Captain Sir Tom Moore tells the time with a limited edition fake Omega Seamaster Commander made for the James Bond franchise, which Pierce Brosnan wore in Goldeneye.
And then a hero comes along… In a year when so many have lost elderly friends and relatives due to the Covid-19 crisis, GQ’s Inspiration Of The Year and oldest ever cover star, raised more than £30 million in a charity walk for the NHS and, in the process, became the grandfather the nation needs right now. At age 100, Captain Tom is one of the last remaining members of the “Greatest Generation” – those selfless men and women who fought in the Second World War and somehow managed to return home with their humanity intact.
Of course, as a former military man, Captain Tom takes great pride in his appearance. His signature blue blazer with three medals pinned above the pocket (the 1939-45 Star, the Burma Star and the 1939-45 War Medal and, later, the 1939-45 Defence Medal, which he lost and was re-presented) became iconic this year. Captain Tom comes from a generation for whom wearing a watch is a deeply ingrained habit. Alongside combing your hair, tucking in your shirt and polishing your shoes, wearing a watch is simply what a grown man does – especially men with a military background.
Watch companies have always wanted their work on the wrists of heroes, because we men are often silly enough to believe that somehow a bit of that magic will rub off on us if we wear the same one as an explorer, soldier, sportsman or astronaut. You’ll be disappointed to learn that a lot of military men don’t bother with fancy watches. For instance, my girlfriend’s father, a retired RAF officer, wears a bog-standard quartz watch, which he cheerfully tells me glows in the dark.
Not so, however, in the case of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who tells the time with a perfect replica Omega Seamaster Commander, a limited edition made for the James Bond franchise, which Pierce Brosnan wore in Goldeneye. Its blue and white ceramic bezel is a nod to Commander Bond’s navy background, while on the bright red second hand, the immortal reference: “007” is clearly visible. A gift from a friend, Moore’s watch has “Captain Tom” engraved on the back. In short, it’s a watch fit for a hero. All of which begs the question, when is Omega going to release a Captain Sir Tom Moore special edition?
You can travel the world over and you may never find another store like The Vintage Watch Company. The father and son team of John and David Silver founded the store in 1995. They say it contains the largest collection of vintage best replica Rolexes in the world. It’s difficult to argue with this claim as the store has about 2,000 Rolex watches in its inventory every day. Every watch that passes through its doors gets professionally photographed for the company’s website.
As time went by it became evident to David that the pictorial inventory he was building went far beyond a sales catalogue. “It was rapidly becoming a truly unique archive, the likes of which had never been seen before, and which would be near-impossible to replicate,” he says.
To celebrate the store’s 25th anniversary, David decided to publish a visual documentation of the watches that have passed through the store. The book named, “Vintage Rolex, The Largest Collection in the World” (Pavilion Books) contains photographs and brief descriptions of 1,800 Rolex watches — from 1910 to 1998. The watches that appear in the 384-page coffee-table book represent the evolution of the iconic Swiss watch brand. It includes a brief history of the store in the Burlington Arcade shopping center, a history of Rolex and brief introductions in each of the four chapters (“Early Vintage,” “Oyster,” “Stella & Stone,” and “Sport”) and sub-chapters.
Perfect replica Rolex was founded as Wilsdorf and Davis by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London in 1905. The company registered Rolex as the brand name for its watches in 1908. Wilsdorf and Davis changed the name of the firm to Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. in 1915. This means that the watches in the catalog from 1910 pre-date the official company name change to Rolex. The firm moved to Switzerland in 1919. A year later the name was officially changed to Montres Rolex S.A. and later to Rolex S.A. Forbes in 2020 lists Rolex as the 80th most valuable brand in the world.
Most of the photographs in the book are thumbnail sized with brief descriptions but there are some that take upwards of an entire page. There’s a special section on the Paul Newman Daytona, among the most sought after Rolex watches in the world. A Rolex Daytona once owned by the iconic actor sold at auction in 2017 for $17.7 million, a world record price at the time. It is now the second most expensive wristwatch and the third most expensive watch sold at auction.
David said he decided to create a book for “all those who have bought into the vision of The Vintage Watch Company and who share the passion of its founders.”
When did you have the idea to create this book and how long did it take to produce it?
I have been delving in and out of the idea of creating a book for many years. I would say that I really focused the last three years and put my mind to finishing the task. I had almost abandoned the idea as I simply couldn’t dedicate the time required. Then the lockdown hit us and it allowed me to focus and work night and day to pull it altogether with my incredible team and submit it for publication. We actually were still signing off on the book in May of this year so I am absolutely delighted we were able to get it released for Christmas.
Why should watch collectors want to buy this book?
This is a good question. Watch collectors per se are not my target audience as I want our watches worn, shown off and talked about— not locked away in a dark safe to be looked at once a year. However, I obviously do have a few extremely serious collectors who own many of the pieces displayed in the book. Put simply though, this is a book for all, not just collectors, not just lovers of Rolex, not just men, not just watch lovers but anyone interested in history, art, fashion, and style, and want something a bit special on their coffee table.
Martin Luther King with his yellow gold Datejust and Paul Newman, with his Rolex Daytona
Do the watches in the book represent most of the Rolexes that have passed through your shop’s doors over 25 years?
No, this is the abridged version. We have had many more but a major ‘cull’ of images had to take place. It was no easy task let me tell you.
How were you able to photograph all of the pieces? Do you do it as each piece arrived in the store or did you have to contact current owners to get their permission to photograph their piece?
To document the impressive collection, I enlisted the services of Bruce Mackie, a professional photographer who once shot images of the iconic Rolexes for the pages of Vogue magazine. Each watch was professionally lit and photographed for The Vintage Watch Company website in the quiet seclusion of the loft rooms at The Burlington Arcade in London.
With all the iconic watch brands in the world, why did your family focus on Rolex?
When we first began we did experiment with other Vintage watch brands, but early on there was always one dominate leader: Rolex. Rolex was/is such a powerhouse brand that there was no escaping its allure, coupled with the ever growing desire for vintage watches. At the time the combination was unbeatable.
Is the store for important collectors, or is it for anyone interested in watches and Rolex?
It’s for absolutely anyone. In fact, the high end collectors won’t find the pieces they are looking for here. We don’t have the special £1million Rolexes. We stick to more accessible pieces with wider appeal. Our most popular theme is to buy or gift a vintage Rolex based on the year of someone’s birth. It’s an amazing gift and a winner every time. The entry level here is around £4,000 ($5,264).
Which pieces in the book are your favorites?
Well obviously my passion extends to them all but there is my 1966 GMT Pepsi shot in the opening pages of the book. Charlie Sawyer, my lifestyle photographer who I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of years ago, shot this now trademark “hand-in-pocket” image. It pretty much combines all of my passions in one shot: Rolex, alligator straps and luxurious Savile Row tailoring.
What is it about Rolex that makes it one of the most recognizable and iconic luxury brands in history?
Rolex is one of the top global brands in the world, with Pespi, Kellogg’s, Apple and others you wish to choose. Ask 100 people on the street to name a watch brand and the majority will say Rolex.