I’m a bit of an oddball when it comes to watch collecting. I just don’t like to buy watches that other people have. Or at least the ones that too many other people have. If you’re familiar with my collection at all, you may be shaking your head, screaming “Hypocrite!” by now. After all, the first two “good” watches in my current assembly were a Tudor Black Bay and a Rolex Submariner. How much more cliche could I possibly get? Hear me out, though.

My Black Bay and Submariner were the first two “grails” I acquired. Mine are watches that, while fairly common, are loaded with memories and sentimental value. As such, they are pillars of my collection that will never leave until I pass them on to my children. Since the time I bought those two watches over five years ago, however, my small collection has taken a much more individualistic path. I suppose I felt like, “Well, I got the basics. Now go wild!” As my personal taste has evolved, I’ve found that most standard/current-production watches simply don’t do it for me anymore. If someone can walk into an AD on a whim and buy the watch in question, it automatically drops about 10 pegs down on my index of desirability.

So what does that mean for the future of my collection? Well, today I’d like to show you where it’s heading as I share the top four +1 watches on my wish list. Why four +1? Well, because four of them actually exist. The last one is simply a dream at this point! But having graciously been given this platform, I will shamelessly proclaim my desires, and who knows? Maybe the powers that be will hear my voice!

Image credit: European Watch Company

Chronoswiss Delphis CH 1423 with copper dial

This Chronoswiss is a discontinued piece that I have already spent three years on the hunt for! While the silver-dial versions can be found in droves, this copper variant is extremely hard to come by. Unfortunately, I’m unsure how many were produced. In the three years I’ve been looking, however, I have seen only one example pop up on Chrono24. It came up for sale from a private seller in Australia two years ago. I was ecstatic to find it, and I immediately submitted my payment details to snatch it up. Much to my chagrin, however, the next day I received a very sterile, business-like email, informing me that another buyer had already reserved this copper Delphis before I could. Disheartened yet optimistic, I vowed to return to the hunt. Little did I know that another two years would pass, and not a single one would arise… to my knowledge!

Courtesy of Oscar Tsao, who somehow snatched this example off the Japanese market before I could!

Just last week, however, I found out that a member of a Facebook watch group that I belong to had purchased the exact example above from a seller in Japan just last year! Not only that, he had done so through Timepeaks, an aggregator for watch listings here in Japan that I check nearly every single day. “What?!” I screamed to myself. “How could I have missed that?!” Needless to say, though I’m happy for him, I have been kicking myself non-stop ever since!

What I love about it

As a lover of interesting complications, the ones on the Delphis are initially what drew me in. The watch features jumping hour and retrograde minute complications. This combination often appears on concurrent Gérald Genta pieces from the 1990s. Unlike the GG Retro Classics, however, the Delphis uses a more classical font that makes the design far more timeless in my eyes. Also unlike the Genta models, the hour wheel on the Delphis is in 24-hour format, with the Chronoswiss logo taking the place of the 24. Since getting rid of a Glycine Airman 18 Purist a few years ago, I’ve missed having a non-GMT watch that displays the time in the 24-hour style. The guilloché patterns on the dial, though stamped, are nevertheless incredibly attractive to me. I adore the way they radiate from the sub-dial, like sun rays.

Image credit: European Watch Company

The thermally blued hands complement the salmon/copper dial so nicely. I adore how any heat-treated hands glint with color when they catch the light. Because of the brilliant contrast between the Delphis’ hands and the dial, I can only imagine how much time I’d waste staring at my wrist with this piece on it! The Delphis also has a wonderful 38mm case. Five years ago, I would have considered this far too small. These days, however, I really enjoy watches of this size, finding them extremely comfortable day-to-day. The movement inside of the Delphis is an Enicar base caliber with an in-house jump hour/retrograde module. This is another point of differentiation between it and the ETA-based Genta watches. All in all, the copper dial Chronoswiss Delphis ticks all the unique boxes I want it to. If anyone has a lead on one in the €3,000 range, we need to talk!

Image credit: Taleda.com

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duo with tiger’s eye reverse dial

This is another one that has been on my list for over three years! JLC announced boutique-exclusive, special-order versions of their Reverso Classic Large Duoface with tiger’s eye and green marble dials back in 2017. As someone who loves “iconic” watches with unique twists, these models immediately caught my attention. Back in my early days of collecting, I owned several watches with stone and mother-of-pearl dials. I loved them for their ever-shifting color and nature-made beauty. While I don’t miss those 48mm+ behemoths anymore, I do miss their dials! Since selling those watches years ago, I have always felt the pull to add a beautiful stone or shell dial back into my collection. This Reverso Duo, in my opinion, would be one of the classiest, most unique ways to do that.

Image credit: Touchofmodern.com

I love that the Reverso Duo is literally two watches in one. While I understand the traditional Reverso’s plain steel back was to protect it from damage during polo matches, I wouldn’t ever wear this watch for sport. I’m also not sure I’d want to personally engrave a watch in this price bracket either. Therefore, a Reverso with a plain steel back seems like a waste to me. Why not make the most of the reversing case with additional functions? I truly love the dynamism of the tiger’s eye dial, and would probably rock that side out a majority of the time. I’m sure, however, that there’d be situations in which I would appreciate the traditional Reverso layout. The classic silver dial, Arabic numerals, blued sword hands, and perfectly symmetrical small seconds sub-dial at six o’clock are all so well-executed.

Image credit: Sothebys.com

A benchmark piece

I’ve never owned a true high horology piece. I have, however, long pondered not only how but also when I might break into the next horological realm. Next year, I will celebrate a milestone “Japanniversary.” On March 30th, 2022, ten years will have passed since I left my quiet hometown of Scarborough, Maine, USA, and settled across the world in Osaka, Japan. 3,650 days will have gone by since I left everything I knew behind and got my first real “adult job” in a country whose language I didn’t then speak. Now, I have not only a wife, two children, and bilingual abilities to show for it, but also a wonderful collection of watches that I might not have had if I’d stayed in the hardware business back home. I want to commemorate how far I’ve come with a crowning jewel in my collection.

The issues I face with this watch, however, are availability and price. As with nearly every watch I want, this Reverso Duo is extremely hard to find on the pre-owned market. Last summer, I checked with Jaeger-LeCoultre Japan to see if I could still special-order one. They informed me that yes, I could. The price, however, would be 1,223,200 yen (€9,440 by today’s conversion). While this is actually quite reasonable in the world of high horology, I still feel that it’s somewhat out of my league. My Submariner, the most expensive piece in my collection to this day, cost just half of that five years ago. Thus, the potential bill is indeed a bit hard to stomach, especially for a steel watch. As much as I truly adore this Reverso, I will honestly have to plan very strategically if I want to buy it without sacrificing other beloved pieces from my collection.

Image credit: GMT-J.com

Blancpain Trilogy GMT with white dial

Since deciding to sell my Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT, a void was left in my collection. Suddenly, I was missing one of my favorite complications of all time, a true “traveler’s GMT”. Characterized by an independently adjustable 12-hour hand, which easily toggles between local time zones, GMT watches of this type are less common than “office GMTs” with an independent 24-hour hand. These days, GMT watches made by Rolex, Omega, Tudor, Norqain, and Grand Seiko (as well as the recent Seiko Presage Sharp Edge GMT) are true traveler’s GMTs. Other than a few other outliers, though, those are basically one’s options. Unless, of course, you dig into Blancpain‘s back catalog. In 1997, the brand introduced the first modern interpretations of the Fifty Fathoms since the 1970s, the Trilogy Fifty Fathoms, GMT, and Air Command. These models were produced through the mid-2000s.

Characterized by their “Yacht-Master-esque” relief bezels, the Trilogy-series watches were definitely designs “of their era.” Some today may scoff that they look “dated” or too similar to the Rolex Yacht-Master for comfort. Honestly, though, I don’t share these sentiments. To me, there are enough unique aspects of the Trilogy GMT to make me fall in love with it ten times over. The case dimensions are perfect for my wrist at 40mm wide, 13mm thick, and 46mm lug-to-lug. The way that the curved bracelet links nearly mold into each other is luscious, and the low profile of the dual-deployant clasp provides a sleek look that I massively appreciate. The movement inside is Blancpain’s caliber 5A50, based on the Frédéric Piguet 1151. This high-horology caliber has an impressive 100 hours of power reserve. At the time of its release, this was nearly three times longer than the industry average.

Image credit: GMT-J.com

Rare version or nothing

In the year or so that I’ve been hunting for this watch, I have seen countless black-dial versions pop up for sale. But, of course, being me, I like the white dial! And how many of those have I found? You guessed it — ZERO. “Brandon,” you may ask, “why the heck are you so picky?” Well, because I have rules for my watch collection. Long ago, I decided that I would never allow more than two watches with the same dial color in my collection at a time. Why? Because staring at a watch box full of black dials bores me to death! Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I limiting my choices? Definitely. A variety of colors, however, makes me happy. As my Black Bay and Submariner both have black dials, those slots have already been filled. Currently, I don’t have any white dials at all.

Also, the white dial being hard-to-find simply makes it more attractive to me. It means that fewer people own one, and that makes it more unique. Ultimately, these characteristics bring me more pride in ownership. This didn’t stop me, however, from trying on the black version at a shop in Osaka recently, just to get a feel for it on my wrist. Although the watch’s specs seemed good to me on paper, they were phenomenal in the metal! I absolutely adored how the Trilogy GMT fit my wrist. I asked the salesman if he had ever seen a white version come through their doors. “In my five years working here, ” he replied in Japanese, “we have had only one.” Well, it looks like I may have another long wait ahead of me!

Fratello × Oris “Fratelloris” Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date LE

The reasons I want this one are highly personal, but I hope you’ll indulge me as a share them.

Bronze watches had intrigued me since 2015, but I had always been unsure of their longevity. I was somewhat convinced that bronze was an industry fad. I worried that if I bought one, I’d soon tire of it, as I had with black IP/PVD/DLC watches. When I saw Mike’s Oris Big Crown mod in bronze with its brooding burgundy dial, however, I was convinced otherwise. I remember seeing the photos, reading the story behind it, and thinking, “Wow, that’s HOT!” The tone of Oris’s bronze alloy hit me harder than any I’d seen previously, and it complemented the dial perfectly. I longed for it. I went to Oris ADs in Osaka and Kobe to ask if they would perform a similar mod for me. Unfortunately, they would not commit such “sacrilege.”

When the “Fratelloris” debuted, I felt that longing feeling all over again. In my eyes, the new LE was an improvement on Mike’s original. The new gilt branding, minute track, date numerals, and “Big Crown Anti-Shock” text set the watch completely over the top. It was a thing of beauty that my mere mortal eyes didn’t deserve to gaze upon. But a watch simply being too beautiful had not stopped me before! So what stopped me this time?

Fratello Oris Big Pointer Date Bronze OG and Collab

Bad timing

When the Fratello × Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date came out in late 2020, my life was shrouded in uncertainty. A month earlier, I had informed my boss that when the school year ended in March, I would be quitting my teaching job of nine years. While I love Japan itself, I was absolutely fed up with trying to teach English in a country so determined to not actually learn it. I had two options — get out, or snap. I longed to work online, but I was convinced that nine years as a complacent ESL teacher had dulled any technological skills I had long ago. So, seeing no other quick way out of English-teaching life, in late 2020, I dumped over €5,000 into online courses and communities that would teach me digital marketing.

I believed I was investing in my future. I hoped, based upon testimonials from people who both lived in my area and had seen tremendous success, that I too could become a digital marketing superstar in just a few months. With just five months left until my job and stream of income dried up, I had no choice but to give it the best I could, mentally, emotionally, and financially. And I did. I dumped my entire expendable income into these courses, plus more of the family’s funds on top of it. Not feeling right about dipping further into family accounts, I simply couldn’t justify the Fratelloris at the time of release. As much as I wanted it, I knew I had to hold off.

Oris Big Crown Bronze FW S2.009

When my life changed

Fast forward to May of 2021. Despite being thousands of Euros in the financial hole and thousands of hours of work into my silly excuse for a “business,” I had failed to make any money. Not a cent. I hated the work, I hated marketing, and I hated that I was only doing it so I could live the “digital nomad” lifestyle. “There must be a better way,” I thought. “There must be something I’m good at, that I have a passion for, and that I can at least make a humble living from.” One day, from the depths of self-doubt and desperation, I reached out to RJ in an email. I explained my situation, my frustration, and my desire to write something, anything about watches, even for free.

To my pleasant surprise, he responded almost immediately. He thanked me for my heartfelt message, and he let me know that he would pass my email on to Rob. For the first time in months, I felt hope. Rob contacted me a few days later. He said he liked the sound of my writing just from my email, but that my request to write was certainly not unique. Indeed, it was one he had heard countless times every year, and that he had made himself years before. But, just to see what skills I had up my sleeve, he’d give me a shot. As an exercise in speed writing, I was tasked to cover the Black Bay Ceramic on the day of its release.

So I did. And he liked it! He actually liked it! Then we talked, and he seemed to think I might be on to something with this writing thing. Now, a full 21 articles later, it seems you guys are stuck with me!

A career milestone

Being able to join the Fratello team is something I would have never imagined just a few short months ago. It is, quite honestly, a dream come true. As I’m recovering financially, I wish to mark this pivotal moment in my life. As Rob did with his Speedmaster Broad Arrow and Dave did with his Grand Seiko Skyflake, I too want to commemorate joining Fratello with a special watch. For me, the Fratelloris is that piece. I already know it would fit me perfectly. I already know its oxblood dial and bronze case would add even more color to my collection. And yes, I already know that I would love it, cherish it, and call it “Jim.” Do you know what else I already know? That it is SOLD OUT.

Yup. Down to the very last unit. Like the dodo bird, Pluto’s planetary status, or literally any hope of me not embarrassing my kids with dad jokes, the Fratello × Oris Bronze Big Crown Pointer Date LE is GONE. If you’ve come this far, though, you’ll know that that won’t do much to faze me. Certainly not. All it means is that another alert goes on my WatchRecon account, and the hunt continues!

The Chopard that doesn’t exist (yet!)

Perhaps the only piece that could knock the Oris off its perch as my commemorative Fratello watch would be a collaboration with Chopard for a purple-dial Alpine Eagle! Since trying on the Alpine Eagle three weeks ago, I’ve been dreaming of giving the watch a more permanent place in my custody.  It’s funny that in 2019, I immediately wrote it off as another Genta-inspired bandwagon design. Yes, it has an integrated bracelet, a blue dial, and screws on the bezel. But it took me finally getting this piece on my wrist to appreciate how unique it really was. The 41mm case wore like a dream. The bracelet, with its bullion-shaped links, melted around my wrist. Not a single sliver of glare could be seen on the crystal from any angle. And holy mother of Horus, that dial! It screamed up at me with a texture and radiance unlike any I’d ever seen. Make that dial purple, and it’s game over for me! “Shut up and take my money!”

Is this a selfish request? Potentially. Judging from the mostly positive feedback on my article about purple dials though, it seems like there may be enough like-minded Fratelli out there to make a project like this feasible. Also taking into account Chopard’s history of Alpine Eagle collaborations (here, here, and here), I really think the Scheufele family might be open to it!  Are there any takers out there other than me?

What do you think of my picks?

If any of my picks surprised you, then I’m glad. That means my collection is headed in the right direction! What do you think about my choices? Are they worthy pieces to add to my collection? Let me know in the comments below. Also, let me know what watches you’re aiming for next. Let’s see just how tame or crazy the Fratelli’s tastes can be!

Follow me on Instagram if you’d like @bbbaines.