Portugal – A Country That Deserves Your Visit

Hi Everyone,

To start the year just a post to promote Portugal, despite the fact that the country is undergoing a serious crisis, like many other of its European counterparts, it is still, perhaps even more, an amazing place to visit.

Prices on restaurants and hotels are nowadays very low when compared with other 1st world countries, security is very good, roads are brilliant, old european charm is everywhere and the countryside and seaside are breathtaking.

Since an image is worth a thousand words I am going to show a series of photos from several places in the Minho province which is in the North of the country and of Lisbon which, for those who wouldn’t know, is the capital city in the center/south of the country.

I hope you enjoy and find some time to get to know Portugal, most of what is known of the country is about Algarve, its southernmost province with world famous beaches, but in my humble opinion there’s a lot more to see in Portugal than seaside resort towns, and after seeing the following photos I hope you’ll agree…

In this gallery you’ll find photos, lots of photos, if any place captures your fancy and you are interested to know more about it, just drop me a message and I’ll be happy to comply.

A Classic: The 90’s Rolex Submariner Steel/Gold 16613

A small post just to acknowledge my admiration towards what was one of the most sought after models in the Rolex line-up… The 16613.

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This one is a mid 90’s example and I never had it polished so it’s natural that you’ll notice some light scratches in the photos.

It is still a Tritium dial which means that nowadays the lume in it is basically non-existent, but the color remained absolutely even and creamy, going beautifully with the blue and gold.

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The box and papers at the time were also very different from what they are nowadays… 

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One of the most interesting aspects of this model is the lovely blue dial with its sun burst effect, it is remarkable the way it changes shades in accordance to the light. One can literally get mesmerized by the depth of the blue in this dial!

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I wasn’t and still am not much of a gold watch person… Not even a steel/gold person. This was an exception but the fact is that I got completely taken by the result of the combination of colors and materials that Rolex managed to pull out with this piece. 

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And it resisted the test of time really well, in my opinion. I still like it as much today as I did in the 90’s. Furthermore it still keeps spot-on accuracy . Obviously the bracelet feels a bit flimsy when compared with the nowadays solid link ones and the buckle is far from being as impressive as the newer versions but, truth be told, it is really comfortable and still works like a charm at almost two decades. Not too bad…

It still had the green sticker with the model number in the back and it sports the very nice diving extension.

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The golden background in the date wheel gives it great charm in my opinion…

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A Submariner belongs in the water…

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The latest iteration of the Submariner Steel/Gold now called 116613 has a fantastic ceramic bezel and all the newer improvements in the movement and case / bracelet but unfortunately lost the hypnotic dial color… I recently read that, probably due to constant requests, Rolex is working on a 116613 with the same dial color as the 16613 – I sincerely hope so.

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So, here’s the 16613, an exquisite watch, launched in the late eighties but that still feels very contemporary in the way it looks. Being as it is a real tool watch despite the inclusion of gold, this Submariner can be worn as well in a diving expedition as it can with a suit to office or a tuxedo for a party.

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A real testament to Rolex’s ingenuity.

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As always, I hope you enjoyed my impressions on this watch and please feel free to agree / disagree or comment.

Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military Black DLC

Greetings everyone!

I recently acquired, after several months in waiting list, this really interesting watch…

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Probably many of you never heard of Steinhart, which is a shame, for they have a wide selection of watches, mostly, although not only, hommages to well known models of established brands with some very interesting twists.

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This particular watch is in their diving range and is a hommage to the (very rare) classic Rolex Submariner 5517 military issue. You can clearly see the Rolex DNA but, far from copying it, Steinhart took it one step further, updating the design, applying a “maxi-dial” and increasing the size (width) to 42 mm.

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Furthermore the markers and hands have a generous amount of Super Luminova applied in a vintage old radium color that, in my opinion, looks just great and shines bright green in low/no light conditions.

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You can see it here sitting next to my Rolex GMT and both the similitudes and the differences are quite obvious.

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The watch is very well built, in a way that mirrors the classic Rolex construction, from the case to the bracelet/buckle and the screw down crown. It is water resistant to 300 m and the DLC (diamond like carbon) coating over the stainless steel is finished to perfection, giving it the perfect understated stealth look of a military instrument.

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The watch is powered by a swiss automatic 25 jewel movement – ETA 2824-2, a very reliable and time tested workhorse that’s been around since the 1950’s in its original design and the 1970’s in this latest iteration. This movement has been the base that has successfully powered quite a few models of the well established luxury brands throughout the years, and here also performs honestly and keeps an accurate timing.

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The bezel clicks in a satisfying way with no wobble and the pearl insert is impeccable. The beautiful looking domed crystal is sapphire with an inside double anti reflection coating.

Steinhart is a german company and its joy to deal with, their customer service is above any reproach and during all the time since I ordered and payed for this watch until the moment I received they kept a constant and straightforward dialogue with me.

It’s unfortunately rare and many top brands don’t do it half as good as Steinhart does.

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This model is now sold out but there’s a lovely version without the DLC coating that is back in production. Apparently Steinhart has been having difficulties in sourcing from ETA the quantity of movements that they need to keep up to the demand, so if you feel like getting one you’ll need to do it with a bit of patience, but it’s worth it!

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The lume is very nice, in a beautiful shade of green evenly applied and it lasts a fair amount of time.

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It is rather surprising that a company manages to produce such a nice watch, with such a decent build quality with a price tag in the order of the few hundreds of dollars.

Once again a praise to Steinhart, their watches are great value for money!

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Some may argue that the DLC coating doesn’t go well with the vintage look but I really think this watch looks great as it is… Will try some NATO straps on it and post some more photos as soon as I can.

I hope you enjoyed!

IWC Aquatimer Chronograph 376703

Finally my post about the IWC AT Chrono…

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What is there to say…? IWC in the past few years has been presenting us with a wonderful selection of Aquatimer Chronos to choose from and I must admit I had some difficulties in making up my mind. The all black Galapagos 376705 in its discreet “stealth” way is very attractive, the blue and white 376710 / 11 is a terrific watch but, somehow, I just couldn’t pass the opportunity of grabbing a 376703 with the mesmerizing blue / orange combination. I think that the fact that it was discontinued (although one can still find some new in box examples around) along with the striking colors that bring to mind the AT Cousteau from some years ago that I still regret not getting at the time, led me to the inevitability of preferring the 376703 over the other options.

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Indeed it might not be a watch that goes with everyone’s tastes and it also might not be the ideal everyday wear, but once you have a good look at the richness of the blue dial, the beauty of the silver sub dials and the intensity of the orange accents, who cares…?

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I think the pictures talk for themselves…

Now regarding the watch… It is big – at 44 mm width without the crown and 15 mm in height –  feels very solid, as it should for a piece that is rated to dive up to 120 meters and it exudes quality. The alternating polished and brushed stainless steel surfaces are a delight to the eye and to the touch. The sapphire glass with anti reflex treatment looks very good and the equally sapphire crystal bezel is plain gorgeous, the transparency of the blue and orange colors give it a really enticing effect.

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Ant then there is the bracelet… As several other people have pointed out it just might be the best in the business. It looks really good, it feels really good, it is really comfortable, the link removal system with push buttons and the two bronze pins is truly smart and user friendly and the quick change system is awesome.

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For those who are not familiar with the quick change system, allow me to explain: as you can see in the photos above there is a small sort of lever in the interior of the bracelet where it connects with the case, that you just press while at the same time pull out – and that’s it – the bracelet is out. To insert it back you just have to align it and push in until you hear it click. Simple and efficient. The patent is from Cartier but IWC licensed it for use in the Aquatimer family. With this said if you want to change between the bracelet and the rubber strap or the velcro diving strap all it takes is a few seconds and you’re ready to go.

Some people complained that with this proprietary system you are not able to use other straps like NATO or leather in the Aquatimers, it is true, but having in line of account the easiness provided and the fact that you don’t need to risk scratching the lugs whenever you feel like changing the look of your watch,  I reckon I can live with that.

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Of course there is also the issue of the price of the bracelet and straps… The bracelet is absolutely magnificent but the price tag is pretty hefty too, so, my advice if you’re thinking of buying an Aquatimer is get it with the bracelet, the price difference might look a lot at first glance but, once you check the tag on a bracelet on its own you’ll understand… Not saying that the rubber one is particularly inexpensive, which it is not but, once again the quality is beyond dispute and that clever built in quick change system probably doesn’t come cheap. Anyway you (and your wallet) will feel a lot better buying it than the bracelet.

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It is important to notice that the fitting on both the bracelet and the rubber strap is absolutely superb.  Both look and feel like an integral part of the watch and that only comes to prove how much care and effort IWC put in the design of the Aquatimer.

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You can judge by yourself looking at the photos above how well the bracelet / strap is integrated into the case. For a better comparison I put the 3767 alongside its “brother” the Aquatimer 2000 ref. 3568.

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Regarding the “heart” of the watch the 3767 has a mechanical self-winding mechanism IWC calibre 79320 which is based on a ETA Valjoux 7750 – a very reliable and proven calibre to begin with – that is basically rebuilt to IWC’s high standards. It has a 44 hour power reserve, hacking seconds, and it has a very complete set of features  – hours, minutes and seconds, day and date ant the chronograph function with hours (up to twelve), minutes and seconds.

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The accuracy of the movement is pretty good, staying within the COSC parameters of -4 + 6 seconds per 24 h, although, and this comes in accordance with IWC criteria, in my measurements I never had it loosing seconds, only gaining.

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The functions are all accessed in a very straightforward fashion – one screw in crown – with which when unscrewed in the first position you can wind the movement, in the second you can adjust the day and date and in the third you can adjust the hour and minutes – and two pushbuttons – with the top one (at two o’clock position) you can start and stop the chronograph and with the bottom one (at 4 o’clock position) you reset it.

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And now to one of my favorite things in all the current Aquatimer line – the lume.

It is just brilliant (pun intended), most diving watches, as a matter of fact, have pretty decent lume, but, IWC took this one step beyond with a generous application of Super-LumiNova(TM) in the hands and dial and particularly in the underside of the sapphire crystal bezel, creating an outstanding effect and fantastic visibility for both underwater and poor or no luminosity situations.

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I say, the effect talks deeply to the 5 year old boy within me…

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As you can see above, the application of different colors really helps to create a readability that is close to perfection. On the first photo you can see the 3767 on the left side and the slightly different 3568 on the right, and on the second only the 3767. You can notice that even the small second hand (at 9 o’clock position) has a distinctive orange glow.

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In a nutshell – a watch that is very well designed, very well built, comfortable to wear in both bracelet or rubber strap and sports a striking color combination that hardly goes unnoticed.

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But, worn on the wrist is not, in my opinion, even close to be considered “loud” or tasteless…

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Striking yes, but far from being vulgar…

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Well, I positively love this watch… It appealed to me just seeing it in photos but from the moment I first held it on my hand it definitely occupied a place in my heart. It is one of those pieces that you really have to try and feel to understand how intense is its appeal.

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I see the current Aquatimer family as a bold and beautifully built collection by a brand that is both infused in tradition and focused in the future. IWC presented us with it in 2009 and we will probably see a completely redesigned Aquatimer next year (2014), so, if you like them as much as I do, go and get yourself one (or more) while they are around, for I believe the next one will be quite different.

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There are always more things to say, but this post is long enough already so, if anyone has any doubts or questions please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to respond.

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Finally Back to Posting… And IWC to begin with!

With apologies to my readers…

Things got really complicated in the past few months and my availability to write was next to none. I will try to catch up…!

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I’m very keen to share my impressions on the IWC Aquatimer Chrono 376703, but since this is an announcement post I will just share a few photos of it as a teaser and will afterwards publish a post dedicated uniquely to the watch itself.

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Throughout the years IWC has been presenting us with several different series and variations on their Aquatimer… I personally like them all. From the very discreet ones like the 3536 or the Vintage Collection (based on the original from 1967) to the more colorful like this here 376703 I can’t seem to find much fault in any of them.

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Coming out of the box…

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Some people find this latest (from 2009) series of the Aquatimer a bit “over the top” and I even heard it called “cartoonish”… I beg to disagree… Intensely.

It’s obviously not a watch for everyone nor a watch for every occasion, but that cannot be used against it – quite the opposite. It’s a diver’s watch, perfectly adapted to its “tool” function and that can also be worn on a day to day basis. It won’t fit very nicely with a tuxedo or a dinner jacket but that’s why we have “dress watches” …

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Here pictured with the “brother” Aquatimer 2000 ref. 3568.

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The Aquatimer Chrono is very well built and it just exudes quality, no matter how you look at it and it has a presence all of its own.

More to come on this subject, soon…

Furthermore I am preparing a post on the IWC Pilot Mark XVII:

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Probably my favorite watch at the moment…

And not to be called to biased towards IWC – which I admit is my favorite brand – I intend to post my thoughts on several different watches that I find curious or worth of notice as such:

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The Clerc CXX Scuba 250 Limited Edition…

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The elusive Rado Sintra Skeleton COSC….

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The Momo Design Pilot XL GMT…

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The Meccaniche Veloci Rally…

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The Alpina Sailing Extreme 40 Limited Edition…

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And a quite funny Shanghai Tang.

On a totally different note I wish to make a post on african wildlife, with particular focus on the rapidly dwindling population of Rhinoceros… An issue that should concern all of us.

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So much to do, so little time…!

Posts for the Next Weeks

Dear Readers,

Due to increased work commitments and engagements my time to write new posts has been little or none. But I intend to make it up in the next few weeks!

I will be posting about some books, some more watches and, since I will be traveling, definitely there will be many photos and stories to make a few posts on Asia.

Regarding watches I expect to review the IWC AT Chronograph model 376703, now discontinued, that I’ve never seen reviewed anywhere and which I am very eager to experience.

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Greetings!

 

 

 

Rolex GMT Master II Ceramic 116710 LN

Hello!

To start let me say that I like Rolex. I do, and I’m not ashamed to say it!

In my many years enjoying and collecting watches I realized, amazingly, that there are people out there that don’t like, or at least think they don’t like Rolex…

Why would that be amazing? After all peoples’ tastes are different and that’s what give us variety, so why should they like Rolex?

Absolutely correct, but the point I’m making here is that probably most of the people who say they don’t like Rolex do it either from prejudice or from lack of first hand knowledge of their products. I read a post some time ago in a well known watch blog that had quite a few interesting insights into the whys and whats of this so I’ll try not to emulate,

I decided to write this post trying to take this subject which is often discussed amongst “watch people” a bit further and to help me do so I am going to review the Rolex GMT Master II 116710 LN, which in my opinion is one of the most versatile watches around.

I’m not trying to promote Rolex, they most certainly don’t need me to promote them, and they are also not paying me to publicize their products, they have experts to do that. (Mmmm… But, anyway, Dear Directors of Rolex if you ever read this and feel like sending me a couple of watches I would really appreciate… Thank you!)

What I’m trying here is to be fair towards a brand that produces really great watches and it’s not by chance that they are one of the most recognizable luxury brands in the world. When during my twenties I started buying “proper” – as in swiss made mechanical – watches, I spent several years ignoring Rolex while buying other top brands that I thought at the time, with all the intensity of youth, were more appropriate to “connoisseurs” due to their longer tradition, their more “exclusive” image or their more complicated movements.

And one fine day I decided to buy one, just to figure out what was it that so many people saw in Rolex. I got myself a Submariner (no date) and I certainly got the point…

To be very clear Rolex is not my favorite watchmaker, but, ever since that first Submariner that I bought in the 90’s, Rolex is up there amongst the top places of my personal ranking. I’ve had a few since then and they are just what you’d expect – comfortable to wear, accurate, resistant, a good match whatever you’re dressing be it sport, casual or a suit and fundamentally they are very dependable.

Now, to the GMT Master II…

This one here is the 116710 LN which means that it’s the latest version of the model that was created by Rolex for the now disappeared Pan American World Airlines when they first started flying Boeing 707 jet airplanes in intercontinental flights and due to their extended range, felt the need to have a watch that would allow the pilots to shift easily between different timezones…

This model has been around for a few years now, and since its launch has been very sought after. The size is 40 mm, which by today’s standards is not considered big, but it has more than enough presence has is. The indexes are quite a bit larger than the previous versions which helps readability and gives it a more up to date look and it was the first model of the brand to come with a rotating bezel in Cerachrom – Rolex lingo for high tech ceramics – said to be virtually unbreakable and scratch proof and with the inserted numerals, representing in this case the 24 hours of the day, in platinum.

The Oyster case, which is carved from a single block of stainless steel and hermetically sealed, is perfectly finished with its surfaces contrasting between polished and brushed. The case back, unlike “older” Rolex models doesn’t have a green sticker with logo and model number anymore, being absolutely clean with no marks or writing of any kind.

The black dial is protected by a thick sapphire crystal, with the typical Rolex cyclops at three o’clock to magnify the date. Legibility is very good, even in situations of intense luminosity or strong reflexion, although it is widespreadly acknowledged that it could be improved with a double anti-reflection treatment.

The bracelet, with the links brushed on the sides and polished in the middle is very good, with a solid and pleasant feel to the touch. Fortunately the folding clasp, unlike some flimsy examples from the past, is now beyond reproach. It comes fitted with an “Easylink” that can be easily deployed, as the name suggests, in case the wrist gets swollen while traveling or during warmer weather.

The crown is a “Triplock” (you can recognize it by the three dots underneath the Rolex crown logo) exactly like the one you’ll find in the Submariner models and it screws into the case, rendering it impervious to water and dust. The crown, when unscrewed can be used to perform three operations – 1. wind up the mechanism – 2. set the date and time forward or backwards in increments of one hour (more to that coming) – 3. set the time in the traditional fashion.

The heart of the watch is an automatic self-winding  COSC certified chronometer mechanism, built in house and sporting the “paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring” oscillator – you have to hand it to Rolex, they really know how to come up with cool sounding names – that has a stronger resistance to shocks and it is not affected by magnetic fields therefore achieving higher standards of accuracy. Well, you can read all about it at the Rolex website, what I can tell you is that after approximately three years of usage in the real world the accuracy is nearly perfect staying well within the COSC parameters (-4 to +6 seconds/day).

But the beauty of this mechanism for me resides also in the simplicity of use when you move between timezones. Let me explain – you have the long green hand (as you can see in the photo above pointing at 15 h in the rotating bezel) that gives you the time in a 24 hour scale and that when traveling you use as Home hour, then you have the traditional hour hand that you can move back and forth to adjust to the time at the place you’re going to. Simple, easy, brilliant! So you can forget about all you used to know about not moving the hands counter clockwise and not changing the date backwards, the GMT Master II allows you to do just that, and with such a well built, precise and responsive control that will rarely fail to bring a smile to your lips.

Another small difference from previous models is the inside ring with the word Rolex engraved all around and the serial number at 6 o’clock, it may sound like it “complicates” the image a bit, but in fact you hardly notice it when wearing the watch.

The lume is good. It is not excellent, but the green LumiNova gets the job done, and I feel that for a normal usage is more than enough. The latest Explorer II, Submariner and Yacht Master are using something exclusive to Rolex called “Chromalight” (once again a very cool name) that has blue luminescence and apparently produces better results.

There!

In a nutshell – the GMT Master II  – you can take it anywhere and change timezones with ease, you can see up to three different timezones at the same time, you can take it swimming or even diving (100 m water resistance), you can wear it to any occasion and you can rely in both the build quality and the mechanism’s precision.

What’s there not to like about it?

Well, I understand the argument that lots of people that don’t have a clue about watches buy a Rolex just because they heard about the brand and they like to show off but, that is not a reason for people who do appreciate watches and should snub a great quality product, is it? That’s why you see lots of collectors and people who work in the industry wearing Rolex as their day to day watch.

I’m sure this will keep on being a controversial theme of discussion, but what I believe is that…

There are lots of people with good taste that are savvy enough to appreciate a Rolex.

If you have an opinion on this subject, please make a comment, I’m really interested in hearing what you have to say.