A big welcome to our newest contributor, Justin Mack! This will hopefully be the first of many posts bringing a new perspective to the Microbrand Watch World. I’m sure his story about his earliest watches will resonate with many of our readers. If you have any memorable stories about your first watch Please share them in the comments. – Editor
I don’t know that I’m a watch collector, but I’m certainly an enthusiast. There are blogs I read daily, and virtual window shopping I do nightly. I start reading with aBlogtoWatch, watching Urban Gentry and Chrono24 to shop. I brick and mortar window shop at our fine local store Orlando Watch Company. I’ve even attended events at the store. With this, I have a knack, a super power really. The gift I’ve been bestowed is to always find an item in a store I really like, only to find it’s the most expensive in the place. I can shop for jeans, then find a pair I really like but not see the $400 price tag attached. It’s the same for watches with me. I guess I have champagne taste on a craft beer budget. This doesn’t mean what I have is poor quality, far from it. I’m rather proud of what I have thus far. It started somewhere though, around 1981. Now I’m afflicted with looking people in the eyes, and then their wrists.
My first ever watch was a Dick Tracy digital gadget from 1981. I wore it proudly on the playground and each day at school. It was one of the first watches my friends and I had seen that made cool sounds and noises. I remember swinging on the jungle gym or monkey bars with this beauty strapped to my wrist. I do not recall the cost, but I remember the cool. Even the package was sweet! It was a rocket ship with a clear body revealing the black-banded gadget timepiece inside.
Photos from Hake’s Americana & Collectables
You know those moments in grade school (grammar school when I was there) when you’re the coolest kid for a few days for one reason or another? This watch bought me a whole week I think. It was rather large for a 6/7 year old, which helped attract even more attention. I don’t recall the music or voices it played. It was worn often, until it ran dead. I didn’t think to ask about a battery, so it was placed in some box in my bedroom.
By the time my gadget watch saw it’s perceived demise, I had a job believe it or not. At 10, I got a gig as a paperboy. Each weekday after school, I delivered to about 65 houses. On weekends, I did a few more homes, delivered in the morning. This afforded me a luxury at 10, an income. I then purchased a digital Timex watch that looked cool in the store. It took a licking and kept on ticking. I wore that for the next few years, but not daily. However, I believe I threw away or lost the Dick Tracy in 1986 when we moved from Illinois to Florida.
Middle school in Florida was a tough transition. One day I was a 6th grader in Illinois in a grade school. The next week I was in a middle school with classes, lockers and all sorts of crazy. My trusty Timex saw me through the bells, hallway shuffling and beating the clock to my next class. I even had an excuse to use the alarms on it. It was the first real time I needed to use them!
I didn’t wear a watch most of my freshman year. I’m not sure why, but I thought it was uncool. As a 13-year-old 9th grader I went to school with some 19 and 20 year olds (don’t ask) and I didn’t see many people wearing a watch. However, I saw some seniors wearing one. They were probably dealing drugs since these students wore suits, carried briefcases and had pagers. That wasn’t my thing, but I saw they all had gold watches. So, it was time to spend some of that money I’d earned over the years.
My mom and dad received mail catalogs often, as did everyone else at the time. I perused them often. After careful research through the few catalogs that had watches I viewed as nice, I spotted a beauty. On some random page of a random catalog I saw a gold cased Helbros moonphase with a brown leather strap. For a 14ish year old it was a sight to behold. It just looked neat; it had a moon on it! I spent the $30-$40 (don’t recall) or so on the watch. As soon as I saw it in person upon arrival, it became the daily wearer.
Photos courtesy of Cher Lones
As high school progressed, I was able to add another watch to the fold. When my dad was serving during Vietnam, he was stationed in Thailand. While there, he purchased a blue Seiko quartz watch, similar to a Seiko 5. He didn’t wear it often because of his vocation, so I was able to wear it from time to time. Of course, I had to ask permission each time, but I was never denied. Being able to have a selection each day was fantastic! By this time, I had a digital Timex, the Helbros and now the Seiko.
This combination saw me through school, but as college came my watch wearing became an afterthought. As my 20’s and 30’s went by, I picked up a timepiece here and there, but not wearing one daily, and sometimes not weeks at a time. I was really into the newer Timex Indiglo look for a while. So, what triggered the rekindling of the passion? It was a theft that did it. We were robbed while at work one day. Some watches were taken, including an heirloom piece my wife had. One of mine that was taken was the Helbros. I hadn’t worn it in years, but I still had it. Perhaps it was just a good memory. Maybe it took me back to a fun time. I’m not quite sure why, but I missed it when it was gone. Now, a few years later I have a small, frugal, yet personal collection. I haven’t made the leap to higher end pieces, but that’s probably forthcoming. The one that’s missing wasn’t taken in the theft, yet it meant the most. The Seiko went missing sometime after my dad passed away a few years ago. It wasn’t stolen; it just disappeared during my mom’s move. It may still be in a container or drawer, who knows. What I do know is that I’d love to see it on my wrist again.