I will be be honest: I am not an overly enthusiastic New Year’s eve reveller. The older one becomes, the passing of another year is, well, somewhat deflating rather than inflating. As such, I decided some years ago to do exactly what I wanted over this period, in a bid to divert my attention to pleasurable things. So, my programme for the evening was; to dine out early at my local and pleasant Indian, then watch the new James Bond (I could not be bothered to endure whatever Covid rules were at the cinema so had decided to buy via my Sky contract), then rounded off by a dose of Jools Holland. I cannot pretend to like all the music, but it is nonetheless enjoyable fun.
All the above elements came to pass pretty well – although I was mildly disappointed with the James Bond. I was hoping for huge entertainment – being Craig’s last effort, and of course the expectation caused by the endless release delays which had boosted my excitement further. However, I found it rather predictable and no more thrilling really than previous ventures. That said, embarrassingly, I may have actually nodded off so may have to revisit! Anyway, whilst watching all this, I required some simultaneous entertainment. I therefore organised a smoke and drink, dug out a recent watch purchase to ogle, plus, to help offset any movie boredom, had a new watch magazine to consult. As the evening progressed I found the time to stage a little “bliss” scene (my own alternative “Nativity” if you will), involving all four noted elements. It was then that I thought it may be fun just to pen a few words on these.
Revolution Watch Magazine
The first “bliss” element to comment on is the watch magazine Revolution, the latest issue of which thunked (it did, as it is heavy) though my letter box a day or two previously. I am not discussing that edition specifically (it is super though), but more generally as to how my connection to the magazine aided me, and some of the allied results.
I first came across Revolution, oh, some six years ago I think. Initially I bought sporadically from Smiths, until it became a permanent fixture. A few years later I decided to have a go at “watch” writing, and met the then editor Tracey Llewellyn after having emailed a few such people in the industry. In fact she was my only responder! Although my initial writing effort was, I thought, a fair first attempt, Tracey shook her head sadly and said “this is not bad, but way way too long”. “Well, how much too long?” I enquired a bit indignantly. “Oh, well, let us say that it needs to go from 8,000 words to a maximum of 2,500”!! After a couple of shortening attempts I gave up, and declared that at 3,500 I could shorten no more as it ruin the whole thing! Things kind of petered out then as in fact Tracey was now on the verge of leaving Revolution. However, she did offer some sage advice before leaving, by encouraging me to simply start my own review site on the internet. The fact that I had absolutely no idea how to go about this was another and worrying matter!
It was at this point that London-based US journalist Michael Clerizo (who I had met via Tracey) put me in touch with Dave Brailsford at Garrick. Michael said that he was always interested in articles for The Watchmakers Club site (which he ran) and in particular relating to those brands who were in the Club. As I had recently been on a factory trip to Czapek with some proper journalists – me going as a quasi-journo and owner, he was interested to have a piece on the experience. I did this shortly afterwards and, whilst it took some refining and, er, including shortening, it was, I understand, reasonably well-received! Back to the story though: Not to be deterred, I set up Watchlogic a few months later with the help of my good friend Andy (who happily is a web site designer and a computer guru), commencing with articles on a Patek I had at the time, plus, a Czapek piece based on my original. So, you can blame Tracey for all my drivel, but seriously, I will always be grateful to her for at least “opening a door” and introducing me to quite a few people in the watch writing community – such as; Ken Kessler, Michael Clerizo, Tim Barbour, and James Buttery and Chris Hall from the now sadly defunct QP. I was also able to meet other watch folks at events – including Revolution’s founder, Wei Koh, a few times. Wei also set up The Rake by the way, which is a great luxury men’s magazine. I have yet to liaise with the current editor, Ross Povey so he has that experience to look forward to!!
Getting to my main point, there is little doubt in my mind that Revolution is currently one of, if not the premier watch magazine. This is not to disrespect the other and few hard copy publications out there, however, the range and quality of the articles in Revolution is to my mind unsurpassed. This is not an easy undertaking: The content must always be fresh and varied enough to provide constant interest/entertainment to the readership, who are in the main, watch aficionados of course! To engender this, new and old timepieces are covered, and these encompass all available types – including; sports, military, novelty (I mean “quirky/different” not new), dress, and ladies. Within all this, basic function pieces through to super-complications – and everything in-between are covered and at different price points. Frankly, the level of research required – particularly for the more historic pieces, is herculean. The other critical key aspect is to explain sometimes very technical aspects in a way that most people will understand. I know more than the average “joe public” about timepieces of course, but equally I am no engineering egghead. However, I can usually grasp what is being said! All this is supplemented by articles/interviews with past/present watch industry personalities which makes fascinating additional reading. Lastly, and vitally, there are the images which, in the main, are extraordinary. The level of magnification and reproduction required to capture and show the miniature workings of a watch, or say, the guilloche of a dial, is wonderful to behold!
Is there things that I am not quite so keen on? Well, nothing is ever perfect, and as I am not a sycophant either, yes, there are a few. Firstly, many watch comment “outlets” seem to have a compulsion to offer a steady stream of “collaborative” and “limited edition” pieces, and Revolution is no exception. To date, I personally have not been tempted with the offerings due to mainly aesthetic (say, dial colour) and practical (no date/size) reasons. Now, I am not naïve enough to the fact that businesses want to boost revenue, but I feel that a too-regular stream of pieces could start to diminish the whole concept, loosing the interest of folks and moreover the special hook-up with brands. An investment opportunity perhaps? Well, judging by the re-sale prices at the lower end, possibly. For example, there are a few Sinn R&R “Black Star” 155 chronographs currently for sale on CH24, with most claiming to be “unworn” or “as new”. Prices range from late £2,000s to early £3,000s. As the price at launch in August 2019 was $2,500 (so some £2,050 then) this does represent a pretty reasonable 50% return. However, only if you actually achieve that level – which I simply do not know! However, if you have a £20k + watch, is someone else really going to buy with all the adjustments over and above an original version? Obviously, if you really like the modifications, then fine – its a free world! Secondly, on occasions in-depth articles can be a bit mentally exhausting – particularly when they exceed, say, ten pages or so. At this length and more, all on the minutia of a long model line, can be a little too much. Some readers – even keen collectors, may begin to flag before the end. I personally have to go back several times – my brain being a bit smaller than most I guess! Again, less is probably more. Finally – and this is really a general comment, it would be nice to have the odd article on collectors who are not famous and/or super rich, but who may still have interesting time pieces. Now, I understand that the wealthy can have some fantastic pieces as by their very nature only they can afford them. But lets be honest, if you are very rich you can acquire a collection of anything pretty easily – wine, cars, art etc. The key is to have taste and really, really appreciate and understand what you are fortunate enough to buy. Clearly some do, but many have a different agenda and buy not so much for the pleasure of the pieces themselves, but the adoration and one-upmanship they get by having them. Vying with others at the auction house also seems to be the catalyst for losing all sense of reason – if the results of prices in recent times are anything to go by. I am not wealthy (let us just say, comfortable) so alas can never acquire really mega-expensive and rare pieces. However, I do have some quite expensive and nice items, and content myself in the knowledge that all of my watches have been bought because I like them – appreciating their individuality, visual beauty, and mechanical intricacies. Certainly not because I think others will admire me in some way, or welcome me into their oft cliqued sphere. In fact, I go out of may to be understated really and as such my only Rolex (a modest 1981 Oysterquartz) gets a raw deal on the outing front as I rarely wear it. This is because I do not want to be seen as the “show-off Rolex guy”, which is a shame because in many ways Rolex is a super brand. So, whilst the “luxury” tenet should be maintained, maybe give lesser mortals and watches an airing sometimes as they can be equally fascinating.
So, in conclusion, I will say that overall I thoroughly enjoy Revolution. It gives me a high degree of pleasure and a window into wonderous things, whilst also countering a world of increasing mediocracy. My only real regret is that I cannot get my watch “fix” monthly, but do please try Revolution and I am sure you will become addicted!
Oliva Series V Melanio Maduro
One of my vices – or pleasures, is to occasionally have a nice cigar. Although I have tended to smoke Cuban brands, after reading Cigar Aficionado for a long time, I decided a couple of years ago that I must dip my toe (or lips) elsewhere too. There were just too many positive reviews of smokes from elsewhere, like; Honduras, Equador, Nicaragua and so on. After chatting with some like-minded friends, and bearing in mind that I favour Maduros (made with darker stronger flavoured leaves), I decided to buy some of the above-noted from my local (at the time) retailer – Astons in Manchester. I have known Chris Aston for many years and he was quite positive about my choice. Initially I bought just three, but this was misplaced caution as frankly it was probably one of the best cigars I had smoked for a long time. They have a nice flavour and in fact are not too strong being actually classified as medium. However, one of their best traits is that they draw so well – evenly and consistently. This latter aspect cannot always be said for my usual Cuban smokes from, say, Partagas and Cohiba, which can be a bit hit and miss, and with the latter sometimes so tight they cannot be smoked. Not good at the cost!
So, who are Oliva? Well, briefly, Melanio Oliva started the firm in 1886 in Cuba, and his son Facundo took over in the early 1920’s. In the 1950’s the firm became more a brokerage as production under communism became more difficult. Facundos son Gilberto took over in the 60’s and he decided to try and get cigar production going again, but not in Cuba. So he travelled around to find a suitable country to relocate to, and eventually decided on Nicaragua due to the excellent seed growing conditions. This proved very prudent as today Oliva are the second largest tobacco grower there and make some 15m cigars per year. Gilberto’s son Jose became CEO and in 2016 a decision was made to sell to the Belgium tobacco firm J Cortes. Jose remains CEO and other members of the Oliva family also remain in the business. Gilberto died in 2017 aged 79.
Oliva have several different cigars in the Maduro range, but one of my favourites is the Serie V Melanio Maduro. The bulk of the cigar is made from leaves grown in the Jalapa region of the country with the wrapper from Mexico. There are some seven sizes ranging from the Churchill (7×50) down to the Petit Corona (4.5×46). As indicated, my favourite is the Robusto (5×52) as it is the best compromise of all sizes and prices -coming in at £20-£22. To be noted is that Cigar Aficionado magazine have awarded decent scores.
Seiko Presage Cocktail “Negroni” Ref SRPE41J1
I owned a Presage Cocktail a few years ago and was impressed then at what you got for your money. It was a limited edition with a wonderful textured dial representing white cherry blossom. I in fact disposed of it and replaced with a newish Grand Seiko Blue Snowflake – but that story has already been told. Anyway, I noticed this Negroni addition about a year ago when it was first launched, along with a few more in a revised series. The common denominator was that most had interesting dials. For some reason I did nothing at the time, but lodged the information in my brain’s back pocket!
Scroll forward to November 2021. Now I do like a Negroni or two, and whilst sampling an effort that I had made my mind cast back to the Seiko namesake. Idly I Googled it just to see what was what. Interestingly, most of the retail suspects for Seiko appeared to have run out of the Negroni version. That piqued my interest further, so I mined deeper and in the end found one retailer that appeared to still offer. Moreover it was in a sale, from an rrp of £400 to £360. I immediately called the retailer and spoke to a refreshingly pleasant assistant. In fact we got chatting and it came out that I was a bit more than a casual buyer. So, in the end a bit more was shaved off so the total bill was now a mere £320 inc p&p. Sorry, I just cannot help but haggle as I really enjoy it!! Anyway, the watch arrived a couple of days later and was all I wished for.
So, in a little more detail: The watch is in stainless steel with a case size of 38.5mm x 11.8., plus a 20mm lug width. The case shape is round and the lugs are fairly simple and modest. The crown is of a pleasing shape and useful size. The reverse has a viewing port. All glass is Seiko’s proprietary Hardex which is pretty tough. Sadly, there is no anti-reflective coat though.
The movement is Seiko’s tough and reliable work horse – calibre 4R35. This has 23 jewels, beats at 3 hz (21600 vph) and has a power reserve of 40 hours. Water proofing to 5 ATM (50 m) is noted.
The strap is black leather deployant with very good (easy) unlocking and adjustment mechanisms all around.
I have left the best to last – that dial! The base has a attractive underlying pattern (either stamped or engraved – I incline to the latter) that is supposed to represent a cut glass tumbler. On close inspection I think it could also be like chrysanthemum petals or even fish scales. Over this is, well, a melange of hues starting at the periphery with a deep maroon, moving through Bordeaux mid red, to mainly then a light Beaujolais red. Of course it is intended to emulate a Negroni, but in reality it is not quite scarlet enough to my mind, but that is fine. The real party trick though is to hold in the light and move about as the colour change variations are legion – affected by the engraving I imagine. Moving on, the information displays are almost secondary, but include; dauphine hands – silvered on one side and frosted grey on the other. The seconds hand represents a cocktail stirrer. The hours are marked off with silvered Arabic numerals (the 2’s and the 4 have nice little “kicks”!) and batons, with small ones for the minutes. At 3 o’clock there is a framed date window with white numerals on black. Seiko is noted at 12 and above 6, Presage Automatic. There is no lume at all – again, a bit of a shame.
So, you get a watch that can be a daily or evening wearer, very attractive, good size and comfortable, along with decent motive power from a huge name. All this for a mere £400, or less. It is quite insane not to buy – unless you just don’t like red I suppose! Yes, lume and a reflective coating would to my mind make it perfect, but at the price I assume that is just not affordable. That said, I am sure the price could go up a bit to cater for these.
This will be the shortest sub-section as I have really little to say! Suffice to say, I had my first Negroni not on the French Rivera or in Italy, but at a watch event in the City (London) a few years ago. Yes, even at my mature years I had not experienced the sophisticated and currently trendy beverage! Anyway, I quite liked it and thereon at most events that were able to supply, this was my favoured cocktail/aperitif.
The history of the drink is, apparently, quite simple really. In 1919, at the Caffee Casoni in Florence (now defunct), the Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender to modify his usual Americano (I assume not a coffee!), substituting soda water for gin. The Count liked it so much he started producing a pre-mixed version!
The most common recipe is simply; Gin, Red Sweet Vermouth and Campari in equal measures, then on the rocks and insert an orange wedge – job done. Or, maybe not quite! I have had some very nice ones out, but they can be quite strong and bitter. I expect the subtlety lies with perhaps the type of gin and Vermouth. At home you can of course meddle with the ratios. I in fact tried something only the other day by doing the usual thirds, but also adding a mini can of tonic. Now, I was surprised that this did not really affect the base taste much at all, but clearly it was lighter and obviously less alcoholic. I guess for more purity you could also add some soda come to think of it. Now, some may say “sacrilege”, but it works for me. Of course I will still have “au natural” out sometimes!
Words/Images: The Writer
Warnings: Please note that smoking and drinking may damage your health. None of the above is intended to encourage the aforementioned and is just a reflection of what The Writer enjoys. All that said, buying too may watches may also damage your wealth!