I think of John Cusack’s advice in “High Fidelity” about the do’s and don’ts of making a mix tape. You want to start out strong for the first song and then take it up a notch for the second. This was my thinking when I decided that this watch should be the second installment in this blog series.
When I was in watchmaking school in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, I would rideshare every Monday morning from Montreal, where my home base was, to Trois Riviere and then return to Montreal on Friday evening. When I was home on the weekends I would try to visit the St. Michel Flea Market as much as I could. This is where I discovered a great selection of old mechanical watches that I would buy and fix up. I also made friends with some of the vendors who always had cool stuff to offer. One friend I made was Serge. He was a nice guy and had a really great collection of watches. I approached him with the offer of fixing up some of his watches that were in rough shape. I would give him a good price while getting some real world experience in repairs, especially with vintage stuff. I think we both benefited. One such watch he gave me to work on was a Bulova Snorkel.
This watch was the coolest thing I had seen and was really the first dive style watch I had opened up. It definitely needed work, as there was a ton of rust and a couple broken parts. I managed to clean up the rust and replace some needed parts and got the watch going again. I wore it for the week at school and liked it a lot. After I gave it back to Serge, I realized that I would love to someday have one for my collection. Being a struggling student at the time, I didn’t have the budget for a watch like that so I put the idea away. (Check out this video of me at school assembling an ETA 2892. Notice the watch I’m wearing? This one had a blue and white Bezel instead of the coke bezel)
After being in Vancouver for a year or so and getting established, I started putting aside money from watches I would repair and sell. This went towards getting the watches I had dreamed of while at school. This puppy came up on the “Bay” and I pulled the trigger. It wasn’t in the greatest shape mechanically but that’s one thing I look for in a watch. “Needs repair” is music to my ears. I like that these old Bulova’s sometimes have their own movements and not always an AS or ETA.
It was a bit tricky to get the automatic working smoothly because the ratcheting system is very delicate and the oiling needs to be just right. It also has a unique quick date function. You need to pull the crown past the second position and it engages a lever and a spring that pushes the date wheel around with a “snap”. This mechanism is useful but very finicky. I had to adjust the spring to have just the right amount of tension to only change one day at a time, and not jump 2 days ahead. This watch has an integrated bracelet. Not so useful for a functioning dive watch. Though this watch has a devil’s dial (666 feet depth rating), this isn’t a certified dive watch. No screw down crown being the tell tale sign. I thought the case and the bracelet melded together very nicely. I gave it a nice fresh polish and re-applied the brushed finish and it turned out nicely. The bakelite bezel is in great shape. These really maintain their sharp colors. Often these bezels are damaged because it is just a hardened plastic. People often ask me when I wear this watch if it’s a Seiko SKX. I guess that makes sense. Dive watches have a certain look that can make them hard to distinguish, especially at a distance. I think this looks more like a Squalematic.
I like the imperfections on this watch. The slight damage on the edge of the dial, and the paint missing from the second hand. I may touch these up one day but it’s an old watch, these things are acceptable. There is a fine line though, in my opinion, between damage and character.