When we discussed the topic of first watches during a recent editorial meeting, several pieces sprung to my mind. There is my actual first-ever wristwatch that I got as a kid. But there have been several watches along the way that slowly but surely turned me into an enthusiast. So much so, in fact, that I left a very responsible and sensible career track to turn myself into a watch writer. I can point to a few key watches along the way that made that happen. If you care to come along for a bit of a personal story, I welcome you! If you prefer more factually informative Fratello articles, you may want to skip this one.

I do not consider myself a collector, by the way. It is a matter of semantics, but I feel more like an enthusiast than a collector. I do not approach the hobby like some amateur museum curator, and I do not strive for completeness in any specific theme. I just like to study watches and occasionally add one to my watch box. So without further ado, let me share how I got here.

My true first watch

I vividly remember when my parents bought me my very first watch. We were on holiday in Italy together with the family of my best mate from primary school. He and I were nine years old, and we had an absolute blast on a lovely campsite. I do not remember the occasion, but at some point, we were both allowed to choose a watch from a tiny gioielleria in a local town, a very generous gesture from our parents.

My pick was a Casio Baby-G. I cannot quite figure out which exact reference it was, but the closest I can find is the BG-320 pictured above. Mine was dark gray and fitted with cool rubberized wire bumpers and a double display. There was also some sort of surfer animation in the menu, a little video that you could play at the push of a button. And, of course, there was a button that would light up the display. Bumpers, two screens, a surfer, and a light? It was by far the coolest thing I had seen in my short life! I proudly wore it for years.

First watch

A real Seiko ref. 5M42 OE39, as it should be — Image courtesy of www.horlogeforum.nl member Lictorian

A fake Seiko Kinetic

Not too long after, I was given two fake watches. A close friend of my parents lived abroad at the time. He told me he could buy a replica of any watch I liked at his local market. My response was a clear predictor of my budding love of watches. I do not remember the details — I was probably ten years old — but I was certainly fanatical. I urged him to bring me something and probably even supplied him with a shopping list of watches to look for. He got me two picks of his own instead, an understandable choice. Thinking back on how obsessively fanatical I could get as a child makes me chuckle.

On his next trip back to the Netherlands, he brought a replica Bvlgari Aluminium and a replica Seiko, the latter of which was an instant love affair for me at the time. It was an Arctura Kinetic. Well… except it wasn’t. It was a not-so-kinetic fake of the reference 5M42 OE39. Yes, my childhood was in the ’90s, and blobism was the design language of the day. While not technically blobist, the Arctura Kinetic was certainly a product of the rounded, organic style of the time. It looked like something straight from the future, and I absolutely adored it. I still can recall the pebble-like feeling of the case.

Although not my first watch, this Seiko was certainly an influential stepping stone in my watch journey. I cannot help but scour eBay for NOS examples — real ones, obviously — every now and then. I never pull the trigger, but maybe I should. The mere sight of the rubber bracelet with steel plate links alone brings back so many memories.

seiko skx009 first watch mechanical

My first mechanical watch

At some point in my twenties, I learned about actual watchmaking, the history and the craft of fine watches. It was now that a faint interest started turning into more serious devotion. I studied tons and tons of online articles, videos, and magazines. I got the terminology down and learned about all the different brands, styles, history, craftsmanship, and technology.

Naturally, buying a mechanical watch was only a matter of time. There was no escaping it. Everybody around me knew it. If Thomas gets like this, something is happening soon. It is the blessing and the curse of my character. I settled on a Seiko SKX, which seemed to be the “first real watch” of choice for many budding aficionados. I know some of you will roll your eyes. It is certainly not the most original choice. But hey, it is the choice I made.

I purchased the SKX009J1 and it turned out to be the right move. Although far from a perfect watch, I just got so much wearing pleasure out of it. It is probably still the watch that gets the most wrist time after all these years. I am pretty sure I will someday look at it with similar sentimentality as I do at my first watch and the Seiko Arctura.

Robert Redford wearing the SKX009 in All Is Lost

How my first watches affected my current collecting

Again, I do not really consider myself a collector, but I do feel there is some sort of a pattern to be found in my watch journey. It is a pattern that originated with the Baby-G, Arctura, and SKX: all of these were aesthetic love affairs first. Gut-feeling choices, perhaps. Yes, I can get all lofty about craftsmanship and the history of wristwatches, but the truth is, I still fall for aesthetics — more specifically, the feeling they evoke — above anything else.

I do not really care if a watch is expensive or cheap, or whether it is “luxury” or not. If a design speaks to me, I will like it. I do not aim to justify my watches through rational explanations. I do not look for great value or certain technical specificities. Furthermore, I do not look at alternative watches and decide which is better based on water resistance or power reserve. In fact, I have to remind myself to include all the specs when reviewing a watch on Fratello. The truth is, they are really not all that important to me.

I still look for a watch to trigger something inside, like that sense of amazement I got from watching the little surfer animation on my Baby-G. I remember experiencing mild synesthesia when I was a child. It made me very sensitive to moods and how things felt. I would experience it as colors. I do not have this anymore, but I still do a lot by feel. My father always laughs when I tell him I navigate by how the area feels to me. I remember the moods rather than the roads. This is unfathomable to his much more exact mind. Watches are the same way to me. They provide strong associations that are personal to me.

seiko skx009

My first watch was about the experience

Okay, I am sorry if that got a little weird. I am really no overly spacey type or whatever. But there are certain things in life that really allow me to lean into that sensing part of me. Music is another. I hate to discuss music because it is a matter of experience. I do not care what someone else thinks about an artist that moves me. In fact, it is detracting to hear opinions about one drummer or singer being better than another. That just isn’t what the primal sensory experience is about to me.

Many parts of modern life require rationality, exactness, and reason. My watch collecting does not. Like enjoying music, food, or art, it is a matter of giving in to the experience. And I guess it has been that way for me since my very first watch, the Casio Baby-G. I chose that watch in the way any nine-year-old would — by following my gut. I guess I still try to look at watches like that nine-year-old boy. A watch triggers associations. Every watch makes me feel a little different. Sometimes that feeling is great. In such cases, the watch might get added to my collection if it fits my budget and the time is right. Pun intended.

So I like to think the experience of nine-year-old Thomas has stuck with me. I still look for watches to bring what that Baby-G gave me. And when I find it, I love the feeling!