Oh yes, we’ve seen one or two watches from Hamilton being collected by enthusiasts. But Bill’s collection here is the one keeping us glued to our seats. You are required to have a certain level of taste, to be able to own vintage pocket-watches. He is a man passionate about the watches he owns, and more importantly, holds dear to the memories attached to them. Let us hear it from the man himself about the heartfelt journey he went through to become the collector he is today. All the way from Ontario , Canada, lets hear it from Bill.
Ladies, gentlemen and #watchfam, this is EP31 of #wristalk. Enjoy.
Watches aren’t just about time or showing off your status. To me they represent passion, craftsmanship, memories and connections.
–Bill Barfett (@barfett)
How it all started?
I have this friend Bob, who always had the latest and greatest stuff. He was the first to have a cell phone, always had cool knives and still does to this day, sunglasses, shoes, basically all the finest stuff in life, you name it, he has it. I wasn’t interested in most of the stuff though, until he started wearing watches.
I remember he had a Sinn back in our mid / late teens. He didn’t really know much about it other than that it was made of German Submarine steel, and it was pretty expensive. That was the first time that I really felt the need to have a good watch, and the first time I was envious of something he had.
He was always pushing me to buy pretty much any, and every watch he owned at any given time. He was pretty convincing and even went as far as saying “you’re not a man unless you own a nice watch”. You see, Bob is a flipper; and not just of watches, of anything. For him, it was more about the deal then the actual item changing hands (he owns a used car lot now.. Go figure). Unfortunately, most of his stuff was out of my price range and that included the watches that would come his way. Even though I never actually bought a watch from Bob however I did buy many other useless items from him though, he definitely lit the fire that would eventually consume me.
What was your first watch?
My first watch was a Citizen Nighthawk. At the time it was considered oversized, and something about the look of it just called to me. It was an extremely well built watch for the price and looked a lot more expensive than it was. It is still to this day the Watch that I got the most random compliments on. Unfortunately it doesn’t get much wrist time these days but I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it. I have trouble letting go.
What do Watches mean to you?
Mechanical Watches are one of a few items that refuse to fall into the “they just don’t make them like they used to” category. In a time when most of our consumer products are basically disposable and pumped out of the factory with little regard for quality, mechanical watches remain basically unchanged. I mean, of course we have computers now, and CNC machines, and silicone parts but the basic mechanics of a watch haven’t changed. That quality means a lot to me because I work hard for my money and I want to get something that is actually worth what I’m paying for it.
For me, when I look at my Watch I picture some old dude up in the mountains working away at his bench making it. I know that isn’t the case now. But it’s the connection to the time when that actually was the case that I think is special.
As a result of my love for watches, I snuck into my Parents house last year and grabbed my Dad’s old Gruen. This watch had been in his drawer and was not working for at least as long as I can remember. It had been a Grade 8 graduation gift to my dad from his parents with the date and occasion were engraved on the case back. My dad lost his father when he was just 17, and his mother when he was 25.
This watch was really the only connection to them he had left. So, I took it in to my local watchmaker and had him serviced it. Thirty some odd years in a drawer and all it needed was a cleaning to start working again, that is simply amazing. I surprised my dad with it on Father’s Day and when he saw it he couldn’t even talk. For him, seeing that Watch again and working to boot was like getting to see his Parents again. I can’t think of any other item that can have that kind of impact.
Watches aren’t just about time or showing off your status. To me they represent passion, craftsmanship, memories and connections. I’m in complete awe of all the watchmakers out there. I would love to be able to do what they do. So I guess when I strap on a watch on my wrist, it’s my way of establishing a connection with them.
What is the focus of my collection?
For the time-being it would be Hamilton watches. I’ve got four Hamilton watches and two pocket watches of the same brand. It was their connection to the American Railroad that really fascinated me. The fact that the train engineers’ pocket watches kept good time is really amazing to me. These were necessary tools back in the day.
I’ve always found myself more inclined to pilot watches. However, I’ve been attempting to diversify mu collection, but my focus in its core has been about value. Hamilton, Stowa, Seiko, Orient, and Steinhart all offer an outstanding amount of it and, as a result, have each found their way into my collection. I’ve got a cool little Poljot Alarm Watch too. I just love that complication unfortunately I wasn’t ready to spend a lot, so I scooped it up for a hundred bucks.
What was the last watch You Bought?
The last one I bought was a Seiko SNKK87. I bought this Watch for the sole purpose of modding it. So I hit up Dagaz for some parts and built an explorer homage. I really enjoy working with watches and going downstairs to my little work area, which is a nice little escape for me. It’s my happy place. I’ve recently started making straps down there as well.
What is your favourite watch in your collection?
My favourite watch in my collection has got to be the Hamilton Pilot Auto. Not because it gets more wrist time or anything, but because it was a wedding gift from my wife. and my I say it was a wedding that almost didn’t happen because of my watch addiction.
We were in the midst of saving for the wedding when I sent an inquiry to Stowa to see if they could do a B-Dial with a manual wind 2801. They somewhat misunderstood me I think. Looking back, maybe it’s a sales tactic. An order of confirmation was sent for the watch. So I figured it was fate, and I confirmed the order.
All I wanted to know was if they could do it or not and if they could, it was going to go on the list. Clearly my addiction had other plans. I didn’t tell my wife about it for obvious reasons. I was scared, the plan was to sneak it in and put it in the box as if it were always there but that didn’t work out so well for me. Of course it was delivered when I wasn’t home and my poor wife my fiancé at the time had to accept the package and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, had to pay the duty on it too. She was extremely upset and couldn’t believe that I would spend that kind of money on myself when we were supposed to be saving for the wedding. I was afraid she was going to call it off as she didn’t speak to me for about a week after that.
Long story short, she went ahead and married me anyway. It turned out that she was mostly upset because she was really excited to give me the Hamilton Pilot she bought for me as a wedding day gift. When she saw the Stowa she thought they were basically the same watch and that I wouldn’t want the one she got for me. She was wrong of course as the two are completely different. Maybe not to someone outside of the #watchfam but to an enthusiast, the differences are easy to spot. So the Hamilton takes top spot because it represents my wife’s love and commitment for me and mine for her. Cheesy, I know. But it’s true.
Could you tell us about the most interesting piece you ever owned/found?
My favourite piece has got to be the Stowa. The fact that it’s a direct descendant of a watch that Stowa and four others built for the German Luftwaffe during World War II is in my humble opinion, significant. I’m not a big war buff and by no means am I a supporter of Germany’s motives during that period of time, but I can’t help but find the history interesting. I know there are people who refuse to buy Watches from IWC, A. Lange, Wempe, Stowa and Laco because of their involvement with the German Military but I like to think that they like many others during that terrible time didn’t have a choice in the matter.
What is the dream watch?
My Holy Grail is the A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. The Minute Repeater has got to be my favourite complication ever. It was basically rendered redundant after the discovery of electricity. Of course today, if you want to see the time you can just turn on the light and look at your watch. But it would have been so useful way back then. I just love how Lange has married an old world complication with a modern digital time display. They are on the top list in my books.