An unknowing, unwitting Seiko collector — that’s exactly what our customer Matt (better known as @mattmcd_gmt on Instagram) is. We sat down with Matt to get to know him and learn about the timepieces in his impressive collection. Read on!
Hey Matt! Let’s start with a brief introduction to who you are and what you do. How did you become a customer at Feldmar?
I work in sales but have a background in airline operations. I’m a long-time aviation and travel enthusiast.
I’ve been interested in watches for a long time, more seriously interested in the last 20 years, although I’ve been aware of watches as something that’s interesting to me for a long time before that.
I’m one of those people who is stereotypically interested in any type of device or mechanical object, even stuff that I don’t necessarily have the wherewithal to pursue or obtain.
While I don’t have Porsches in my driveway, motorsports and cars and bicycles and cameras and firearms and airplanes have always interested me. All that stuff comes from the same sort of drive or interest.
When I was learning to be a pilot (I’m in a completely different career field now), I was involved in the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) community. This organization has a magazine that goes out regularly, and I would see advertisements in it for pieces like Breitling Navitimers. Seeing those in print kind of put the hook in me.
I started coming to Feldmar around 2008 or 2009. I worked nowhere in the area but had heard of it and took a day trip out there. That’s when I met Sol and was introduced to Grand Seiko.
I’ve worked with a few retailers and Feldmar is by far the best. While I spend more on watches than most people, Feldmar’s clientele consists of people from all walks of life, many who spend significantly more than I do. The idea that I get the same treatment as the rockstar or the sportscaster or the NBA star is huge.
When you walk in, it just feels like it’s a collector’s home. If you’re interested in watches, you have a home at Feldmar. There is so much respect paid – the employees openly discuss which prices are flexible, which aren’t and most importantly, why. I never feel like I’m at a car dealership haggling when I’m at Feldmar. Sol taught me that about you guys. It’s a luxury store but not a stuffy place.
What was your first watch?
My first real watch was a fairly nice Seiko dress watch given to me by an uncle when I was about 17. Sadly, it was stolen at the gym and I didn’t have much time to bond with it!
My first “nice” watch (it seems like everyone uses that term, but I’ll offer the usual disclaimer that “nice” is a relative and elastic word) was a TAG/Heuer 4000, purchased with my wife in our first year of marriage in the late 1990s.
Even though it has dated visual aesthetics, I do wear it in fairly regular rotation, especially for work because it’s very low profile.
It’s also my most sentimental watch. I’ve had it the longest, my wife helped me pick it out and it’s been with me all over the country and overseas.
That watch put the hook in me for real. That’s what started the whole craze. I paid attention to watches from that point forward in a way I didn’t ever before.
Do you have a favorite watch brand?
I am a big Seiko/Grand Seiko guy, and while I don’t own any right now, I also really respect Sinn and Bremont. Sinn and Bremont both do a lot of work on materials innovation, case hardening and overbuilding their tool watches. That will always appeal to a tool watch aficionado like myself.
Grand Seiko, in particular, is a brand that I admire greatly. Sol from Feldmar introduced me to their watches a decade ago, when Feldmar was one of the very first retailers to carry them. I’d researched the brand already, but I first saw them in person at the store and was immediately impressed. The attention to detail was and is absolutely amazing.
I have something at each stop along the Seiko journey – from the least expensive and most humble to some of the most prestigious, and many in between.
I’ve never thought of myself as a Seiko collector but . . . it turns out I’m a Seiko collector!
Do you have a collection style? What kind of pieces do you normally go for?
I suppose you could say that I collect daily wearable tool watches. I have a few dressier pieces to round out my collection, namely my Grand Seiko watches, but most of my interest lies in divers, travel watches, pilot watches and the like. At various times in my life I’ve been into scuba, travel, flying, etc. and I have an enduring interest in the gear associated with each pastime. I’m fortunate to work in business casual attire most days, so I can wear almost anything.
One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that when I’m considering any new watch, I tend to consider how suitable it would be for me if it were the only watch in my possession.
With a few exceptions, most of the watches I’ve had over the years have been watches that would serve as a “one watch collection” for the average person. They are mostly sporty, flexible watches with a timing feature of some sort and good water resistance. I also tend to value brands and specific watches that offer some value, especially modern pieces.
As for biases, I guess I’d have to admit that I am at times susceptible to the influence of good marketing! I have a distinct bias in favor of Bremont, Grand Seiko and especially Rolex.
Alright, let’s get into the exciting stuff – your collection. What did you acquire after the Tag?
I got a Breitling and then a Bremont. As far as I know, I was one of the first people in the West Cost and maybe in North America to have one. I bought that in 2010 or early 2011 when Nick English was the sales person in North America. I met Nick and talked to him at some aviation-related events. The Bremont people are so cool, and they sucked me in. Being an aviation person made it even more awesome.
By then, I had a great three-watch rotation – Tag, Breiting, Bremont. Of course, I also had a number of G-SHOCKs and Victorinox watches as well, but that was my primary three-watch rotation.
What started your Seiko journey?
The SNK. I’ve actually purchased this timepiece for a number of people who needed a decent watch and didn’t know the difference between a quartz and a disposable, battery operated watch. This includes my father-in-law who still has it and wears it. I still have mine 10 years later.
At that price point, the see-through case back is perfect for someone who’s a novice. It opens a whole new world for them being able to see the inside of the piece. I’ve seen this happen a number of times to people I’ve introduced to watches.
You show them a mechanical movement and suddenly, a lightbulb goes off. They realize that once you move it around some and get some tension on the little spring, until it breaks or runs out of lubricant, it’s just going to keep running.
If you take reasonable care of it, at the least, it will last decades.
You have an SKX007 that you’ve modded. How did you get into modding?
In 2009, I had a coworker who had a couple of modded watches that I became interested in. By then, I was active in a couple watch forums and started to explore the idea of modding myself. Two or three years ago, I found a guy in Singapore, ordered some parts from him and took my SKX to a local guy and had the mod done.
All in, including the parts and the time, it was maybe $200 tops to mod the SKX. This included the addition of a dome sapphire crystal, a black ceramic 12-hour bezel insert and a deeper coin-edged bezel. To me, it looks as close as possible to a factory 12-hour bezel on an SKX if they made it. It’s super simple and I actually wear it quite a bit as a fun weekend watch.
Mods are a great conversation starter. If you know, you know.
Why did you go for your turtle – the SRP?
When they came out (it was about 5 years ago when they brought them back), I just wanted to try something in that realm. I was becoming aware of the brand value of Seiko. The gold and black tone diver (the SRP779) just jumped out at me.
I love the idea that it’s the next step up and fixes the “problems” with the SKX movement. The turtle was similar to an SKX in terms of value (it’s hand-winding and accurate) but basically a little better with a slightly different look. While the SKX may wear better on a Jubilee-style bracelet, the SRP looks awesome on a rubber strap or nato.
Tell us a little about your SLA.
First, a little back story . . . before I got the SLA, I had a really interesting and cool watch. It was the Emperor Tuna – it’s the undecorated Grand Seiko workhorse. I really liked that watch but I, admittedly, researched the wrong Tuna when purchasing. The Emperor was HUGE. I put it on a heavy-duty strap and while it was fun, it was just really difficult to wear on a regular basis. It became more of a conversation piece in my collection.
Eventually, I moved that one on so I could go a bit retro or get a Marinemaster and one day, out of the blue, I got a call from Jamie at Feldmar asking me if I wanted to check out an SLA that just came in. Someone had purchased it and then immediately brought it back with some other watches to move into something else. Obviously, it worked out perfectly for me.If I had to get rid of all of my Seikos and keep just one, it would be hard to keep the Grand Seiko over this SLA. I just like it so much.
The treatment on the dial is not a gloss but not a matte either. It’s slightly reflective and reminds me of Japanese lacquered furniture in a deep brown/black. My grandfather collected Asian furniture and shipped it home from World War II. It completely reminds me of that. It has gold hands on it but it’s not super ornate like some Grand Seiko dials. For my lifestyle, I can use it most often. It’s an outstanding watch.
You recently acquired some Grand Seikos. Can you tell us about those?
The first has been offered under multiple reference numbers – SBGR053 or 051. I have the silver white dial variant. This was my first Seiko with the Zaratzu finishing. I wanted to experience that sort of feeling and look on a day-to-day basis. I cross shopped the SBGR053/51 against Rolex’s Datejust. The GS offered a 3-day power reserve, significantly better finishing and a nicely decorated and highly accurate movement with a display back, for a price that was significantly lower than the Rolex. That’s the kind of thing that appeals to me.
And then you got your Grand Seiko Seasons watch – the Spring. Why did you choose the Spring?
This is my top-level Seiko piece, the halo piece of my 9 or 10 Seikos. It’s phenomenal.
Feldmar held onto the Winter and the Spring so I could choose between the two (thank you!). To be honest, I like both and if the Spring hadn’t been available, I would have happily taken Winter and been super satisfied with it. I just like the slight difference in the color palette of the Spring. It looks a bit more floral and has a bit more of the Japanese aesthetic that I can relate to. At the end of the day, nothing else is quite like the Spring.
I have daughters and eventually, I’d love to pass some of my watches on to them. I’m not necessarily wanting to pass on only big, chunky divers. While they may treasure those because they are from their dad, they won’t really have a use for them. But, a 39mm watch with a pink dial that they can put on a nice Hermes strap? That’s something my daughters can easily keep and wear as an heirloom piece. That’s ultimately why I went with that piece over the Winter.
You also have some pieces that aren’t Seikos. Let’s talk a bit about those, starting with your Blancpain.
Blancpain had been on my radar, the Fifty Fathoms in particular, for a long time.
My grail watch is any flavor of the Rolex GMT Master. I had one of those at one point but had a situation where I needed to liquidate it. During that time, I sold arguably the only two watches I’ve ever missed – my Rolex GMT Master and my Bremont MB2 (I had watch #187 from Bremont). At the time, the GMT new was $7200 and traded well. Within a year after that, prices skyrocketed. When it was time to shop around and replace that watch, I knew I couldn’t feel good about myself spending a ton on a watch I had two years ago for half the price. So, I deliberately decided to look in other directions to see what was out there.
I had looked a lot in the Blancpain case, more and more at the Fifty Fathoms. As much as I love it, it feels a bit like a marshmallow to me – puffed up and shiny. So, I went with the Bathyscaphe instead. The Bathyscaphe has the same engine under the hood but had some upgrades at the time. You basically get a thinner, lower profile watch with a more matte finish and a slightly upgraded movement.
I like that people who know what it is, know what it is and that people who don’t, don’t. I can wear it almost anywhere and it’s utterly invisible for 99% of people.
There is a bronze/brown undertone to it. In certain lights, it looks bronze/gold and then in others it looks like clay. In one picture I have, it looks blue. It’s just such a neat looking piece.
What about your Speedmaster?
The Speedmaster is newer to me. I got it towards the end of last year in October. To me, the special part is not so much the watch itself (although I obviously like it) but the meaning behind it. It’s from my birth year, 1971, when the Apollo program was still happening.
It has a ghosted bezel and the step dial. The handset, despite being blacked out, is intact. When I acquired it, the bracelet it was on was original, which is impossible to replace if damaged, so I took it off immediately and put it on a strap. It looks even better on a strap. Time has been extremely kind to this watch.
Omega is probably one of the only brands I’d purchase from that time period because I’m confident that the movement can still be serviced in the correct way. Once you get a watch earlier than the 1980s, with some brands, you’re taking a chance every time you send it in for service.
What about your Rolex . . . the Explorer. Out of the Rolex lineup, why did you choose that piece?
I didn’t purchase much from 2016-2018 because I simply didn’t have the time, money or energy to spend on watches. 2019 was all about catching up! I really wanted to replace the Rolex I had previously sold. In my heart of hearts, I’m a Rolex fanboy and always want to have a Rolex in my collection. They have a really interesting history.
You see a lot of Rolex on the wrists of the Special Forces guys. Rolex has a legacy of popularity among SF, and most people think it’s because those soldiers would buy them on R&R in places like Hong Kong, Tokyo or Taipei. That’s true, but there’s more to it than that. One of the best stories about Special Forces and their affinity for Rolex was relayed to me by a guy who’d been a member of the US Army special missions unit, and he broke it down like this:
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, Rolex was a tool watch brand like any other. They were good, premium watches, but not always the luxury items we think of in the modern era. The watches were fairly popular among allied officers in WWII. In the course of the war, many allied troops, especially aviators who’d been shot down over the continent, were captured and made prisoners of war. Lots of these guys would have their watches taken, or have their watches damaged/broken on bailout.
Usually, captured officers and aviators weren’t treated as poorly as other POWs, and they could often write to family, etc.
And so, those soldiers would write to Rolex and say something like, “I got shot down. My watch was taken. I am currently here and you can communicate with me . . .” Rolex would send them replacement watches with a message saying something to the effect of, “pay us back when you can.”
The unspoken message to the American and especially British aviators was “We know you are going to win. We aren’t sending you free watches. You will pay us back because you will win.” It was how Rolex, an Anglo-Swiss brand, kept faith with the allies in general and the Brits in particular.
This sums up Rolex. The brand is respected by people in the Army for that reason. Even guys who don’t make a ton of money, or who aren’t huge watch collectors, often have a Rolex because they respect the brand.
Because of that, I’ve always had respect for Rolex and had to have one in my collection. Even in high school, I didn’t know the difference between the models but knew what a Rolex was. Rolex is kind of like Kleenex or Fedex – it’s a commoditized term for a luxury watch.
Anyway, I was trying to replace my GMT. My friend and I spent months trying to find one and the prices were so high. Plus, even if you had the money, you couldn’t get one. He had a watch in his personal collection that was an A serial, “Swiss” only dial. That is an interesting piece because it’s not like everyone else’s. It was a fair price and it’s from a guy who is very meticulous so it was in great condition with all documentation. I purchased it and never looked back!
Any important pieces in your collection that we didn’t cover?
My Tutima is very important to me. That’s the watch that makes me think of the period of time when I was training to be a pilot.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, a lot of people had this thought that they’d have a military career. Inevitably, there would be some awful conflict with other nations and you’d likely be part of it. That was always in the forefront of my mind in high school and college.
Tutima brings me back into that Cold War mindset. It makes me think of all the stuff I experienced, even at a time before the watch existed, as this watch was probably made in the late 80s or early 90s.
My Tutima makes me think of my overseas travels to Germany and a lot of other neat stuff at a time in my life that was really phenomenal and wide open.
The watch was a fun buy. I bought it from a guy who had it for a bit, and he bought it from the first and only owner. Just like my Speedmaster, it is not the specific watch I love but the design elements that evoke memories. If I had a Sinn 144 or 157, or a 50100 Heuer from the same era, it would all scratch the same itch. I will always need something in my collection that is evocative of that time of my life.
What’s your next watch purchase and why?
This is maybe the toughest question. Recent events have many of us in a static “no buy” mode. However, I’ve already talked to Jamie about the new Seiko SPB149. Hopefully, that will be my next watch!
What watch would you consider your personal “grail?”
I’d love to re-acquire almost any flavor of Rolex GMT Master II. And, as long as we are talking about grails, I might as well add the new root beer GMT II, right?!
Thanks, Matt, for sharing so much with us and for being such an important part of the extended #FeldmarFamily.