Dredging a Doppelganger from the Depths of the Bay
Editor’s Note: Thanks for joining me for the first installment in “Bygone Baubles”. The purpose of this series is to explore the lesser-known models of the watch realm. While it can sometimes feel as if the community sets popular models to rinse and repeat, there is vast unseen variety within the collections of enthusiasts across the globe. This is their space. It belongs to the timepieces that fly underneath the collective radar but deserve their moment in the sun. If you have an obscure model that you think deserves some attention, write in and let me know!
Throughout my collecting journey, I have heard the notion mentioned that the glory days of watch “deals” on auction sites have gone the way of the dodo. The continued spread of this misinformation means, in theory, less competition for me. Unfortunately, my scruples will not allow me to reap the benefits of a false narrative.
Online auction sites remain a viable, and frankly ideal, option for acquiring unrecognized gems. The sheer variety and number of watches on these rummage sales of the web make for prime hunting grounds. You have got to be quick and know what you are looking at.
You have to “troll the bay” frequently enough to recognize a deal when it is staring you in the face. Once your skills are up to par, it is all in the trigger finger. Much like the most secretive animals of the wild, these deals have evolved to become masters of deception, often obscured by poor photography or concealed behind a pile of undesirables. The Elgin FF001PA is the perfect example of online auction camouflage.
Pushing aside the hype and figuring out what your watch style is can be exceedingly difficult in the media-heavy hobby of horology. For me, this took years. I spent plenty of time coveting the models glorified by others. I poured over Speedmasters and Submariners thinking that they were the epitome of watch style, and a case could certainly be made to support that.
They are, however, not the epitome of my watch style. I feel so much more fulfilled purchasing watches that, for lack of a better term, “look cool.” Case and point; I noticed this lonely little Elgin sitting in the back of a lot while “checking the hot-sheets” last year. I was able to ascertain the potential despite the picture quality, and the seller was kind enough to remove the watch from the listing and sell it to me separately. Thus began the love affair with this quirky retro gem.
Reference Number: Elgin FF001PA
Water Resistance: 200 meters
Movement: Quartz ETA 555.112
Lug Width: 21mm
Lug to Lug Measurement: 40mm
The Elgin FF001PA is a model cloaked in mystery and known to few within the watch community. I had only ever seen one example before coming across my own. Since acquiring this curious timepiece I have been unsuccessful in locating any information as to when it was produced or for how long. My best guess, based upon the ETA 555.112 movement inside, is that it was released between 1982 and 1986. Certainly the aesthetics of the watch, from the brushed finish to the funky fresh indices, are reminiscent of that era.
The hour markers on this model are painted directly on the underside of the crystal. This atypical design choice is virtually identical to the Sinn models 809 and 809q. In fact, a comparison of the two shows just how closely the similarities match up. Both the Sinn 809 and the Elgin are uncommon at best. Their sleek case designs and tapered bracelets make for a memorable mash-up. If I were to make a Venn diagram of sport watches and dive watches, these would fall into the shared space between both circles. Thin watches with 200m of water resistance are difficult to come by, and the unusual floating indices add a depth to the dial that is almost unrivaled.
If you are looking for a sport diver that borders on novelty, but has a heart of true precision and capability, the ElgSINN (my unofficial pet name for the FF001PA) or 809 could be the perfect compatriot for you. There is a sense of satisfaction that I derive from watching the second or minute hand pass casually beneath the hour marker as if to say “I’m out...” only to clap back with “Got you!” mere moments later…like the watch has a sense of humor. It is rare to find a model where quirk and quality go hand in hand, but rest assured that with either of these examples you are going to get the best of both worlds.
So what do you think of the Elgin FF001PA? Do you dig the style, or do you think this is a watch that should have remained in the eighties? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!