Last month, while on vacation in New York City, my wife and I dropped by Leffot – completely unannounced – so I could introduce myself to owner Steven Taffel – someone I had never emailed or spoken to before, let alone met. Leffot is a men’s shoe boutique located in the West Village. They offer the crème de la crème of footwear: From collaborations with American-Made Alden to select styles by the finest-quality shoemakers such as John Lobb, Corthay, and Saint Crispin’s. Steven and his team promote a style philosophy emphasizing a quality shoe as the foundation to one’s wardrobe. Between hosting trunk shows – with the best and brightest shoemakers and artisans – to their made-to-order program, the experience you get at Leffot is second-to-none.
Leffot does more than sell exquisitely-detailed, hand-crafted shoes. At this must-visit destination, you’ll also find a variety of men’s accessories: My wife was eyeing their assortment of watch straps. In particular, a shell cordovan NATO in hunter green for her Explorer I.
While I am overdue for a new pair of shoes, I was on a mission of a different sort that day. You see I follow Leffot on Instagram – @Leffot – and along with posting eye-candy shoes, mouth-watering food, and picturesque images of the city, Steven rounds-out Leffot’s feed with shots of exceptional vintage watches that he owns. I told him about WatchPatina.com and asked if he’d consider sharing one of his watches…I was thrilled when he agreed.
Besides always wearing undeniably-beautiful shoes, you’ll always find Steven wearing a well-regarded watch on his right wrist: The day we met, he had on his 1954 Rolex Turn-O-Graph. After I photographed it – and he wrapped-up with a customer – Steven told me he’s “never not wearing” a watch: Even for that short span of time, he felt strange doing his job without a watch on. With a vintage Rolex collection that also includes a very-early ref. 1675 GMT-Master and a classic ref. 5512 Submariner, why would he not always wear a watch?
Unless you’re set to inherit your grandfather’s favorite watch, you’ll probably have to buy a vintage watch or wait until you come across a ‘barn find.’ In either case, you likely won’t know the entirety of its history: Who was the previous owner? What countries has it traveled to? What events has it witnessed? You’ll simply be turning a page of its story and beginning a new chapter…
This is precisely the scenario with Steven’s 1954 Turn-O-Graph. He assumed ownership of the watch in 2013 at Christie’s Holiday Pop-Up shop in New York. He was invited to the event by his friend, Reginald Brack – Instagram @reginaldbrack – who at the time was Director of Private Sales, Watches for the auction house. Steven told me that in his “heart of hearts” he had an inkling he might buy something there.
When Steven was first introduced to his Turn-O-Graph he thought it was an “unusual piece.” One of the features that stood-out was its smaller case. He wondered if he could adjust to the 35mm size since he was so used to the 40mm diameter and beefier wrist-presence of his GMT and Sub.
For the watch’s sake, it had a lot more going for it: What it lacked in stature, it more than made up for in the personality and looks department. This Turn-O-Graph had a ‘tropical’ dial Steven fell in love with: Its color perfectly-transitioning from a dark chocolate tone to a milk chocolate hue. As if it couldn’t get any better, closer-inspection of the dial revealed a crackled – ‘crazed’ – texture. All of these ‘defects’ and ‘signs of age’ – much-coveted by collectors – were complimented by the toasted patina of the hour plots and sharp gilt printing. The overall “warmth” that the watch radiated was irresistible to Steven.
Having recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, his Turn-O-Graph hasn’t lost any of its charm. Whenever Steven winds it, he gets a kick out of hearing the gears turn and click: Listening carefully to the sound, you can almost visualize the movement inside.
I was really glad Steven chose to share his vintage Turn-O-Graph. His ref. 6202 debuted around 1953/1954 and was among the first ‘technical’ watches produced by Rolex: It was waterproof and could keep track of elapsed time with its rotating bezel. His is truly a ‘rare bird’ among Rolex watches.
The Turn-O-Graph is too often left out of the conversation when discussing ‘sport’ Rolex models: This is partly because by the end of the 1950s the Submariner – with its greater depth-rating of 660ft – won-out as Rolex’s recreational watch of choice. The other model making a more-compelling case for customers was the GMT-Master: It had a dual-time zone function and quickly became the trusted-companion for travelers. So, Rolex ended-up changing direction with the Turn-O-Graph by associating it with their Datejust line. The look of the Turn-O-Graph changed completely and – for a long time – has been considered as more of a dress watch.
Steven is thinking about a vintage Milguass for his next Rolex. If he gets one – whether with a honeycomb dial from the 1950s or one with non-luminous markers from the 1980s – it’ll feel right at home next to his Turn-O-Graph. Both watches share a similar ‘Cinderella’ story: The original Milgauss – geared towards scientists because of its anti-magnetic property – didn’t sell well and was discontinued by Rolex. Now original Milgauss watches are prized by collectors. Like the Milgauss, Steven’s Turn-O-Graph was created during the ‘golden age’ of tool watches and is a true artifact of Rolex history.
Visit Leffot at 10 Christopher Street New York NY 10014 and at www.leffot.com
More pictures below of Steven’s Turn-O-Graph