My name is Vance, and I suppose I should tell you how this all began..
One day I was sitting in a local cigar joint (shoutout Mr. B’s Cigar Box), puffing on one of Arturo Fuente’s finest, and in walks someone who I would later come to know as the coolest man I’ve ever ever met. Let’s call him Jack (because that’s his name).
First of all, I’m great at minding my own business in most cases BUT, when a man sits down next to you wearing a pair of pants with lobsters sewn into them, you take notice.
Shorter in stature than your average man, but let me tell you, his lack of vertical prowess in no way hindered him from having a personality larger than the old Mercedes-Benz S500 (Klaus) he was piloting that day. He was nearly twice my age, and in addition to his less-than-normal trousers, he was wearing a brown pilots jacket, adorned with many patches, and the rank of someone much more established than I was at the time. He ordered a Japanese whiskey (neat), and greeted everyone around the table as if he’d known them for a lifetime.. I was star-struck by a guy who wasn’t famous, and I didn’t even know! But boy did that day change the course of my life in more ways than I could ever explain.
In his mid-40’s, Jack was at the same time younger AND older than his age would suggest. A retired Naval Officer who flew bombers in Desert Storm, and later worked in the Navy as a “spook” after suffering a few injuries that eventually kept him out of the cockpit. He was now living a comfortable life in Central Indiana as a small business owner, a husband/father, and a collector of old BMW motorcycles and Mercedes-Benz cars.
Never in my life had I given a second thought to a wristwatch until that day. I just had to find some common ground with this man; I needed to know him. So, desperately searching for my “in”, I noticed his watch. It looked old. Not in a bad way, but more like something that had lived a good life. The crystal was scratched all to hell, and the bracelet was worn and wiggly. Sitting a few feet away I had a tough time making out what the words on the dial said, but after a few diligent minutes of awkwardly staring, I saw it.
SPEEDMASTER. What is a Speedmaster? Why was this guy wearing it? I must know.
I quickly dispatched my smartphone and its Google app in hopes of finding some answers “what is a Speedmaster?”. HOLY SH*T. This watch went to the frickin’ MOON! I sat there secretly reading about OMEGA, the Apollo space program, Buzz Aldrin and his watch, Jim Lovell, those infamous 14 seconds, and anything else I could find. Without even knowing his name, he had unknowingly altered the path of my life, and became someone who would eventually be my best friend.
“Is that a Speedmaster?” I asked.
“Sure is” he says as he proceeds to take the watch off and hand it over to me to inspect and admire.
“That watch has been to the moon” he said.
“This watch?!” I asked.
There it was. “FLIGHT QUALIFIED BY NASA FOR ALL MANNED SPACE MISSIONS. THE FIRST WATCH WORN ON THE MOON”. It was real, and it was real cool.
I played it off like I was unimpressed. Like I hadn’t just read everything the first page of a quick Google search could offer.. He took his watch back and for some reason he started talking about this motorcycle of his that was stranded somewhere near with a flat tire.
PERFECT! At the time I was employed by a local bike dealer as a mechanic. We soon left the cigar bar, and I dispatched a truck and trailer to go and retrieve his old BMW. We picked it up and took it back to his house where he was waiting, excited and overly appreciative. He gifted us all with a liquid substance that he had distilled himself that turned out to be a bit harsh for my tastes.
Over the years Jack and I continued to frequent that same cigar bar, and he always had on his beloved Speedy. We grew closer and closer as friends. It wouldn’t be until a few years later that the initial spark I felt about his watch would resurface, and everything would change.
Many years and many watches later, that same Speedmaster would come back to me in a way that I never saw coming. The night of my 29th birthday last year I was sitting at an upscale Indianapolis Steakhouse with my soon-to-be wife, and my best bud. A few days prior, they had thrown me a bit of a surprise party to celebrate, and I left with the Speedy that night to “wear for a few days”. Little did I know: Jack had other intentions.
I take the watch off mid-conversation and hand it back to its rightful owner. He takes a few seconds to look it over while I proceed to tell him what a great watch he has. Then it happens. He hands it back to me and says “Happy Birthday”. I was shocked. Tears began to fall as I tried to accept what was happening. We hugged. I left with a new watch. What a birthday!
The watch sat on my wrist for a few months, but something just didn’t seem right. Jack wasn’t “Jack” without his Speedmaster. That watch exemplified who he was. I gave it back.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m getting married to the love of my life. The most joyous day I’ve ever experienced. Jack stood next to me that day, wearing his moonwatch, supporting me as I entered into the next chapter in my life.
We’ve traveled the country together, been through break-ups/divorces, and more watches and cars than I care to share; what a ride. If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t be writing this. If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t have this computer. If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t be wearing this Grand Seiko. If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t be who I am today. If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t have this passion.
It’s because of Jack and that Speedmaster that I love watches, and because I love watches, I’m here.
I love you, brother. Thank you.
“Friends are the family you choose.” – Jess C. Scott
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