On the Trail of the Grail

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On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia » Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:53 am

Relax! It’s not about Arthurian legends, Wagner or Dan Brown; this is about the phenomenon we always refer to as grail watches. I first saw the term when I joined the forum eight years ago, and it immediately made sense. Or did it? You see, one of the things about a grail to me is that it should be pretty much out of reach either by virtue of rarity or, more frequently, price.

I know that circumstances change – my own are a case in point – and something which perhaps seemed like a grail a year or two ago becomes obtainable. So was it ever a grail? I think we may accept that it was, but my notion is to refine the term to cover three different areas: the Resolved Grail, the Superseded Grail and the Unrequited Grail.

The Resolved Grail
It was the watch, or one of the watches you always desired, and at one time you wondered whether you would ever own one. That makes it a grail. However, once it enters your collection for whatever reason it becomes a Resolved Grail. The two obvious examples from my collection are these:

Image

The Superseded Grail
It was the one you probably obsessed about for a long time, but were never able to acquire, and eventually other things took your interest and it faded into the background. For a long time this was the JLC Reverso for me, most likely in the day/night version.

Image

I also held a bit of a torch for the Piaget Altiplano, the world’s thinnest watch. Again, enormously expensive and not eminently practical.

Image

But as many on here will know, my longest serving grail was the Ariadne by Christiaan van der Klaauw. I lusted after it for years, and only finally gave it up when I tried a virtually identical watch by Longines and realised that I could barely see any of the indications without reading glasses. And a secondhand one, if available, would have been much more than twice the cost of the Cartier I eventually bought.

Image

The Unrequited Grail
It’s there, you know you will never own it, but it simply won’t go away. There are a couple of pieces by Vacheron Constantin that fall into that category for me.

Image
Image

Anyone care to confess? :D
Steve
The half minute which we daily devote to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread over the whole twenty-four hours.
Charles Babbage


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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by albionphoto » Mon Aug 12, 2019 12:24 pm

I do admire the penultimate Vacheron in this. My resolved grail is my Speedmaster Mk II re-issue. I wanted it as soon as it was released and then had to scrimp and save for it. It's my most worn watch now. My un-requited grail? That's trickier but I'm sure it's going to be something like the Vacheron even though I don't normally go for dress watches. Could I be about to suffer from Don't meet your grail syndrome?
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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by H0rati0 » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:08 pm

My unrequited:
patek-philippe-5054.jpg
I almost bought one in a moment of insanity :oops: when I worked in the US and I think that makes it worse - so near and yet so far. Glimmer of hope is that they cost the same today in debased $ as when they were manufactured by Patek in the 1990s. Now only available preowned, but that would normally be my preferred source anyway.

Dreaming on.......
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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia » Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:41 am

Whilst I would be blissfully content to be offered a Patek or Vacheron of any description, there is something intangible about Vacheron that I prefer. Perhaps because they are less well-known outside of WIS circles.
Steve
The half minute which we daily devote to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread over the whole twenty-four hours.
Charles Babbage


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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by downer » Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:53 am

There have been a number of phantom grails (phails) on my journey, and I see them as the false summits of a mountaineer. At the time, they seemed to represent everything I wanted and were a destination in themselves, but once there, I realised there were further steps.

However, I am now certain that (in watch collecting terms) I am in the descent phase and I no longer have a desire for unobtainable watches. For sure, I still see some watches I would like, but I can't say I would move heaven and earth to own them. In many ways, I am thankful for that as I think I must have reached (or at least I am approaching) the Seventh age of WISdom.
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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by johnnysharp2 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:57 am

Have to admit I have never joined the 'grail club' there are countless watches I like the look of and to be frank I am lucky that I can probably afford many of them, however. I suppose the one (in some people's eyes) mistake I have always made is having a large collection of what I consider as nice watches rather than a small more high end amount. But I am way past changing that, and to be honest kinda happy with it too.

I suppose in doing what I do and just pretty much adding now and again with what I consider a nice watch at a bargain price I break a rule or two along the way - oh well. Affordability and justification are also 2 different things.

I get pleasure from buying a cheap Fossil for £35 from an outlet as much as I get from grabbling a half price CW in a sale.

I am probably more inclined to look at automatic watches now simply because I always seem to have a quartz one in my collection that needs a new battery.
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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia » Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:56 am

downer wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:53 am
However, I am now certain that (in watch collecting terms) I am in the descent phase and I no longer have a desire for unobtainable watches. For sure, I still see some watches I would like, but I can't say I would move heaven and earth to own them.
I can empathise. That's pretty much where I'm heading.
johnnysharp2 wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:57 am
I suppose the one (in some people's eyes) mistake I have always made is having a large collection of what I consider as nice watches rather than a small more high end amount. But I am way past changing that, and to be honest kinda happy with it too.
Again, I can empathise but, unlike you, I am trying to change it. The problem is that the more people who look towards smaller and better quality collections, the harder the "mistakes" become to sell. There is much less cheap and cheerful trading, dabbling and flipping now than there was when I joined the forum. :problem:
Steve
The half minute which we daily devote to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread over the whole twenty-four hours.
Charles Babbage


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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Danbailey007 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:00 pm

Being pretty new to watch collecting I haven't really got any grail watch I have my eye on. I wanted a Tag Heuer for a long time but found their recent offerings a bit bland, especially for the price.

Since joining here my eyes have been opened to the wonderful world of watches out there and I love the non CW of the day thread. It encouraged me to buy my Elliot Brown and also my C60 bronze from the sale.

I'm liking the look of an Omega SMP or Planet Ocean and do have the funds to buy one if I really wanted but always think do I really need it, could I use the money elsewhere for now. Being relatively young still (34) I figure I have a few years ahead of me yet.
Dan

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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by gwells » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:26 pm

i struggle with the concept of grails for myself. i may have bought in a little when i started, because my original budgets on getting a "nice watch" were very small compared to what i own now (think, $250-500 max).

today the idea of a grail for me is stuck more in the "i don't think i would feel comfortable wearing a $35k watch and even less comfortable owning a watch i wouldn't wear" concept. i need to win the lottery to make a "grail" watch make sense for me today.
the "g" is for Greg...

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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Danbailey007 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:47 pm

gwells wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:26 pm
i struggle with the concept of grails for myself. i may have bought in a little when i started, because my original budgets on getting a "nice watch" were very small compared to what i own now (think, $250-500 max).

today the idea of a grail for me is stuck more in the "i don't think i would feel comfortable wearing a $35k watch and even less comfortable owning a watch i wouldn't wear" concept. i need to win the lottery to make a "grail" watch make sense for me today.
Agree with this completely. Don't think I would even consider a Rolex any more due to the crazy prices and worry of wearing it. Think I'm going to end up with an expensive (to me) brand like Omega and then lots of others in the box that I unsuccessfully rotate like at the moment!
Dan

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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by watchaholic » Tue Aug 13, 2019 6:54 pm

I want to begin by thanking you, Steve, for starting this thread. One of my favorite things, the calm, thoughtful, discussion of these beautiful little timekeeping engines we all hold so dear, no matter the blank stares received back from spouses and friends while trying in vain to explain how it works without a battery. But, I digress. So as not to be too longwinded I will address each of these topics individually, starting at the top as I have been fortunate enough to have obtained my first grail last winter.
THE RESOLVED GRAIL
20190813_120426.jpg
Rolex 126300 Datejust
Things I love about this watch. Firstly, tough as nails. Next, the beautiful, bright, snow white dial, oyster bracelet and smooth bezel. I have always felt the fluted or sunburst bezel, and jubilee bracelet, were a bit too busy for my tastes. From a suit and tie at a wedding, to jeans and a sweater at a summer picnic, always appropriate.
I am fortunate, in this instance, to live near the Canadian border. I watched and waited after deciding this purchase was iminant, for 3.5 years for the stars to align. Finally with the drop in crude oil prices, and subsequent drop in the Canadian dollar vs US last winter, I was able to drive the 75 miles up to Winnipeg and make the purchase from the AD at substantial savings. Still and always looking for a deal.
Time is fleeting....happy hour, doubly so.

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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by gaf1958 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:53 pm

This is my resolved grail - the Japan Racing Speedmaster LE. It falls into the grail category partly on price, as they're not inexpensive, but mostly on rarity value. While only 2,004 of them were made, that's about the same as many other versions of the LE Speedys (so not common, but not super-rare). The big reason I saw it as a grail for me was that while there's a steady(ish) trade in some of the other LEs (with similar production numbers), it seems that very few people are willing to part with a JR Speedy, making them hard to get hold of and expensive when you can. Until I bought mine, the only ones I'd seen for sale were either a bit ratty or way too expensive for my tastes. I looked for a good one at an acceptable price for years until in 2015, I finally found a beautiful example, in all ways like new. It was not cheap, but not outrageous either given its condition.

This one is not only my resolved grail, its my keeper grail.

Image

Image

As to superseded and unrequited grails - I have to say I don't have any. The JR Speedy was my one and only. Oh, I've had a bad case of lust for many a watch, but not in the grail sense. I've owned some fabulous watches, sold almost as many too over the years. They come and they go, some stay for quite a while, some for only a quick visit. I've only owned the JR for a bit over 4 years, but there's never once been any sign of losing my fascination with it.
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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Viognier » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:36 pm

Great thread and great posts ! Enjoyed yours Gary and an absolute stunner
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Re: On the Trail of the Grail

Post by nbg » Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:11 pm

Good topic for a thread Steve. :thumbup:

I remember discussion of the CvdK and how there was a moment in which it ceased being a grail. Dropping one iconic rectangular cased watch in the Reverso, and ending up with another in the form of the Tank was understandable.

The Moonwatch for someone with a genuine interest in the moon landings (as opposed to the more usual WIS everyone needs a Moonwatch process) is a fitting grail.

My random thoughts on the question of grails, include:
- Can a non specific watch be a grail? Yes
- Can a watch that hasn’t yet been released be a grail? Yes
- Can a watch become a grail after you have bought it? Yes
- Would I sell a watch I had considered to be a grail? No, as if I was prepared to sell it, it’s just another watch.

Before I joined the forum I hadn’t given any thought to whether I already had a grail. However after my training and indoctrination it turns out that I already had one! :)

I had liked JLC as a brand for years and thought the Reverso was rather cool, being somewhat different and with a back story of being (in my view) the first “Sports” watch. However I didn’t have a clue as to which particular model I liked best. Not a problem as I thought I was years off buying one. In 2007 circumstances took over. Our eldest daughter was getting married and we were visiting a few weeks before the wedding. I saw a Reverso in a second hand clock and watch shop and it caught my eye. Tried it on and my normal cautious nature went out of the window, probably caught up in the emotion of the forthcoming wedding. A bit of internet research back at the house, after which I went back later in the day and bought it.

Complete madness, as I didn’t know anything about the shop or it’s owner. Fortunately it turned out fine. :)
48D4C9D4-0091-4C66-BFF1-8CF1986A2A5D.jpeg
Happy to count it as a resolved grail, even though I am not a dress watch person. But it is a Sports watch after all.

The Superseded and Unrequited all get a bit muddled for me. I still have a brochure from 2006, with a couple of pages marked. In the same way that I liked the odd shaped Reverso, I also liked the unloved at the time, steel sports watches from another brand. Even had a couple of chances, about 3 years ago, to buy the one that comes on a rubber strap, preowned at less than RRP.

I think it’s stating the bleeding obvious that such watches are now in the superseded grail. No regrets on missing out, because I didn’t get into the hobby to be constantly worrying about the value of a wrist trinket, or the whole hype that surrounds certain models being viewed as “trophies”.
0C0639A4-86F7-42CC-9DAD-E9843275CD98.jpeg
Unresolved grails? Maybe still a couple. One that doesn’t currently exist and one which is the style of watch, rather than a specific brand/model. However hopefully I will see sense, stick with what I have and stop chasing unicorns! :)

Neil
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On the Trail of the Grail

Post by Wis » Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:31 pm

The typology of grails, or hypothesis, offered by Steve (AVO), good as it is, might not be the whole picture. I propose adding another variable: lust v love. I don’t think the superceded grail covers the same phenomenon. Let me explain.

We’ve all lusted after a watch while in our heart of hearts known it was a mere passing fancy or lust. The feelings might have been strong and lasted for a substantial amount of time, but ultimately they faded. The watch didn’t really satisfy. If you were being honest with yourself you would see that, either from the start or down the road. It is easy to be fooled by strong desires.

On the other hand there are watches that we would gladly settle down with for a lifetime. Time does not lessen their attraction, and we seem to discover new and fascinating aspects about them as time goes by. They continue to satisfy on every level.

However, the words lust and love, while accurately describing the phenomenon, don’t lend themselves very well to a serious typology. So I propose using ‘false’ for lust and ‘real’ for love.

Consequently I propose this, more detailed typology:

False Resolved grail
False Superseded grail
False Unrequited grail

Real Resolved grail
Real Superseded grail
Real Unrequited grail

I think it has more explanatory power than the original hypothesis.

What do you think? Am I on to something, or is it pure poppycock?
Bjørn

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