The slight flick of a wrist can be a subtle game changer when appraising a gentleman’s outfit. Even when all the different clothing items are working together flawlessly, a classy timepiece is always the quintessential finishing touch. In other words, a notable watch could be the sole reason why the sexiest lady in the room scribbles her number on your pristinely folded pocket square.
However, finding the right watch that fits your personality and style of dress is not the easiest task. There are countless watch brands to chose from and several different pricing tiers to consider. The entire process could end up being extremely taxing and nerve-wracking. To help alleviate all your watch-hunting headaches, we sought the expert opinion of James Lamdin, the founder of analog/shift and a consummate watch connoisseur. Trust us, after reading this, your horology acumen would have shot up at least ten-fold.
How would you describe your company analog/shift?
While we are outwardly a retailer for fine vintage watches, we take the stance of the anti-dealer, putting authenticity and transparency first, and prefer to help our clients buy a watch instead of selling them one. A subtle difference, perhaps, but one that makes all the difference in our minds. Beyond that, we really think of ourselves as storytellers, for whom watches are simply our muse and device. Our passion for these objects is only surpassed by our love of history, and our brand is our means of cultivating these objects and preserving these stories for the future.
When did your love for vintage watches first start and how did you learn so much about so many different watch brands?
My love for watches has been with me most of my life, but it wasn’t until my grandfather’s passing (I was 20) that I began studying them with an eye towards historical importance. He was a well-traveled man who had excellent taste and a penchant for collecting objects to commemorate the special moments in his life. Thus, his collection of things was really a collection of stories.
As I explored his life and generation through his collections I was drawn to his timepieces, and became enamored with the elements that made each vintage piece unique – not just the differences in design or materials, but the ways each had aged and developed unique characteristics of patina. As any vintage watch collector will tell you, the rabbit hole is very real, and I found myself tumbling down it in short order.
My education was mostly from my own study, and I was fortunate to meet seasoned collectors and industry professionals along the way who graciously shared their knowledge with me. As a general rule of thumb I always try to surround myself with people who know more than I do!
Why do you think there has been such a surge in interest for vintage watches and watches in general with men over the last few years?
I think we have been witness to a shift in consumer zeitgeist over the past several years. A genuine desire for authentic, bespoke, custom, handmade, and organic products in a meaningful way is replacing a past willingness to consume generic, mass produced, and ultimately disposable commodities across multiple areas of consumer goods. Mechanical watches are part of that shift, as they are generally objects of quality that can last beyond the lifecycle of a battery or LCD screen with proper maintenance and care.
Vintage watches represent perhaps the ultimate expression of mechanical timekeeping, as they not only represent a quality, lasting device, but also an emotional connection to a simpler time.
analog/shift has a ton of Instagram followers and the company is growing at a rapid rate. How many watches are you buying, selling and sourcing on a monthly basis?
We get a kick out of the irony that comes from utilizing contemporary technology to spread our message and operate our primarily analog business! Instagram has been a tremendously useful device for us, as it allows our clients and followers to see our found products in real time, at roughly life size.
As for the volume of our business? Let’s just say our team of five keeps VERY busy!
What would you say are the top 3 vintage watches in the analog/shift inventory right now?
It’s always tough to play favorites when, for one reason or another, we truly LOVE everything we sell. These three watches are of particular delight:
Gallet Multichron 12:
This Gallet Multichron is a tremendous example of Mid-Century Chronograph design, and features the same Valjoux 72 movement as the Heuer Autavia and Rolex Paul Newman Daytona. Sized at a perfect 37mm, this Gallet is in near-mint, completely unworn condition, a rare find for this model.
IWC Ingenieur Ref. 666:
International Watch Company is a brand with plenty to be proud of, from intensely beautiful chronographs to tough as nails pilot’s watches and diving models. The Ingenieur (Engineer) line is often a side note to collectors, but for us is one of their best. This model, a Reference 666, is their first purpose-built antimagnetic model, designed for industrial and scientific use. A contemporary to the Omega Railmaster and Rolex Milgauss, the Ingenieur is far rarer, particularly in original condition with its correct bracelet.
Rolex Daytona “Patrizzi”:
While we are without question primarily interested in vintage timepieces, we can certainly appreciate contemporary models, particularly if they are as interesting as this one. Referred to as a “Patrizzi” dial variant, this Rolex Daytona features a discolored dial, the result of a flaw in the paint and sealing process at the factory. Less than twenty years old, these rapidly aging “Patrizzi” dials are rare and beautiful, and make for a wonderful contemporary classic.
One of the watches you showed us that we really loved was the exquisite Rolex rose gold watch (“never worn”). What is the story behind that beauty?
It’s a true rarity finding a thirty or forty year old watch that has never before been worn – but that’s exactly what we’ve got here. Purchased in South America and then immediately delivered to a personal vault, this Reference 1803 Day-Date is a time capsule, finished in 18K Rose Gold and featuring a rare Portuguese language calendar. Absolutely breathtaking.
“It’s a true rarity, finding a thirty or forty year old watch that has never before been worn.”
What are some basic guidelines guys should pay attention to before investing in a substantial vintage timepiece?
Do plenty of research and consult with knowledgeable counsel. There are lots of great resources available in print and on the world wide web to help you weed out potential issues pertaining to the specifics, but don’t let anyone tell you what to buy on principle. Investing in a vintage watch should primarily be a decision made from the heart, or you’re just missing the point.
In your opinion, what are some of the vintage and contemporary watches that offer the best value for a budding watch enthusiast?
Value is of course a subjective concept when discussing anything vintage, but assuming we’re primarily talking about cost of entry, there are LOTS of great timepieces to consider for relatively little money.
Brands such as Zodiac, Tradition, Wittnauer, Waltham, Movado and Gruen all made variations of well-known sporting timepieces in the 1950s-1970s which can be had for a fraction of their name-brand cousins. Japanese brands such as Seiko also offer tremendous value for robust construction and thoughtful complications.
As with any vintage watch, we would recommend buying the best example you can find for the budget you’ve allotted yourself – and of course buying from a known and trusted seller is a big part of the value proposition.
There are also a lot of Frankenstein vintage watches masquerading as the genuine article – how do you spot these fakes?
Practice, practice, practice. There are LOTS more fakes, Frankens, and over-refinished pieces on the market than people commonly suggest – it is an entire shed industry within this community. We spend an incredible amount of time vetting our timepieces, and they go through several levels of control.
I’d be lying to you if I told you we still didn’t make mistakes – but of course those pieces never make it to market. At the end of the day, we do this professionally so our clients don’t have to.
Tell us a little about the RedBar watch community – what are these gatherings like?
The RedBar Crew is a collective of watch enthusiasts unlike any other. Although certain elements of luxury and exclusivity are common in this marketplace, all of that drops at the door when meeting with this community. RedBar gatherings are about the love of watches, and anyone is welcome. The conversation is spirited and debate is encouraged, but there isn’t any one-upmanship. The beer flows freely as watches are handed around and stories exchanged.
We look after each other’s possessions better than if they were our own, and strong bonds have been formed. Originally founded in NYC, RedBar Group now has chapters in over a dozen cities in the US and abroad.
analog/shift is a proud sponsor, but more importantly our team are all active members. At the core of everything we do is genuine passion. If this ever stops being fun, we’ll stop doing it.
The watch you’re wearing has a beautiful orange dial (shown above). We believe it’s a DOXA – can you tell us more about that?
DOXA is perhaps my favorite brand to talk about. Relatively unknown even within the collector community, DOXA has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s. Responsible for creating award-winning precision pocket watches and automobile clocks, DOXA shifted gears in the 1960s and began developing what many have come to consider the world’s first purpose-built diver’s watch.
Arguably an ugly watch, the DOXA Sub 300 defied convention with a high-visibility bright orange dial (a world’s first!), as well as other firsts for important diving watch attributes, including a uni-directional bezel with the US Navy’s No-Decompression dive chart engraved into it, and a novel bracelet design with expanding clasp designed to fit over a diver’s wetsuit.
DOXA’s contributions to the development of the modern diving watch are unquestionable, and its relative obscurity add to the mythos that makes them so desirable in my mind.
Lastly, with all the watches that have passed through your hands over the years, do you have a favorite timepiece of all time?
I have indeed had some pretty amazing stuff pass through my hands (or my wrist) these past years, ranging from contemporary haute horology piece uniques to some of the rarest examples of iconic vintage pieces ever made. I definitely have preferences – but I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to a single favorite.
The love of watches – and the stories they embody – is what this is all about, and I find beauty and desirability in each one of the pieces we have had come through our shop, and reward in finding each one of them a new home with someone who will continue to enjoy it into the future.
For more information on analog/shift, visit their site here.
All clothing shown from the SS16 ONS Collection currently available at 71 Greene Street.