[Editor's note, Grail Watch is one of my favorite watch blogs publishing today. I am thrilled to bring you a profile of the founder, Stephen!]
What is your name?
I’m Stephen Foskett, and go by “SFoskett” pretty much everywhere. I’m really active on the Internet and long ago decided I might as well just use my real name since everyone will figure out who I am anyway!
How old are you? I am 42 years old
What do you do for a living?
I write, speak, and run events for a living. I run my own company, Foskett Services (http://FoskettServices.com) and produce enterprise IT events called Tech Field Day (http://TechFieldDay.com). I’ve been a “computer guy” for years but moved away from day-to-day IT work to run my own thing. It gives me much more freedom and has been amazing being involved with so many enterprise IT startups and bloggers. On the side I founded the Grail Watch blog.
What got you interested in watches and what do you love about them?
I’ve always liked watches, but really didn’t know much about them until fairly recently. My favorite for a long time was a Seiko 5 with an exhibition case back, and I always loved watching it tick. Then something “ticked” in me and I realized that this Seiko was just the tip of the iceberg. The beauty of mechanical watch movements is what has me hooked. I’m a sucker for amazing mechanical complications and designs. I’m definitely on the “mechanic” side of the watch world rather than the “jewelry” side of things.
Watches are living machines. If you stop caring for them and feeding them, they die. Perhaps my greatest discomfort as a watch collector is finding my watches stopped because I didn’t wear them enough. I try to wear everything I own frequently, but I just have too many now to keep up.
Do you have a favorite watch brand? If so, what is it and why?
As anyone who reads my blog, Grail Watch can tell, I love Jaeger-LeCoultre. With over 1,300 different movements produced, they’re the best of the best when it comes to watch mechanics. And they’re somewhat attainable considering their pedigree! But I also love other mechanical-focused brands, including Seiko, Nomos, Greubel Forsey, MB&F, and many more besides. Although I have much respect for Rolex as a true manufacture, I feel they hold themselves back by being content with a few models and movements and not inventing new complications and watches.
What watch(es) are getting your wrist time lately?
My new Nomos Tangomat GMT seems to always be on my wrist! I love my Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duo, too, but that darn Nomos just keeps sneaking on. I love chronometers, and have wonderful ones from Seiko, Nivada, and Buren, but these don’t get the wrist time of the Nomos or the Jaeger-LeCoultre.
What watch that you own or owned had the best story you could share?
I love surprises, and my Buren Calibre 82 is definitely one.
I was perusing the Chrono24/Auctionata auction of Christian Pfeiffer-Belli’s collection when I came across a watch that just made no sense existing. Buren were one of the classic Swiss watch brands, having played a key role in the development of automatic winding and the famous Chronomat calibre for Heuer/Breitling. But they died out in 1971. Yet here was an obviously-modern Buren with a high-beat calibre!
I put on my detective hat and started searching, as documented on my blog. It turns out that this is something pretty special. The movement was one of about 250 made before Buren’s collapse and it was the most accurate chronometer ever tested in the “golden age” of mechanical chronometers in the 1960’s. It’s a double-barrel movement with lots of wonderful modern features, yet Buren didn’t last long enough to case it and put it for sale.
The Buren name bounced along for a while when along came this outfit called Schweizer Uhren-Editionen which decided finally to case up these movements and sell the watches. They made 239 of them in 1998 and Herr Pfeiffer-Belli bought one, since he had a marvelous collection of chronometers. That’s my watch.
I recently tested it for precision using an application I’m working on and found that, over 5 days, it was exactly, precisely accurate to the second. It’s a wonderful piece of watchmaking history, a real enthusiast piece, and a fun watch to wear and discuss. And it was relatively affordable at € 1,000.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as a watch enthusiast?
Don’t get discouraged by high prices and elite brands. There are wonderful watches and enthusiasts for all price ranges. There’s a great community of Seiko modders, for example, who worry about every dollar they spend, just like there are folks who share wrist shots of $100k watches and Porsches. And don’t forget about Chinese, Russian, German, and vintage watches, too. In short, it’s not about how much you spend but what you love. The only snobbery I encounter in watch enthusiast circles is against fashion brands, “homages” and fakes. Stick to authentic watches and share your passion and you’re in good company!
Maybe a second piece of advice is to go out and see watches at dealers outside the mall. There’s not much to love in department stores and chain jewelers. Look up local authorized dealers for elite brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre or Zenith as well as oddballs like Ball or Bremont and you’ll find a whole world of interesting brands and watches in their showcases. Try them on, talk about them, compare them, and get a feel for what you love. Don’t buy something too quickly. Your taste will evolve as you see new things.
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