I became interested in watches via an odd, back-door
route. After decades of caring nothing at all for them, I suddenly fell
into the hobby one day.. as the result of reading a science fiction
Re-reading, actually. I'm an avid SF reader, and William Gibson is one of my favorite authors. The novel in question, "All Tomorrows Parties", is his best work since "Neuromancer",
in my humble opinion, and watches figure prominently in the story. That
aspect didn't hit me on the first couple of readings, but upon
rereading it in the fall of 2003, something clicked. I decided that I
really, really needed a vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Mark XI wristwatch,
preferably a 1953 RAAF issue. Upon researching that particular watch, I
discovered that the price of entry was $2K+ or so for a mediocre
example, and $3K+ for a nice one. Out of my league by an order of
When I researched the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand, I discovered that modern
JLC products were even further beyond my budget. What passes for a
low-end JLC makes the average Rolex seem inexpensive by comparison!
Even used late-model JLC watches were, if not beyond my means, at least
far beyond what I was willing to pay on a whim. That left vintage JLC
I watched auctions on eBay, and after a bit it became apparent that, if
I shopped carefully, I would be able to find a decent ca. 1930 to 1970
JLC in the $300 to $500 price range. Yowzah! I bid on several likely
candidates, post-war manual winders bearing a close resemblance to the
Mark XI, only to lose them at the last minute.
I finally settled on a NOS ca. 1972 Master Quartz. Though it bore
little resemblance to the coveted Mk. XI, the price was right, at less
than $300. Most serious watch fans sneer at quartz, and even casual
watch hobbyists prefer mechanical movements almost universally. But,
for me, the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand itself was more important than the
specific styling or type of movement. Indeed I've become something of a
quartz fan. Part of that is my tendency to "root for the underdog". But
I'm also convinced that, from a practical daily-wear standpoint, quartz
is more reliable and cost effective.
The NOS (New, Old Stock) aspect played a big part in my choice, too,
and I was not disappointed. The watch is flawless! And well it should
be, since it is, for all practical purposes, brand-new. I added a
solid-link stainless steel Hadley-Roma bracelet, and continue to enjoy
the Master Quartz to this day. And, yes, I still consider it to be the
centerpiece of my collection.
What's that? "Collection?", you say, "How did we get from a single watch to a collection?" Well, easy. I liked the JLC so much that I thought to myself "Gee,
this watch is really tip-top. But if I wear it every day, it'll get
knocked about and scratched up. I'll save it for special occasions, and
get a 'work watch' for daily wear."
And I did so. Then another. And another. Then I discovered The Poor Man's Watch Forum.
Besides being an online discussion board, there's a big focus on
photos. They define a 'Poor Man's Watch' as being any watch which costs
$1,000 US or less. (I know! I can't bring myself to think of a watch costing a
thousand bucks as a 'Poor Man's Watch', either!)
In any case the collection really ballooned after I started
participating there, and now stands at 35 watches. On the PMWF a watch
costing $200 or less is informally known as a 'Beggar's Watch' and, I'm
happy to report, all but two of mine qualify.
But even after all this, I found myself still lusting after the
Jaeger-LeCoultre Mark XI. If you've read my bio page, you know that I'm
an NC Programmer by trade, and also an experienced machinist. I've long
respected clock & watch-makers since they are, historically (along
with gunsmiths), directly responsible for the current state-of-the-art
in manufacturing. So the solution was obvious - make my own home-grown
I researched the Mk. XI (long hours poring over 'net photos & specs
under a 'scope), generated a CAD model, and from that point it was no
different than my daily work routine. It was fun using my professional
skills on a hobby project.. I rarely get to do so! You can read more
about that project here. You might also be interested in Francis Chang's neat Mark XI page, and Timezone also has a rather erudite and metaphysical article by Carlos Perez. Otherwise, please check out my collection via the link below. Thanks for lookin'!