Every once in a while you come across a person, in the flesh or on-line, that makes you wonder about the story behind his or her watch(es). In case of the Speedmaster, the stories behind the watch are often very personal and interesting. In the future we will ask more Speedmaster owners about their relationship with the watch, the reason why they bought it (or why it was given to them) and how they feel about things like: vintage versus modern, the Moonwatch (hi)story and so on. This Collector’s Corner series will hopefully give you some inspiration and insights about the Speedmaster and its collector’s base.
Collector’s Corner kicks-off with RJ Kama, one of our loyal followers and an Omega collector at heart. He is also contributing to the Omega Forums and has a great Instagram account where he shows his love for watches. I asked him a couple of questions for Collector’s Corner about his love for Omega and especially about the Speedmaster of course. Although we share something in common, our initials and love for the Speedmaster, this collection certainly doesn’t belong to me (although I wouldn’t mind!).
Collector’s Corner – RJ Kama
FW: Please tell us when your interest was sparked in Omega and especially in the Speedmaster collection?
RJ: It’s interesting, I actually came to the Speedmaster party very late. I was first drawn into Omega by Peirce Brosnan’s James Bond (yes, I admit, I was a victim of marketing). Going through University, and then Medical School, and being completely broke for 10+ years, the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a watch was something I never could have imagined. But I had always loved watches, mostly for the aesthetics, and it represented the ultimate male accessory in my mind. My wife’s first gift to me was a ‘Fossil’, which was a step up from what I could afford at the time, and I loved it dearly. This was the first time the emotional value of the timepiece had registered. When I had paid off my student loans, and started to experience some success in my practice, I wanted a ‘serious watch’ to commemorate my newly established position. At the time, my extent of knowledge was that battery was a Ticking hand, and that automatic had a sweep. I always felt that the sweeping hand had more ‘soul’.
Still being too intimidated by the ‘Rolex world’, I inquired about the ‘James Bond watch, and it brought me to Omega. I had bought the SMP used, and paid ~ $1000.00 for it. I remember feeling nauseous at the idea of spending that much money on a non-essential item.
After that, as more success came, I did what I think many men in my position at the time did, and I went the requisite ‘Rolex route’. During this time of ‘building my collection’, I focussed mostly on Rolex, knowing relatively nothing about them other than their value as a ‘status symbol’.
One day, While wearing my SMP at the clinic, one of my patients, a 74 year old man, in for a routine Diabetes review, looked at my watch, and gave out a very excited, “Omega?!?” followed by , “that’s the best watch in the world!”. He was the one who went on to tell me the story of the Moonwatch.
After that, I started to research more about the history of all watches, and ‘horology’. I had discovered watches that I had no idea even existed, “Vacheron”, “Audemars”, “Patek”…
The next phase in my collecting, coinciding with more disposable income, involved adding more of these “higher level” brands, because I felt that I should have them “As a collector”. Along the way, I would still find myself drawn to Omega, and adding a few “for me”, not necessarily “for the collection”.
More and more, I found myself reaching for the Omegas to wear, despite the fact that I had these much more expensive watches in the box. The more I learned about the watches, the more deeply in love I fell. Just as you can appreciate a work of art more by understanding the social, artistic, and political context of the time, the same holds for watches. As I matured, the idea of wearing a watch as a Status symbol became less appealing to me.
As much as I had loved the Speedmaster, I could never buy a watch that didn’t “sing to me” when I had it on my wrist. I had loved the history, and the story, and I appreciated the watch, the same way you could appreciate a Rembrandt on the wall of the Louvre, but just like that painting, I didn’t feel like I had to own one to appreciate it. My tastes went with the Sportier Seamasters, or the dressy DeVilles. I had 18 Omegas in my collection before adding a Speedmaster. It wasn’t until 2011, when the Calibre 9300 was introduced and put into the Speedmaster that I felt that there was a Speedmaster that was “for me.”
FW: I noticed you are very active on your instagram account with posting pictures of Omega watches, especially model from the new collection. Are you only focused on modern Omega Speedmasters or do you also plan to purchase something vintage in the future?
RJ: Instagram is a lot of fun! Again, I appreciate the vintage models, but I could never buy a watch that I would keep in a safe, or a display case. I would need to wear it. I have 3 vintage Seamasters, that were given to me by patients from my practice. Two by patients themselves, with no one to whom they could leave it, and one by the widow, who knew that he would ‘want me to have it’. These are very cherished items, and really highlights the romanticism, and emotion involved in timepieces. Whenever I wear those watches, I feel the person’s presence, I feel his DNA on the case, knowing that it touched his skin every day, and went on the journey of his life.
The vintage watches tell a beautiful story, but they tell someone else’s story. When I pass my Omega on to the next generation, I want them to tell my story. My great grandchildren can feel the watch, touch it, wear it, show their friends what watches looked like at the time. They may laugh that they are so big, or so small, or that the case materials were so primitive, but they will (hopefully) have a little understanding about my world through the timepieces.
I love the modern watches because they represents the present, and the future of Omega. As much as I love and appreciate the past, for me its value is contextual for my appreciation of the present. The appreciation and respect for the past while focussing on the future is very germane to contemporary Omega.
FW: Do you care about the movements? Or is it fine as long as it is mechanical?
RJ: The more I learn, the more I care about the movement. But it’s interesting, because as with anything, the more you learn, the less you really know. Many watch brand marketing departments have done a great job convincing you of the value and the unique qualities of a given movement. The more you delve into it, the more you realize how even the highest level watch houses have borrowed, contracted, or shared movements. This also brings me back to my love of Omega. You have to look back to the time before people thought it was important to advertise these types of things, and you realize that the Omega 321, and the Patek Philippe reference 2872 are both offspring of the lemania 2310. For me, it speaks to the focus on quality for the sake of producing a quality timepiece, not just as a marketing tool. It is always more meaningful when the right thing gets done when no one is watching.
FW: What is your favorite Speedmaster in your collection and why? When did you buy this watch and was it love at first sight?
RJ: That is a very difficult question to answer. Like asking my favourite child. They were all love at first sight..
I love the Soyuz 35th anniversary. The closest to a traditional Speedmaster I have. I love the fact that it has a piece of outerspace in it. I love that each one is different, and I love that it is Manual wind. The Aventurine dial Moonphase is one that I had no idea even existed when I first saw it. I thought that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And I have always loved the moonphase complication. The ceramic bezel on that one plus the mother of pearl moon, the dimensions (44.5mm), and the display back revealing the Cal 1866 movement, and the “First Watch Worn on the Moon” script, makes it a near perfect speedmaster for me.
Of course the Grey Side of the Moon will always hold a special place in my heart, as (Omega VP) Raynald Aeschlimann tells me that he pulled the first one off of the production line for me (I choose to believe that).
I especially love the Grey Side more after the Basel 2015 Darkside onslaught. It seems to set itself apart from the rest of the ceramic collection. I think that you also have to appreciate the original Darkside of the Moon. Not only is it of masterful beauty, it represented a turning point for Omega, and brought many collectors to Omega.
FW: What is your grail Speedmaster?
RJ: That’s a tougher question. The ‘Grail” term, to me, indicates that the acquisition would require some effort. Either from achieving level of success that would allow a purchase of a high MSRP model, or a very rare model that is not easily found.
The incredible thing about Speedmasters, is that there is always a new grail just around the corner. So many models that I discover almost daily. The “Golden Panda” – 40 piece limited edition for the Japanese Market – would be something, but even with that, if I didn’t like it on my wrist, I would pass.
My Grail would be a custom Speedmaster – I’m sure we are very close to Omega offering this… a meteorite dialed Darkside of the Moon … inscribed #1/1… THAT’s a grail.
But I’m sure amazing things will come for the 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster (the diamond anniversary), and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The next few years will be very exciting for OMEGA.
FW: Does a chronograph plays an important role in your daily life, either private or business-wise?
RJ: Almost never. But I think that the idea of a ‘tool watch’ is an antiquated. There is so much advanced technology now for tracking time. For me, the mechanical movement is an emotional connection to an art form. The emotions evoked by these objects will always transcend logic or practical thought.
FW: Do you ever attend GTGs? If so, why would you advice others to go as well?
RJ: I would encourage anyone to attend GTGs. We have such an amazing sub-culture here. There are few things that can instantly bond people, and watch collecting is one of them. It is such a rare pleasure to speak a language that only few others truly understand and can appreciate. It is really quite special to see people from different backgrounds, ages and upbringing coming together to share this common bond. They are environments completely filled with friendship, goodwill and positive energies. It will never cease to amaze me how a fellow horophile would readily take the watch off his wrist and hand it over to a complete stranger. There is that silent understanding, and sharing of a passion that unites us..
FW: Do you like the current direction Omega is heading? What would you like to see differently from a collector’s perspective?
RJ: No other watch house has had the velocity of ascension as Omega in the last 5 years. How can you not be thrilled with the innovation, the new technologies, the focus on the movements, the finishing on the dials, everything since the introduction of the 8500 movement has represented exponential growth. They’ve really given the diehard Omega-philes more things in which we can take pride (the whole Moonwatch argument was starting to grow stale with the Rolex sect).
On the design side, I think that many watch houses are paying homage to the history, and retro inspired reimagining of classics with new technology is great, but I think that it is important to move forward as well with contemporary design. There is always the risk of going to the archives one time too many before it becomes cliché, predictable, or uninspiring.
I would like to see more complications, there is not much middle ground between the tourbillons and the solid gold sports models. Could you imagine a Tresor Moonphase, or perpetual calendar. I think that Omega is ready for that.
I would also like to see a sharper division between the various lines: DeVille, Seamaster, Speedmaster, Constellation should each be more unique. There has been some blurred lines in the past, with only the writing on the dial defining the watch. I think that they are starting to be more clearly defined. I don’t think that we need the word “Speedmaster” or “Seamaster” on the dial just to sell a watch anymore. I feel that each line should play a distinct role in the whole collection. I wouldn’t object to DeVille being offered exclusively in precious metal.
From the Speedmaster side of things, I couldn’t be happier. The caliber 9300 has opened the Speedmaster up to me, as I am sure I has with many collectors. Many people roll their eyes at the special editions, but they have lately been selling out rapidly, so they give the collector something to work for. Every collector enjoys a hunt, probably more than an acquisition.
FW: Thank you RJ Kama for this interview.
How About You?
Do you like to be interviewed about your Speedmaster collection or perhaps just about that single Speedmaster that you love so much? Send us a note using the contact form.
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