The process of selecting the right watch before going on a holiday, takes up more time than packing clothes into a suitcase. What more do you need than a few shorts, Polo shirts, linen pants and a pair of Tod’s when going on a two week holiday to Italy? This of course is my opinion and not shared by my wife.
The easy choice would be to go with a Rolex, as Italians seem to be born with one on the wrist. I remember going to Italy a few years ago, proudly wearing my Panerai Luminor Base. Touching base with the homeland of the officina, at least that is what I thought I would be doing. I seemed to be the only person in Firenze wearing a Panerai, other than the sales people in the Panerai boutique.
If I opt for a Rolex, I can go either vintage or modern, as Rolex aficionados put it. The problem with vintage would be that I wouldn’t trust it near the swimming pool. The downside to wearing a modern Rolex is that it is so common, I would be tripping over them.
So, after throwing enough Polo shirts, shorts, socks and shoes into the suitcase, and just as we were ready to go, I reached out for my Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ (ref.15202ST for those who are interested) and clasped it on my wrist before heading out the front door. I guessed that this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo would blend in well at the hotels we were booked into and the classy boulevards we were about to stroll down.
Fast forward one week. I am now in Italy, the place where it – more or less – all began for the Old World and I am flabbergasted by the number of Rolexes I am seeing here. Even more than I could remember from my last trip. I think I have seen every model from the current catalogue at least twice. What did surprise me, is that there are a lot of men wearing vintage Rolex as well. Submariner ref.1680s, Sea-Dweller ref.1665s and the classic Pepsi ref.1675 GMT-Master. However, taking a closer look at them, and the vintage models I’ve seen up for sale in fancy looking displays, I’ve realized one thing: they are all in crappy condition. As shiny and polished as the Italians want to look themselves (and I can assure you there is nothing wrong with that); they extend this desire to clothes, cars, and watches too. Even the vintage ones!
The magic in owning a vintage Rolex lies in the fact that it should be as ‘untouched’ as possible. The case of a Rolex has this great combination of brushed and polished facets. But the vintage Rolex models I’ve seen here are all polished (or brushed) in a way that some of the polished facets have disappeared. And once these are gone, it is very hard to recover them, if possible at all. Oh, did I already say that they DO ask the most ridiculous prices for them, despite these poor condition?
Distressing conditions aside, I do think it is great there are still so many of these watches around, having a proud owner. A place called Forte dei Marmi impressed me most by the number of cool (vintage) watches. An expensive place with a lot of pricey boutiques, where people seem to enjoy themselves showing off their precious arm candy (watches included). Although I believe these are not the most enjoyable people to hang around with, it did help me compensate for the hours I can’t be on-line checking watch websites and forums during my holiday.
In the end, I have seen three other people wearing an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak wrist watch. Two chronographs (non Offshore) and one Royal Oak Date (ref.15300). That’s still better than the ones I spot in a year in The Netherlands, Royal Oaks of friends excluded.
Sunset at Camaiore Italy
My Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo
What watch do you pack on your vacations? Leave us a comment and let us know!