Collecting or Accumulating?
Where watches are concerned, I differentiate collecting from accumulating. You know when that new watch is announced by your favorite manufacturer, or you stumble across a good used example of a watch you’ve always been interested in, and you convince yourself that you need another watch. Before long you’ve accumulated a few watches and you tell yourself that you wear them all, or at least intend to. That’s accumulation.
Collecting is different. To me, collecting implies a goal, an active process of searching for watches with certain traits or members of a certain set. These days, my interests where watches are concerned fall mostly into the accumulation category, but if we’re actually counting then it must be said that most of the watches I own fall under the collecting banner. In evidence of this, many of my earlier posts have focused on what is perhaps my most peculiar collecting interest, the 33 mm Hamilton field watch. If you’d like to brush up, in past articles I…
Introduced the concept here, in my very first post;
Discovered the rare Aussie MIL-W-46374A;
Added a thin-font GG-W-113 and Orvis variant to the collection;
Showed you the Brookstone and über-rare blue anchor-dialed Bean watch;
And found what I thought was the rarest of all, the Avirex-branded watch.
All this caught the attention of a real writer — the highly regarded watch, gear, and adventure journalist Jason Heaton — who wrote about my collection in an article over on that really big, really famous blog that starts with an H and rhymes with no other word in the English language.
The Confusing Fall Warblers.
If you aren’t up on my (respectful) hijacking of Roger Tory Peterson’s nomenclature, I refer to my collection of 33 mm Hamilton field watches as the Confusing Fall Warblers because as I was arranging them one day to take a picture, a mental image of the page in his ubiquitous field guide came to mind and the comparison struck me like a figurative bolt of lightning. A matrix of things so confusingly similar, yet each slightly different and distinct from all the others that they just beg to be studied, identified, and cataloged.
There’s only so much new to say about these fun little watches, so if you want to save my previous articles for later here’s a quick recap of my collecting criteria. With only one exception (the LL Bean quartz-powered 9219), I limit myself to the hand-winding watches from Hamilton. They must have screw-on casebacks, which eliminates the earlier military-issued watches with one-piece cases and leaves the later military-issued watches and the civilian equivalents. Hamilton produced absolute scads of these watches starting in the late 1960’s and into the 1990’s for both military contract fulfillment and numerous retail stores, which tended to sell them with co-branded dials. They have plastic crystals, small crowns (signed or unsigned), no date, and come with either 11/16’s-inch or 18 mm lug widths. The Hamilton logo shows up as the older Art Deco, the italicized Jet Age, or is sometimes altogether absent.
To be clear, the brackets I place around the population of Confusing Fall Warblers that I find collectible are arbitrary. Nearly identical watches were produced before, during, and after the area of my interest, and by companies in addition to Hamilton, but they fall outside my collecting interests with their quartz movements, date indicators, one-piece cases, etc. If a person were so inclined, I suspect that the broadest definition could potentially result in a collection of over 50 unique specimens of the humble 33 mm mid-to-late-20th-century American field watch.
The Hamilton Khaki Mate.
I haven’t written about these watches in a couple years, and in that time two new ones have joined my flock. The first of these I picked up last year, a case ref 9219 blue anchor-dialed Hamilton Khaki Mate. Unusual on its own, it’s the perfect companion for the equally rare LL Bean blue anchor-dialed specimen. You don’t see many of these blue anchor-dialed Hamiltons, so I was glad to find a good example. The boxes they came in were different than the standard Khaki footlocker box and featured a nautical theme, but mine came without one unfortunately. Interestingly, Hamilton also made the dime-sized reference 8709 ladies’ field watch in the blue anchor dial as well, and I’ve also seen an LL Bean version of the ladies’ watch.
My blue anchor-dialed 9219 appears to be almost unworn, and features a signed crown with the Jet Age H logo, my favorite. Being a 9219, the lug width is 11/16” (as opposed to 18 mm), the lugs are not drilled through, and the movement is a trusty and serviceable ETA 2750.
The Brigade Quartermaster Hooded Archer.
The second new addition to the collection is the extremely rare Brigade Quartermaster 9219, featuring their hooded archer logo. Brigade Quartermaster was a mail order company founded in 1975 that specialized in hard-to-find military surplus clothing and gear. Founded by two brothers, it built a small but loyal customer following in the pre-Internet catalog retail days. The company was eventually sold by its founders in 2010, but it’s still around today as BrigadeQM, although the hooded archer logo appears to be gone.
As the mail order catalog watches go, I think the Brigade Quartermaster hooded archer may be the rarest. In my many years of collecting these watches, I have seen exactly three specimens. The first one I passed on because I didn’t understand what it was. I even thought it might have been some sort of homemade dial, or at the very least an extremely limited custom factory run, such as you might see on a corporate gift or premium. The second one was bought by my writer friend and fellow Confusing Fall Warbler collector, Brandon Cripps. He is the one who finally solved the mystery and uncovered the true origin of the hooded archer logo, which wasn’t easy. A couple years later he ran across another one and I was able to secure it, essentially completing my collection. Proving yet again, as I’ve written about in the past, that it’s the network of friends that watch collecting engenders that makes it such an enjoyable interest.
My Brigade Quartermaster hooded archer had definitely been used and loved by someone. Its crystal was cracked and crazed and its crown was missing. The movement didn’t run and the case was grubby from years of use. So I sent it off to my watchmaker friend, Richard Awiza, and he completely restored it. The watch is now both an excellent specimen of Confusing Fall Warbler and a great wearer.
The ETA 2750.
Both of these watches use the ETA 2750, a reliable and robust Swiss made movement that ETA produced from 1969 to 1982. Something that I’ve only recently come to appreciate about this movement is its unusually large balance. Look at it in proportion to the size of the entire movement. Of course, the movement has Incabloc shock insulation and an adjustment lever, but it also has a longer-than-average mainspring, which is responsible for its 50-hour power reserve. Rare and sexy it is not, but robust and reliable, definitely. You can have your 2750 serviced for under 200 bucks, and when running correctly the movement is capable of excellent timekeeping.
One of my favorite Hamiltons from the 1990’s is the 9721, a 36 mm reissue of sorts of their famous 6B navigator from the 1960’s. They are very handsome, nicely made automatics in a perfectly wearable size for any and all wrists. In my daydream moments, I like to imagine how different collecting the Confusing Fall Warblers would be today if they too were 36 mm. For now they remain a collectible, but it seems they also tend to accumulate.
Thank you for reading my blog. I love hearing from other enthusiasts and always welcome your comments and factual corrections.