Wednesday, 8 July 2015

What makes a good 30th birthday present

I'll kick off by saying that sadly I'm not thirty anymore, that milestone passed me by half a decade ago. Thirty was different for me to other birthdays, turning the page on my twenties genuinely felt like the start of new chapter in my life. Your twenties are a time of discovery, everything is new and life is full of firsts. An older friend of mine said to me at the time that your thirties are great because "you're old enough to know who you are" an odd idea but for me it's about right. I've found much more confidence, my only slight regret is I didn't have this when I was eighteen.

Most birthday presents don't last, even 'cool' things like iPads or bike bits have a short life in the grand scheme of things. You'll find as you're approaching an important birthday friends and family will ask you what you'd like for your birthday (why we don't have birthday lists like wedding lists I don't know, perhaps that a good idea someone will develop). I was thinking about this question whilst walking around the Trafford Centre somewhat stuck for an answer myself when I saw a second hand Omega Seamaster for sale in the shop window of Beaverbrooks Jewellers.

The Seamaster in question was a 2531.80, a blue 'bond' as seen in three of the four bond films Pierce Brosnan stared in for £780 boxed (the odd one out for interest was Goldeneye, this featured another Omega - it looked the same but featured a quartz movement, the 254180). It was a little scratched, in need of a decent polish but the crystal was clean so after a couple of quick calls to friends I decided to pick it up and anyone who wanted to chip in had an easy answer for my birthday present.

Omega Seamaster 2531.80 dial

Omega Seamaster 2531.80 caseback

Omega Seamaster 2531.80 caseback

Omega Seamaster 2531.80 clasp

For two weeks the 2531.80 ticked away happily marking time, I loved it. All Seamasters feel special as you snap them onto your wrist, the cold of the stainless steel and the extra weight ensuring you know it's not 'just' a Casio (not that there is anything wrong Casio watches they're great tools, I've got three G-shocks and will be writing about the most interesting of them a GW9400-1 Rangeman on this blog soon).

One evening I was watching TV before heading off to bed when I noticed two things, firstly it was much later than I thought it was and secondly my Seamaster was dead. I managed to persuade it back to life with a few soft taps on the case but it soon stopped again, obviously it was poorly. Beaverbrooks were very understanding and gave me a couple of options, I could either wait a couple of months and have it repaired or have a full refund. I asked them about trading my 2531.80 for a new Seamaster as I still really wanted one.

This turned out to be a great decision, now I'm really happy that my old watch died so quickly, I traded up (with quite a chunk of change despite negotiating a reasonable discount of £280) to the new version of the 2531.80 the 2220.80. I didn't know it at the time but there are significant differences between these models and of course a fresh watch is probably what I should have gone for in the first place. I'm not going to write a detailed review of the 2220.80, that's pointless - far better write-ups than I'd put together can be found online. However, I'll take a little time and tell you what I like about the 2220.80 and how it's been on a day to day basis for the past five or so years.

Both the 2531.80 and the 2220.80 are automatic watches, I find the idea of something purely mechanical refreshing in this digital world especially if it powers itself. I didn't know however when I bought the watch that the automatic movement in the 2220.80 was technically superior to that in the 2531.80. It features what is known as a co-axial escapement which was designed by a watch maker called George Daniels from the Isle of Man. Omega commercialised this movement in 1999 and it has two main advantages, improved chronometric stability and longer service intervals due to the inherent low friction design.

However, the co-axial 2500c movement in my watch wasn't perfected when Omega actually produced them and my Seamaster stopped working around a year after after I got it. Reading online I found that this was a well known lubrication problem and after six weeks my Seamaster returned, fully serviced. Every single scratch in the case had been removed and importantly I was reassured that the fix was permanent. It's my understand that Omega have actually issued a service bulletin with a proper solution. My Seamster currently runs around a single second fast per week which is truly astonishing for an automatic watch, many quartz watches can't achieve that (I actually think it runs about +1 second in the day and -1 second overnight averaging out).

Apart from the lubrication failure the 2220.80 has been surprisingly rugged, I've used it swimming, shooting, mountain biking, gardening, running and working without issues. Seamasters certainly do not need to be babied only kept away from deliberate abuse. Generally speaking the watch can take whatever action your wrist can withstand! The 2220.80 also has beautiful detailing on the face which I've tried to capture on the images below, the minute markers are raised for instance and the skeleton hands look stunning in the light.

So to bring this ramble to a close, if you're stuck for a present for a significant birthday or event consider an automatic watch. My personal recommendation would be the direct successor to the 2220.80 which can be found on here. However, the Rolex Submariner Date also deserves an honourable mention, it is probably the single most iconic watch on the planet and is the original Bond watch in Ian Fleming's books.

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