Friends Who Know Something


I was disappointed two years ago to learn that my friend Stephen would no longer continue his site The Simply Refined. His blog was always one of my favorites. Focused on classic clothing (often of the tailored variety), it was informative without being overly stuffy. On the upside, he left it to start a new job as the associate editor of Hodinkee, which means for the past two years, I’ve had someone to bother every time I’ve had a question about watches.

Most of my questions regard watches I think I can wear with casual clothing, as my current 1968 Rolex Oyster is something I only wear with a coat and tie. My first instinct was to get a pilot watch, perhaps something from Stowa or Laco, but after seeing some vintage pieces at Hodinkee, I wanted something with a bit more provenance. So, Stephen and I talked about the possibility of me buying a CWC, a company that makes relatively inexpensive watches for military use. A vintage chronograph like this, for example, goes for about $1,000 to $2,000, and since they weren’t available to civilians, that means each piece was actually worn by a pilot at some point. They also come in 38/ 39mm, which is a great for a guy like me, who has small wrists. 

Slightly larger is the 40mm Sinn 103, a German chronograph that’s still being made today, but you can find vintage pieces from the 1970s and ‘80s. A bit larger still is the Heuer Bundeswehr, a 42mm flyback chronograph made for the West German forces in the 1970s. Given the exceptional movements and price tag ($3,000 to $4,000), Hodinkee described it as being one of the most underpriced vintage watches on the market. For a while, this Heuer was my top contender. 

Until I started watching Hodinkee’s latest video series, anyway. In it, Hodinkee’s founder Ben Clymer sits down with various watch collectors to talk about their favorite pieces. There’s one with John Mayer and his incredible collection of custom Pateks and vintage Rolexes; JJ Redick and his tasteful selection of “watch guy” watches; Alan Maleh and his Paul Newman Daytonas; and an utterly unforgettable feature on John Goldberger, who is shown popping open a million dollar Rolex 4113 with a cheese knife.

Now I really want a Rolex Daytona (which Hodinkee has another video for). Unfortunately, the prices are … high. A “budget” alternative? Stephen notes that the Tropical Universal Geneve “Nina Rindt” Compax Chronograph, which houses the same movement and has some indie cred, runs for about $5,000 to $7,000.

It’s good to have friends who know something.