Small Fish in a Big Pond

It’s June and students are checked out waiting for summer break to begin. But here in Chicago, I’m not checking the expiration date on the sunblock in my bathroom cabinet just yet. You see in the Windy City, we flirt with warm sunny days this time of year, but milder temps are more the prevailing wind. However, the local weatherman and The Weather Channel App both forecast that this weekend Mother Nature is unleashing an unseasonable, record-breaking heat wave upon the Midwest – with feel like temps predicted above 100 °F (38 °C).

As I prepare to broil in the sun – watching my pasty skin turn the shade of a Maine lobster – I find myself really wanting a new watch for the summertime. Don’t ask me why, I just do. And I have a pretty good idea of the watch I want to leave a watch tan on my wrist… I definitely need something sporty, yet classic. A watch whose DNA is amphibious (i.e., doesn’t mind getting inadvertently sprayed by a garden hose and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with a salty wave). Something preowned that’s a little weathered and has a smidgen of patina – kinda like how a Florida retiree looks. The watch I want to take for long walks on the beach is an Omega Seamaster Professional 300M.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 9.07.37 AM

But of course being a watch nerd, I’m hunting for a very specific Seamaster. I’m kinda like a digger wandering the coast line waving a metal detector over the sand hoping to find a sunbather’s left behind jewelry. Except I’m combing eBay listings hoping to find just the right mid/late 90s ref. 2551.80 midsize model. And since my ideal Seamaster will be damn near 20-years-old, I want one with a red second hand tip that’s mildly sun bleached – to say an orange creamsicle tone – and with hour markers that look like sunny-side-up eggs.

Now some of my closest watch buds might be thinking I’m delirious and suffering from heat-stroke already. I can hear them now: “Nick, you want an Omega? But you’re such a Rolex guy… why not buy a No-Date Sub for a summer watch… and if you want an Omega – dude buy a Speedy…” First let me say this: I am a Rolex guy – always have been, always will be. And I’ve never lusted after a Speedmaster – although every time I get up close and personal with a straight lug model, especially one with leaf hands or a lollipop second hand – I get weak in the knees.

If I’m being 100% honest with myself and my watch amigos, the Rolex references (and watches in general) that I connect with the most are models from the 90s – the decade I became smitten with watches. Now, I do talk a lot about buying a vintage Rolex, such as an Orange-Hand Explorer II. But if push came to shove – and I could only buy one Rolex at that price point – I’d probably opt for a white dial, L-serial Daytona and keep the change. Vintage watches are nice, but I can’t so easily dismiss modern watches, especially those from the 90s. I have so many great childhood and early adult memories from that era – a simpler time I often wish I could relive. Wearing watches from that time period is the next best thing to having an actual time machine.

And let me get this off my chest… In my personal life – over the last five years – I’m guilty of being too concerned with fulfilling other people’s – or society’s – expectations of what I should like or what I should be doing for a living. Recently – before it was too late thankfully – I had an epiphany of sorts and decided to put more stock in that little voice inside my head instead of the peanut gallery. I’m gonna apply the same approach to watches: Just because a particular watch is trending on Instagram or bringing down the house at auctions – doesn’t mean it’s a shoo-in in my collection.


Which brings me back to my yearning for this Pierce Brosnan-endorsed Omega. I think I’ve been suppressing my feelings for it because it’s not widely considered among the en vogue pieces of wrist wear to own today. Again, the elders of this hobby would probably advise me to buy a 60s Seamaster with a bakelite bezel. But is that what I really want? Besides really digging the skeleton hands and loving the idea of embracing a 36mm diving watch – one that actually proportionally fits my narrow, boney wrist – this is a watch I may very well have purchased back in day…

You’re hearing it here first, but I vaguely remember strolling the mall with my Mom doing some back-to-school shopping and ogling the Omega display in a jewelry store vitrine (Rolex wasn’t sold in my blue-collar, middle class mall). The blue tones stood out back then – and apparently have stuck in my mind ever since. At the time, this was an aspirational watch for me. And at a price point back then around $1700, it was more attainable than a comparable brand new Rolex. Had I not been fortunate to go to Paris in high school where the favorable exchange rate at the time allowed me to buy a Rolex – this might have been my first Swiss watch…

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 9.11.33 AM

Right now in my life I can’t spend five-figures on a Zenith Daytona – or even $4k on a No-Date Sub (I’m currently unemployed, so I need to be responsible). But around a thousand bucks for a late 90s Seamaster – I think I can swing that – and honestly enjoy wearing it just as much as the other two.

As my wife and I make plans to enjoy the smoldering weekend in Chicago – sipping Bubble teas and watching the America’s Cup race take to Lake Michigan, I’m plotting to buy this watch. Hopefully it happens before the summer comes to a close. But even if I don’t end up getting it until the fall or winter, I needn’t look further than its wavy dial to think of blue waters to help me mentally escape Chicago’s whipping winds and numbing cold. But also, its blue ripple dial and Royal bezel will help me think of all those memories from the good old days, like scoping watches in the mall as a teenager.


Feature image courtesy of

Pic 1 in post:

Pic 2 in post:

Pic 3 in post:  Instagram @christalentfrei or

Pic 4 in post:

11 thoughts on “Small Fish in a Big Pond

  1. Nick:

    You realize that by posting this article, you have guaranteed that every SM 300 on the planet just went up by 10% ?

    I like to call it the “Watch Patina” effect!

    Good luck on your quest; all of us who have both Rolexes AND Omegas in the drawer are rooting for you!

    Be safe.


    • I better get one quick then! And thanks for thinking Watch Patina has that kind of influence… I’ll await your links to eBay listings for this one… Remember B&P, unpolished, with just the right amount of patina!


    • Glad you like it Chris! Thanks again for lending your shot! Yeah I have more thoughts along these lines, I’ll share them little by little in posts throughout the year. Hopefully I pick a SMP soon… Have a great weekend!


  2. Really enjoyed this one ! As a (somewhat) young 29 year old collector who was a kid in the 90’s, I find myself focusing my collection and interests more and more on watches of that era. These are the watches that I first remember seeing and admiring, hoping one day to own. Not to mention they are relatively affordable and somewhat abundant, and also hit that sweet spot of being right on the border of contemporary/vintage.


    • Hey Kris, Thanks for reading! I’m curious to see how my “collection” grows over the next few years… I’ve got my eye on a ’90s piece, a vintage watch, and a very modern watch… I’ll let the vintage and modern options simmer for a while before pulling the trigger to make sure I truly want them and I’m not going after them because I’m caught up in the hype…


  3. I bought a 2551.80 a year ago from a local jewelry store. It caught my eye for two reasons: 1. It was a mid-size model and 2. It had a very faded bezel and heavily patina’d hour markers. The hour markers look like sunny side up eggs, just like you mentioned. The bezel has faded to a near purple shade, though it still looks blue in the right lighting. It’s got a lot of charm and makes for a great beater watch that I’m not afraid to wear anywhere. These older Bond SMP’s just age so well.


    • Hey Daniel – Thanks for reading! I’ve been borrowing a friend’s SMP – really enjoying it. My mind is made up; I want one for sure! I’m actually leaning towards the 41mm… (It doesn’t wear that big.) I’ll probably buy one from eBay; a lot come up for sale – just need to find one with the right patina and package. Great watch for the price, stunner to look at; that wave dial is killer!


      • Nick, I enjoyed the pics you took of that 2551.80. Mine is similarly faded and patina’d if you ‘d like to check it out on IG. @mesaboogie85


  4. What an article Nick. I can’t say much about the Sea Master as you know me already, but this exact model is also on my wish list…I just think having a modern PO (cal 8500) and then having a not so much modern Sea Master Professional will be great to my collection! I love the wave dial, the hands as well. And for that price point…well can’t go wrong!!!!

    Cheers my friend!
    Pedro (IG: Paguiarneto)


    • Pedro – you nailed it man… The skeleton sword hands, the glimmer of the wave dial, the blue tones… Man I’ve really enjoyed wearing the one I borrowed; gonna be tough to give it back (I’m really gonna have to find one once that happens). We could talk about this watch for hours…


Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s