We’re fans of vintage watches here at HoM, not for any obsessive collector reason, but simply because like many other objects from the past (think cars, furniture, etc.) there is beauty and style, in many of them that exists to a lesser degree today. Price is also a factor: for far less than what a new watch from the same brand costs at a retail store (not counting highly collectible and rare pieces that are sold at auction), one can often find vintage watches that not only express a more individual style, but work as well, or in the age of smartphones as well as watch needs to work, as a modern timepiece. And a watch is still, in my view, one of the few items of jewelry a man can and should wear all the time, even if its function is questionable.
Rolex is a storied brand, better known for its functional watches of the second half of the 20th Century (many of which, such as early Explorers or Submariners) command far higher prices used (or at auction) than new, but some of the smartest watches Rolex made were the Bubblebacks—simple, elegant, and remarkably accurate, even seventy years on. They’ve increased in price from just a few years ago when one could pick one up for a thousand dollars or less (unrestored), but are still affordable, especially the steel models, such as Ken’s. This one, from the late 40s, is unrestored—the patina on the dial shows its age and gives it character—and the crack in the crystal (easily resolved by a replacement for fifty dollars or so) can perhaps represent the inherent imperfection in analog timekeeping. Paired with a horsehide leather strap, naturally aged, it is quite simply, elegant.