Tidlos Craft had the great pleasure to speak to Jon from @athens_watch in Athens. We hear about his journey from the UK to Greece, his experiences in the Japanese martial art Kendo and his passion for watch collecting.
Jon Preaching Kendo, Photo Courtesy of BKA – GOODMEDIA
Seiko Chronograph, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
TC: Thank you Jon for connecting, it’s a pleasure to hear from you in Athens.
@athens_watch: Thank you very much, Stefan, it’s my pleasure. And thank you for reaching out!
TC: Where are you from and where have you spent time?
@athens_watch: I’m from Greenwich, London. I was born and lived in an area close to the Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). I've traveled a lot around Europe, North Africa, and East Asia but now I live in Greece. I have been living in Athens for 9 years now and came here when I was 28 for work.
Royal Observatory Greenwich, London, Photo Courtesy of wheelchairtrave.org
Athens, Greece, Photo Courtesy of Lonely Planet
TC: Where and what did you study?
@athens_watch: I studied History at Goldsmiths College (at the University of London) with a focus on ancient Greece and classical studies. I always did well at this subject in secondary school and sixth form college (where I studied both History and Classics), and my father also has a Master’s Degree in Ancient History. I enjoyed studying history as it helped me develop arguments, analyse evidence, and showed me that it is essential to understand the past in order to develop the present. Sadly, however, we don't always heed the lessons of the past when embarking on the future! However, of course, if I could start over again, I would probably become a watchmaker! In my free time, I do martial arts and enjoy watch collecting.
Goldsmith College, University of London, Photo Courtesy of Study Across the Pond
TC: What work do you do and what does it teach you?
@athens_watch: I write English language course books for learners of English as a foreign language at an educational publisher based in Athens. We write books for various Education Ministries and clients across the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Balkans. I've worked as an English teacher at the University of London in the past also, where I taught English for academic purposes. Working in education has always been rewarding for me, as I enjoy helping people improve themselves and fulfill their aspirations.
I'd say that writing books for different cultures have taught me many things. It's helped me to see that one's personal viewpoint is not necessarily always right and that the world can be interpreted in many ways. In my work, you have to respect other cultures and their perspectives and you have to be diplomatic. In a way, the skills that I developed at university when studying history are also very applicable to my work now.
TC: What do you enjoy about living in Greece?
@athens_watch: I really enjoy the more relaxed pace of life in Greece and the laid-back spirit. Greece teaches you to learn how to take things easy and adjust your expectations. Compared to England, many things move slowly. That can have its positives and its negatives of course. For example, the country is famous for its bureaucracy!
Streets in Greece, Photo Courtesy of thehouseshop.com
One of the things that really struck me about Greece is how welcoming it is and how strong the community spirit is. The Greeks have a word, φιλοξενία (Filoxenia), which means hospitality. And you see this present everywhere. People socialize a lot and take care of each other. When you go out, even if people don’t have money, they still pay for their friends. This always moves me. Despite all the hardships the country has faced in recent years, Greeks never lose heart and always overcome their difficulties. Actually, I've heard some people say that Athens is the new Berlin, as people look for new and innovative ways to be creative. Especially in art, music and literature. I think it's a very exciting time to be in Greece for this reason. So, I'd say that I've learnt from the Greeks how to value each moment and live life to the fullest.
Greek Philoxenia, Photo Courtesy Wikipedia
*The tradition of hospitality is a timeless characteristic of Greek culture. Xenia is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality. It is almost always translated as 'guest friendship or 'ritualized friendship'. It is an institutionalized relationship rooted in generosity, gift exchange, and reciprocity. Historically, hospitality towards foreigners and guests was understood as a moral obligation.
TC: What other hobbies do you have besides watch collecting?
@athens_watch: I've done martial arts for many years. I first started Taekwondo when I was 13. I later did Kendo (Japanese fencing) and have been doing that for 22 years since the age of 15. I used to be in the British National Team for Kendo, and now living in Greece, I’m part of the Greek National Team. In Kendo there is a ranking of belts, 8th degree black belt (or dan) is the highest, I’m currently a 6th-degree black belt, next year I’ll do my exam for 7th dan.
Kendo has taught me many things, foremost discipline, respect, etiquette, self-sufficiency, and how to look after your things. Taking care of your equipment is especially important in a contact sport such as kendo.
Jon at World Kendo Championship in Tokyo Japan, Photo Courtesy of BKA-GOODMEDIA
TC: When did you get interested in watches?
@athens_watch: I guess you could say that I was always interested in watches. Actually, my first watch was a gift from my great uncle (my mother's uncle) just after I was born. It was a Seiko 7009-8810, a classic automatic Seiko 5 in gold. It was actually put on a shelf for 35 years and my parents completely forgot about it! Recently my father called me on the phone and told me that he'd found it cleaning the house and he posted it to me here in Greece. It’s a piece that holds great meaning for me as it lets me remember my mother (who recently passed away) and her uncle who died a few years back.
Seiko 5 SNXS80K1 in gold, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
Golden-plated Seiko 5 7009-8810 (1984), Watch from Jon’s Great Uncle, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
“ This is an amazing watch that has a really special family history for me. Since my Great Uncle passed away a few years ago it’s a great way to remember him, honour his memory, and finally wear the watch that he chose for me as a child.”
Jon’s Seiko Collections, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
I've been collecting watches seriously now for about two years. Sadly, my apartment got burgled a few years ago, and many pieces from my previous collection were stolen. As sad as this experience was, it made me reconsider which pieces really speak to me and made me more focused in my collecting.
TC: Were watches important in your family?
@athens_watch: We didn't have a big family history of collecting watches. Although my father did have a Tag Heuer 2000 many years ago. Like many people at the time, my grandfather was presented with a gold watch from his former employer, Shell, for 35 years of service. It was engraved with his name and retirement date and had been kept by my father in their house in London.
TAG Heuer 2000, Photo Courtesy of Calibre 11
TC: What was your first mechanical watch?
@athens_watch: Actually I used to have many quartz watches in the past. One of my favourites was the Seiko SCED037, a black PVD "Ripley" with a quartz analog movement. This Giugiaro designed watch featured in the Aliens movie and had the characteristic large stoppers on the side. Unfortunately, it was stolen during my burglary. My first automatic watch was actually a Seiko 6139-6002 "Pogue" which I bought after that, and this is the watch that really started my love affair with vintage Seiko pieces. Although I also have many different kinds of watches now, automatic, quartz, Seiko and non-Seiko.
Ellen Ripley Wearing the Seiko SCED037 in Aliens (1986 film), Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Seiko SCED037, Black "Ripley,” Photo Courtesy of Horobox
Seiko 6139-6002 Pogue, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
Seiko 7143 Lord Quartz, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
Seiko 7143 Lord Quartz, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
“Ο χρόνος άπαντα τοίσιν ύστερον φράσει. Λάλος γαρ ούτος ουκ ερωτώσιν λέγει.”
Time will explain it all. He is a talker, and needs no questioning before he speaks.
— Euripides, 480-406 BC”
TC: Which watch holds special meaning to you?
@athens_watch: Of course there will always be the classic Seiko 5 that was given to me as a christening gift, but apart from that I would say my Seiko 6139-6002 “Pogue”. It was the watch that launched my new collection and really came to symbolise the rebirth not only of my collection but also my love of watches and horology. When I bought that watch I read a lot about the history of the piece and the movement and it started my interest in learning about watch movements. There is also my Orient Panda chronograph which was a gift from my girlfriend. So that too has a special sentimental meaning.
“ An amazing watch that I’d pined after for a long time. Was thrilled to finally get my hands on a 6139-6002! Huge thanks to @classicseiko for helping me source this beauty!”
*Seiko 6139-6002 “Pogue”: In 1973, Colonel William Pogue brought his Seiko 6139 Automatic Chronograph on board the NASA Skylab 4 mission as part of his personal kit. Although the watch wasn’t Flight-Approved by NASA, he was allowed to bring it on the flight. As his story goes, he had been training with the Seiko for six months to a year before the mission launched, as he hadn’t been issued his Speedmaster until late in the process, and had grown familiar with the Seiko, so brought it along without seeking official approval from the NASA brass.
Orient Panda Chronograph, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
“ Decided to swap out my regular NATO straps with a metal bracelet today. Gives the Panda a whole new feel!”
TC: What brands are you drawn to and why?
@athens_watch: I really love the classic designs of vintage Seiko. I find the dials especially interesting. Seiko designers in the 1960s and 1970s did some amazing things with gradient dials, surface textures, and really bold colours. They also made use of a lot of unusual faceted glass crystals. I really like this. Bold colours and designs that aren't afraid to be different. You don't tend to see the same kind of dials nowadays. I just find these watches so fascinating, and so many have impressive histories. From links to astronauts, movie stars like Bruce Lee, and even racing drivers like François Cevert.
Gradient Dial, Seiko Type II Quartz, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
Bruce Lee’s Watch, Seiko 6139, Photo Courtesy of GQ
TC: What things do you look for in a watch?
@Athens_watch: I enjoy vintage watches a lot as I like to give something a second life. Servicing or restoring a watch is a nice process and the journey is very rewarding. I like the fact that you can take something 40 or 50 years old and be a custodian of a watch for a certain period of time. I don't only collect vintage watches though. I have many modern pieces as well. For me, the things that I mostly look for are the visual attributes of a watch. If the case shape or the dial appeals to me, and if I can imagine myself wearing it. Personally, I like to wear and use my watches, so that's a very important aspect to me.
TC: Do you connect with the watch community in Greece?
@Athens_watch: Not yet so much, and also due to Covid. I know a few people here in Greece from the Internet, however. Social media has been great and it's helped me build great relationships with people from all over the world, in the US, UK, Europe and even in Indonesia and Vietnam. My hobby is mostly about personal enjoyment and sharing the hobby with the community, I never really had an aspiration to be an influencer or anything.
Seiko Prospex, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
TC: What is your philosophy when collecting watches?
@Athens_watch: Personally I don’t collect in terms of investment, although of course there's nothing wrong with that at all. I also don't have a checklist or specific pieces that I feel I must collect. My collection isn't really shaped by what other people wear but about what appeals to me at that moment. I also don't believe that there's such a thing as a 'wrong' or 'right' watch. I think all watches are valid and everything has its appeal and merits. For this reason, I also have watches of various sizes from 49mm to 38mm.
TC: What did you learn about yourself while collecting?
@Athens_watch: I've learned to be patient, especially when it comes to vintage watches being serviced or restored (when needed). I've also learned to appreciate all the effort and craftsmanship that is put into a watch. When looking at a watch you can feel connected to time and appreciate it and celebrate every moment. It helped me to not take anything for granted.
Seiko 6139-6002 Chronograph “Cevert,” Photo Courtesy of @classicseiko
TC: What made you start your IG account and what are your plans?
@athens_watch: I actually only started my account 4 months ago. It was a great way to connect with people and share the hobby with fellow enthusiasts, as most of my friends weren't really that into watches! I think engaging with people is a really important and enjoyable part of our hobby. When you show interest in others and their collections this comes back. I loved meeting people from all over the world of all ethnicities and genders. I plan to just keep on sharing my love of the hobby and to keep on enjoying it. I believe that resonates with people.
TC: What advice would you give younger people who want to start collecting?
@athens_watch: Go for watches that bring you joy and pleasure. Don’t be conscious of making the right or wrong choice, follow your heart and see what makes you happy. It's true that vintage watches have an extra cost for service but don’t let that deter you.
I think young collectors are really lucky. In many ways, new collectors have so many incredible opportunities now through social media. It brought back an aspect of traditional local shops and sellers, in a digital world. You can develop relationships and friendships with private or independent sellers online much in the same way that you might have developed a relationship with a local neighbourhood business in the past. I've met some great people online and via IG, and I've been really blessed. Sellers like Michael Scates at Classic Seiko @classicseiko, for example, have become really good friends who've taught me a lot about the hobby.
I'd also tell new collectors not to feel intimidated or put off about reaching out and becoming part of the community. The online watch community has been a really encouraging and welcoming place for me, and I can't thank people enough.
Straton Watch and Dumas Spinnaker, Photo Courtesy of @athens_watch
TC: Thank you for sharing your stories with us. What a treat!
@athens_watch: Any time!