Growing older and older, wristwatches are one of the items that slowly gain in charm and appeal to the male instincts. There ought to be one watch for each man to find, a once-in-a-lifetime piece. But, perhaps because the prices for watches are generally higher compared to other fashion items, the more time you spend in finding the perfect item, the harder it is to actually decide on the watch that is really the one for you. That is why, if you plan on finding your perfect watch, it might be good to learn about some good evaluation criteria from the masters.
This time, we decided to ask Mr. Yuhi Ozaki, a designer for the apparel brand SUN/kakke, who is well-known as a lover of wristwatches. Please share with us your personal ultimate item you wish to retain as an archive item and tell us why.
--- When did you start to be interested in wristwatches?
“That was about twenty years ago, when I was in my twenties. I wanted to work in a clothing store, and I was convinced I needed good shoes and a good wristwatch to get anywhere in that field. I already owned a nice pair of leather shoes but I didn’t have a wristwatch at the time.”
--- Do you still have the watch that you bought back then?
“I do. That’s the watch I want to introduce to you today, the IWC (International Watch Company) Flieger UTC model. I bought it in Nagoya, where I was living at the time.”
--- Did you start working at a clothing store afterwards?
“Yes, I did. I started working for a brand shop in Nagoya some time after that.”
--- What was your reason for believing an IWC model was the ‘good wristwatch’ you were looking for?
“Thinking back on it, there was probably also the possibility of me buying a Rolex, but as the current me is a big Rolex fan, I think I can say is that back then it felt too mainstream to me, which made it less attractive. I felt it was something slightly older, more adult people would be wearing. So why did I choose an IWC model? To be honest, I don’t actually remember the exact reason why I did so. I thought they were a great brand for wristwatches back then, and that feeling hasn’t changed since then.”
Let us first introduce to you this model, the IWC Flieger UTC, and talk about its specs. The brand IWC was started in Swiss back in 1868 by an American clock mechanic. The word Flieger is German for pilot, and UTC refers to the concept of coordinated universal time. The exact model Mr. Ozaki owns is the IWC Fliegel UTC IW325102.
--- I hear the IWC Flieger UTC is actually a watch made for pilots. The same brand is also known for its Mark Series, which are also made for the same purpose and are more commonly known; is there a reason you chose this model?
“The Mark Series also feature some really nice watches, but they don’t have the UTC on their dial.”
--- Was this UTC dial very important for you even back then?
“The UTC model allows you to keep track of both the country you’re currently residing as well as where you were before. As I said before, I wanted to work for a clothing store, but to be more precise, my dream was to be a buyer. This feature was very appealing to me as it played into the idea of being a buyer who travels from Japan across the world, which is the main reason I chose this model.”
--- Now that’s a wonderful story to hear. Looking at your Instagram, I found out you own a number of very fine wristwatches; is there a reason you chose this specific watch for this interview?
“On the one hand, it’s because this was the first mechanical watch I bought myself, which was in a way the starting line towards my current job. On the other, this is also the watch that gave me a final push towards success in my career.”
--- How exactly did it lead to success in your career?
“Well, it was received very well by all my colleagues who started working there before me. Before I noticed, people were saying stuff like ‘This guy Ozaki who started working at the Nagoya store has a really nice watch’ ‘He has a real good feel for stylish items’. That’s one of the things that lead me to being asked to work at the head office in Tokyo.”
--- It sounds like you made career pretty fast then.
“I started working in September, and by February the next year I was informed of my new work place, where I started from the first of April. Two months later, I was on my first business trip as a buyer abroad. So in a way this wristwatch lead me on the way towards my dream of being a buyer.”
--- Usually wristwatches are considered as fairly expensive purchases. As a common rule, that means that people usually become quite careful in what we do. Could you tell us what your standard are like when you buy a wristwatch? Are there any criteria that are absolutely necessary?
“The most important thing is whether it fits my own fashion style or not. If it does, the next things I consider are the condition and the price. In that way it’s close to my criteria for buying leather shoes, Of course, the price class is completely different between those two!”
--- I see!
“Leather boots are a pretty central element in creating your own style, but wristwatches are more like the finishing touch. First you decide on your general clothing style, and deciding what wristwatch to wear is probably your final step.”
--- What kind of style do you usually go for when you’re wearing your IWC Flieger UTC?
“Usually I’d combine a nice sweat parka with some dark blue jeans, or maybe some slacks with a knit sweater from JOHN SMEDLEY. But to be honest, I don’t wear that style of clothes that much anymore these days. So in the end I end up wearing another pilot watch I own most of the time.”
--- Which model is that?
“That’s my Rolex GMT Master Ref 1675.”
Let’s take some time here to look at the basic information you need on the Rolex GMT Master model. This brand was first sold in 1954 and has been popular for a long time for its two-tone bezel using red and blue. This bezel can be rotated as well and the watch has a 24-hour needle, which allows you to find out at once what the time is in another location. This pilot watch was developed in cooperation with Pan American World Airways. By the way, some fanatic fans have taken to calling the different colour combinations different names, red and blue being ‘Pepsi’, red and black ‘Coke’ and blue and black being ‘Batman’. The item Mr. Ozaki presented to us is the Rolex GMT Master Ref 1675, produced in 1975.
--- You told us earlier in the interview that you thought a Rolex would be more suited to a slightly more mature person. Can I understand from this that you consider yourself of the right age by now?
“Yes, by the time I turned thirty, I felt it was about time and bought a slightly cheaper model. I say cheaper, but it was still a model that had numbers engraved on the bezel like all GMT models and was fairly expensive either way. It looked mature and sporty, which didn’t really fit my style before, but by now I’d gotten closer to the age where a new style would be okay. I stopped feeling a misfit between my age and the GMT model, and I ended up buying it three years ago, by which time it felt pretty natural.”
--- Even after the introduction of the smartphone, wristwatches have continued to be valuable items up to this day. Could you tell us your own personal reason for continuing to use a wristwatch even now?
“You hear this kind of question often these days, but I don’t really agree with that line of thinking at all. In some situations, wristwatches much more useful than a smartphone. If I’m outside of Japan and I find myself wondering what time it is back there, I would try to use my iPhone, but it’d already automatically switched itself to local time, so it takes time to look it up. If you use a model like the IWC Flieger UTC or the Rolex GMT, you can find out within seconds what time it is right now.”
--- I see, that makes sense if you consider it like that. How do you, for example, think about mechanical clocks then? Don’t you find it annoying that you have to wind them up yourself?
“No, I don’t actually feel that at all. Looking at it from someone who usually doesn’t use a wristwatch it may seem annoying, but for us people who have been using them for many years it feels completely natural. For some people it might seem a little bit of a chore, but it’s only a question of about fifteen seconds in the end. Comparing wristwatches to leather shoes, you also have to consider you need to polish your shoe tips as well to get the full potential out of them. Of course, it can be a hassle some of the time, but if it’s a part of your everyday rhythm, you might even start to feel a wee little bit of happiness from those moments.”
--- It might seem a bit odd to ask this question in an interview for items that are ‘evergreens’ and never lose their potential, but do you have any items you’re considering to buy in the future?
“There’s this one item, a compass watch made in collaboration between IWC and Porsche design. As far as wristwatches go, it’s fairly unique. I actually heard about it sometime after I got the request to do this interview; the condition of the item was fairly good so I did end up buying it. It’s not like I was looking out for it, but the timing was apparently just right. That’s one of the important elements in deciding whether you buy a certain wristwatch or not; in the end, it’s whether you’re in some way connected to it or not.”
After working for an unmentioned brand store, Mr. Ozaki started a cutsew brand called FilMelange there. In 2012 he went independent and started his own brand, SUN/kakke; the concept for this brand is to ‘make beautiful clothes conscientiously’.
Photo_ Takaki Iwata
Text_ Hisanori Kato