Have timepiece, will travel
When you are on your way to Punta Cana, what do you strap on your wrist? As you pack for a European vacation, which timepiece(s) do you choose? As I have discussed watches over the past years with different collectors, I have seen a wide variety of responses to these hypothetical questions. Some guys travel with their absolute best piece while some guys take no piece at all. Some guys travel with a “beater” and some guys will choose something in between. Today, we’ll discuss some of the issues to consider when travelling with a timepiece.
For me, the number one concern when travelling with a timepiece has always been security. I was in Mexico last fall and it seemed that every second guy at the resort had a two-tone Submariner. One guy had a Luminor 1950 on a rubber strap and he was in the pool with it every day. While I admired these guys for enjoying their great diving timepieces in the water, I was amazed that they would flash such obviously expensive watches in such a “dodgy” environment. I went down there with my Longines Legend Diver because it is a mechanical piece made for use under water, but it is quite low-key. When you travel to foreign destinations, you always run the risk of sticking out as a tourist (i.e. a target). And, as you explore foreign cities, you may not always know which areas to avoid. For these reasons, I always felt it is best to wear “quiet” watches that don’t scream for attention. I wore my Rolex to California recently, but I was surrounded by friends the whole time as I was there for a wedding. And we did not do much wandering around. Some would argue that only watch connaisseurs would recognize Panerai or Jaeger-LeCoultre. I still prefer to travel with subtle pieces.
The next point to consider relates to security in a way. Water resistance. Many trips will include pool, beach, ocean, etc. How does this relate to security? Well, I would not want to take off an expensive watch and leave it in my hotel room while I go for a dip. So the idea is to travel with a watch that you can keep on your wrist at all times- including swimming. This requires a timepiece with some water resistance and a waterproof strap. Water resistance really deserves an article all for itself. No watch is waterproof and even a watch rated for 300m may lose its water resistance over time. The rubber gaskets dry out, or wear and tear reduces their efficiency. It only takes one tiny drop of water to totally ruin your mechanical movement. So be careful. When choosing a timepiece for a beach vacation, choose one that is rather new or that has been serviced within the last year.
Another serious issue to consider when travelling with a timepiece is customs. If you return to Canada wearing an expensive watch, customs agents may ask you to prove that the watch was NOT bought outside of Canada during your trip. You are not allowed to bring expensive items back to Canada without paying duties. Experts have told me that you can carry copies of the receipt for your watch or copies of its Canadian warranty card to prove that it was bought in Canada. You can also register your watch with customs BEFORE leaving Canada. One very serious watch collector explained this to me — you visit the customs desk at the airport before your departing flight. Here, you can obtain a certificate proving you had the watch before you left Canada. This certificate can be kept and used on future trips. If you have a recognizeable expensive watch like a Rolex, the certificate may be a great idea. You should at least travel with proper paperwork for your watch. Otherwise, you are just asking for problems. I carry photocopies of receipts and/or warranty cards, as well as photos of the receipts on my phone.
Now, let’s assume that you will only travel with one watch. Versatility is key. You may be hiking, swimming, gambling in casinos, attending parties, sightseeing, etc. I would favor watches with steel bracelets or rubber straps. Why not go all James Bond and wear a diver on a steel bracelet? You can dress it up with a blazer or wear it on the beach. Complications can be useful when travelling, but I have been warned not to take ANY chronograph pieces in the water- even those rated for diving. A date window can be very useful when travelling, but it can also be tricky to adjust when crossing time zones. A GMT function could be very useful for frequent travellers as well.
But we got ahead of ourselves. We should ask — do you wear a timepiece at all? Or do you set off with a quartz beater? I have travelled with and without a proper timepiece and here are my own thoughts. If you are as passionate as I am about timepieces, then you will agree that any occasion is more fun with a nice watch on your wrist. Each time I travelled without a piece, I did it for fear of safety. And I always regretted it. I would have a great vacation, but I would miss both the joy and the practicality of wearing a watch. And let’s face it — vacations are all about having fun. You should maximize your fun on vacation. Business travel is different, but if you’re travelling to seminars, meetings or presentations, you will feel more confident wearing a great timepiece. I travel mainly for pleasure and I feel like I am missing something without a nice watch.
Adam and I were chatting about trading and flipping watches last year. I was at the peak of my watch-trading activity and Adam was explaining his view that watches are all about the memories you create with them. In other words, the experiences you have while wearing a watch are more important than the actual watch itself. I have come to agree, to a certain extent. Whenever I have travelled with a watch, it has enhanced my trip, but it has also created memories that I will forever associate with that watch. For example, I remember puffing a cigar under the Mexican night sky, wearing my Longines Legend Diver, while my daughter rode the caroussel. The greatest memories often come from travels and vacations and wearing the same watch afterwards can remind you of those good times. Travelling with a watch also allows you to have some “bonding” time with that watch. I wore my Rolex in California for a wedding and a bunch of bachelor party activities such as kart racing. The Rolex was a companion and wearing it today has a little extra “something.”
As with anything, you will all arrive at your own conclusions. My conclusion is that every trip requires a mechanical timepiece for maximum enjoyment. I will choose the piece carefully, and avoid flashy pieces when travelling to less developed countries. I hope to plan many more memorable trips as the years go by and I look forward to those timepiece selections. And whenever I blaze up a nice, fat cigar under an exotic sky, I will take extra pleasure from the timepiece on my wrist.