Timekeeping (Ladies’ Special)

Some time back, I spoke a little bit about buying a dress watch, and soon thereafter was asked to do a similar piece for my (few) Lady Readers. That’s a problematic topic for me to tackle, because as always with women, I have very little clue as to what makes them tick [sic] and therefore any advice I have to give must necessarily be fraught with caveats and such. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a shot.

As with my earlier discussion, I’m not going to argue about the merits and whatever of using a cheap and accurate digital watch, or about the merits or disadvantages of telling time via one’s smart phone. This post, therefore, will look only at the subject of dress watches — such as would be worn on special occasions, or for a job interview or whatever. As with the men’s watches, I’ll set an arbitrary budget of between $2,000 and $8,000 at first, then look at ladies’ watches from a different perspective at the end.

As women (even more than men) tend to treat watches as fashion accessories, something I’ll cover later, it may well be that choices may have to be multiple — i.e. one would wear this watch for that occasion, and that watch for another. Fortunately, women’s watches can be somewhat less expensive than men’s (although once one gets up there… phew), and so I’ll approach the topic from that angle.

Probably the most popular ladies’ watch ever made has been Cartier’s “Tank” model, worn by just about every fashion icon over the years (Jackie O., Princess Grace and so on).

That’s the Tank Americaine model, and while it’s spendy (the gold Cartier Tanks, as shown, can run anywhere from $7,500 to $10,000 depending on the bling level), I would respectfully suggest that if a woman were to own only one watch her whole life, this would be as good a choice as any. (Almost every ladies’ watch in this price range can add precious stones like diamonds or sapphires to the face, which drives the price up considerably. Your choice, your money.)

The stainless steel versions are the Tank Anglaise (also with the rectangular face) which is half the price ($4,000):

…and the Tank Française which is much cheaper (about $3,000) and has a square face:

Still beautiful, in my opinion, if a little more “masculine”, perhaps. But there are other brand options, so let’s look at a few. All three below are square-faced, and run around $3,000:

As with all things female, branding seems to be important — but I should mention that the lesser-known Baume & Mercier will have (I believe) a better action than the other two because the “fashion” brands carry a premium over their nominal price, for not necessarily better quality.

Should Madame prefer watches with a round face, or ones that look a tad more practical, there are these options, again all costing around $3,000:

“Nomos” is apparently watchmaker Glashutte’s “budget” line — GH watches typically cost well over $10,000 — and having myself owned a men’s Omega Aqua Terra before, it goes recommended; but Tag Heuer is excellent too.

Obviously, if a lady requires a very practical watch — Mrs. Free Market owns a Breitling because of her yachting “hobby” (obsession) — there are those types too, but be aware that their prices are usually well above what we’re looking at today.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t look at two of my favorite watch brands as well. Here are two from Jaeger-LeCoultre, at about $8,000 each:

..and another two from IWC, these running about $5,500 to $7,500 each:

Both the above are downsized versions of IWC’s Men’s Pilot- and Portofino variants.

Now let’s look away from the “one dress watch” category for the moment and examine watches instead as a fashion accessory — i.e. ones that can be matched to a particular outfit or occasion such as a garden party or suchlike. Here, the watches are considerably cheaper for the simple reason that Madame would probably prefer to have several different types. Here are some examples from the Olivia Burton line, which cost around $100 each:

OB is owned by Movado, so while they’re not Omega or Piguet, they’re not complete crap, either.

And should Madame wish to match her watch with her purse, here are some Michael Kors watches, each costing around $200 (i.e. somewhat less than the hand bags):

Frankly, however, if I talk any more about watches of this ilk, I’ll need to go and shoot something just to restore my testosterone levels.

Let me then, suggest a watch for those ladies who are independently wealthy, or who have indulgent husbands / long-time partners. It’s one for the ages, being feminine, practical, of high quality and eclectic enough so that anyone who knows anything about watches will give an approving nod. It’s a lottery watch, in other words (just as the Vacheron Constantine 1907 is my lottery watch), and because I’m an unashamed sucker for women, you get two choices, each costing around $30,000: a “plain” (classic) and something a little more ummm decorative.

Ladies: am I completely off-base here? (Wouldn’t be the first time.) Your thoughts in Comments, please.




Blenheim Salon Part 2

So after having ogled the cars etc. in the exhibition area (and the avenue leading into the exhibition, see yesterday’s post), Your Humble Narrator ambled off to the auction hall, where sundry items of deliciousness were to be found, pre-auction. Once more, I shall say but little, just post a few examples. The model dates are approximate, for reasons which will become apparent later.

1963 MG:

1950 Jaguar Mk V:

1958 Mercedes 300S:

1962 Sunbeam Tiger:

1965 Lancia Flavia (This car was so beautiful — the picture does not do it justice — that I wanted to marry it so that it could bear my children. Suffice it to say that of all the automotive pulchritude on display, even Mr. FM had found it memorable.)

1958 Jaguar XK 140:

Now, I have to confess that Mr. FM was getting somewhat impatient, tapping his watch and muttering something about “getting going before darkness falls”. Also, I have to confess that by this point, some six hours since our arrival, I was starting to feel the effects of the open bar at the Privé — let’s just say that I’d consumed fairly substantial quantities of wine, champagne and J&B — and I think Mr. FM was trying to spare me from the indignity of loud proposals of marriage to some of the cars. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.

So he bundled me into the Range Rover and off we went — but curiously, not along the same road we’d come in on. Instead, he took an abrupt turn off the main road and plunged down into a series of hills and dales along an allegedly two-lane road that was so narrow, I would have had trouble riding a Fiat 500 down it without grazing both rearview mirrors on the roadside hedgerows. Then, as the evening sun was getting close to the horizon and we reached the bottom of a valley, he pulled off onto a small piece of open land and said, “You might want to take a picture of this.”

And I did; more than one. First, the house of (I think) the owner of the property:

…followed by a couple of vistas:

Good grief. Words cannot describe the beauty of the Cotswolds. You just have to see it for yourself.

Then we went home, and Mr. FM and I finished the day’s festivities off by imbibing vast quantities of whisky before retiring for the night.

Altogether, an unforgettable day, and one for which I will be eternally grateful to my gracious host.

Then And Now, Again

I have always thought that a sports car should resemble a woman lying on her side: the front-wheel arches resembling the shoulders, the middle of the car falling away like the midsection, and the (larger) rear-wheel arches mimicking the swell of the hips.

Hence the beauty of Ferrari’s Dino 246 GT, my love for which has been well documented on these pages, and which resembles the slender female models of its era in the early 1970s:

What then, do we make of Ferrari’s new Portofino, which replaces the superb California?

Here’s what I see: it looks block-y and more muscular — more like a model who’s been working out in the gym who should look something like this:

…except that the Portfino doesn’t look like that either.

I know, I know: so much of today’s automotive design is shaped by what works in a wind tunnel as opposed to actual, you know, beauty. But Ferrari, at least until recently, seems to have been keeping the old proportions alive — which is why their cars have typically looked better than anyone else’s. I’m just not so sure about the Portofino.

(Please note that I’m only comparing the designs — the Portofino’s top speed of 198 mph dwarfs the Dino’s 145 mph.)

Update:  Reader askeptic points out that Ferrari, or at least their ad agency, used to share my sentiments. Note the ad from a later era:

Wrong Ferrari, however: the 308 looked like Twiggy, not Veruschka.


Getting Happy

According to the NY Post, “buying time” can be the secret to happiness. Sarah Hoyt questions their methodology, as do I. Here’s the study’s methodology:

In the study, more than 6,000 people in four countries were given an extra $40 a week for two weeks.
During the first week, the participants were told to buy material goods.
The next week, they were told to save themselves time by paying someone to do their menial, back-breaking tasks.
Ultimately, people said they got more happiness by saving precious time than by buying more stuff, no matter how exceptional it was.

If anyone can think that $40 a week can buy you happiness, they’re doomed to vote Democrat and/or Labour for the rest of their lives. Hell, for $40 you can’t even buy someone’s time to do menial jobs for you, unless you live in India or some other Third World hellhole where labor is cheap. And unless you live in one of the aforementioned hellholes where $40 can buy you someone’s firstborn, you can’t buy much for a lousy forty bucks either. Good grief, a bottle of decent single malt costs more than that, and that won’t last you a week either (if you consume the lovely stuff like Stephen Green or I do).

Most often, the “money can’t buy you happiness” meme is applied to lottery winnings. The usual rejoinder is, “If you can’t buy happiness with $100 million, you just don’t know where to shop” (as witnessed by this picture, sent to me by Reader OldTexan):

But the idea of buying time when you have a boatload of money makes perfect sense, if you have sufficient money. Here’s an example, using the more appropriate sum of $100 million instead of that $40 rounding error.

So you’ve won the Big Lottery. Assume that you’re not going to waste it (on stuff like trust funds for your kids or donations to Greenpeace), and you decide to buy time with it.

Let’s say that you’ve always wanted to own an E-type Jaguar, because if no less a man than Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car ever made, who are you to argue with him? A quick reminder of what we’re talking about here:

Nigella Lawson with wheels.

Now you have the money to afford it; but there’s a problem. You see, beauty doesn’t offset the E-type’s many flaws, to whit:

…which means that the thing often won’t start, the lights won’t work at night and ditto the windshield wipers when it rains, etc. Now if you’re one of those guys who loves working on cars, none of this matters, because you’re going to spend time fiddling with the thing.

Note that I said, “spend time”. If you’re like me, and want to drive the thing instead of fiddling with it and/or wasting time while other people fiddle with it, you’re not gonna get an E-type.

Fortunately, there is a way for people with boatloads of money to get an E-type and be able to drive it pretty much all the time. It’s an outfit in Britishland called Eagle Great Britain, and they rebuild E-types using all the modern techniques and using modern materials which will eliminate the Jag’s problems. If you’re in a hurry, you can get one of their fully-reconditioned E-types and drive it off the lot. If you can’t find one you like (and unfortunately, this will cost you some time), they will hand-build your E-type to the original (or your own custom) specs. Here’s an example:

Suffice it to say that none other than Jeremy Clarkson said that driving this particular E-type was one of the greatest driving experiences he’d ever had — and he’s had a lot.

I’m not to going to tell you the price, because you have enough. (BIG lottery win, remember?)

Just remember, this is all about buying time (which makes one happy, according to the study above) and I would suggest that time spent driving this piece of automotive beauty would be more exciting (and probably less expensive, ask Charles Saatchi) than driving Nigella Lawson. And that’s a hell of a thing for me to say.

Buying happiness just means knowing where to shop. And if you’ve just won a big lottery prize and owning an E-type is your dream, I’ve just told you where to shop for one.

You’re welcome.


The day after my Lord’s pilgrimage, Mr. FM suggested we take a quiet drive into the Cotswolds, some few miles north-west of FM Towers. He knows that I’m not one for scenic drives just for the drive’s sake, so he mentioned the magical words “in the Porsche” — and needless to say, that was sufficient incentive for me to agree.

So we footled around along English country roads — me oohing and aaahing at Teh Scenery, which is spectacular: rolling hills, forest glades, farmers doing Farming Things, etc. Of course, it being a lovely day (sunny, warm, bees buzzing lazily etc.) there were the usual problems (i.e. cyclists), but the oncoming roar of a 3.6-liter Porsche engine usually had the desired effect of sending them flying into roadside ditches, which is all part of the fun of a summer drive. Then things took a turn for the worse. Much worse.

We turned off the country road onto what can best be described as a farm road and ended up at a series of farm-type buildings. Over the door of one such building was a sign which read, cryptically, “R.J. Blackwall”. What place is this, I wondered, and then we went inside.


Rupert Blackwall is one of the pre-eminent Mauser dealers in the British Isles.

O My Readers, I need first to give you a teeny bit of background so you can fully appreciate what was to follow. In the Great Time Of Poverty when I was forced to sell almost all my guns, I found myself, for the first time in my life, Mauserless. Never mind Mauser lookalikes or derivatives thereof; ever since I can remember, I’ve had at least one actual Mauser rifle in my gun cabinet — in fact, my very first gun purchase in the U.S. was a Mauser 98K. Since the Great Poverty, some four years ago, I’ve been without a Mauser — a fact I’d once lamented to Mr. FM, en passant — and only now did his devilment come to light. You see, he’d seen my reaction to the exquisite M12 I’d fired only a week before at the Corinium range and thus, I believe, had schemed a visit to this… this temple to Vulcan’s Dark Arts.

Of course, that’s not how he played it, the foul man; he chatted with Mr. Blackwall — a gunsmith of considerable skill and knowledge, having been trained at E.J. Churchill — about some rifle he was considering for his next African safari, leaving me to wander around the store and browse among (actually, drool over) the store’s wares.

First I saw a matched pair of AyA 20-gauge side-by-side shotguns (which I will need for future High Bird Shooting excursions), but I knew that the cost thereof was going to be silly: and in pounds sterling, still more so. With a deep sigh, I moved on. Until I came to the “second-hand” rack…

..and there it was: a barely-fired Mauser M12, in… 6.5x55mm (my favorite medium caliber of all), at a price that, when translated into U.S. greenbacks, was not expensive at all. In fact, it was… affordable.

Of course, one can’t just buy a rifle and walk out of the door with it, not in Merrie Olde England, oh no. In fact, I thought that I would not be able to purchase any gun, because (as we all know) in the U.S. such things are streng verboten (as I’d discovered when first I emigrated and wanted to buy a gun). Well, no. In the U.S., not anyone can buy a gun, but anyone can own a gun (mostly). In Britain, it’s the reverse. I could buy the gun, but I couldn’t take possession of it — it would have to go onto a British gun owner’s license — until such time as I would leave the U.K. And of course, standing right next to me, with an evil leer on his aristocratic features, there was just such a British gun owner.

All that remained was to give Mr. Blackwall my credit card.

I’ll be “testing” it over the coming weeks at Corinium, once I get a decent scope on it. Range report(s) and pics to follow.

And most important of all, I am no longer Mauserless, so all my old Boer forefathers can stop spinning in their graves.