Things that make men go “Oooooh!”

Reality

Allow me to quote an email exchange I had with my Brit friends earlier this week. While everyone in Britain was oohing and aahing over the nuptials of skinnymalink Pippa Middleton to some chinless Brit dude, I was taken by something else: the car which brought the not-so-blushing bride to the church, and I commented as such to Mr. Free Market and The Englishman in an email which basically said “Never mind the bint, it’s the car I love”. And you have to admit, the Jaguar Mk.V is quite a looker:

I was rudely brought back to Earth, firstly by Mr. Free Market:

“All very well on a bright summer’s day — all 3 of those that we get each year — but the first sign of drama & it won’t start.”

…and yet more by The Englishman:

“Agreed — the idea of a ride in one of those is lovely, but actually they are bone rattlers, noisy, expensive to run and at the slightest excuse refuse to start. Demanding attention all the time with mysterious dramas. Of course with the top off they look fantastic, though often they smell a bit of damp leather and dogs. And in the end something a bit more modern with something up top and a decent level of comfort is a better ride.
And the same goes for the car.”

Such cynicism is appalling.

Conservative Timekeeping

One of the problems of having a conservative outlook is that it permeates every part of your life. Just because something is called “new and improved” does not necessarily make it so — which is even more the case when it comes to societal conditions, of course, in that if one is aware of history, there isn’t much new, and even less is an improvement that hasn’t been tried before, mostly ending in failure.

One might think that this isn’t the case with technology, but even there I look at things with a jaundiced eye. Automotive technology is certainly better than it was a hundred years ago, but we’ve climbed that far up the quality/performance curve to where today’s model is enormously better than the Model T, but not that much better than last year’s model. (And I still prefer a stick shift to an automatic transmission, and a bolt-action rifle to a semi-auto one, to name but two of thousands of examples.)

All this came to mind when I was having a couple of welcome-home drinks with Doc Russia, and he mentioned the fact that he was looking at buying a decent “dress” wristwatch, but because his experience with watches has been limited to utility rather than appearance, he was somewhat at a loss as to what he should be looking at.

As it happens, watches and clocks are something of a passion of mine — if I ever won the lottery, I’d be in deep trouble — so I was happy to offer some words of advice. (I’ve owned several decent watches in the course of my life: Omega, Longines, Piguet and so on, which has made me keenly aware of the value of a good watch — and not just one which keeps perfect time.)

Buying a watch is about as personal a decision as one can find — hell, I’ve known men to spend more time on deciding which watch to buy than selecting a car or even a wife — so there are all sorts of combinations / permutations of features and characteristics which go into one’s final decision which are, to put it mildly, very much individualistic. I realize that in today’s world, such a discussion is akin to such old-fashioned purchase decisions as to the best buggy whip to buy, or even (gasp) the best bolt-action rifles for your needs and wallet, but nevertheless, here we go.

At the outset, I’m going to exclude from this post any discussion of being comfortable with a drugstore digital battery-powered cheapie which keeps perfect time and costs less than fifty bucks. I have absolutely no problem with this attitude — hell, I’ve owned more than one Timex or Casio in my time too — and I’m also not going to engage with people who’ve quit wearing wristwatches altogether, leaving the timekeeping function to their cell phone. It’s the modern thing, and of course it’s your choice. That’s all well and good, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Remember, we’re not talking utility as the primary driving factor in buying a new watch; we’re talking class, beauty, style and quality of workmanship. This is akin to the difference between buying a Toyota Corolla and, say, a Lexus. Both do the same job, both are of excellent quality, but each offers a different style of delivery. This is no less true of watches.

As with all things, you have to start with budget. (If you don’t, you’ll just get frustrated.) Doc’s budget is between $5,000 and $7,000, which offers a wide range of options, all good ones. (Much more than this, say $10,000 plus, and we’re looking at investment watches, which creates a set of completely different purchase criteria.)

Let’s also stipulate that we’re looking for a wristwatch and not a pocket- or “waistcoat” watch, just to keep things simpler.

We should start with what I think is the most important criterion, which is movement: automatic, or manual wind? (There are few battery-powered watches in this price range, which I think is good. My everyday watch is a cheap-ish Dooney & Burke which, while very pretty, needs a new battery every eighteen months, and it drives me scatty.) Automatic is the lazy man’s choice — it self-winds by the movement on one’s wrist but to be honest, unless you’re spending a lot of money (more than our budget), the timekeeping is not always perfect to the millisecond and the watch may need to be adjusted occasionally. A manual wind — generally more precise and therefore more expensive — is of the “eight-day” type: one full wind will last for about a week, and then the watch will need to be rewound. I have no preference, myself, although I lean towards the manual (see “stick shift” and “bolt-action rifle” above): it’s the first of many personal choices we’re going to encounter. Here are some examples of manual-wind watches in our price range:

The last, the IWC Pilot, is normally outside our price range, but I’ve seen it on sale recently, so if you love it (and I do), you may be in luck.

With automatic (a.k.a. self-wind), prices almost halve. All the above examples which have automatic variants cost less than $5,000 — and with that premium removed, we also have a few more brand options within the price range:


…and so on.

Next, we come to appearance: white face, or black/colored? Myself, I prefer a white face, but some of the grays are quite gorgeous. Ditto the hands of the watch: simple, straight, ornate? And the numbers: regular, Roman, dashes, or Art Deco (to name but some). Other functions (date, day, month, stopwatch, moon phase etc.)? Leather strap, plastic strap or metal expandable strap? Once again, all this is a matter of personal choice. If you want or need a watch that does everything except make you coffee in the mornings, go for it.

Honestly, the choices are dizzying (in almost any price bracket), and there are hardly any bad choices once one gets over a thousand dollars. (Poor taste choices, however, are another story — but one man’s bad taste is another’s gotta-have, so I stay away from value judgments of that nature.) For myself, the plainer the better, and I don’t need a date because I hardly ever write checks anymore. I prefer the look of stainless steel over gold; although a decent gold watch always looks classy, the price premium is just more than I want to spend. I prefer a leather strap; I can’t wear the expandable metal straps because I have hairy arms and wrists, and the damn things pinch.

So here’s my shortlist of watches (in addition to all the above) which are more or less in Doc’s price range.

IWC (probably my favorite brand in this price range):

Longines:

Maurice Lacroix and Glasshutte:

And finally, no piece like this would be complete without showing the watch I’d want to get as soon as the Powerball guys got their ducks in a row and finally gave me the winning ticket:

If you wanna know how much it costs, you can’t afford it. Note the Art Nouveau numbering, the faded and understated gold… yowzah.


If you want to play like I did, and see just what’s out there, go to Prestige Time and browse. I don’t think their prices are realistic, by the way: I haven’t found them to be anywhere near those quoted by reputable retail outlets. But they have a bunch of watches showcased, so enjoy.

Brutes

I know that in days past, I expressed my love for the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which delivers over 500hp from a 2.9-liter V6. This list, however (via Insty) seems to take the whole thing over the top. Cases in point:

— Does anyone think that Dodge can make a car which can handle well enough to push out over 700hp without killing the driver and everyone else within a quarter-mile of its crash?
— Will anyone who wants to tow a boat even look at the BMW X5 (567hp, $100k+) as the horse?
— A 640hp Cadillac? What are these guys smoking?
— I make no comment about the Shelby Mustang, Camaro or Corvette because their owners, like those of the Dodge Hellcat, are probably not long for this world anyway.

I know, I know: we’re a nation founded on power and excess and all that good stuff. But at some point, someone at a car manufacturer has to ask the question: “Why?” (And listen to Jeremy Clarkson — the world’s foremost “POWAAAAHHHH!!!” speed freak; even he has admitted on occasion that a car can be too powerful.)

Most people can barely handle 150hp in their cars, let alone more than 500hp — use your favorite search engine to look up “Bugatti Veyron crash” for a simple flavor, and this in a million-dollar-plus car which has far less than 500hp and handles like a dream — which makes me think that these powerhouses should probably come with a mandatory driving course entitled: “When your IQ is less than a sixth of your car’s horsepower.”

I once watched a guy trying to reverse his McLaren F1 out of a parking space at Eatzi’s in Plano. It took him several minutes, multiple tries and half a dozen near-collisions with other parked cars because he had no idea how to handle the F1’s power for what is, after all, the most mundane of tasks we ask of a car.

My only consolation from all this is that the consumer market for the above will be refreshingly small, kept that way by cost, commonsense and, sadly, attrition.

I still want the Quadrifoglio, of course, because a.) it’s beautiful and b.) it’s an Alfa Romeo, but I’d still want it even if it had half the stated horsepower. How many of the other cars on that list would remain as desirable under that criterion, I wonder.

Crossing America – 2017

Time to play this game again.

The Challenge: You have the opportunity to go back in time, arriving on the east coast of North America circa 1650, and your goal is to cross the North American continent, taking as much time as you need. When/if you reach the Pacific coastline, you’ll be transported back to the present day. Your equipment for this journey will be as follows (taken back in the time capsule with you):

— enough provisions for the first five days’ travel
— a backpack containing some clothing essentials
— a winter coat, raincoat and boots
— waterproof sleeping bag
— an axe, and a small sharpening stone
— a box of 1,000 “strike anywhere” waterproof matches
— a portable water filtration system
— a topographic map of North America
— binoculars and a compass
— a current U.S. Army First Aid kit
— ONE long gun, shotgun or rifle (and 800 rounds, but no scope; and no interchangeable-barrel rifles like a Thompson Center Encore or Blaser; drillings are acceptable, but you still only get 800 rounds of ammo, total)
— ONE handgun (and 1,000 rounds)
— and TWO knives (can include multi-tool knives like Leatherman).

Once there, you’ll be given a horse, a mule and a dog — but apart from that, you’re on your own. Remember you’ll be traveling through deep woods, open prairie, desert and mountains. You may encounter hostile Indian tribes and dangerous animals en route, which should be considered when you answer the following questions (and only these):

1. What long gun would you take back in time with you?
2. What handgun?
3. What knives?

Unlike previous surveys, I’m not going to tabulate the answers; just have at it in Comments. Feel free to add any supporting arguments. I’ll post my choices over the weekend as an update below the fold.

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Killing Time

This cheerful little pic arrived in my Inbox at 5am today:

Yes, that’s Doc Russia on the right, the PH on the left. The skull will eventually decorate his office wall. (Mr. Free Market got his buff on Monday.)

I have to tell you, in all the hunting I ever did in Africa, I never went after Cape buffalo, because I simply didn’t have the guts. (Also, the money for the license fee, but that’s not an excuse.)

Kudos to them both.

Plutocrat Problems

Seen in a recent real estate listing here in West Plano:

Not sure about the Ford GT on the right, but otherwise I don’t think you can fault the man’s taste.

The house looks out onto the Gleneagles Country Club golf course, and is listed at $1.2 million which, in that neighborhood, makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with it.

But that’s not what I want to talk about, because it’s Saturday and I’m not a realtor.

Here’s the question: let’s assume you’re that guy, and the Fast & Furious crowd stole all your cars one night. The insurance has paid out, and you want to fill your garage with different ones of about equivalent value (i.e. the sky’s pretty much the limit). Which four cars would you buy? (Assume you need at least one SUV as a “guns ‘n groceries” conveyance, just to make it interesting. And please:  I don’t want to hear any guff that you only need one car, and you want to use the rest of the garage as a workshop. Play the game.)

Answers in Comments. My choices are below the fold, but make your choices first before looking at mine, lest I influence your selections. Read more