I try to be sensible and logical and so on, but I will admit to a weakness for quality (“luxury”) items, across almost all categories of living. Of course, I don’t have the wallet to afford any of them anymore, but I’d still prefer to drive, say, an Audi instead of a VW.
This philosophy does clash — frequently — with commonsense as I muse on such things, but the lure of quality still gets to me. And as Longtime Reader Mike Of The Dueling Pistols so eloquently said when talking about watches: “You know why I own a Bremont and an IWC? The same reason I own a Hammerli… I like it. My bills are paid, why not buy something I enjoy with the money?”
Amen. In Daphne du Maurier’s novel The Progress Of Julius, the protagonist is a man who starts off as a street urchin in North Africa and ends up becoming enormously wealthy in Britain. I don’t remember the exact words, but one night he thinks about the fact that he now wears silk shirts, and wonders if he could ever go back — and realizes that he couldn’t, because luxury is seductive.
And it is. On the very few occasions when I’ve been able to afford a real quality item, I always felt good about it, and it always repaid my investment in spades. An example: back when I was a pro musician, I could have got by with playing a $400 Fender Precision bass guitar, but instead I bought a $1,200 Rickenbacker.
The very first time I played the Rick, I felt a rush of something — enjoyment and satisfaction, I suppose — because I was playing the best bass guitar in the world and good grief… it sounded fantastic. That’s not a knock on the Fender, by the way: the old P-bass has been played by bassists far better than I, it’s super-reliable and sounds just fine, and if for any reason the Rick hadn’t been an option, I’d have got the Fender and been quite happy with the thing. But it wasn’t a Rickenbacker, and it became my (and the band’s) signature sound over the years.
I feel the same about lots of life’s little toys: cars, watches and guns being the categories where I’m most prone to going for the spendy, so to speak, and which tendency will be well-known to Longtime Readers.
So just as an intellectual exercise, I’m going to do the same for them as I’ve done for bass guitars: post a perfectly-good choice, against what I’d really like to own. Note that I’m not going to post a “budget” item — I never even considered a cheap bass guitar like Epiphone or Squier, for example, even though I was quite poor at the time — but only something that’s of (very) acceptable quality. So here goes:
1911s: Springfield G.I. and Ed Brown Kobra
There’s nothing at all wrong with the Springfield — there’s one on my belt as we speak — but the Kobra is exceptional, and I lust after it bigly.
Bolt-action rifles: Ruger Hawkeye and Mauser M12
Once again, there’s nothing wrong with the Ruger — I got one for Boomershoot, as you’ll recall — and it’s a perfectly good rifle… until you fire a Mauser M12. (Both the above, by the way, are chambered in 6.5x55mm Swede.)
Side-by-side shotguns: AyA No.2 and David McKay Brown Round Action (note: as we all know, you can go nuts when it comes to fine shotguns — Purdey, Holland etc. — so I gave myself a price ceiling of merely “expensive”, and second-hand to boot)The kicker here is that you can get a new AyA for about $6,000, and a second-hand McKay Brown can run around seven times that, because machine-made vs. handmade. Indulge me…
Watches: Longines Flagship and Jaeger-LeCoultre Master
…and I didn’t even have to go super-pricey on this: the Longines runs just under a grand, and the Jaeger just under five. I’ve owned a Longines before, and I still regret getting rid of it (because poverty); but Jaeger watches are both lovely and super-reliable.
Fountain Pens: Sailor 1911 and Pelikan Souveran 800
For when you want to sign that important contract, and the Bic just won’t cut it. The Pelikan costs nearly three times the Sailor, but Pelikan… I don’t think they make a “regular” pen — all their models are excellent. If you have big hands and need a thicker barrel, then try the Cross Peerless 125. (And Montblanc Meisterstuck pens are fine — they’re the Rolex of pens — for those who want to be seen using one. My budget Pelikan writes better, in my hand.)
Classic Sports Cars: 1967 Corvette Stingray and 1957 Mercedes 300 Roadster
This one’s not even close.
Modern Saloon Cars: Mercedes S560 (4-liter V8) and Bentley Continental GT Speed (6-liter W12)
Y’all know that I’m holding my nose with this one, because modern cars are almost all fugly. If I had to own one, however… but I cheated. Because while a new S560 costs around $130k at the above dealer, an extra 5 grand gets you a secondhand Bentley, with less than 10,000 miles on the clock. As with the earlier car choice, this one isn’t close, either.
Feel free to list your “quality” options in Comments — they don’t have to be the most expensive you can buy, just better than the average or typical. And please: I’m not interested in hearing from people who are perfectly happy with their 1983 Dodge Whatever, Casio Digital and inherited Winchester 100, and see no reason to upgrade any of them, ever. Play the game.