This is the story of how TimeCaptain came to be. It is a story of world diplomacy and international intrigue. No, wait — that was Billy Mumphrey! Oh well, here goes anyway.
When I was 5 years old, my family left northern England for the deep south of the United States. Before leaving, my grandparents gave me a watch. It was a kids’ wind-up Timex and I loved that thing. It had a tiny, red plastic strap and the dial had a red side and a blue side to help kids tell time. I actually still have that watch in my home, but I haven’t wound it in years. My sister and I also received wind-up mechanical travel alarm clocks at some point. Those things were cool. So you see, from the age of 5, I have enjoyed watches and clocks.
But things really escalated later in life. When I was 8, my family returned to England for a visit. I was mad about cars already, so my uncle from Yorkshire took me out for a day of visiting Ferrari and Porsche dealerships. Later that day, my uncle sat me down and told me the story of Enzo Ferrari and his mighty battles against Ford’s sports car racing program during the 1960’s. I was absolutely hooked. After going home to Georgia, I began to collect model cars and to read EVERYthing about Ferraris. True to my nature, I took my obsession to the extreme. When I was 9 or 10, I could identify a sports car just by looking at a picture of its wheel or bumper. I could recite every statistic about its engine — size, horsepower, torque, performance figures… And then we moved to Quebec.
Now what did that mean? Well, it meant that I would be within driving distance of an actual Formula 1 Grand Prix where Ferrari would be competing each June. I was 13 when I attended my first qualifying session of the Grand Prix du Canada. I can remember the very first F1 car that I saw like it was yesterday. We were standing beside the circuit, on a straight, and Michele Alboreto (R.I.P.) drove past in his Porsche-powered Footwork. That engine was the loudest on the grid- the sound was absolutely painful as the car accelerated past. It was wicked. Ferrari were at the bottom of their worst ever period back then, but they always captured my passion and attention.
As years went by, my fanaticism for Ferrari and F1 grew to unhealthy levels. Those were the most glorious years of F1- the 1990’s. You had unrestricted spending and technology and you had legends such as Michael Schumacher. There were some epic battles between Schuey, Hakkinen and Villeneuve. In those days, you would see TAG Heuer all over F1 as they sponsored McLaren and provided official timing for F1 for several years. Over time, I got the idea that owning a TAG Heuer watch would be like owning a piece of F1 itself. What can I say? I am a sucker for marketing and advertising — I love that stuff. And I began to dream about buying a TAG Heuer. Then, my sister got engaged to a guy with a TAG Heuer that had the official F1 logo on the back. Oh man, did I ever think that was cool.
A TAG Heuer watch became a real aspirational thing for me. As a student, and then a kid entering the workforce, owning a TAG seemed so out of reach. Spending over $1,000 on a watch did not seem like a short-term possibility on my meagre income. But I dreamed about how cool it would be. A TAG Heuer watch became the first material possession that I ever really craved. I even had a fake one! I thought that if I could ever afford to buy myself a TAG Heuer watch, then that would be quite a milestone.
Fast-forward a few years and I found myself with a more senior position and a much healthier savings account. I had also found a TAG Heuer boutique at an outlet where I could obtain a deep discount on a new TAG. So, I planned a special trip to this store with a good pal and I bought myself my very own TAG Heuer Link. Now, I hardly knew anything about serious watches at this point and I bought a quartz. I would regret that later. But the Link is one gorgeous thing- even today. The famous Link bracelet in brushed metal still makes me smile and the quality of the case is remarkable. The acquisition of this TAG was, indeed, a major milestone. I was over the moon.
Before long, I was looking at other TAG watches and reading up on different models. I wanted a chronograph! While my Link was elegant and dressy, I wanted something sporty and racy for the weekends. I had spent a nice chunk of change on the Link and I was saving to buy a home with my soon-to-be-fiancee, so another TAG was not on the cards. But the seed was planted.
Two years later, I was engaged and planning a wedding. My soon-to-be wife knew I was dying for a sportier TAG because I was constantly checking them out at stores. And I was starting to be aware that “automatic” watches were more prestigious and expensive. So now I wanted an automatic! Around this time, I was browsing a bridal magazine and I saw an ad for an Omega Planet Ocean on a blue strap. Oh man, did I ever stare at that Omega ad! But TAG Heuer was still the one to have, in my mind, and I kept seeking out and trying on new sporty models. One day, we were shopping in a well-known “bulk” store and, to my amazement, they had a few TAG Heuer watches for sale at great prices. There was one, in particular, that really caught my attention. It was a 41 mm Aquaracer Automatic chronograph. It had the same case as the ones I had seen online, but it had orange accents and a much busier and interesting dial and bezel. I had been drooling over the Aquaracer models online. This was one was COOLER and LESS expensive than I had seen anywhere else. It was perfect — it was very sporty, unusual, chronograph and even automatic. The orange second hand really set it off. I tried it on twice that day and I told my wife that I should buy it, at that price. I was in no position to buy a watch, however.
A month later, I came home on a Friday to barbecue dinner with the future Mrs. TimeCaptain. I got changed, walked into the dining room and found a gift on the table. This was the first time in my adult life that I had ever just received a gift, out of the blue, for no apparent reason. I was caught totally off guard. My fiancée told me that this was an early wedding gift… call it an engagement gift, one month before our wedding. I got excited and refused to let myself speculate on what might be inside the box. I unwrapped the gift to find an utterly gorgeous box topped with a TAG Heuer logo. THIS is the moment I choose to remember because at THIS moment, I knew… I knew that my wife-to-be had given me a TAG and THIS is what mattered most. At this point of my life, TAG Heuer watches were my very favorite things and the fact that my fiancée had gone to the trouble and expense of buying one for me really moved me. I get choked up thinking about it- even today. I did not open the box right away because I wanted this moment to just sink in. Oh, I was hoping to see a certain TAG inside that box, but it didn’t really matter which one I had. What mattered was that I had just received the gift of a lifetime. And I waited quite a while to open that box. Can you guess what I found inside? I found the very TAG Heuer Aquaracer Automatic chronograph that I had tried on twice with my wife-to-be that day. It was mine- a sporty TAG chrono! And it was automatic!
My TAG chrono is quite a bulky piece despite its modest 41mm diameter. Its 15mm thickness gives it some presence on the wrist. The bracelet is similar to a Rolex oyster bracelet. Unlike my Link, the Aquaracer has both polished and brushed links with the sides of the case being polished. The effect is quite blingy and makes the Aquaracer quite fun to wear. The dial has concentric circles and has a very rich look upon close inspection. The orange seconds hand and accents give the piece a fun, sporty, weekend look. Around the dial are the four directions (N, S, E, W) and numbers marking the degrees, as opposed to a tachymeter scale. This is an unusual feature which gives my Aquaracer a unique look and an “adventure” type personality. The rotating bezel is typical of a diving piece. The hands are just perfect- both in length and style. I call my Aquaracer “all dressed” because it is automatic, chronograph and has a date display. This was always intended to be my sporty casual piece and it sees most of its wrist time while I am wearing jeans, shorts, polo shirts and so on. I certainly wear it to the office, but mostly on Fridays. You see, on Fridays, we often barbecue steak in the evening and this requires the use of a chronograph…
As I got used to having an automatic watch, I became intrigued by the differences between a quartz movement and a mechanical movement. First, I noticed that my new automatic was losing time. And I realized that its power reserve was barely two days. How could such an expensive watch be less accurate than any cheap quartz I ever owned?
I began to read up on this subject and the more I learned, the more I liked mechanical movements. I began to appreciate the craft and tradition of proper watchmaking. I began to appreciate my own automatic watch even more. The more I learned, the more I wanted to keep learning. And, of course, I wanted to have yet another mechanical timepiece. As I read and researched mechanical pieces, I was exposed to different brands and a whole new world- and I liked it. I discovered a whole new world of craft, engineering, history, prestige and luxury products. The rest, you could say, is history.
So this is the story behind my infatuation with mechanical timepieces. It has been quite a journey and I have met fascinating people along the way. I have made some good friends. I have also made a lot of mistakes! But those mistakes have helped me to define myself as a collector and as a blogger. And I am sure I will evolve even further as I continue to learn and collect watches. Well, it is now time to fire up the barbecue and time my steaks with my chronograph.
Thanks for reading WatchPaper and sharing in my experience. As always, the fun is in the search.
TimeCaptain on Twitter @TimeCaptain_