RWG: Why watches above all other random obsessions?
WWW: Gotta have a hobby, right? Actually, that's part of the reason: it's a hobby you can pursue at home, that doesn't take up much room, that doesn't see me taking time away from my family, and that doesn't need to get too expensive — though this last one is easier said than done, of course! More importantly, mechanical watches are nostalgic and remind me of simpler times when things weren't so disposable but were built to last. Also, I love all the variety of colors and styles of vintage watches available. They give me the opportunity to accessorize and wear something unique on my wrist.
RWG: Did you have an obsession before watches? If so, what? For the record, mine was CDs, tapes, and vinyl collecting back in the 90s and early 2000s.
WWW: Vinyl and CD collecting was a crazy passion for me too! I had heaps of punk/hardcore vinyl, but I sold it all off to fund the move from the San Francisco Bay Area to Chicago with my wife (then girlfriend). Do I regret that? Not really. The guy in the local record store in San Jose told me that a couple of kids came in every week to look for new stuff and they'd be going nuts at all the stuff I'd brought in. That reminds me of how it feels when I sell watches these days: seeing them go to someone who is truly excited about them after I've enjoyed them is actually very gratifying. Nothing ever gets thrown away!
Oh, another obsession prior to watches: cameras. Used to have film cameras, then had a few nice digital cameras, but they eventually went unused when my daughter was born, and smartphone cameras just keep getting better. I still keep a Sony RX10 and Ricoh GR, but they rarely see any action these days.
RWG: Pepsi or Coke? And I’m not talking bezels.
WWW: Pepsi Zero Sugar (formerly Pepsi Max) has an insane amount of caffeine in it. Love that. But my wife buys Coke Zero, so there's always plenty of that in the fridge instead. In the end, the only real answer here is Dr. Pepper.
RWG: Right on! I’m a Texan and Dr. Pepper is pretty much our state drink. I believe we learned in 8thgrade history that Davy Crocket had a can stashed under his raccoon skin hat while fighting for the Alamo. Speaking of unnecessary indulgences, what do you think is the most useless watch complication?
WWW: Ha! Goodness… where do we start? A 24-hour sub-dial (not a GMT or 24-hour dial of course) always seems a bit superfluous, as does a tourbillon. Moon phases are pretty, but pretty useless. And here's a controversial one: a slanted date window. Regular date window at 3 or 6 or even 9 or 12, great... slanted anywhere... yuck.
RWG: You don’t dig the date window at 4:30? What the hell is wrong with you? I thought I knew you better! And, how dare you offend my lovely Omega Speedster 4.5 with prominent 24 hour indicator at 12? Anyway, we know you like punk rock. If you were at a Bad Brains concert circa 1985, which watch from your collection would you be sporting?
WWW: This is likely the greatest question ever, and the one out of all of these questions that I agonized over the most. At first I thought the Seiko "Jumbo" 6138-3000 would be a perfect weapon if things got too aggresive in the pit, but the bracelet is so janky it'd probably fall off. Practicality makes me think that the Seiko Yacht Timer 7A28-7090 would be a better choice as it's quartz, but I dunno... the Yacht Timer seems like such a bourgeois concept for a Bad Brains gig. In the end, it might have to be the stealthy digital Seiko "Speedmaster" SSBA022 which I think could handle the pace pretty well.
RWG: I was thinking something with a plexiglass crystal might be more shatter resistant against a spiky mohawk. Shifting gears, what does your wife think of your watch habit?
WWW: She supports it. She once challenged me to get to 100 watches, but I'm certainly not there yet and not sure I ever want to be! One thing she approves of, and we touched on this before, is how I always sell off or trade watches I no longer want. Nothing ever gets thrown in the trash. We dispose of so much junk these days. We hope old clothes and electronics get recycled but can't be 100% sure. However, every watch ends up going to someone else, maybe someone who's new to vintage collecting and is truly excited about their first vintage watch. Maybe it ends up with a stranger, and who knows where it goes after that. But nothing is wasted, and I know my wife thinks that's great. She does tease me about “chatting to my watch boyfriends" but also approves of me having a hobby that doesn't keep me away from home too long. One thing she's thoroughly alarmed by is the number of followers I have on Instagram. As am I, because it's mostly bullshit.
RWG: I’m sure many of the readers here could only dream of a wife that urges them to try and obtain 100 watches. She’s a keeper, dude. Speaking of things you should never give up, what the hell does your Insta handle wigglywigglyworm mean, anyway?
WWW: It was from a Peppa Pig episode (though I think they said "wriggly" not "wiggly" worm). My ID originally was private and just used to have pics of my daughter on it, then for some reason I thought I'd post some wrist shots and make it public. The weirdest thing is going to the Chicago get-togethers, saying "I'm Marty," getting a blank stare, then having to sheepishly say "wigglywigglyworm" and seeing people go, "Oh yeah!"
RWG: I hope when we finally meet in person, you look like the massive worm from Dune. While we’re talking Instagram, what pisses you off most about it?
WWW: This might be a long answer!
Unfortunately, a lot more pisses me off these days than it used to, and I'm torn between hating Instagram, but also appreciating it as the wonderful tool it has been to fuse friendships and share my enjoyment of watch collecting.
At its fundamental level of simply sharing pictures, it's still unsurpassed in reach and effectiveness, but when they switched the algorithm to non-chronological, it spoiled things a lot. So that's number one: I can't fathom the algorithm. I post a watch one day and it gets a moderate amount of likes, the next day, I post another, and it gets thousands. Clearly, behind the scenes, there is some robotic power at work to put some posts in front of more people and others not. Perhaps IG removing the “like count” publicly is not a bad idea! Thing is though, I'm not in it for the “likes” or “reach” or to push a brand or be an influencer, I just want to share my love of watches with simple daily wrist shots, which the chronological algorithm used to handle beautifully a few years ago.
What else pisses me off: lame-ass spam comments, people reposting pics without giving credit, folks who feel they need to remark on every post, as if it makes them feel part of the community, but instead it comes across as fawning. I dislike the "comment farms" where exactly the same people comment on exactly the same people's posts within minutes of them posting. Ironically of course, these users will complain about not getting enough 'engagement' but they're not helping by boosting the same people every day at the expense of others! I don't like the “influencers” who get watches for free but don't make it clear, then you see them selling them on the forums. It feels like everyone on IG is trying to sell you shit these days. Even many among our beloved #watchfam don't draw a clear line between sharing their passion for watches, while at the same time trying to get you to buy their straps or whatever brands they're hawking.
Yep, I probably sound bitter, but there's a lot to like about Instagram, too. I just wish people were a bit more honest and disclosed their intentions, and I'm disappointed to see certain watch folks using it more to show off how much they've spent, rather than sharing the joy of collecting and the benefit of their knowledge. However, let's never forget that watch collecting in itself is a wholly unnecessary "luxury" pursuit, whether you're spending $200 or $20,000. Within that though, I still think there's the opportunity to keep it real.
RWG: I really do respect the purity of your account as being solely about the love of collecting watches. I know many in your position would try and take advantage of their following and try to monetize, but you’ve kept true to your original intent. Keep strong, man. Back to watches...is Chicago a cool city to be a watch fanatic?
WWW: Yes, for sure. I've made a number of good friends here who I meet regularly for lunch. Even the RedBar events (though I attend these less frequently) are free of pretentiousness. We have some really good newer independent brands here like Astor+Banks, Sō Labs, Oak & Oscar, and no doubt others I’ve forgotten to mention, plus of course this is a city with a great watchmaking history and tradition. There certainly aren’t as many boutiques as New York City for high-end shoppers, but we have a fair share of dealers and generally they’re nice, unstuffy, and have that Midwestern friendliness you don’t always encounter elsewhere.
RWG: That sounds so cool. I'll make sure to catch a GTG in Chicago one of these days, but only if I can crash at your high-rise apartment overlooking Lake Michigan... What mechanical complication can you not refuse?
WWW: Hmm… Can’t beat a straightforward two-register mechanical chronograph. I’m actually partial to a day and date complication, though I appreciate that people sometimes think that’s too busy. There is definitely something appealing about a clean dial, of course. As far as design goes, a nicely brushed cushion case is hard to resist – they always wear nicely on any size wrist.
RWG: I know it’s cliché, but I’m genuinely interested: which watch in your collection could be your one and only watch, if push comes to shove?
WWW: Ah, this is always a tough one. I’d hate to be a “one watch guy”, I love seeing my collection ever-changing and evolving! Sometimes I think the Wakmann Triple Date would be ideal for that though, because it’s got everything there: chronograph, day, date, even month, but being a hand-cranker, I’d likely forget to wind it and it’s probably not good in the rain! I’m pretty sure I’d be happy wearing my Tudor North Flag or Sinn 356 Flieger every day, or perhaps the titanium Seiko Landmaster kinetic. These modern pieces would serve that “one watch” purpose well, but that’s exactly why collecting vintage is fun: it’s OK to have plenty and not wear them every day!
RWG: I didn’t realize the Sony Walkman had all those functions. I thought it just played tapes and got AM/FM. Speaking of vintage brands, are there any vintage watch brands (besides Seiko) which you are partial to?
WWW: I like Citizen. Some of the older Jet movement three-handers are beautifully designed, and the 8110a chronographs are little works of art, if fiddly and tough to service. Bulova seemed to make watches for everyone, whether you like the Accutron tuning forks, or just great quality divers and chronographs. Wittnauer is also another excellent brand with an interesting history who made all manner of watches from dressy three-handers, to cool super-compressors. And there’s always Tissot who seemed to have stood the test of time. Their vintage pieces remain reasonably affordable and have excellent quality movements.
RWG: I couldn’t agree more. These brands still represent such great value in the vintage market. From perusing your Instagram feed, it’s obvious that you are not a gold watch guy. Is there any watch that you would make the exception for to wear with your pinky ring collection?
WWW: Well, you didn’t say white gold, so how about a … I don’t actually know any white gold watches so, erm… no.
RWG: What, you don't have enough chest hair @wigglywigglyworm? Anyway, what’s a watch that you almost pulled the trigger on but didn’t and always regretted?
WWW: Better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t! There have been a few I had opportunities to buy but didn’t: a 6138-8010 SpeedTimer “blue Panda” and a Rado Valjoux 7750 chronograph come to mind, for example. More often, I regret being dumb on eBay and making a “best offer” for $20 or $30 less than the asking price then realizing after said offer was not accepted, that someone probably just paid the original price to get a great watch for the $30 extra I should’ve hit “buy it now” on!
RWG: Yea, eBay can be a mind@#$k at times but somehow it keeps us coming back for more, doesn't it? Let's wrap up with one last question about your collection: what’s the most obnoxious watch that you own?
WWW: Is this a trick question? All my watches are lovely. But seriously, I’d have a hard time keeping anything truly obnoxious – if I don’t love wearing a watch, it has to go. Maybe the titanium Seiko AGS Scuba Diver “Starfish.” It’s obnoxiously ‘90s and I can see why people would hate it.
Thank you for tuning in! I hope you enjoyed going down the rabbit hole with the affable Marty. Please make sure to check out his drool-worthy vintage watch collection on Instagram @wigglywigglyworm. And don't forget to stay posted for the next installment of TickTalk!