Best of a bad lot: Our favorite articles of 2020

On not following the hype, neo-vintage, Grand Seiko, and listening to the "little whispers"

I already swallowed my pride, putting together Rescapement’s first Jealousy List — stories from other publications that deserve recognition, and that I perhaps wish I’d written myself — so this post is all about us, baby. Here are some of my favorite, and some of the most popular, articles from Rescapement in 2020. We’ll send one more newsletter before the end of the year — with the favorite watches of some friends and contributors — so enjoy these articles in the meantime.

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Best of a bad lot

The ticking heart of Rescapement continues to be weekly essays that provide perspective and in-depth info on watches. If a consistent theme has permeated through these articles, it’s this: too many collections look the same, with more seemingly headed that way. Watches are meant to be an escape from the monotony, a chance for us to pursue what we’re truly enthusiastic about — the fun, the obscure, the idiosyncratic. If you’re into this hobby to go after the same watches as everyone else, what’s the point? As always, in watches and in life, John Mayer said it best:

“There are so many things people do that are the same. I think we’re entering a period of culture where people want to individualize. Everyone gets handed an Instagram account, a standard-issue phone. Watches are a way for people to break out of that a little bit and say ‘here’s the kind of person I am…here’s what I’m into’. In life you’re meant to follow that little whisper of enthusiasm inside of you. It’s not about having money or not having money. It’s about listening to that little whisper — what are you truly enthusiastic about?”

  • Seiko’s Grammar of Design: The art of impermanence.* To fully appreciate Grand Seiko, one must understand its Grammar of Design not only as part of Grand Seiko’s history, but as a contribution to a form of Japanese art.

  • Patek and General Motors: Leading the way. Imagine you’re an executive at General Motors in the 1950s. You sell over half the cars in America, you make decisions for one of the most powerful industrial corporations in the world, hell, you helped the Allies win World War II. What else could you possibly need? Perhaps, a Patek Philippe. And not just any Patek Philippe.

  • Rolex, Patek, and a new era of neo-vintage collectability.* By the 1980s, brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe were transitioning towards computers and automated processes. To many purists, this modernization spelled the death of true “vintage” watches. But now that we’re 20 years out from the turn of the century, it’s time for a new generation of collectors to look at under-appreciated periods like the 80s and 90s to identify the next generation of classics. 

  • Seiko 5 Sports: The Most Important Watch of 2020. Back in June when the no-bezel Seiko 5 Sports was released, I came in hot with the take that it was the “most important watch of 2020.” Six months and hundreds of uninspired releases later, I stand by that take.

  • Nomos Tangente Sport for Hodinkee: Hype or horology?. When you’re in the hype cycle it’s hard to tell: am I the victim, the natural endpoint of the vicious cycle, or the perpetrator, contributing to the victimhood of others?

  • L.L. Bean and Hamilton: Made and not in America. Like vintage L.L. Bean, modern watch brands and retailers must do a better job crafting products and narratives that cut through the noise to reach consumers. Just as importantly, consumers must tune out the noise of social media and whatever else, seeking out and supporting great products instead of copping what everyone else seems to have. It’s worked for L.L. Bean for 100 years, and it’ll work for another century.

  • Cartier Crash: Past the hype.* Rather than emulating the watches our heroes or celebrities wear, collectors instead need to emulate the mindset of these heroes, looking past the hype to identify the future icons. This means looking past the hype and record-breaking results garnered by some models to seek out other potential icons. The ones no one else is paying attention to.

  • Grand Seiko 62GS and 'Spring' SBGA413, the Perfect Two Watch Collection. To understand Grand Seiko’s past is to understand its future: Technically superior, distinctive design. The brand’s grasp of Japan’s minimalist aesthetic melds with its technical mastery to provide the perfect antidote to a world gone mad. Modern releases stay true to the brand’s history while pushing its story forward in exciting, unexpected ways. That’s why perhaps the perfect two-watch collection from Grand Seiko pulls from both vintage and modern to tell the brand’s story.

  • An introduction to the Zenith caliber 146 through a steel A271. Exploring the intertwined history of Universal Geneve and Zenith (and Martel) that eventually led to the development of the El Primero chronograph caliber.

* = 3 most popular newsletters, not including those otherwise linked below. And if all else fails, remember to shut up and Seiko.


For Your Reference

In-depth guides for would-be collectors of iconic vintage lineages.

Tudor Ranger | Zenith S.58 | Universal Geneve ‘FS’: the Italian Railway watch | Grand Seiko 62GS | Vacheron Constantin ref. 4072

Stories

We don’t do many “reported” stories, but when we do…

French Revolution: Seconde/Seconde | In conversation with Petermann-Bedat | TrueDome: Staying true to your vintage Submariner

Interviews

Our best (virtual) chats talking watches and whatever else.

Jack Carlson of Rowing Blazers | Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean | William Massena of Massena Lab

Be Our Guest

Rescapement had more contributors than ever this year, and they churn out some of our best writing. If you want to write with us, drop me a line.


Finally, the question no one is surely asking: How many newsletters referenced Kanye West? 8, highlighted by an in-depth exploration of Kanye’s collecting journey.

Thanks for a great 2020. As Mayer said, here’s to listening to the little whispers in 2021.

-Tony

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