22 March, 2017

Vintage Bikes and Vintage Watches

By Scott

It's interesting how worlds that seem very apart can actually run in parallel. This week, the Taiwan Bike Show is on. Igor and Clint have headed over there to see the show, talk to our suppliers and see what is new with the industry and how it might help us offer better, more interesting products to you. On the other side of the world, Baselworld is happening in, yep, Basel Switzerland. This is one of the big watch shows of the world. Everyone from Rolex down to folks who make the straps and buckles for watches go to this show. Similar to how Shimano and SRAM are at TBS as well as the small companies that make nuts and bolts for cranks and brakes.

I've been getting into watches in the last year. I partially blame a good friend of mine who collects older mechanical watches for starting me down this road, combined with a podcast or two that has enlightened me to this world. One similarity that I find between the two worlds is that there are watches that are super complex, made of carbon fiber and thousands of little parts that cost a fortune, that coexist in the same world as the vintage inspired watches that cost, shall we say, a more reasonable sum of money.


Now one can say, watches? Who needs one? Smart phones can act as a time piece that also can keep all your appointments organized and your schedule running along. I grew up prior to smart phones, and I always have a watch on me. Igor and Clint, younger then me, are also watch wearers. Both have automatic watches - one that relies on the action of your wrist to keep a spring moving inside the watch that keeps the second hand moving. The result is no battery required. To me, this is the watch equivalent to the mid 80's Trek and Miyata touring bikes. A solid mechanism, that, given a little bit of love and care every few years, will see you through just about anything.


Quartz watches (the ones with a little battery) were supposed to kill off automatic watches. Yet, shows like Baselworld show that the desire for automatic watches/mechanical watches still exists. The rise of carbon bikes and 11 speed index shifting should have meant that steel bikes and non aero levers should have disappeared and yet year after year at NABHS, Bespoke in the UK, the Philly Bike Expo, and the New England Builders Ball, more small steel frame builders rise up to take up the torch of a steel frame builder.

So who still wears a watch and do you wear it while cycling your steel bike?

23 comments:

Gaio said...

I do! I wear a pretty nice (not super expensive) mechanical Seiko watch that's only sold in Japan. I take it off to work on bikes and fix-it type projects, and sometimes to cook, but otherwise I wear it whenever I'm awake, including riding my bike. I like the simple working of a mechanical watch for some of the same reasons I like bicycles, although I haven't had the guts yet to try to work on a watch myself.

Neil Hodges said...

I also wear a nice automatic Seiko, albeit a pretty recent one. I love not needing batteries, and the only issue I had was the springbars breaking over and over until I switched to a NATO Strap with 2mm springbars.

Andy said...

I ride a steel bike and wear a Pebble watch. It's so handy to be able to immediately see who just called or texted me, so I know whether or not I need to stop and dig my phone out of the bag.

David Henri said...

I wear my Pulsar every day, and of course I wear it while riding my 1984 Trek 720 touring bike on my daily commute.

Kevin Havener said...

I wear cheap Timex watches all day every day. Analog, time only. No day of week or day of month if I can help it, but usually I have to suffer the day of month feature. I wish I could find one with a well-defined rotating bezel. All my bikes are at least 25 years old.

aubrey said...

Yep! I've worn the same Seiki Automatic Diver's for almost 20 years. After a celeste Pista, it was my next big purchase as a courier. All-weather, and no better way to keep track of the 15-minute rushes! I still use the rotating bezel every day, and have had only steel bikes. I've not been tempted by another watch, but my bike stable (only steel!) has grown considerably...

anniebikes said...

Yes! I wear a cheapo Mini-Mouse analog watch while riding a 1980's steel bike. Some items will stand the test of time (sorry, had to say it!). I'm also hoping that books - paper ones - hang around for a few more years...

Mark Fairbank said...

I wear my 1988 Rolex Explorer (graduation gift from my parents) while riding my 1954 Rudge Sports 3 speed, my 1978 Motobecane Super Mirage, or my 2003 Rivendell Atlantis (gift to myself).

ericfreef said...

I have a vintage-unknown Raketa mechanical watch that I should probably wear when riding my Campeur-brown leather all around.

Michael said...

Nope, but I would love to get my hands on a decent automatic watch.

Alan Sotelo said...

I'm still fantasizing over a vintage Seiko 6309, but settled with a newer model Seiko 5 since the resell price is a little ridiculous where I'm from. They re-released it a few years ago, but learned too late.

Wes Ewell said...

Two of my three steel-frame bikes are equipped with stem head clocks that I bought from VO. I haven't worn a watch since I finished my active duty in the Coast Guard.

Blood Sausage said...

I haven't worn a watch since I lost Indiglo at a Fugazi show in 1994. All my bikes are steel though.

Blood Sausage said...

I haven't worn a watch since I lost my Timex Indiglo in the pit at a Fugazi show in 1994. All my bikes are steel though.

David Gelles said...

I own a vintage 1951 Hamilton, a Rolex that one day soon will be vintage (2004) and just purchased a Tissot which is now my every day watch. For bicycles only steel will do and ride a Brompton and a 1977 Raleigh Competition Gran Sport converted to 650 B.

Bill Spencer said...

I wear a Canadian Olympics Omega on my steel rides.The watch is automatic

Mitch said...

I wear a recent Seiko automatic and an Invicta automatic that I alternate with it. I like automatic watches because you have to be active (alive) for them to work well.

fmackay said...

It occurs that my watch ('54 Omega) is a similar age to my oldest bike, an Andy McNeil (Govan, Glasgow) of probable mid-50s vintage - has the older style Nervex pro lugs (horns rather than fishtails, pre-'55, but of course bits like that might have hung around for a few years). One of these things was precision made by Swiss craftsmen, the other by a Glaswegian with a brazier and a few hand tools (jigs - no, just put a nail through the joint to hold it while you braze it); the latter is certainly more precious to me - must get on with refurbishment. Also: I paid a bit over £100 for the watch, a bit under £200 for the bike; for new equivalents I'd be looking at 10-20x as much. Mechanical watches are like bikes in that they're not making them like they used to (with apologies to VO) and there're many bargains to be had.

nlseibel said...

My everyday watch is a Citizen that recharges by light, no battery, no winding. I wear a cheap Timex sports watch while,riding my steel bike and my ti bike.

Anonymous said...

I wear a St Moritz Pathfinder titanium watch and I have only steel bikes. When I was living in Vancouver I had a problem with the movement in the watch, so on my way to school, I stopped in at the St Moritz office that was on the bike route I took daily, locked my Raleigh Super Course up at their gates, and they replaced the movement within a few days. They even gave me a loaner watch while I waited.
M Burdge

Brian Baker said...

I'm a tech guy, so I wear an Apple watch. I wear it in all situations, riding, running, hiking, rock climbing. I love it!! All my bikes are steel though from my road bike to our tandem.

Anonymous said...

I wear a Omega Seamaster, 14K gold 1960s, it's still very stylish. I ride a Viking Conquest 1959 all steel, I've had for the past 35 years, totally restored. I would call them both vintage, but that would mean I was "vintage" as well.

Arri Castro said...

I sure do! I ride a 1974 Peugeot UO-18 and a 1985 Peugeot
P-16 and have my Peugeot watch to match.