I prepare to broil in the sun - watching my pasty skin turn the shade of a Maine lobster - I find myself really wanting a new watch for the summertime. Don't ask me why, I just do. And I have a pretty good idea of the watch I want to leave a watch tan on my wrist... I definitely need something sporty, yet classic. A watch whose DNA is amphibious (i.e., doesn't mind getting inadvertently sprayed by a garden hose and isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with a salty wave). Something preowned that's a little weathered and has a smidgen of patina - kinda like how a Florida retiree looks. The watch I want to take for long walks on the beach is an Omega Seamaster Professional 300M.

But of course being a watch nerd, I'm hunting for a very specific Seamaster. I'm kinda like a digger wandering the coast line waving a metal detector over the sand hoping to find a sunbather's left behind jewelry. Except I'm combing eBay listings hoping to find just the right mid/late 90s ref. 2551.80 midsize model. And since my ideal Seamaster will be damn near 20-years-old, I want one with a red second hand tip that's mildly sun bleached - to say an orange creamsicle tone - and with hour markers that look like sunny-side-up eggs.

Now some of my closest watch buds might be thinking I'm delirious and suffering from heat-stroke already. I can hear them now: "Nick, you want an Omega? But you're such a Rolex guy... why not buy a No-Date Sub for a summer watch... and if you want an Omega - dude buy a Speedy..." First let me say this: I am a Rolex guy - always have been, always will be. And I've never lusted after a Speedmaster - although every time I get up close and personal with a straight lug model, especially one with leaf hands or a lollipop second hand - I get weak in the knees.

If I'm being 100% honest with myself and my watch amigos, the Rolex references (and watches in general) that I connect with the most are models from the 90s - the decade I became smitten with watches. Now, I do talk a lot about buying a vintage Rolex, such as an Orange-Hand Explorer II. But if push came to shove - and I could only buy one Rolex at that price point - I'd probably opt for a white dial, L-serial Daytona and keep the change. Vintage watches are nice, but I can't so easily dismiss modern watches, especially those from the 90s. I have so many great childhood and early adult memories from that era - a simpler time I often wish I could relive. Wearing watches from that time period is the next best thing to having an actual time machine.

And let me get this off my chest... In my personal life - over the last five years - I'm guilty of being too concerned with fulfilling other people's - or society's - expectations of what I should like or what I should be doing for a living. Recently - before it was too late thankfully - I had an epiphany of sorts and decided to put more stock in that little voice inside my head instead of the peanut gallery. I'm gonna apply the same approach to watches: Just because a particular watch is trending on Instagram or bringing down the house at auctions - doesn't mean it's a shoo-in in my collection.

Which brings me back to my yearning for this Pierce Brosnan-endorsed Omega. I think I've been suppressing my feelings for it because it's not widely considered among the en vogue pieces of wrist wear to own today. Again, the elders of this hobby would probably advise me to buy a 60s Seamaster with a bakelite bezel. But is that what I really want? Besides really digging the skeleton hands and loving the idea of embracing a 36mm diving watch - one that actually proportionally fits my narrow, boney wrist - this is a watch I may very well have purchased back in day...

You're hearing it here first, but I vaguely remember strolling the mall with my Mom doing some back-to-school shopping and ogling the Omega display in a jewelry store vitrine (Rolex wasn't sold in my blue-collar, middle class mall). The blue tones stood out back then - and apparently have stuck in my mind ever since. At the time, this was an aspirational watch for me. And at a price point back then around $1700, it was more attainable than a comparable brand new Rolex. Had I not been fortunate to go to Paris in high school where the favorable exchange rate at the time allowed me to buy a Rolex - this might have been my first Swiss watch...

Right now in my life I can't spend five-figures on a Zenith Daytona - or even $4k on a No-Date Sub (I'm currently unemployed, so I need to be responsible). But around a thousand bucks for a late 90s Seamaster - I think I can swing that - and honestly enjoy wearing it just as much as the other two.

As my wife and I make plans to enjoy the smoldering weekend in Chicago - sipping Bubble teas and watching the America's Cup race take to Lake Michigan, I'm plotting to buy this watch. Hopefully it happens before the summer comes to a close. But even if I don't end up getting it until the fall or winter, I needn't look further than its wavy dial to think of blue waters to help me mentally escape Chicago's whipping winds and numbing cold. But also, its blue ripple dial and Royal bezel will help me think of all those memories from the good old days, like scoping watches in the mall as a teenager.